Examples of Professional Nursing Goals: Skills, Education, Earnings

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover examples of educational, competency, earnings, and nursing career advancement goals to help you plot your way forward on your nursing career path.

[Featured Image]:  A female nurse, wearing a blue uniform, and a head covering is standing in front of a building with white walls.

Setting professional nursing goals is essential to advancing your career as a nurse. Your current focus could be earning an advanced nursing degree, moving into a leadership position, or becoming competent in a specialized area. Whatever it may be, successful career advancement requires experience, skill-building education, and strategic planning.

This guide provides examples of nursing goals that you can use as inspiration to develop your own.

Why set professional nursing goals?

Setting goals establishes a process for evaluating and monitoring progress toward your nursing career objectives. Your goals outline a career path roadmap guiding you to obtain the skills, experience, and education you need to succeed.

  • Goals help you measure progress. Specific goals, such as earning a certification in a specialized area, are much easier when you set actionable steps and deadlines for yourself.

  • Goals help you build your resume and develop the right competencies. Get focused on precisely which certifications and licenses you may need to boost your resume and move into a specialty. This can include taking classes, attending workshops, and participating in conferences for additional credentials.

  • Goals increase your sense of purpose. Setting goals is a motivator for keeping track of your progress, so you evaluate your career against your own achievements. Learning and building skills builds confidence.

  • Goals can set you up for career advancement. Whether you want to become a director, move into a more laid-back nursing opportunity, or start your own health care business, setting goals helps you progress faster.

5 examples of professional nursing goals

Your goals can focus on anything that helps you in your professional nursing career. Establish goals that fit your nursing career path and commit to achieving them.

1. Set a goal to build your experience.

Develop a list of experiences you want to gain. What do you want to achieve in your first three months of practice? This can help you make the most of your time and become competent more quickly. Setting a tangible goal can give you the courage to put your hand up to volunteer even it is challenging. 

Experience-driven goals to consider

• Assess and plan care needed for a specific type of patient

• Care for patients in both pre-surgery and post-surgery settings

• Measure and administer controlled drugs

• Take blood from a patient with difficult veins

• Do a patient handover to a senior nurse

• Supervise staff in a ward

• Care for patients in an acute medical setting

• Mentor a support worker or health care assistants

• Support patient families through an emotional time


2. Set a goal to get more education to advance your career.

For many nurses, success in their career is synonymous with advancing to progressively higher nursing levels. From nursing assistant and nursing assistant II to registered nurse (RN), nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse specialist (CNS), you can move up the ranks and achieve greater autonomy and responsibility. As you gain experience, you can also move up the pay scale.

The following are some roles to shoot for:

  • Certified nursing assistant (CNA): $43,413 [2]

  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN): $98,739 [3]

  • Registered nurse (RN): $122,893 [4]

  • Advanced practice nurse (APN): $113,832 [5]

  • Executive director of nursing: $140,453 [6]

The nursing profession offers you many career paths. You can work in clinical roles, research, education, management, public health, or consultancy. When mapping out your job progression plan, it’s a good idea to look at the resumes of people doing the job you want. Reviewing Linkedin profiles can help you gain insights to plan your nursing career path.

3. Set a goal to build soft skills.

Being a nurse is more than just a set of technical skills like drawing blood and taking temperature. A good nurse is a critical thinker, an ethical problem solver, an expert at time management, a team leader and builder, and overall, a patient, detailed, and compassionate human being.

You can set goals to build your soft skills and practice them in your work.

4. Set a goal to build technical nursing competencies.

To maintain competency in your current role, you'll want to stay up to date with new equipment, advances in health care technology, and treatment options. By increasing your technical nursing competencies and mastering new clinical procedures, you can advance your nursing career.

You may set goals to develop competencies such as:

  • Using urgent and emergency care equipment

  • Checking, monitoring, and assessing vital signs

  • Being proficient in compassionate patient and family education

  • Using medical information systems

  • Developing acute and specialist skills, such as a catheter, ventilator, ECG, and tracheostomy

With the increasing complexity of technology and care in health settings, you’ll need to continue to build your technical knowledge and skills throughout your career. 

5. Set a goal to broaden your nursing experiences.

As you advance in your career, it's easy to feel that you know what you're doing and get comfortable. To fulfill your potential, continually challenge yourself.

One way to do this is to spend time in different areas, working with different people, and learning new skills. If you are aiming for senior nursing roles, you may want to set a goal of working in various nursing settings throughout your career. As well as allowing you to broaden your experience, this can help you get a bigger picture of health care and prepare you for advanced or specialized roles

You might set a goal to get work experience in settings like:

  • Hospitals

  • Medical centers

  • Inpatient settings

  • Outpatient settings

  • Residential homes

  • Schools

  • Health centers

  • Corporate settings

  • Emergency departments

  • Prisons

You can also get experience working in many nursing areas and specialties:

  • Adult health nursing

  • Cardiac care nursing

  • Critical care nursing

  • Emergency room nursing

  • Geriatrics (care of older adults)

  • Medical/surgical nursing

  • Mental health/psychiatric nursing

  • Neonatal (newborn) care nursing

  • Oncology (cancer care) nursing

  • Pediatric (child care) nursing

Tips on setting your nursing goals

To succeed in the nursing profession, you’ll need to set short-term and long-term goals.

When setting your professional goals, make sure they are SMART:

  • Specific: Get clear on exactly what you want to achieve.

  • Measurable: How will you know if you have reached your goal? Set a target.

  • Achievable: Make sure it is possible to reach your goal.

  • Realistic: Your goals should be practical and relevant to you and your career.

  • Time-based: Set a deadline for reaching your goals to help you stay on track. 

Choose where you want to go in your career and work back from there. Think about your values, personal qualities, and what motivates you.

Take small steps toward your long-term goals

Think of your short-term professional goals as steps to achieve your long-term career goals. For example, suppose you want to become a nurse manager in the next five years. In that case, short-term goals could include earning a professional leadership certificate, gaining supervisory or team leadership experience, and ensuring that your core clinical skills are top-notch.


Take the next step

Consider Introduction to Integrative Nursing as part of the Integrative Nursing Specialization offered by the University of Minnesota to help you reach your nursing goals. You'll learn how to set patient care goals and learn a diverse set of integrative healing modalities.

Article sources


The National Academic Press, “Infographic: The Future of Nursing,https://nap.nationalacademies.org/visualizations/future-of-nursing.” Accessed August 9, 2023.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.