What are Career Goals for Nursing?

Don’t know what to do with your nursing career? Explore these career goals for nursing to set your nursing career in a positive direction.

January 2024

Nursing career goals are important. Not only does planning for the future help you focus your time and efforts, but it also helps measure your progress and growth over time. Yet with so many different career paths for nurses, it can be hard to identify your own goals or when it’s time for a nursing career change. If you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t know what to do with my nursing career,” explore different nursing job titles and what career goals you can set for yourself.

Why career goals are important for nurses

Why set nursing career goals? Goals put progress into perspective and give you motivation to keep moving forward. Having a goal helps you think about the long term without getting lost in the day to day.

Identifying your nursing career goals can help you: 

  • Feel good about future job prospects 
  • Focus on your interests
  • Specialize in a healthcare niche 
  • Level up your education 
  • Continue growing your salary 

Working towards your goals can also show your employer your dedication for your field and a commitment to growing your skillset. Whether you work in a hospital, doctor’s office, or care facility, management teams recognize when individuals are willing to go the distance.

Finally, reaching goals boosts personal and professional satisfaction. When your time and effort results in realizing a dream, you're able to measure just how far you’ve come and what’s possible moving forward.

Career goals as a nurse

There’s never been a better time to be a nurse. A national nursing shortage has put nurses in high demand, meaning now more than ever nurses can chart an exciting, rewarding career with endless opportunities. 

When deciding next moves in your nursing career, there are several different paths to consider:

Advance your education

Having more nursing education under your belt will always provide a competitive edge. Extra knowledge and training proves a commitment to your profession; plus, going back to school gives you added job security and deeper passion for your career. 

There are two different ways to advance your nursing education:  

Nursing degree: Getting your ADN, BSN, or MSN is the most significant way to advance your nursing career. Degrees reward you with a higher salary; for example, an LPN who earns their RN can expect a 49% pay increase. Plus, nursing degrees open the door to endless nursing opportunities.  

Certifications: If your next nursing degree is not apriority, completing a certification is another smart option. Nursing certifications focus on specific tasks such as wound care or life support, or specific healthcare areas such as psychiatric care, anesthesiology, and more. 

Choose a specialty

Becoming an expert in a healthcare niche makes you extremely valuable. When you can fill a much-needed void, you become an indispensable part of a team, with peers and patients alike turning to you for your expertise. Examples of nursing specialties include:

  • Pediatrics
  • Oncology
  • Emergency room 
  • Elderly care 
  • Cardiovascular
  • And more

Move into leadership

Another nursing career goal can be becoming a leader within your organization. Providing others with guidance and support is a fulfilling way to give back to the nursing community; plus, leadership roles often come with a boost in pay. Examples of nursing leadership roles include:

  • Educator: Teaching is a great way to connect with and inspire the next generation of nurses. To be an educator, one must have an advanced degree, typically a MSN. 
  • Mentor: Lending experience, support, and compassion to newer coworkers helps bolster confidence in younger nurses still finding their footing. 
  • Manager: Leading a team is a rewarding way to create the kind of work environment you desire, improving quality for nurses and patients alike.

Improve job skills

Upping your everyday nursing skills is a strong goal regardless of career moves. The more you can nail down common transferable abilities, the better your performance will be across the board.

  • Communication: Strengthening written and verbal communication helps you connect with your team and patients. 
  • Technology: Staying up to date on the latest healthcare technology enhances your ability to provide superior care.
  • Efficiency: Finding ways to improve workflow, procedure, or hospital standards will not only make your life easier, but also impress your superiors.

Focus on personal growth

Career goals and personal goals do not have to be mutually exclusive. Taking care of others is extremely demanding; it’s easy to lose sight of caring for yourself as well. While you’re charting your career trajectory, be sure to keep your own well being high on your list.

  • Self care: Focusing on your physical and mental health will keep you strong and able to support others. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
  • Work/life balance: Making time for family, hobbies, or other interests outside of work helps create a fulfilling, well-rounded life, which in turn will make you a happier nurse.

Different nursing job titles

Nursing can take you in many directions. Depending on what you're interested in and how much education you wish to pursue, there are many different nursing job titles within the industry. 

Nursing job titles that do not require a degree:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Nursing job titles that require a degree:

  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Surgical Assistant Registered Nurse
  • Home Care Registered Nurse
  • Emergency Room Registered Nurse
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Supervisor
  • Nurse Case Manager
  • Critical Care Registered Nurse
  • Oncology Registered Nurse
  • Health Informatics Nurse Specialist
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Educator

Having a nursing degree leads to higher earning potential. A registered nurse earns significantly more than nursing job titles that don't require a degree. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, today’s nurses earn: 

  • CNA: $35,740
  • LPN: $54,620
  • RN: $81,220

On average, an RN earns $45,480 more than a CNA. Over20 years, that’s nearly one million dollars in extra earning potential.  

I don’t know what to do with my nursing career

If reviewing these nursing career goals still feels overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, you don’t have to have it all decided at once. A big advantage of nursing is that it’s never too late to pursue your goals.

One way to figure out the next step in your nursing career is to go back to school. Learning about the latest healthcare trends and developments can expose you to new interests and awaken a renewed passion for nursing. Not only will you broaden your knowledge and skill set, but you'll also be able to connect with peers and tenured nurses who can share their experience and professional perspectives on how to shape a healthcare career. 

Earning your degree opens the door to countless opportunities, even if you aren’t sure which nursing career change is right for you. Certifications alone are limiting for those who wish to pursue leadership or specialist roles; a degree gives you the flexibility to continue moving forward over the course of your career. 

Pursue your nursing career goals with Achieve

When you’re ready to take the first step towards your RN or BSN, Achieve Test Prep can help. Our nursing bridge program allows you to test out of nursing prerequisites so you can make accelerated progress towards your degree. We offer day, night, and weekend courses to fit with your busy schedule, as well as additional college prep supports to help you earn college credits with confidence. Connect with an Achieve Advisor to discuss your nursing career goals and how we can support you.

Take your next step

Move towards your education and career advancement goals in less time with a more supportive, flexible program built for busy, working adults.

Take the first step

Find out how to use innovative learning solutions to finish your degree requirements faster. Why not take the next step and see if you’re a good candidate for our credit by exam program.

Phone (888) 900-8380