The potential for professional advancement is a vital characteristic of any career, and nursing is no exception. No matter how much you love your job and how rewarding you find it, there’s a chance you’ll feel stuck doing the same thing for years on end. That’s why, as a Registered Nurse, it’s comforting to know that you have many advancement opportunities when you decide you’re ready to climb the professional ladder.
Nursing opportunities are just as complex as they are many. Importantly, the possibilities for advancement are also contingent upon one’s interests, needs, and objectives. With enough nursing expertise comes the chance to tailor your next step according to precisely what you want your professional growth to bring you.
In this guide, we will explore together the What, How, and Why of nursing career advancement. Let’s discover the most popular advancement opportunity options available for Registered Nurses, as well as the best ways to advance your career as an RN. Before we find out what nurses can get promoted to and what the next steps after RN are, let’s take a look at why professional advancement in nursing is a wonderful idea.
Why Should You Advance Your Nursing Career?
There are many reasons to advance your career. Maybe after having been at it for ten years, you’re bored in your current role and want a change. Perhaps you want to increase the scope of your impact. Or possibly you want a schedule that would allow you to spend more time with your family. There is no dearth of reasons to go after professional advancement – you just need to find the one that drives you. Overall, some of the most common motivations for RNs to further their career include:
- The possibility to pursue new job roles
Being on the frontlines and helping patients daily is undeniably a meaningful and rewarding job. And you’re good at it. As much as you love it, you can’t shake the feeling that it may be time for something new. And the prospect of pursuing new job roles or exploring other RN fields – either Advanced Practice roles or more specialized nursing career tracks – is very enticing. A new job means new challenges, and what’s more exciting and invigorating than going out of your comfort zone and becoming great at something all over again?
- Higher earning potential
Another very reasonable motive for climbing up the professional ladder is the paycheck that comes with it. Much like in other fields, career advancement in nursing will put more money in your pocket. The more advanced the role, the more complex the list of responsibilities; but that also significantly increases your earning potential. For example, while Registered Nurses earn on average $80,010 yearly, Nurse Practitioners, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses earn up to $114,510. Salaries are even higher for Nurse-Midwives – up to $115,540, and Nurse Anesthetists, who take the cake when it comes to wages, with salaries as high as $189,190.
- Improved job satisfaction
Indisputably, a career as a Registered Nurse will bring you an incredible sense of fulfillment, but it’s not easy. Long hours, the constant being on your feet, the lifting, the emotional fatigue, the stress – they are just as much a part of the job as the smile you get when a patient thanks you for your care. All of these unseen parts of the job add up and, unfortunately, they can lead to burnout and dwindling job satisfaction. When you sense this feeling creeping in, it’s time for a change – and career advancement might be exactly the breath of fresh air you’ve been craving. New career opportunities can bring back the job satisfaction that has been lost along the way.
How Can You Advance Your Nursing Career?
Advancement in the nursing profession is entirely up to you – you’re in charge of the reasons for seeking advancement and the opportunities you pursue. Let’s take a look at some of the most foolproof ways to advance your nursing career.
- Find a mentor
As a Registered Nurse, you will experience your share of situations where you aren’t sure what’s the best way forward. You’ll encounter tricky problems where someone else’s input will prove extremely valuable. Who would be better suited to guide you than a mentor? In the nursing field, mentors – and their knowledge and expertise – are there when you require consultation and are desperate for a piece of advice. Having one in your corner will prove invaluable for your career track. A mentor will help you expand your professional circle and open you up to new opportunities. And should you need a professional reference for your next job application, they’ll have you covered.
Suppose you are interested in finding a mentor. In that case, you can start by looking for formal mentorship programs offered by your employer or other professional nursing organizations. If that doesn’t work out in your favor, you can always try nursing blogs, ask your co-workers or the HR office at your place of work if they know of any potential mentorship opportunities.
- Get certified
Getting certified in one or more areas of nursing is a significant step toward a promotion. As you narrow your focus through specialization, you increase your expertise – and that makes you more valuable on the job market. There are many different certifications you can pursue depending on your nursing level. Some of the most common certifications you can get as an RN include:
- Holistic Nursing Certification
- Nursing Informatics Certification
- Psychiatric Mental Health Care Certification
Of course, you can also pursue certifications in a specific area of nursing that interests you. For instance, if you are drawn to working with infants, you can go for a Pediatrics Certification or a Neonatal Care Certification. If your interests lie in helping the older generation, an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification might be the way to go.
Find out more about the top nursing certifications you should get in 2021.
- Join a professional nursing organization
As a Registered Nurse, always staying on top of your game is essential. Being a part of a professional nursing organization can help you achieve just that. As a member of a professional nursing organization, you will significantly expand your professional circle. It’s where you can find a mentor or hear about new and exciting work opportunities. You can also find invitations and discounts to nursing seminars, classes, and conferences there. There are plenty of organizations to choose from – a little bit of research will bring you closer to the one that’s right for you.
