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Setting Career Goals as a Nurse & How to Achieve Them

As the field of nursing continues to evolve, the opportunities for nurses and nursing students are growing as well. Nursing offers some of the most challenging, exciting and diverse career paths of any skilled profession in the world. Nurses who want to make the most of their education and experience need to establish career goals and make a concrete plan for achieving those goals.

Take a Personal Inventory


The first step in setting career goals as a nurse is to consider personal strengths, interests and skills. Some people become nurses because they want the freedom to travel and work throughout the country or even the world. Other nurses are interested in establishing a regular routine that allows them to spend time with their families. When setting nursing career goals, consider the following:

  • What motivated you to become a nurse?
  • What aspects of nursing do you like the most? What things do you dislike about nursing?
  • Are you interested in traveling and working in different states or internationally?
  • Do you like to work as part of a team, or do you prefer to work independently?
  • Is a stable and predictable work environment appealing to you, or do you enjoy doing different things every day?
  • Do you have cultural or religious beliefs that have an impact on your nursing practice, such as the desire to work in a faith-based hospital or medical facility?
  • Is long-term career stability important to you, or do you enjoy short-term contract work that allows you to move between different jobs easily?
  • Do you need a job that includes health insurance and benefits?
  • Would you like to work in the community, or do you prefer clinical or hospital nursing?
  • What amount of compensation would you like to achieve? Remember that salary is only part of a compensation package; pension plans, benefits, tuition allowance and vacation days are all important as well.
  • Where do you picture your perfect nursing jobs, who are your patients, and what types of skills and training are required?

Set Goals That Match Your Interests

Once you have taken the time to consider your nursing career, the reasons behind your decision to become a nurse and the type of lifestyle you want, you can begin to set specific career goals. For many people, writing down career goals, along with a timeline is helpful to clarify what they hope to achieve and when.

Research Education and Experience

The best way to achieve your nursing career goals is to research and understand what type of education and experience is needed to be successful in your chosen career path. For some nurses, this means gaining experience by working in a particular unit or hospital, for others, returning to school to upgrade their education to better their career. Nurses who want to work internationally might need to learn a second language, and for advanced clinical positions, specific nursing degrees may be required.

Positions involving program administration and supervision often expect applicants to have a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), with many nursing jobs now including a Master of Science in Nursing Administration as a requirement. By clarifying your specific nursing career goals, you will be able to decide what type of education and training is best for you.

New Options Available for Advancing Your Nursing Education

Online advanced degrees present an attractive option for nurses whose career goals include increased pay as well as clinical and managerial positions. Online university programs such as University of Texas at Arlington's College of Nursing and Health Innovation allow working nurses to complete an RN to BSN in about a year while continuing to work at their regular jobs.

In addition to being convenient, web-based university education is more affordable than traditional classroom learning. Because online students can continue to work while pursuing an advanced degree, many students in online programs are able to complete their degrees without needing to take out student loans. For nurses, this means that an online degree can have a high return on investment. Nurses who enhance their education with an online degree are positioned to enhance their income and seek higher paying positions.

Learn more about the UTA online RN to BSN program.

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