ASVN vs. VN: What’s the Difference?

Learn how an Associate Degree in Vocational Nursing can improve your nursing career prospects

Young medical worker wearing glasses

The Difference Between ASVN and VN

Should you pursue a VN or an ASVN? It’s an intriguing comparison, but it’s also a trick question. You can become a Vocational Nurse (VN) by obtaining a diploma from a formal program. Down the line, you may also want to build on your knowledge and pursue an Associate Degree in Vocational Nursing (ASVN) As you can see, this means that “VN vs. ASVN” is not an actual comparison.

For this blog post, we will refer to those who become a VN by earning a diploma as simply “VNs” (also called Diploma-VNs), and those who become a VN by earning both a diploma and an associate degree as “ASVNs” (also called ASVN-VNs). This guide will give you all the tools you need to understand the difference between these two paths to becoming a Vocational Nurse.

In addition to this comparison, you can click here to read more about becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse.

You can also click here to learn about the best entry-level medical jobs.

VN vs. ASVN: Definition

What is a VN?

First things first: Let’s go over the general definition of a Vocational Nurse. VNs, or Vocational Nurses, have completed their educational program. This could be a VN diploma program. They have also passed the NCLEX-PN exam. The official exam certifies and licenses a nurse as a Licensed Vocational Nurse or a Licensed Practical Nurse (these terms are used in different locations). Throughout this blog post, we’ll discuss the process of finishing a nursing program and passing the NCLEX-PN exam.

Keep this in mind: As we compare, we will refer to those who graduated with a diploma program (Diploma-VN) before licensure as “VN.”

What is an ASVN?

The ASVN definition is similar because those who graduate with an Associate Degree in Nursing, called ASVNs, can also become Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs). They, too, must prepare for and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. However, the coursework and skills often differ compared to VNs who earn a formal diploma. We’ll cover a few of those differences in the following sections.

Even though ASVNs are also licensed as LVNs, we will refer to those who chose to earn an associate degree (ASVN-VN) before their licensure as “ASVN.”

VN vs. ASVN: Duties & Responsibilities

VN Responsibilities

Licensed Vocational Nurses, or LVNs, assist in the medical care of patients under the direction of doctors and registered nurses. They care for people who are sick, injured, convalescent or disabled. They assess and monitor their patients, report adverse reactions to medication or treatment, and gather information from patients, including their health history and how they are feeling at the time.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that VNs typically perform duties that include:

  • Monitor patients’ health—for example, by checking their blood pressure
  • Administer primary patient care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
  • Provide for the basic comfort of patients, such as helping them bathe or dress
  • Discuss the care they are providing to patients and listen to their concerns
  • Report patients’ status and concerns to registered nurses and doctors
  • Keep records on patients’ health

Healthcare team sitting on a hospital bench

ASVN Responsibilities

ASVN nurses can perform all the duties of LVNs listed above, plus they may also perform more advanced assignments. Responsibilities for LVNs include:

  • Collecting samples.
  • Measuring vital signs.
  • Supplying patient care.
  • Reporting patient statuses to doctors or Registered Nurses (RNs).

Keep in mind that the functions of an LVN are guided by the state Scope of Practice. The Scope of Practice does not classify duties by diploma and degree. This means that all LVNs technically perform under one scope.

At Unitek College, the online ASVN program can enhance and propel your career as a Licensed Vocational Nurse. Building upon your Vocational Nursing diploma, you will complete the same online General Education and science courses required for students of the BSN program.

You can explore employment opportunities as an LVN in healthcare settings like clinics, physician offices, and long-term care facilities with an associate degree. You may also pursue career opportunities in education, medical research, pharmacy, and medical equipment.

VN vs. ASVN: Education

Educational Requirements for VNs

To become a Vocational Nurse, a student will usually pursue either a formal diploma or an associate degree before seeking to be licensed as an LVN.

For those who choose the formal diploma path (Diploma-VN), it usually takes a year to complete. Most diploma programs focus on clinical experience and typically include courses in nursing fundamentals, pharmacology, pediatrics, maternal and newborn care, medical-surgical, and professional development.

Once completing the program, graduates must prepare for and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. This is the nurse licensure and certification exam that entry-level nurses must pass before working as an LVN.

Educational Requirements for ASVNs

For those who choose the ASVN option (ASVN-VN), this degree typically takes about two years to complete. ASVN programs may include the same coursework that diploma programs usually require and courses in critical thinking, scientific knowledge, and communication. Some ASVN programs may require that the student completes a diploma program prior to entry. Alternatively, they may offer general education courses before, during, or after nursing content.

A Vocational Nursing degree can also lead to greater career opportunities, as some employers will only consider applicants with an associate degree. Once completing an ASVN program, graduates must likewise prepare for and pass the NCLEX-PN exam for the state where they plan to work.

VN vs. ASVN: Salary

How Much Do VNs Make?

In its most recent data from May of 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average LVN salary nationwide was $51,850, or $24.93 per hour. The highest 10 percent of LVNs make over $63,790 per year. LVNs in the five top-paying states average between $60,490 and $65,140, translating to an hourly rate of between $29.08 and $31.32 per hour.

How Much Do ASVNs Make?

Vocational Nurses who have earned their ASVN degree also fall into the same salary ranges as diploma-VNs. However, some places may require job candidates to hold an associate degree or higher.

Nurse speaking with elderly patients

VN vs. ASVN: Job Outlook

VN Job Outlook

The need for Vocational Nurses over the next decade is projected to grow at 6 percent, which is about as fast as the average growth for all occupations. This includes over 58,800 new openings each year, on average. Most of this demand can be attributed to the aging baby-boomer population. As they grow older, they often encounter more health problems and require significant medical care.

ASVN Job Outlook

As was the case with projected salary, the BLS reports the job outlook for diploma or degree VNs is the same. This means that the 58,800 new nurses hired each year over the next decade include all LVNs. However, since some jobs may require a degree, spending extra time to start your career as an ASVN is worth the investment.

The Pros & Cons of Becoming an VN vs. ASVN

Before deciding which path to take toward your nursing career, consider your job preferences, long-term goals, and potential earning power. Then weigh the pros and cons of each track to becoming an LVN, including the following:

Pros of Diploma-VN Cons of Diploma-VN
  • Less time and money spent on coursework
  • Enter workforce sooner
  • Earn a salary sooner which can help pay down student loans or debt
  • Lower earning potential
  • Some employers may require you to eventually earn an associate degree


Pros of ASVN-VN Cons of ASVN-VN
  • Greater opportunities
  • Career advancement potential
  • More time spent in school
  • An associate degree costs more than a formal diploma
  • Starting career later


Is Earning an ASVN Right For You?

After reading through, you should have a clearer idea of the differences between a VN and an ASVN. Becoming a Diploma-VN allows you to begin a nursing career much sooner. If this is your top priority, click here to learn more about the Vocational Nursing program at Unitek College.

An ASVN-VN may make more sense if your professional goals include specialized work or more career opportunities. If an associate degree is a right path, click here to learn more about the ASVN program at Unitek College. While Unitek’s ASVN program does not offer core nursing classes, it provides students with General Education and science courses that can help them build on their diploma programs and advance their careers. In addition, these Gen Ed courses can help prepare them for a BSN program.

Take time to determine the kind of nursing career, job opportunities, and possible management roles you want to pursue in the long run. This decision will help you make the best choice for your career.

Close up of a smiling nurse in a hospital