Halfway to the Top: Career Advancement for Mid-level Employees

Perhaps you remember your first job, working in the food industry, retail, or as an assistant in an office. Maybe you worked during high school or college, or started your first entry-level job after graduating. As the working world is growing more competitive, many entry-level jobs are starting to require a college degree and some type of work experience.

A young professional man sits at a conference table with his work colleagues

The process of beginning a career as an entry-level employee and working up in the field by gaining experience usually takes a good amount of time. Most professionals work between 25 and 40 years, so mid-career points vary. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median age of the U.S. labor force is 41.9, which means most professionals work for 10 to 15 years before they have enough experience to be considered mid-career in their field. However, professionals who have gained experience in their field and have developed strong competencies related to their jobs can begin to work their way up in the hierarchy, regardless of how far they are into their career. An individual can reach mid-level in their field before actually reaching a mid-career point, as midlevel refers to one’s level of professional expertise.

If you are at the mid-level point in your career, you may be looking to advance in your field or shift your focus to another field altogether. The following tips can help you consider which direction you want to take your career.

Advancing Your Career

The hierarchy within a company or organization differs based on the industry. Many career paths begin with entry-level positions. College graduates often have strong enough credentials to get an entry-level job. Some jobs, though, such as in information technology or engineering, require hands-on experience. If you don’t have the ability to take on an internship during college, you may have to spend a year or two after graduation completing a paid or unpaid internship before qualifying for an entry-level job in your field.

You can almost always advance your career and earn a higher salary by gaining more experience and doing a good job in your current position. Mid-level employees can often get intermediate-level jobs in a company in which they still answer to managers but work as supervisors of entry-level employees.

In some industries, such as business, healthcare, and education, you can reach a point where furthering your education is necessary to be promoted to a leadership or management position and earn a higher salary. To become a top-level manager or hold an executive position, you will need many years of experience as well as an advanced degree in your field.

Furthering a Business Career

You might be looking to advance in a business career or switch from a midlevel career in a different field to work in business. If you have gained experience in leading other employees in sales, production, or service, you will usually qualify to work as a first-level manager. This can include work as an office manager, shift supervisor, department manager, crew leader, or sales manager. While you work as a first-level manager, you will usually acquire technical knowledge as well as human relations, organization, communication, and problem-solving skills.

After gaining skills and experience, you may qualify for a midlevel management position such as general manager, regional manager, division manager, or branch manager. While companies often look to promote individuals within the company to midlevel managers, they can also hire qualified professionals from outside of the company. If you have management experience as a midlevel employee, your experience, skill set, and recommendations can help qualify you for a job outside of your current industry.

If you want to work toward becoming a top-level manager or C-suite executive, experience and skills alone may not be enough to qualify you for the position. You may want to think about going back to college to earn an online Master of Business Administration (MBA) or another advanced degree to have a competitive edge when seeking the role of chief financial officer (CFO), chief information officer (CIO), president, vice president, chief operating officer (COO), or chief executive officer (CEO).

Advancing a Career in Healthcare

If you are looking to work as a professional in healthcare, you can pursue many different career avenues, from nursing to health administration.

One way to advance a career in nursing into different leadership roles is by earning an advanced degree or additional credentials. This can start by earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing. If you’re an RN with an associate degree or nursing diploma, enrolling in an RN to BSN program is a way to build your clinical and leadership skills. This in turn can set you on the path to nurse management.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 7.4 million college students are older than age 25, and many professional nurses return to college as adults to become nurse practitioners, nurse educators, or nurse managers. If you are an RN with your bachelor’s in nursing, you may want to consider enrolling in a MSN degree online program. Aspiring nurse practitioners can choose from different specialties, including family, pediatrics, adult-gerontology, or psychiatric mental health. As a nurse practitioner, you can have a lot more autonomy than your fellow nurses, and earn a much higher salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 across the U.S., nurse practitioners earned an annual median salary of $115,800.

Tips for Advancing a Mid-level Career

If you already have a career in healthcare or business, or if you are a professional in another field looking to move into a healthcare or business career, here are a few tips that can help you advance.

Gain experience. First and foremost, you can gain basic management or nursing experience. By working as an entry-level employee in a company or LPN in a hospital, you will get to know the basics of business or nursing and start networking with leaders in your field.

Develop skills. You can then work toward a first-level management position in a company or apply to be a shift leader in your nursing unit. At this stage, it is important for you to develop core skills.

Pursue education. You may be able to become a first-level or midlevel manager in a company with your current experience, but you can begin to research what degrees would be necessary for a promotion. As noted above, RNs who have a BSN have a competitive edge in the job market. If you’re working in the business world, you can continue building skills and knowledge by earning professional certifications. These can be specialized – completing user certification courses in online platforms like Salesforce, Google, or Hubspot, for example. Professionals in certain fields can also gain deeper knowledge through general certification programs – project managers, for instance, can set themselves apart by earning a Project Management Professional certification.

Research advanced degrees. After gaining experience as a midlevel employee or registered nurse, you may want to pursue a senior manager or nurse practitioner position. For these roles, you will want to research what advanced degree will best fit your needs. You can explore what programs, whether online or in person, can help you make your next career move.

Do You Have What It Takes to Advance Your Career?

If you are looking to advance in your career, whether in your current field or in another field, you’re on the right track. After reaching a mid-level point in an industry, you know whether you want to commit to your career or transition to another. With your experience, skills, dedication, and work ethic, you’ll be prepared to take the next steps toward advancing your career.

Recommended Readings

How to Get an MBA: Resources & Tips

Turn Your College Experience into Employability: Practical Career Advice for New Graduates

What Nursing Degree Is Right for Me?


The Balance Careers, “5 Strategies for Getting Your First Management Position”

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

Houston Chronicle, “What Does ‘Mid-Career Professional’ Mean?”

Jobbatical, “2019 Hiring Statistics, Trends & Data: The Ultimate List of Recruitment Stats”

Lifehack, “How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible”

NCES, Fast Facts: Back to School Statistics

Reference for Business, “Management Levels”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Unemployment Among Youth Summary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Median Age of the Labor Force, by Sex, Race, and Ethnicity

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

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