CNA Career Ladder: Moving Forward One Step at a Time

As you work as a CNA, you may realize that you have the potential for another healthcare career.

Think about it; you already have…

  • Gained fundamental knowledge of nursing care
  • Proven your skills and qualifications
  • Enough experience in taking care of patients
  • An understanding of the machinations of healthcare

And so, it’s no surprise that the next step on your journey is to level up your career.

Read on to learn the most common leveling-up career options for CNAs.

What Are a CNA’s Career Prospects?

Most CNAs choose to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN) because…

  • LPNs and RNs earn more money than CNAs
  • They don’t do as much physical work as CNAs
  • They have a wider scope of responsibilities that CNAs find appealing

As you make this career transition, you can enroll in bridge or ladder nursing programs to attain your goal.

In the succeeding sections, we’ll take a closer look at how you can become an LPN and RN.

Becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse

An LPN typically provides primary nursing care to ensure patient comfort under the RN’s and doctors’ supervision.

The responsibilities they do vary, depending on the state where they work and their workplace setting.

Typically, they do the following tasks:

  • Monitor patients’ health and vitals
  • Administer basic medical care, including changing bandages and inserting catheters
  • Provide for the patients’ basic comforts and help with their activities of daily living
  • Discuss health care and treatment plans to patients and their families and listen to their concerns
  • Keep records on patients’ health and report vital information to RNs and doctors

LPN Certification Requirements

For a CNA like you to earn an LPN license, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete a state-approved and accredited LPN program
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse (NCLEX-PN)

Note: If you can, ask the LPN school if they consider giving credits for your CNA experience.

Becoming a Registered Nurse

An RN primarily does the following:

  • Provide and coordinate patient care
  • Offer educational advice to patients and the public
  • Give emotional support to patients and their families

The work they do mainly depend on their workplace setting, particularly the type of patients they care for.

But typically, they’re responsible for the following tasks:

  • Administer patients’ medications and treatments
  • Assess patients’ conditions
  • Work with doctors and physicians to coordinate patient care plans
  • Perform diagnostic tests and interpret results
  • Oversee other nursing staff, such as LPNs, CNAs, and home health aides
  • Teach patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
  • Help patients, families, and caregivers establish plans for ongoing care
  • Record patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Operate and monitor medical equipment

RN Certification Requirements

Transitioning from CNA to RN, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Complete a state-approved and accredited RN program, either:
    • Four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing
    • Two-year associate’s degree in nursing
    • Two-year nursing diploma
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN)

Note: Becoming an RN requires more critical thinking and strategy skills, so be sure to develop these skills well.

Job Outlook and Potential Salary: CNA vs LPN vs RN

As you go forward to attaining your career goals, let’s take a moment to compare the job growth and salaries between CNAs, LPNs, and RNs.

You may find it useful in finalizing your decision on which career to advance to: LPN or RN.

Job Outlook
Employment, 20201,396,700688,1003,080,100
Projected employment, 20301,512,000751,9003,356,800
Percentage of change8%9%9%


Average Annual Salary

Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

CNA Resources


What is an STNA?

STNA stands for State Tested Nurse Aides, and it’s the term the state of Ohio prefers to call its CNAs….

cna resume

How to Write a Winning CNA Resume: Objectives and Skills

Whether you’re a new or experienced CNA, you need a winning resume that will show potential employers your… Capabilities Professionalism…

cna programs

Certified Nursing Assistant Training Program

Contrary to other jobs in healthcare, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) don’t need a college degree. However, you have to take…

night shift

CNA Night Shift: 9 Tips from Experienced CNAs

Working on a night shift—one of the biggest challenges for CNAs. Although it’s necessary so that someone can look after…