In this article, you will learn about the distinctive career paths for nurses can choose to progress in your nursing career and how to determine which is the right one for you.

Career Path For Nurses: How to advance your career as a Nurse in Nigeria

The nursing profession is nearly the most respected in the healthcare field. Nurses constitute the largest number of professionals among clinicians. Moreover, nursing career is satisfying and fulfilling with the flexibility of working in a variety of medical settings.

Over the past decades, nurses have witnessed increasing demands globally which is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years as a result of factors like technological advancement, a large aging population, and so on.

With myriad pathways to becoming a Registered Nurse likewise ascending the career ladder, it is required that nurse professionals undergo specialized training programs at a point in their career journey.

Such programs are organized to equip them with vital skills for competent practice to enhance the quality of care given to patients, thereby reducing the healthcare morbidity and mortality burden.

Nevertheless, enrolling in a rudimentary nursing education program is a fundamental prerequisite to becoming a Registered Nurse.

In Nigeria, there are multiple ways to be a nurse professional or transition into the nursing profession.

These include;

  • Basic General Nursing Program
  • Basic Midwifery Education
  • Bachelor of Nursing Science Program

Basic General Nursing Program

The General Nursing (RN) qualification is awarded after three (3) years of the Basic General Nursing Program in a recognized School of Nursing (SON) in Nigeria.

Upon completion of the hospital-based program, students will have to sit for the professional examination by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) to earn their RN qualification.

Basic Midwifery Education

This is a three (3) year program, at the end of which students are awarded a diploma in General Midwifery and upon completion regarded as Registered Midwives (RM).

Bachelor of Nursing Science Program

This is a five (5) years university degree program after students are awarded professional certifications in addition to a Bachelor’s Degree i.e. Bachelor of Nursing Science (B.NSc), Registered Nurse, Registered Midwife (RM), or Registered Public Health Nurse (RPH) qualifications if they choose to sit for the licensing examination.

Registered Nurses/Midwives can practice in varied medical settings, private hospitals, labour complexes, clinics, outpatient care centers, medical centers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical industries, etc.

After obtaining your basic RN/RM or BNSc. qualification, enrolling in a specialty program is essential for vertical progression in nursing practice. Additionally, having an advanced qualification boosts your earning capabilities as well as position you for better career opportunities.

Specialty Career Paths For Nurses

These are some of the specialty career choices you can consider as a Nurse;

Accident and Emergency Nursing

Accident and Emergency Nurses otherwise called Trauma Nurses provide care to injured or sick patients in need of prompt medical interventions to prevent long-term disability or death.

They work in a variety of emergency settings like emergency rooms, trauma units, urgent care centers, etc.

To be a Trauma nurse, you will have to enroll in the Post-Basic Accident and Emergency Nursing program in any accredited institution in the country. The course runs for 18 months and upon successful completion, you will be licensed to practice by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN).

Trauma Nurses earn about N89,000-169,000 monthly based on their level of experience and institution of practice.

Accident and Emergency Nurse Roles

  • Triage Nurses
  • Emergency Charge Nurses
  • Emergency Nurse Educators
  • Trauma Nurses
  • Trauma Nurse Specialists
  • Emergency Nursing Pediatricians

Anaesthetic Nursing

A Nurse Anesthetist works hand-in-hand with anesthesiologists, doctors, and surgeons to provide anesthetics to patients during surgery or other medical procedures. They also provide care to patients before, during, and after surgical procedures.

Otherwise known as nurse anesthesiologists or certified registered nurse anesthetists, nurse anesthetists are some of the top-paid nurse professionals with autonomy in practice. Also, there is increased demand for nurse anesthetists and great job satisfaction for professionals working in this specialty.

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The anesthetic nursing course is a Post-Basic program that runs for 18 months at the end of which you are certified, registered, and licensed to practice as a Nurse Anesthetist by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN).

