A vocational nurse is a licensed, entry-level health care worker who practices under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician. Vocational nurses usually attend state-approved training programs in community colleges or technical centers, and some study in hospitals or high schools. The curriculum, lasting approximately one year, includes general education, biology, pharmacology, nursing and clinical experience. Each state has its own qualifications and examination standards for certification.

Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) take care of patients who are disabled, injured, sick or recovering. They collect specimens, do routine lab tests, maintain records and provide basic care, in addition to helping doctors and registered nurses perform medical procedures. According to “Occupational Outlook Handbook,” they work for hospitals, doctors’ offices, convalescent centers, home health care companies and residential care facilities. Some work in specialized areas like surgical hospitals, blood banks, dialysis centers or correctional institutes, and need is great in pediatric, maternity and mental health care.

With a predicted growth rate of 25 percent over the next ten years in order to serve a rapidly aging population, the job market for licensed vocational nurses is expected to grow twice as fast as the national average for all jobs. Home health care is expected to outpace other work environments as the number of seniors who stay in their homes increases, and new technology requires the expertise of trained providers. The demand for vocational nurses in long-term nursing care is also expected to climb. In addition to replacing large numbers of retiring home care workers, there will like be a special need for vocational nurses in under-served or rural areas.

According to the Department of Labor, vocational nurses made an average of $41,540 in 2012. This means the lowest 10 percent were paid less than $30, 970, and the top 10 percent earned over $57,360. LVNs usually work 40 hours per week, although a few work part-time. Some shifts last longer than eight hours, and, like other medical employees, vocational nurses sometimes work night shifts, weekends and holidays.

The job outlook is even more encouraging for employees who excel at what they do, especially those who pursue bachelor or graduate degrees in nursing. Successful candidates have good communication skills, get along well with others, and enjoy detail-oriented tasks. Career choices similar to vocational nursing include physical and occupational therapy assistants and surgical technologists.