CNA Career Path: Ideas for Advancement

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Written by Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN Freelance Writer, IntelyCare
African-American CNA smiling and holding a clipboard outside.

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 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.

How to Advance as a CNA

Let’s take a look at some ideas for CNA career advancement. These suggestions can help you determine your next step after becoming a CNA.

1. 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 on your CNA career path. Your education offers a clear path to go from CNA to LPN or RN, increasing your earning potential and your skill set.

There are many different paths to earn a degree and gain 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 best way to move forward professionally.

2. Other Education Opportunities

Remember, obtaining an advanced nursing degree isn’t the only way to advance your CNA career path. 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 (CMA) that allows you to dispense certain medications. Learn more about the difference between a CNA and CMA. Generally, certifications like these lead to more job responsibility and, in most cases, higher income. Check out what CMA jobs are paying right now on IntelyCare.

3. Ask Questions

Beyond formal education, there are several ways you can achieve CNA career advancement 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.

4. Volunteer

Volunteering for extra work goes hand in hand with asking questions — you’ll advance your CNA career path 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.

What You Can Look Forward To

Nursing is one of the only professions with almost endless growth opportunities. As you’ve seen, one option for how to advance as a CNA is by obtaining advanced education credentials. When you further your career as a nursing professional, you’re not just increasing your responsibilities, you’re also likely looking at earning more than you do right now as a CNA.

As a career, being a nursing assistant is a critical part of the healthcare landscape, but you don’t earn as much as you would if you were an LPN or RN. The average salary for an RN is $89,010 per year, and the average salary for an LPN is $55,860 per year. Comparatively, the average salary for a nursing assistant is $36,220 per year.

But going back to school is not the only way to further your CNA career. 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.

Advance Your CNA Career Path With IntelyCare

At IntelyCare, we’re invested in you both as a professional and as a person. Need more experience on the floor before you can take the next step on your nursing career path? We can help. Check out the great CNA jobs that are available now on IntelyCare.