- Advance your nursing education
Last but definitely not least, furthering your education will play a significant role in elevating your nursing career. This is undoubtedly a big commitment. Going back to nursing school requires time, energy, and money – and committing to pursuing higher degrees is an important decision. But if you decide to take this step, your career opportunities will increase. Your current nursing level will dictate the education level you need to work towards. As a Registered Nurse, these are the educational tracks you can pursue to bring you one step closer to the best job for you.
BSN: If you’re serious about advancing your career, one of the most critical steps is earning your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. A BSN will make you a better, more qualified nurse. It will also open up the way for many more job opportunities and put you on the path to higher earnings.
Nightingale College’s fully online RN-to-BSN program is the ideal solution if you want to get your graduate nursing degree. We aim to advance your nursing skills and prepare you for advancement opportunities in your field. And the best part? Our program is designed with working professionals like you in mind, so you can juggle school, work, and your personal life – all while working towards your professional betterment.
MSN: A Master’s of Science in Nursing makes it possible for you to pursue APRN roles, such as Nurse Anesthetist or Nurse Practitioner. It opens the door for more advanced positions in management and leadership. If a career in education seems more up your alley, an MSN is once again the way to go.
Our MSN program can help you achieve your goal of becoming a Nurse Educator in as few as 20 months!
DNP/PhD: In the nursing field, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) are the highest levels of education you can aim for. Earning either of these advanced degrees will prepare you for the highest levels of nursing expertise. While they’re both terminal degrees, the scope of practice is quite different for each. DNPs are focused extensively on clinical practice, while PhDs have a research approach to nursing. They are both equally prestigious and demonstrate that the RN is an expert in their field. Should you get to this education level, it’s imperative to decide how you want your career to go: toward research or clinical practice – and pursue your education accordingly.
What Are Some of The Best Advancement Opportunities for Nurses?
Are there any opportunities for advancement in nursing? Most certainly. However, with so many options available, advancement can mean different things for different nurses. For some RNs, Advanced Practice roles count as a promotion, while others see advancement as working less at the bedside. Some Registered Nurses may perceive management roles as the natural next step and the pinnacle of professional advancement.
- Nurse Practitioner
If having autonomy in your nursing practice is an essential characteristic of advancing in your career, then Nurse Practitioner is the way to go. NPs are authorized to see patients without the supervision of a physician. They can order diagnostic tests, see and treat patients, prescribe medication, provide counseling, and more.
- Nurse Anesthetist
Is career advancement associated with a higher paycheck in your book? If that is the case, Nurse Anesthetist is as high as you can go. With salaries of up to $189,190, it’s no secret that NAs are the best paid Registered Nurses. Their job responsibilities include providing anesthesia and offering pre-op and postoperative care to patients undergoing surgical, diagnostic, or obstetrical procedures.
- Nurse Midwife
An Advanced Practice role perfect for Registered Nurses interested in providing a wide range of healthcare services to women is Nurse Midwife. Nurse-Midwives can provide gynecological exams, and their expertise extends to prenatal and postnatal care and family planning.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical Nurse Specialist is the last of the four Advanced Practice Registered Nurse roles available to RNs looking for opportunities for advancement in their field. Clinical Nurse Specialists are expert clinicians with advanced knowledge and training in a specialized area of nursing practice. Common specializations for CNMs include pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health, oncology, or critical care. Their responsibilities include providing diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of patients.
Non-Clinical Advancement Options
The potential for advancement in the nursing world doesn’t limit itself to APRN roles which require extensive hands-on practice. You also have the possibility to pursue positions that take you away from the bedside. Let’s explore some of the non-clinical options for advancement for RNs:
- Nurse Educator
Nurse Educators are one of the most vital links in the nursing chain. Their responsibility is training the nurses of tomorrow, ensuring the upcoming generations of RNs are qualified and prepared to provide the highest levels of care. It’s a fantastic career option for RNs who love nursing and teaching and want to advance to a job that allows them to combine the two.
- Informatics Nurse
With technology and digitalization becoming progressively more ubiquitous in all aspects of today’s society, it’s no wonder that the same trend follows in nursing. That’s why informatics nursing is gaining more ground as a field with tremendous potential for advancement. Informatics RNs act as the liaison between the IT department and nursing, ensuring that technology and data are used to ensure the highest quality of patient-centered care.
The management track is also a popular route for RNs seeking professional advancement. Nurse administration is the perfect career route for RNs who have extensive expertise as nurses and now want to tackle the business aspect of the healthcare industry.
- Nurse Manager
Nurse Managers, also referred to as Nurse Administrators or Nurse Executives, are responsible for directing, supervising, and leading the nursing staff in a healthcare setting. Their day-to-day duties may include creating schedules, managing budgets, and dealing with personnel matters. Due to their management role, they may also assist with creating policies within the institution.
Are You Ready to Advance Your Career?
The numerous advancement opportunities are just one of the many selling points of a nursing career. There will always be new and exciting options waiting for you on the next step of the professional ladder. And these options generally come with higher paychecks, better benefits, and increased job satisfaction.
Are you wondering if you can use your education for the advancement of nursing? You sure can. Take that step today and mold your career according to your dream and aspirations!
Your professional advancement is closer than you think! Enroll in Nightingale College’s RN-to-BSN program and get it!