The typical salary you can earn as a Nurse Anesthetist is about N150,000-200,000 monthly depending on the institution and level of experience.

Nurse Anesthetist Roles

  • Administrative roles
  • Nurse Anesthetist Educators
  • Managerial Positions
  • Pain Management Specialists

They also work in a variety of settings including;

  • Physicians’ offices
  • Emergency rooms
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Offices of other health practitioners
  • Specialty hospitals
  • Surgical centers
  • Dental offices and so on.

Burns and Plastic Nursing

Burns and Plastic Nurses work collaboratively with other clinicians to provide treatment, repair, and reconstruct lost, injured, or deformed/diseased parts of the body. They assist in reconstructive treatments and cosmetic procedures as well as support patients before, during, and after surgical interventions.

Nursing is now highly competitive, however, being a Burns and Plastic Specialist gives you an edge over your colleagues.

To be a Burns and Plastic Nurse, it is required that you are licensed to practice by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) after successful completion of the 18 months Post-Basic Burns and Plastic Nursing program in any recognized institution in the country.

Burns and Plastic Nurses Roles

Burns and Plastic Surgery Nurses
Nurse Researchers

They also work in;

  • Burn Care Unit (BCU) or Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  • Emergency Room or
  • Trauma Center
  • Outpatient facilities for ongoing and rehabilitative services

Critical Care Nursing

Critical Care Nurses are highly specialized professionals who take care of critically-ill patients with extensive injury or life-threatening conditions. They have the necessary knowledge and expertise to handle complex situations thereby saving patients’ lives.

They work primarily in specialized care units like general intensive care units, medical intensive care units, surgical intensive care units, trauma intensive care units, coronary care units, cardiothoracic intensive care units, burns units, pediatrics care units, trauma centers, emergency departments, etc.

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The ICU nursing course is a Post-Basic program that runs for 18 months at the end of which you are certified to practice by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN).

ICU Registered Nurses earn between N140,000 to 434,000 per month while their average salary is N280,000 according to salary explorer.

Critical Care Nurses Roles

  • Medical ICU nurses
  • Neonatal ICU nurses
  • Neuroscience ICU nurses
  • Pediatric ICU nurses
  • Surgical/Trauma ICU nurses
  • Cardiothoracic or cardiac care ICU nurses

Mental Health Nursing or Psychiatric Nursing

Mental Health Nurses manage patients with complex mental health conditions. They work in care homes, psychiatric wards, rehabilitation centers, clinics, community centers, correctional facilities, and so on.

To be a Mental Health Nurse, you can enroll in the Post Basic Mental Health Nursing program or Master of Science in Nursing program in any accredited institution of your choice.

According to salary explorer, a Psychiatric Nurse makes between N125,000 to N267,000 monthly.

Mental Health Nurse Roles

  • Community Mental Health Nurse
  • Case Managers
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Mental Health Nurse Educators

Obstetrics and Gynaecological Nursing (midwifery)

A Nurse Midwife provides care for mothers during pregnancy through the postpartum period including reproductive and general healthcare services to women across their lifespan.

Nurse midwives are primary healthcare providers who work in various hospital settings, birthing centers, medical centers, and so on.

To be a Certified Nurse Midwife, you will have to enroll in the 18 months Post Basic Midwifery program or MSc. in Maternal and Child Health Nursing. Upon successful completion of the program, you will be licensed to practice in the country.

Nurse midwives are paid about N100,00-270,000 depending on their level of experience and institution of practice.

Nurse Midwife Roles

  • Certified Nurse Midwives
  • Nurse Educators
  • Nurse Administrators
  • Nurse Advocates
  • Health Policy Nurse
  • Certified Professional Midwives

Clinical Research Nursing

A Clinical Research Nurse is responsible for patient care delivery during clinical trials and the collection of data to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment. They coordinate the processes of clinical research alongside other clinicians to improve patient care outcomes and treatment modalities.

