How can you progress within nursing?

Whether you’re a seasoned nursing professional or you’re at the beginning of your journey in pursuit of a career in nursing, the desire to advance within your field is usually inevitable. In nursing, progression can lead to new challenges, improved lifestyle, exciting job opportunities, better earnings, and more job satisfaction.

Taking those first steps to advancing your career can sometimes feel overwhelming. Maybe you’re figuring out which Doctor of Nursing Practice program is the right one for you, or perhaps you’re unsure about how to improve your resume.

Wherever you are in your journey, we’ve compiled a few useful ways that you can advance your career and get closer to your nursing goals.

Why do you want to progress?

First of all, why exactly do you want to progress within your nursing career? Before you launch into the different avenues that you can follow to progress in the field, it’s important to understand what’s driving your decision.

Explore new roles

There are lots of advancement opportunities out there – it just depends on what you’re looking for. Do you want to zero in on a specific field? Maybe you wish to move away from certain responsibilities? Or perhaps you’re keen to land a new role in administration or education? Whichever way your compass is facing, there are lots of exciting roles out there.

Increase your earning potential

With more advanced nursing roles usually comes greater responsibilities. And, in turn, greater responsibility often leads to increased earning potential, which is another enticing reason to progress your nursing career.

Don’t forget that your earning potential can vary wildly, depending on the geographic region or healthcare facility. It’s worth keeping an eye on the Bureau of Labor Statistics for a summary of median wages across the US.

Get more job satisfaction

This reason may be a little less tangible than the others, but it’s just as important. With long shifts and responsibilities, experiencing burnout isn’t uncommon in the field of nursing. Sometimes a change of pace is just what you need to feel refreshed in your career. What’s more, it can also be rewarding to know that you’re filling a position that is desperately needed – and one that you’re absolutely perfect for.

Five ways to advance your nursing career

Now that you’ve explored some of the reasons why you might want to progress within nursing, it’s time to think about the practical steps you can take to advance your nursing career.

There are lots of routes you can take to work toward your professional development – and some of them require bigger commitments than others.

Below, we will discuss some of the paths you can take to advance your nursing career.

Specialize in a field

Specializing in a specific field of nursing is a fantastic way to sharpen your skills, deepen your knowledge and improve your job prospects, which can lead to more fulfilling and rewarding work. For example, you could train to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP), an orthopedic nurse, a mental health nurse, a nurse midwife or a cardiac nurse. If you’re interested in becoming an FNP, visit

On the other hand, if leadership roles interest you more, why not specialize in management, administrative or executive roles? There are so many routes you can take to specialize in specific fields.

Get certified

Certifications aren’t just a requirement for most nurses, but some can also aid you in your pursuit of the more specialized nursing roles that we’ve outlined above. ACLS, PALS and BLS certifications, for example, are an absolute necessity for many healthcare professionals – for instance, those who work in emergency care or in senior care units.

Here’s a quick overview of what each certification looks like:

  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS): This certification demonstrates that you’ve trained in enhanced life support skills, team dynamics and basic drug therapy.
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (ALS): This program educates medical professionals on life-saving care for infants and children.
  • Basic Life Support (BLS): This training teaches medical professionals how to recognize life-threatening emergencies, provide emergency CPR, and use an AED.

Working in the healthcare industry can be incredibly time intensive, which means that many medical professionals find it hard to make time in their demanding schedules to get their specific certifications. Opting for online programs offers an easy and efficient way to get trained up in your own time.

Join professional networks

You know what they say: it’s all about who you know! Becoming part of a professional nursing organization is a really fantastic way to network with industry leaders and explore new career opportunities.

By tapping into these online professional communities, you’ll not only get the chance to meet other passionate nurses (with inspiring stories to share), but you’ll also get the latest news on medical advancements, research, techniques and practices in your industry.

Some of the most popular nursing networks include:

  • American Nurses Association
  • National Black Nurses Association
  • International Council of Nurses
  • National Student Nurses Association
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses
  • National League for Nursing

Don’t forget, nurses who are regularly active in these organizations and networks also usually get discounts on tickets to healthcare conventions, as well as access to other resources.

Find a mentor

Whatever industry you work in, it’s never a bad idea to work with a trusted mentor – and this is especially true in the field of nursing. As well as joining various networking organizations, why not seek out guidance and support from an experienced and dedicated advisor? Doing so can be really helpful, not just in helping you manage difficult situations in your job, but also in exploring what aspects of nursing fuels your passion.

Finding a trusted mentor who can work with you to lift that ‘career fog’, understand your desired career path, develop your skills and offer one-to-one support can help you have more career clarity, set realistic goals and, ultimately, reach the next stage in your nursing career.

Explore further education 

Re-examining your existing qualifications and exploring further routes in your education can be one of the most effective ways to help you progress your career within the field of nursing. Opting for higher education is, of course, a big commitment, but following this path can potentially lead to increased job opportunities, higher pay, or opportunities to work in more specialized fields.

For example, some of the possible further education routes you could take include the following:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): This qualification is usually a requirement for nurse practitioners, midwives, nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists.
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): If you want to pursue roles in leadership, managerial or teaching fields, then this is the qualification for you.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): Getting qualified in a BSN is a fantastic way to boost your employability and advance your career.

Although further education is by far the most impactful way to progress your nursing career, understandably, returning to school isn’t feasible for everyone – whether it’s due to financial restrictions or due to family circumstances. If you find yourself in this position, there are some options you can explore. For example, you can look into government assistance, scholarship programs or tuition reimbursement schemes.

Whichever industry you work in, investing in your career is never a bad idea and will always lead to some kind of personal reward. Committing your time and energy is a vital first step in progressing your nursing career, and working out what your goals are for nursing will help you narrow down the seemingly endless career choices.

However, remember that progressing your career within nursing is a lifelong process. It is one that requires a lot of passion, dedication and patience. Exploring options in further education, mentorship, networking and specialized certifications will not only aid you in climbing the rungs of the professional ladder, but can also help you make more of a positive impact on more people, by putting you in a role you can thrive in.

Regardless of the path you decide to take, nursing is an incredibly fulfilling career and becoming a nurse is an amazing accomplishment in itself.

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