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News / Career March 16, 2023

LVN v. ADN: What’s the Difference Between These Nursing Programs?

March 16, 2023

LVN v. ADN: What’s the Difference Between These Nursing Programs?

Ready to start your nursing education, but not sure which path to pursue? For aspiring nurses eager to put their dreams into practice, you have many options to explore. If you're looking for the shortest path possible, you can either obtain your diploma as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or earn your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). So what’s the difference, and which one is right for you?

It’s a big and exciting decision! We’re here to break down how LVNs and RNs differ in educational background and practice so you make an informed choice before you embark on your nursing education journey. If you’re asking questions like “What does a vocational nurse do?” and “What can you do with an ADN?” then this post is for you.

As we compare LVN and ADN programs, let's start by looking at the role of an LVN and what a vocational nursing program entails.

What Is a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)?

A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) is a trained and licensed healthcare professional who provides basic care and comfort to patients. LVN duties include checking vital signs like blood pressure, performing basic treatments like changing bandages and catheters, administering certain medications, supervising nursing aides and assistants, and more.

LVNs are also responsible for creating documentation on patient health and reporting status updates to their supervising registered nurses (RNs), doctors, or other healthcare providers involved in the patient’s care. As an LVN, you’re on the front line of patient care and ensuring good patient outcomes.

Vocational nursing graduates earn a diploma and begin nursing at the entry level. LVN programs are shorter than other nursing programs and are well-suited for students who want to accelerate the start of their career. Some LVNs opt to advance their education further, to an ADN, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, or higher.

In order to practice as an LVN, program graduates must obtain a license through National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), by passing the NCLEX-PN exam.

What Is an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)?

With an ADN, a nurse earns an associate degree that prepares them to enter the healthcare workforce as a registered nurse (RN).

RNs are versatile healthcare professionals who provide care, treatment, and education to patients in a variety of medical settings. While registered nurses perform many of the same duties as an LVN, they are also qualified to administer more complex assessments and treatments like diagnostic tests and creating patient care plans. Some RNs also supervise LVNs working in the same facility.

ADN programs are longer than LVN programs, but shorter than a four-year BSN program. As is common for most associate degrees, an ADN program typically takes about two years to complete, depending on the pace of study. For aspiring nurses who want to enter the workforce quickly but are eager to take on more responsibility than an LVN, an ADN program is a great option.

In order to practice as a registered nurse, program graduates must obtain a license by passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

Difference Between an LVN and ADN-RN: Side-by-Side Snapshot




Program Type


Associate Degree

Length of Study

13 Months*

20 Months*

Licensure Requirement




Basic patient care and comfort

Broader scope of practice

*American Career College program lengths provided above. Varies by program pace.

Which Nursing Path Should I Choose?

To decide which path is right for you, you will need to evaluate your educational and professional goals. For example, is it important to you to earn a degree at this time, or are you more interested in a shorter timeline in your path to becoming a nurse? What types of duties do you want to be able to perform as a nurse in the future? These are points that are important to consider.

Whether you choose to get a diploma as an LVN or pursue a degree through an ADN program, you’re embarking on a rewarding career path. The great news is that American Career College offers both!

ACC’s Nursing Programs: Vocational Nursing & ADN

With more than 45 years at the forefront of healthcare education, ACC offers nursing students hands-on learning in facilities equipped with up-to-date technology and dedicated faculty that includes leaders in the industry and in nursing education.

Here’s some information you may want to know about our LVN program and ADN program.

How long does it take to get an LVN diploma at ACC?
Our Vocational Nursing program can be completed in as little as 13 months — or students can choose a flexible Evening and Weekend program that can be completed in 20 months.

How long does it take to get an ADN at ACC?
Our full-time ADN program is designed to be completed in as little as 20 months.

How many clinical hours are required for the ACC’s LVN and ADN programs?
Both programs include 800 hours of clinicals in which you’ll put into practice your classroom and hands-on learning.

Do these programs help students prepare for the NCLEX?
Yes, both programs include preparation for the NCLEX licensure exam. Vocational nursing students will get help studying for the NCLEX-PN and ADN students will get help studying for the NCLEX-RN. Our goal is for our students to feel as prepared as possible at exam time!

Where are ACC’s Vocational Nursing and ADN programs?
ACC’s Vocational Nursing program is taught in-person at our three campuses: Los Angeles, Ontario, and Orange County (Anaheim). Our ADN program is offered at our Los Angeles and Ontario campuses. This program is taught in a blended format that combines online instruction with in-person labs.

What type of class schedule is available in the Vocational Nursing and ADN programs at ACC?
The Vocational Nursing and ADN programs at ACC are both full-time programs that are offered on weekdays. However, the Vocational Nursing program has an Evening and Weekend option available for those who need greater flexibility in their schedules. Those taking classes in evenings and on weekends complete the Vocational Nursing program in 20 months instead of 13 months.

All of our students receive lifetime access to our Career Services center, so you can tap into support resources and career counseling at any time as an ACC student or graduate. If you’re looking for ways to finance your nursing education, financial aid and scholarships are available to students who qualify.

If you’d like to learn more about our programs and the process of applying to ACC, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team!

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