How to Advance Your Career as a Nursing Assistant

How To Advance CNA career path

Career advancement is part of every caregiver’s journey, but some may find it easier than others. Often, nursing assistants struggle with how to advance their nursing career – it may seem like an unattainable goal to focus on when juggling work and familial responsibilities.

But there is no need to give up hope. As a certified nursing assistant (CNA), you can work to earn advanced credentials to help expand your CNA career path. You can also advance your nursing career while you’re working, by developing a unique skill set and becoming an essential part of the healthcare team. That’s the beauty of nursing – nearly every experience helps you learn more and develop skills to carry you far in life.

Earn Your Credentials

Going back to school to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN) is perhaps the most obvious way to move forward in nursing. Your education offers a clear path to increasing your earning potential and advancing your career.

There are many different paths to earning a degree and gaining the valuable knowledge you need to further your nursing career. Traditionally, many people choose to pursue their LPN or RN degree. Fortunately, many degree programs offer both full- and part-time options to help working nursing professionals succeed. Completing any nursing program isn’t easy, but it’s the #1 way to move forward professionally.

Other education opportunities

Remember, obtaining an advanced nursing degree isn’t the only way to advance your career. There are also a variety of certificate programs that help you earn credentials and gain experience. Most certificates focus on a specific aspect of nursing practice. For example, CNAs may earn a medication aide certificate allowing them to dispense certain medications. Generally, certifications like these lead to more job responsibility and, in most cases, higher income.

Ask Questions

Beyond formal education, there are several ways you can advance your CNA career path while you’re on the job. Asking questions is a great way to learn. Your coworkers are invaluable sources of knowledge, and asking questions shows them you’re interested in performing your duties to the very best of your ability.

Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues questions about things you’re not directly involved in. If there’s time, and there’s no risk of harm to the patient, your coworkers will likely be eager to share their knowledge.

When I was a new nurse in the operating room, I had the opportunity to observe many cutting-edge medical procedures. One of these was an open heart procedure to repair a valve – I watched from the side while other RNs worked as the circulator and scrub techs.

I was at the head of the bed and asked the anesthesiologist about something I saw on one of their monitors. My one question about something minor turned into a half hour discussion/demonstration from anesthesiology on managing a patient undergoing surgery. I certainly wasn’t working, but I did learn a great deal that day about the complex work performed by anesthesiologists. During other surgeries, the same anesthesiologist made sure to point out interesting features and differences in care to me.

I am not an anesthesiologist, but that experience was a great way for me to expand my knowledge about a particular aspect of patient care. It also helped me get closer to my coworkers, which ultimately strengthened the care team.


Volunteering for extra work goes hand in hand with asking questions – you’ll advance your career by learning new skills and actively using them to provide care to patients. While volunteering doesn’t provide you with any formal credentials, it does expose you to new situations and skills that you can use later on in your practice.

Like questioning, volunteering also signals your willingness to improve your skills and knowledge base. This is generally very valuable to employers, who often look to promote nursing professionals that go above and beyond their standard job duties. Volunteering also shows you’re a dependable, engaged employee who won’t be satisfied with doing the bare minimum for a paycheck. That’s a good look for anybody!

Nursing is one of the only professions with almost endless opportunities for advancement. To advance your nursing career, and move through your CNA career path, you can obtain advanced education credentials. But that’s not the only way to succeed. Taking an active role in your own work and learning more through questioning and volunteering can also help you move forward professionally. And you don’t have to wait to start a degree or certificate program – you can take steps forward while still working to provide for your loved ones.

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and worked as a registered nurse in multiple specialties, including pharmaceuticals, operating room/surgery, endocrinology, and family practice. With over nine years of clinical practice experience, her unique insights into the healthcare industry help her craft compelling content that targets both healthcare consumers and clinicians.


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