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15 Examples of Nursing Career Goals and How To Reach Them

Nurses are more in demand than ever before, making the nursing profession rich with opportunities. You may be wondering, “Why is nursing a good career?” With most nursing roles projected to grow from 2020 to 2030, there’s never been a better time to be a nurse. But with so much job growth potential comes competition, which makes it important to consistently invest in yourself and your skills.

Any sort of professional development needs clearly determined professional goals in order to be effective. Your professional goals should always be SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Here we’ll share 15 nursing career goals to consider for yourself and tips on how to achieve them.

Why Are Goals Important for Your Nursing Career?

Setting long-term goals will help you advance in your career as a nurse. Accomplishing these goals will increase your personal and professional satisfaction and will also combat burnout. Setting goals for your nursing career can help you:

  • Plan ahead
  • Constantly develop skills
  • Improve earning potential
  • Feel fulfilled

15 Nursing Career Goals

1. Manage advanced technologies.

There is only one constant with medical technology: it’s always evolving. Nurses working in medical facilities often use technology, like portable patient monitors or telehealth services, to create, access, or update patient files. Learning how to use these healthcare technologies—however daunting it may seem—can benefit your career.

Stay up to date with changing tech in the medical field by doing the following:

  • Read free blogs for nurses
  • Subscribe to magazines and journals for nurses
  • Download apps for nurses
  • Join professional organizations for nurses

2. Get nursing certifications.

Nursing certifications are helpful in all stages of your nursing career, whether you’re new to the workforce or looking for advancement. Gain a competitive leg up on other candidates by earning a certificate in an area you’re particularly interested in, such as first aid, clinical research skills, pediatrics, oncology, or neonatology.

3. Find a mentor.

Mentors can be extremely useful when planning your professional development. They can help you set goals, make difficult decisions, shape your professional values, and grow in your career. While some medical facilities have formal internal mentorship programs for nurses, you could simply seek out an informal mentor by asking a nurse you admire out for coffee. A good mentor can provide context on the wider nursing industry, share insight into their personal experience and lessons learned, and introduce you to new nurse connections.

4. Advance your nursing degree.

Advancing your nursing degree can boost your résumé, increase job security, and help you make more money. If you already have an associate degree in nursing, consider working towards a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you already have a bachelor's degree and would like to take on a leadership position in nursing administration and management, consider earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) specializing in leadership.

5. Start volunteering.

There is a constant and high demand for nurses to volunteer their time at clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities in underserved communities, both in the United States and abroad. Internationally there is an even greater need and appreciation for volunteer nurses in developing countries. Both nursing students and registered nurses are often eligible for these types of programs. Providing volunteer assistance can be a very rewarding experience that can’t be replicated in a classroom or textbook.

6. Specialize in a particular nursing field.

While nurses are often “Jacks/Janes of all trades,” it’s wise to become a master of one. Maybe you entered the nursing field because of a particular personal experience that resonated with you, such as losing a family member to cancer. Or maybe you’re a couple of years into your career as a registered nurse and have realized you’re passionate about working with children. Either way, there are many different specialization roads nurses can walk down in their career path.

Consider the following types of medicine to specialize in:

  • Ambulatory care
  • Cardiovascular (care for patients with heart and blood issues)
  • Dialysis (the removal of waste from a patient's kidneys)
  • Gastroenterology
  • Geriatrics (care for elderly adults)
  • Holistic care
  • Infection control and prevention
  • Medical-surgical
  • Neonatal (care for newborns)
  • Neuroscience
  • Obstetrics (care for pregnant women and new mothers)
  • Oncology (care for patients with tumors)
  • Orthopedics (care for patients with bone and muscle issues)
  • Pediatrics or children's healthcare
  • Psychiatric or mental health care

7. Take care of yourself.

Nurses who practice self-care can ultimately perform their duties more efficiently and provide better care for their patients. Self-care is much more than a bubble bath on Sundays. It’s multiple deliberate activities all humans should do for mental and physical well-being. While self-care is important for all, it’s especially important for nurses whose main job is caring for others. You must keep your tank filled up so that you can provide better nursing care.

Examples of self-care include:

  1. Mental: Meditate, journal, see a therapist, and practice positive visualization.
  2. Physical: Eat quality foods, maintain a healthy weight, stretch daily, walk or stand more, and sit less.

8. Improve efficiency.

Becoming more efficient in your day-to-day nursing job tasks helps create balance when juggling multiple responsibilities. Efficiently completing tasks in a timely manner can create space for more responsibilities and career growth.

Here are some strategies that nurses can practice to improve efficiency:

  • Intention-setting: In the morning or the night before your workday, take a few minutes to write down or speak out loud your intentions for the day. What goals do you have? What tasks will you accomplish? What habits will you practice?
  • Organization: Plan your day—including breaks—in whatever way works for you (Google Calendar, physical planner, etc.).
  • Prioritization: With many tasks constantly vying for your attention, practice prioritizing the most important tasks first thing. Or, try structuring your day based on when you’re most productive and have the highest energy.

