Mandy Kloppers

5 Ways to Advance in Your Career As a Nurse

Hospitals and the healthcare industry are under a lot of stress due to the increased number of patients during and after COVID-19. There is an urgent need for skilled labor for patient care and management, and nurses are the first point of contact between a patient and a doctor.

While the role of a registered nurse (RN) is very rewarding, nursing is a profession that offers plenty of opportunities to progress in your career. With plenty of training and non-training certifications available, an advanced certification in nursing will allow you to take up roles beyond a patient care nurse. These include but are not limited to nursing educators, nursing managers, and nursing practitioners.

Why advancing in your nursing career can be worth it

The role of a nursing practitioner (NP) goes beyond one of an RN. NPs deliver a higher level of care to their patients beyond taking histories and performing clinical examinations. NPs can also order laboratory investigations such as blood tests and X-rays. They are qualified to interpret laboratory investigations and create patient care plans and even prescribe medications.

NPs can also serve as specialty care providers in various healthcare settings, such as nursing homes, physician’s offices, and in specialty clinics such as pediatrics or gastroenterology clinics.

If a specialty certification as a nursing practitioner sounds like your calling, you may consider researching online post masters NP programs and enrolling in one that fits your career goals. Online programs allow you the flexibility of studying according to your work schedule.

Working as an NP also brings with it more employee benefits and a much higher salary than working as an RN. According to NURSA, a nurse staffing platform, the advanced qualifications and training of an NP allow them to enjoy a much higher annual salary, which averages $118,040. In comparison, the average annual salary of an RN is $87,750.

With that said, in this article, we discuss the different pathways you can take to advance your career as a nurse.


1.   Find a nurse mentor

In your hospital/workplace, you must have observed any team member or leader you admire. You may look up to their work ethic, leadership skills, or how they maintain a work-life balance. If you wish to be a better professional like them, ask them to be your mentor.

A mentor is a person in your workplace who can provide professional guidance as you progress in your career as a nurse. They can also help you cope on your bad days, as the workdays of nurses are often very exhausting.

Having a mentor can help you shape your career path—from where you are now in your career to where they are. They can help you tap into your potential and find a specialty of your liking. They can also give you an idea of the various nursing specialty training and certifications available in your area. They can also help you navigate through workplace problems, such as disagreements within your team.

2.   Choose your specialty

During your undergraduate degree, you will have rotated in multiple hospital departments and observed the different aspects of nursing. New nurses gain technical skills and knowledge as they rotate in different hospital wards, which can help them choose their specialty. Some examples of departmental rotations during your initial nursing career include pediatric nursing, cardiac nursing, geriatric nursing, or dialysis nursing.

Whether you like working with elderly patients because of their gentle demeanor or with little children because you get along with them, choosing a specialty will help you focus on the type of care you’re passionate about and are interested in. In turn, that may increase your job satisfaction.

3.   Earn a specialization certificate

As a healthcare provider, you must always welcome learning opportunities. Keeping yourself updated with new diagnosis protocols and treatment guidelines is an excellent tool to advance in your career as a nurse. Earning a specialization certificate will give you the knowledge and technical skills to impart care to patients according to your chosen specialty.

Being a specialty nursing practitioner also brings employment perks and a higher salary than an NP. According to NURSA, the highest-paying nursing specialties are certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA), followed by pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioners and emergency nurse practitioners. Other nursing specialties include cardiac care nurses and dialysis nurses.

4.   Join a professional organization

Many national and international nursing organizations welcome new nurses. Being a member of a professional organization helps you establish connections and meet stakeholders in different medical schools and hospitals.

These connections can help you with information about upcoming licensing programs and certificate courses and even help you find a mentor. These organizations facilitate new nurses by providing discounts on certificate courses and can help you with employment opportunities.

5.   Pursue a higher level of education in nursing

Nursing education doesn’t end with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN)—it is just the beginning! While the idea of going back to the classroom haunts many nurses, having a passion for nursing may help you overcome these fears.

A higher level of education in nursing opens many opportunities for advancing your career as a nurse. Increasing your job satisfaction, better salary, and a better quality of life with excellent employment benefits are just some of the few benefits of an advanced nursing degree.

A registered nurse can earn a degree of Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) and can work as an advance practical registered nurse (APRN). APRNs can work independently or as a part of a team in a hospital. MSN is a multi-specialty degree, allowing you to pursue any of the four APRN specialties: nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialties, and nurse midwives.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree will take you to the peak of your nursing career. Considered to have the highest level of clinical expertise, nurses having a DNP take up managerial positions at hospitals and public health organizations. Their responsibilities involve training and leadership of new nurses, and they can mentor their juniors.


A career in nursing can help develop empathy for people around you. Nurses are considered the first point of care at secondary and tertiary care hospitals. A good nurse can provide essential care and stabilize the patient before the doctor can tend to the patient.

A career in nursing can also provide you with ample opportunities for professional growth beyond the clinical setup, such as in teaching and management-level positions. It is a rewarding career with good benefits and exciting learning opportunities. The satisfaction that you get when a patient thanks you for your services makes the job worth the good and bad days.