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Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) is quite an accomplishment, but why stop there? If you have drive and ambition and would like to see how far your skills and education can take you, there are plenty of career advancement options to explore. To take advantage of any of them, additional training, certification, and/or education are typically required. In exchange, however, you'll enjoy a career where the sky is the limit in terms of advancement.
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Unlocking Career Advancement Options for RNs
Just as you needed to obtain a degree and pass the NCLEX-RN Licensure exam to become an RN, you will likely need additional training, certification, and education to pursue any of the advancement options highlighted below. Completing a graduate nursing program is a great way to get the credentials you need. Depending on which path you'd like to follow, you may also want to obtain certifications in areas of specialization that coincide with your career goals. Sometimes, employers are willing to provide the training that's needed to advance further in your career.
Most Popular Career Paths for RNs
If you're not sure which path you'd like to following while advancing in your career as an RN, consider the following options. They are among the most popular career advancement options for Registered Nurses:
- Non-Clinical Work - After all of the training and education they undergo to become RNs, some discover that patient care isn't for them. In such instances, a non-clinical role is often a viable alternative. Some RNs move into case management roles, where they map out treatment plans and assess results, while others become nurse researchers at pharmaceutical firms, universities, and other organizations. Still others become nurse educators and teach the future of their profession.
- Clinical Specialization - The vast majority of RNs start out as generalists, essentially working wherever they are needed. Over time, you may find yourself drawn more and more to a particular area of specialty. Whether it is geriatrics, obstetrics, surgery or another niche, earning a certification in the area that interests you may allow you to focus exclusively on such roles down the road.
- Management - If you possess impeccable leadership, organizational, clinical, and time management skills, you might consider the nursing management track. Most who go this route begin by becoming supervisors, team leaders and the like. Eventually, you may work your way up to become the head of the nursing department at a local hospital. If you're particularly ambitious, you might aim for an executive position overseeing several clinics and hospitals.
- Advanced Practice - Perhaps the most lucrative career advancement option for RNs, advanced practice takes many forms. Positions that fall into this category include nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives. Nurses who obtain such positions are ranked just below doctors, and their responsibilities may include providing primary medical care or providing anesthesia services to patients prior to surgery. Graduate-level degrees are almost always required for such roles, and most advanced practice nurses also have specialized certifications. It may take a while to get there, but such positions are immensely fulfilling, and nurses who earn them are very well-compensated.
Which RN Career Path is Right for You?
After perusing the options above, you may still be unsure about which path to follow in your career as an RN. Don't worry; you don't have to decide immediately. In fact, it's often best to gain experience as a generalist before selecting a more advanced career path.