Top 6 Career Paths for CNAs

Despite rumors to the contrary, being a CNA is not a dead-end profession. Learn about the various career paths made available through this entry-level position in this post.
Top 6 Career Paths for CNAs

If you're holding off on becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA, because you've heard it's a dead-end job, think again. The truth is that many healthcare professionals, including hospital administrators, researchers, and RNs, began their careers as CNAs. Becoming a CNA is an easy way to enter the line of work. The work exposes you to a variety of settings and a multitude of healthcare career options, so you can figure out what you'd like to do later fairly easily. Also, many CNA programs are operated by schools that offer classes for RNs and more.

CNAs can progress into a variety of different positions. The most popular include:

Advanced CNA

In some areas, CNAs can take additional courses to earn advanced credentials. By completing a few more classes, you may be able to progress into a more technical job. For instance, some entry-level CNAs are able to move up to become geriatric technicians. Advanced job titles typically come with higher pay, so it's a worthwhile option to consider.


Many CNAs quickly move on to become LPNs/LVNs, or Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses. The educational requirements for LPNs are far less stringent than they are for RNs. As an added bonus, many schools offer CNA-to-LPN bridge programs that let you apply the credits you earned schooling to become a CNA toward your goal of becoming an LPN.


There are many paths you can take to become an RN. Since you will already have your CNA certification, you may be able to complete a CNA-to-RN program. More commonly, however, aspiring RNs earn their Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, to get there. If you aspire to progress into even more advanced roles later, however, you should consider earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN.


After working your way up to RN, you may decide that working closely with patients isn't for you, or you may simply crave a little more authority. A role in administration may be the answer. To get there, you'll need to earn your Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN. From there, you may even want to earn your Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, which will open up even more doors.

Research and Teaching

Some RNs are drawn toward helping to teach and to grow and advance their field. This can be accomplished by earning your DPN and seeking roles as a professor, nurse educator, or researcher. This is a good fit for you if you enjoy academia, but still want to retain a role in the healthcare field.

Career CNA

Finally, you may enjoy working as a CNA so much that you won't want to advance at all. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, certified nurse assisting is a very noble profession. Every day, you make a direct and positive difference in people's lives. If you stick with the same employer for the long haul, you're sure to receive pay raises and additional benefits over time, so don't be afraid of simply sticking with this line of work for the rest of your career.

As you can see, CNAs have all kinds of options in terms of career paths. Some are perfectly happy remaining regular CNAs, while others are inspired by colleagues and decide to progress into more advanced roles. Regardless of how you proceed, starting out as a CNA is never a bad idea.

Amanda Jordan
Amanda Jordan

A registered nurse with a BSN degree, skillfully simplifies complex medical topics as a healthcare writer, contributing valuable insights to a diverse audience.

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