The career outlook for the field of nursing is incredibly promising these days. Not only is there a great deal of job security for nurses projected for the coming years, but the opportunities to advance and specialize in a specific area are plentiful. Such opportunities can allow a nurse to increase their earning potential as enjoy career advancement possibilities.

That being said, the process of achieving a career in nursing can be a difficult one and one that will depend on a variety of factors. You should give a fair amount of consideration to the path that you see for yourself and the steps that you are willing to take in order to make that path a reality.

If you are in the process of trying to figure out how to take your nursing career to the next level, here are four things that can help you along the way.

1. The Right Degree Program

As with anyone who is looking to progress in their career in the medical field, additional degrees and certifications are most likely going to be necessary. When it comes to nursing, you have a variety of options to consider regarding the type of program you wish to enroll in and the various career paths you can take with particular degrees.

Firstly, you will need to make sure that you have completed your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This is the standard four-year degree that you will need under your belt if you do hope to earn an advanced degree one day. While you can become a registered nurse (RN) via an associate degree in nursing alone, it is a common prerequisite for nurses looking o enroll in graduate programs to have their BSN first.

Once you have completed your BSN, you have plenty of options to consider depending on what sort of specialty you see for yourself. You might wish to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in a particular area, or you might wish to go for a doctorate one day. Many nurses these days are interested in the path that will lead them to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP).

The job of an FNP is one that is becoming increasingly more popular among nurses as the job prospects for this career path continue to evolve in a positive direction. In many states, FNPs are even given the opportunity to practice with a fair amount of independence. Some can even practice without having to be under the direct supervision of a physician.

If you are interested in family practice, you can opt to earn your master’s degree in a traditional setting by attending classes in-person at a university. There are also some great BSN to FNP online options that are worth considering. These can be more conducive to a schedule that involves working while attending school at the same time.

2. Find a Mentor

In the medical community, the value of mentorships is something that has been around for many years. The fact of the matter is, there is only so much that one can learn about medicine while in the classroom. Moreover, one’s experience practicing medicine in the field might very well be limited to a certain extent. The sharing of experiences and knowledge among medical professionals is a valuable tool that can lead to better patient outcomes across the board.

Mentorships are an important aspect of this type of sharing among medical professionals. Younger nurses in the field can stand to learn a great deal from nurses who have more experience and who have progressed in their careers. Learning from a mentor can help you to find the right path towards advancement for your own career.

When choosing your mentor, look for someone who has achieved the things that you hope to one day achieve yourself. This should be someone who wishes to help the next generation of nurses to succeed and who is comfortable giving advice and feedback. The hospital system in which you are employed might even have a mentorship program in place that you can utilize.

3. Join a Professional Network

When you are looking to learn from the experiences of other nurses in the field, another great tool at your disposal is that of the professional organization. This is another time-honored aspect of being a part of the medical community. Most medical professions have professional networks that allow those within those professions to connect with peers and learn more about their area of medicine.

Professional organizations allow you to connect with other nurses in your specialty. You can join a broader organization like the American Nurses Association or find one that is specific to your specialty. For instance, if you work in pediatrics, you can consider joining the Society of Pediatric Nurses.

These organizations provide nurses with continuing education resources as well as opportunities to connect with others in the field. They can be incredibly helpful when you are looking for ways in which to take your own career to the next level.

4. Know Your Goals

While there are certainly some practical steps that one can take in order to advance their career in nursing, such steps can prove to be fruitless unless you know precisely what it is that you want out of your career. With so many options available to nurses in this day and age, you should give yourself an adequate amount of time to discern what path it is that you are best suited for.

Take the time to consult with those you trust if you have questions about what a certain path in nursing might entail. Decide how far you would like to take your career so that you can lay the proper groundwork for your goals. Most importantly, though, is the time that you spend considering how much good you can do for your current and future patients by taking certain steps to take your career to the next level.