9. Improve communication skills.

Improving your communication skills is so important for career growth for nurses. Strong communication skills can boost health outcomes for patients and enhance relationships with co-workers, patients, and families. Good communication skills for nurses go beyond written and verbal communication. Nurses who actively listen are better able to care for patients, take direction from doctors, and be part of a team.

Other aspects of effective communication include:

  • Patient education
  • Compassion/trust
  • Cultural awareness
  • Presentation skills

10. Specialize in certain tasks.

Specializing in certain tasks is important for career growth as it improves productivity and accuracy. Most nurses have a broad scope of responsibilities and tasks that vary from patient to patient. But it’s never bad to be known for doing one particular task well.

Try earning a reputation for being exceptional for one of the following:

  1. Administering medications and treatments to patients.
  2. Collaborating within your team and across other teams on patient care.
  3. Providing compassionate support to patients in need.
  4. Operating medical equipment and technologies.
  5. Educating your patients on managing their illness.

11. Maintain work-life balance.

Leading a balanced life can help you perform better as a nurse. It’s easy to fall into a workaholic trap and take your work home with you, but this will result in burnout. Make self-care a priority by keeping your physical and emotional needs a top priority, and don’t forget to have fun, too. For some selfless people (which many nurses are), making time for fun is actually a goal that can help you further your career. When you’re happy and healthy, it manifests as success in all areas of life.

12. Become an advocate.

A noble career goal for a nurse is to become a better advocate. Advocating can be for your patients, for new policies at work, or for practices you believe strongly in. Nurses can help advocate for patients by guiding them through the medical system and providing resources. For example, nurses can advocate for patients receiving chemotherapy with information on taking anti-nausea medication effectively. On a larger scale, you could become an advocate seeking to create systemic change by addressing health inequities and influencing health policy.

13. Become a mentor for others.

Mentoring another nurse that’s new in the field helps you become a better nurse. Nurse mentorship programs provide mutual professional growth through a supportive and ongoing relationship. As a mentor, you can help your mentee by offering emotional support, helping to chart a career path, and providing guidance on the day-to-day. Ultimately, helping another nurse will provide you with fulfillment in both your career and life.

14. Participate in workshops, in-services, or job shadowing.

If your workplace offers workshops, in-service classes, or job shadowing, you should take full advantage of those opportunities. Nursing is a dynamic profession that’s always changing, and nurses must adapt to new technology and policies faster than ever. These learning opportunities are usually free ways to expand your nursing industry knowledge and further enforce your commitment to your employer.

15. Learn on your own.

Outside of in-service classes and on-the-job shadowing offered by your employer, seeking out opportunities to learn on your own should be a constant nursing career goal. Courses, conferences, and webinars are all common sources for continuing education for nurses. You can also choose to continue your formal education by advancing your nursing degree.

Why Choose WGU?

With WGU’s accredited online nursing degrees you can continue working at your full-time job and maintain your family or personal responsibilities while pursuing your ideal nursing position through BSN or MSN degrees. WGU is flexible with your needs. You don't have to log in to classes and there aren't due dates. Learn more about our master’s degrees in nursing.

There are numerous opportunities that exist after getting a master’s degree in nursing. With an MSN, you could go on to become a:

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Informatics Nurse
  • Nurse Educator
  • …and more!

As an MSN-educated nurse, your work in healthcare would change lives every day. After earning an MSN, you’ll have more opportunities to advance your healthcare career and impact patient care with a post-master’s certificate in nursing. You already have critical skills and knowledge that have brought you to an impactful career—now you can add additional specialty skills that will allow you to go further.

At WGU, there are two post-master’s certificate nursing programs that help master’s degree-holding nursing professionals advance in or diversify their career paths:

  • Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing–Education
  • Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing–Leadership and Management

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a bachelor’s degree in nursing?

A bachelor’s degree in nursing through WGU is an online nursing degree program designed for working registered nurses who have an ADN or nursing diploma and need an RN-to-BSN degree program that’s flexible with their schedule. The program focuses on the areas of research, theory, leadership, community concepts, healthcare policy, therapeutic interventions, and current trends in healthcare. You’ll learn to improve patient outcomes and influence communities with your knowledge of evidence-based practice, patient safety, technology integration, and healthcare systems and policies.

What is a master’s degree in nursing?

If your vision of your professional future includes a role in nursing administration and management, a CCNE-accredited master’s degree in nursing (MSN) is a must. When you pursue this degree, you'll get clinical practice experiences such as real-time simulation using immersive virtual reality training. Nurse managers with a master's degree combine their technical nursing know-how with strong people skills, organizational prowess, and business knowledge to lead healthcare teams to success—success that transforms lives. You’ll also increase your earning power.

How much do RN nurses make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for registered nurses is $75,330.

How much do BSN nurses make?

While the BLS doesn’t differentiate between nurses who’ve earned an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) versus those who’ve earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), according to, what degree you have does impact how much you can make. Amongst the ADN and BSN nurses polled, found that BSN nurses were earning, on average, $3.89 more per hour than ADNs.

How much do MSN nurses make?

According to the BLS, the median pay for master’s-educated nurses is $117,670 per year.

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