Examples of Professional Nursing Goals: Skills, Education, Earnings

Written by Coursera • 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. Whether your current focus is earning an advanced nursing degree, finding a leadership position, or becoming competent in an area of specialization, successful career advancement combines experience, skill-building education, and strategic planning. Use this guide to understand the reasons for setting goals and examples of nursing goals you can use as inspiration to develop your own.

Why have professional nursing goals?

Setting goals establishes a process for evaluating and monitoring progress toward your nursing career objectives. Your goals become a career roadmap guiding you on competencies you need to learn, jobs that will gain relevant experience, and educational requirements that you'll need to fulfill.

Goals bring focus and prevent career drift.

Nursing is a broad profession, and you have many career options. When you set professional nursing goals, you gain clarity and direction to make your career more purposeful. Goals give you a path to follow in your career.

Goals help you measure progress.

You can measure the progress of your career more easily when you have specific professional nursing goals, such as obtaining certification in a specialty or earning a graduate degree in nursing. When you set deadlines for yourself, you’ll know whether you’re on track to achieving your goals. They can also give you a sense of urgency that keeps your career moving.

Goals help you build your resume and develop a strong competency base.

When you set professional nursing goals, you don't just make your career more focused; you also improve the content of your resume. Taking classes, attending workshops, and participating in conferences increase your knowledge base and give you credentials that will typically make you more marketable to future employers. When you take a career-focused approach to build new skills, earning qualifications, and gaining experience in new areas, you’ll overcome resume gaps to enable you to take the next steps in your career.

Goals are motivating and increase your sense of purpose.

Setting professional nursing goals can be very motivating. When you keep track of your career progress, you notice your achievements and see how they fit into your long-term goals. This is motivating and can help you build confidence, too.

Goals help you act professionally.

Professional nurses have clear professional boundaries and must always act within them. Your goals can help you ensure that you always act in a way that is ethical and moral, taking care not to cross professional boundaries. Goals can change your focus and increase your levels of professionalism, helping you think and act like a senior staff member as you climb the ladder.

Goals can open you up to new experiences.

It's easy to get caught up in daily routines and miss opportunities that could benefit your career. Establishing professional nursing goals makes you more likely to notice new opportunities and experiences when they present themselves. Goals can also help you recognize when an opportunity doesn't align with your values or career path.

Goals can set you up for career advancement.

As you progress in your nursing career, it's essential that you continually grow professionally and personally. Setting goals means you're more likely to advance in your current position and eventually move on to a new opportunity. Whether you want a leadership position, a different type of job, or even to eventually start your own health care business, setting professional nursing goals will help you in your progression.

A little about goal setting

To succeed in the nursing profession, you’ll need to set short-term and 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, some short-term goals that could help you get there could be earning a professional leadership certificate, gaining supervisory or team leadership experience, and ensuring that you are secure in your core clinical skills.

Setting short-term and long-term goals allows you to see how far along you are on your journey. You can also recognize if you need to invest more time and attention in certain areas.

When setting your nursing goals, make them SMART. Well-constructed SMART goals will have more power than vague wants and wishes. SMART goals are:

  • 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. Make sure that you want to get where you are heading in your career. 

Examples of professional nursing goals you can set

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.

Set a goal to build your experience.

You can set experience goals as you move through your nursing career. Develop a list of experiences you want to gain. For example, if you are starting in your nursing career, have a list of the things you need to cover in your first week, month, or three months of practice. This can help you make the most of your time and become competent more quickly. Setting experience goals can help you to see the opportunities to enhance your skill set and give you the courage to put your hand up to volunteer even when a situation is challenging. 

Here are some core experience goals you might want to use:

  • 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

Set a goal to move up nursing levels and get more education.

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. Seniority and pay go hand in hand in the nursing profession. As you gain experience, you can also move up the pay scale.

If you want to progress through nursing levels, start by setting goals to get to specific levels by certain dates, including the necessary additional education. With a higher level of education, you can provide more specialized care and assume leadership roles. 

