How to become a registered nurse in Nigeria

In the hospital setting, doctors are the most celebrated, but the work of nurses should not go unnoticed. They are a crucial part of the healthcare system, and without them, no hospital will run. They perform various basic functions in the care of a patient that is crucial in treatment and rehabilitation. It is an exciting and rewarding career choice, and if you’re interested in becoming one then this article is for you. 

There are about 4 levels of nursing including Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), and Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP). In this article, I will focus on Registered Nurses and how to become one in Nigeria. 

Types of nurses

There are 4 types of nurses in Nigeria, and they include: 

  1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): They are called auxiliary nurses in Nigeria. They typically register and earn clinical experience in recognized hospitals and are awarded certificates upon completion. They perform basic functions in the care of patients like taking vitals, helping patients with normal activities they are not able to perform, listening to patient’s health concerns and so on. 
  2. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): A licensed practical nurse performs various clinical and administrative duties towards the care of patients, including taking vitals, documenting, administering drugs, and many more. They typically perform their duties under the supervision of a physician or Registered Nurse as they lack the training to perform specialized patient care on their own. 
  3. Registered Nurse (RN): Registered Nurses make up the majority of nurses in the Nigerian healthcare system. They provide hands-on bedside care to patients like monitoring patients’ status and vitals, developing care plans for patients, recording patient information, preparing patients for tests or treatment, administering treatment according to the physician’s instructions, and many more functions. 
  4. Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANP): ANPs are nurses who have specialized in a particular area by attaining a Master’s or doctorate with extensive clinical experience. They perform highly specialised functions in the area of their speciality including prescribing medications and other treatments; diagnosing and treating acute and chronic diseases; requesting, carrying out and interpreting diagnostic tests, and providing education and counselling to patients.

Who is a registered nurse (RN)?

A registered nurse is a health professional who has passed a nursing program from a recognized nursing school and has attained the qualification to practice as a Registered Nurse. They perform various duties in the care of patients including checking and assessing patients, taking records, preparing patients for exams and treatment, administering medications, dressing wounds, and many more. 

How to become a registered nurse in Nigeria

Becoming a Registered Nurse in Nigeria is a difficult but rewarding process. To accomplish your goal of becoming a Registered Nurse, follow the steps below: 

1. Pass O’level

The pathway to becoming a registered nurse in Nigeria starts from secondary school. You must be a science student to become a nurse, a decision you must take as early as SS1. The key subjects you need for nursing include English Language, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. You need a score of at least 200 in Jamb and at least credits in your WAEC or NECO. 

2. Obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing

A 5-year bachelor’s degree in nursing could be earned in universities that award you the qualification to practice as a registered nurse. However, you can choose to go to a nursing school and earn your certificate in 3 years.

If you decide to go through the university, you must write JAMB and pass with at least 200. You will spend 5 years studying the BNSc Nursing Program. At the end of your program, you will receive a bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BNSc), the General Nursing Program qualification, and the Midwifery Program Qualification. 

If you decide to go to a Nursing school, you will spend 3 years obtaining your nursing certificate and an additional 6 months in PTS. 

You might be wondering which is better: attending a nursing school or university. It all depends on your career goals. If you’re interested in advancing your career and specializing, then you should opt for the university, but if you’re only interested in becoming a Registered Nurse, then attending nursing school is a more sensible choice. Nursing school is faster but the BNSc Nursing Program makes you a more well-rounded nurse. With a bachelor’s degree, it is much easier for you to earn a master’s and PhD in nursing. 

Competition for getting into nursing schools can be fierce so you will have to be top of your game. You will undergo extensive theoretical and practical training while in school, which will include classroom lectures, laboratory work, and extensive clinical rotations in various affiliated hospitals.

3. Pass licencing exams

After getting your certificate from either an accredited university or nursing school, you must apply for licensure and registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN). The NMCN is the regulatory body responsible for setting standards and ensuring the competency of nurses in Nigeria. 

After passing the qualification exam, you will receive your license to practice as a registered nurse in Nigeria.


Nursing is an interesting career choice that allows you to save lives and help many people. One benefit of studying nursing in Nigeria is that it is high in demand meaning that you will not stay jobless for long after obtaining your license. 

Becoming a nurse in Nigeria is not an easy process, it will require hard work and dedication. You need a vested interest in the career, a mindset of success and a drive to work hard to make it as a Registered Nurse in Nigeria.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the entry requirements for a nursing program in Nigeria?

The entry requirements may vary between institutions, but generally, you’ll need a Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSCE) or its equivalent with credits in relevant science subjects, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English Language and Mathematics.

How long does it take to become a registered nurse in Nigeria?

The amount of time it will take you to become a registered nurse in Nigeria will depend on the pathway you choose. If you choose to attain the BNSc Nursing Program, then it will take you 5 years. However, if you choose to go through a nursing school, it will take 3 years. 

Are there specialized areas in nursing I can pursue?

Yes, after becoming a registered nurse, you can choose to specialize in various areas such as paediatrics, mental health, critical care, oncology, and more. Specializing will improve your career prospects and increase your earning potential. 

Can I work abroad as a registered nurse after obtaining my degree in Nigeria?

Yes, Nigerian nurses are highly regarded worldwide. With your registered nurse certificate, you can work in many countries abroad including the UK, US, Saudi Arabia and many more. However, you might need to write and pass licensure exams in these countries before you can work there.

How much are RN paid in Nigeria?

According to MySalaryScale, RNs are paid an average of N81,000 every month.

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Habibat Musa

Habibat Musa

Habibat Musa is a content writer with She writes predominantly on topics related to education, career and business. She is an English language major with keen interest in career growth and development.

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