Read more:

The following are some examples of roles and qualifications that could be your goals: 

  • Certified nursing assistant (CNA), $55,126 / yr [2]

  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN), $106,014 / yr [3]

  • Registered nurse (RN), $117,914 / yr [4]

  • Advanced practice nurse (APN), $116,544 / yr [5]

  • Master's degree in nursing, $110,388 / yr [6]

  • Doctor of nursing practice (DNP), $121,331 / yr [7]

  • Executive director of nursing, $121,577 / yr [8]

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.

Set a goal to build workplace competencies.

When you consider your competencies as a nurse, it’s essential to understand that being a nurse is more than just a set of skills; it's a way of being. Nursing is a true vocation. 

You can set goals to build workplace competencies and practice certain personal qualities in your work. Here are some of the personal attributes you can make it a goal to practice:

  • Kindness and compassion

  • Ethics and confidentiality

  • Patience

  • Attention to detail

  • Empathy

You should also set goals to improve your competencies. Many of these are learned skills that you can build when you take courses and professional certificates:

  • Communication

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Critical thinking and problem solving

  • Leadership

  • Organizational skills

  • Observational skills

  • Time management and prioritization

When choosing competencies to focus on, look at job advertisements in roles that you’d like to apply to in the future. You can then set goals to build workplace competencies as you journey up your career ladder. 

Set a goal to build technical nursing competencies.

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

Your technical nursing competency goals should align with your career path. You may focus on areas like:

  • 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. 

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 strategic 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

Ready to work on your nursing goals?

Use online courses, specializations, and professional certificates to accomplish some of the goals you have set for your professional nursing career path. Online learning opportunities can help you:

  • Build relevant skills and train with industry leaders in an engaging online format

  • Learn the latest techniques and best practices to advance your career

  • Gain specialized knowledge employers value in today's workplace

  • Strengthen your resume by demonstrating knowledge and competencies

Consider Integrative Nursing Specialization or Introduction to Integrative Nursing, both offered by the University of Minnesota on Coursera to help you reach your goals.



Introduction to Integrative Nursing

This course is designed for nurses who are drawn to practice in a different way – nurses who value whole-person care and know that the essence of nursing ...


(59 ratings)

6,243 already enrolled


Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

integrative healthcare, wellbeing, patient-centered care, improved symptom management, evidence-based practice



Integrative Nursing

Patient-Centered, Relationship-Based Nursing Care. By the end of this specialization, you will be able to practice a patient-centered, relationship-based approach to nursing that utilizes a variety of integrative healing modalities.


(121 ratings)

1,080 already enrolled


Average time: 7 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

integrative healthcare, wellbeing, patient-centered care, improved symptom management, evidence-based practice, symptom management, healthcare, Stress Management, Pain Management, whole-person care, Mindfulness, integrative medicine

You’ll also discover a wide variety of nursing-related educational opportunities on Coursera, including vital signs, leadership, anatomy, medical emergencies, nursing informatics, clinical terminology, communication, herbal medicine, and management.

Related articles

Article sources

1. The National Academic Press, “Infographic: The Future of Nursing,https://nap.nationalacademies.org/visualizations/future-of-nursing.” Accessed April 13, 2022.

2. Glassdoor, “How much does a Certified Nursing Assistant make?https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/certified-nursing-assistant-salary-SRCH_KO0,27.htm.” Accessed April 13, 2022.

3. Glassdoor, “How much does a Licensed Practical Nurse make?https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/licensed-practical-nurse-salary-SRCH_KO0,24.htm.” Accessed April 13, 2022.

4. Glassdoor, “How much does a Registered Nurse make?https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/registered-nurse-salary-SRCH_KO0,16.htm.” Accessed April 13, 2022.

5. Glassdoor, “How much does a Advanced Practice Nurse make?https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/advanced-practice-nurse-salary-SRCH_KO0,23.htm.” Accessed April 13, 2022.

6. Glassdoor, “How much does a RN (Masters Degree)Staff Nurse make?https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/rn-masters-degree-staff-nurse-salary-SRCH_KO0,29.htm.” Accessed April 13, 2022.

7. Glassdoor, “How much does a Doctor of Nursing Practice make?https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/doctor-of-nursing-practice-salary-SRCH_KO0,26.htm.” Accessed April 13, 2022.

8. Glassdoor, “How much does a Executive Director Nursing make?https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/executive-director-of-nursing-salary-SRCH_KO0,29.htm.” Accessed April 13, 2022.

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