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Nurse Researchers can work in research institutes, international research organizations, academic research centers, hospitals, biotechnology laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, medical research organizations, and so on.

Clinical Research Nurses earn an average pay of N209,000 based on their level of experience according to salary explorer.

Clinical Research Nurse Roles

  • Clinical Research Nurse
  • Clinical Research Coordinator
  • Research Nurse Supervisor
  • Research Nurse Practitioner
  • Principal Investigator

Community/Public Health Nursing

Community Health Nurse care delivery is primarily focused on the public or community to ensure their optimal well-being. This also includes prevention, promotion, and health maintenance strategies to attain a positive state of health for individuals and families within the community.

Community/Public Health Nursing runs for 2 years in an accredited institution.

Community/Public Health Nurse Roles

Public Health Nurses work in various settings such as;

  • Community agencies
  • NGOs
  • Schools
  • Nursing Homes
  • Health Centers
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Prisons
  • Clinic Facilities
  • Outpatient Settings
  • Hospitals

Other specialties include;

  • Renal Nursing
  • Occupational Health Nursing
  • Cardiothoracic Nursing
  • Geriatric Nursing
  • Ophthalmic Nursing
  • Orthopaedic Nursing
  • Paediatric Nursing
  • Perioperative Nursing

Master of Science in Nursing (MSc. Nursing)

Over the years, there has been a significant rise in the number of professionals obtaining MSc.N degrees and this will continue to rise.

For nurses interested in other areas of practice other than the bedside or who want to have an advanced nursing degree for clinical practice, a Master of Science in Nursing degree can be beneficial.

Having an MSc.N degree increases your chance of getting better employment opportunities, earning a higher salary, and commanding more respect from others due to the credibility that comes with having an advanced qualification.

To enroll for the Master of Science in Nursing (MSc.N) degree program in Nigeria, you would need to have a BNSc or Postgraduate Diploma qualification.

Specialties available include adult health or medical-surgical nursing, community health nursing, maternal and child health nursing, mental health nursing, nursing education, nursing administration and management, and so on.

Master of Science in Nursing Roles

Various roles are available depending on the specialty you enroll for

  • Nurse Educators/Lecturers
  • Community/Public Health Nurse
  • Nurse Informaticists
  • Clinical Nurse Leaders
  • Clinical Instructors/Preceptors
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Nurse Administrators
  • Nurse Managers
  • Directors of Nursing
  • Patient Care Coordinators
  • Nurse Researchers and so on.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science qualification is for Nurses who want to take their career a step further.

Read Also: list of Nursing Specialty In Nigeria

This qualification equips nurses with evidence-based knowledge to improve patient outcomes and nursing education, influence nursing practice, develop their leadership skills to manage complex clinical situations likewise mentor student nurses or other cadres of nurse professionals. They are also trained for facilitating and conducting scientific research.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science Roles

  • AssociateProfessors/Professors in Nursing Education
  • Senior Nurse Educators/Lecturers
  • Nurse Researchers
  • Nurse Administrators
  • Nurse Managers
  • Nurse Executives/Heads and so on.

How To Decide Which Career Path Is Right For You

  • Determine your professional goals and what you want in your career as a Nurse. These career goals can be set based on the specialty you would want to go for.
  • Outline actionable steps to achieve your goals. Nursing is a rewarding and fulfilling career, so creating effective plans can make the experience worthwhile.
  • Identify areas you are passionate about or talented in. Working in a specialty that excites you promote job satisfaction.
  • Research the educational requirements for your specialty choice. Being aware of this can help you prepare ahead as well as gather the needed resources.
  • Always be on the lookout for opportunities. Preparedness and positioning are very helpful in seizing related opportunities.
  • Research the employability, job availability, and remuneration of your specialty of interest. Such information guides your decision-making.

Final Thoughts

Finally, attend networking events, job fairs, and conferences and join professional forums or communities related to your area of interest. Learning from others’ experiences provides an outlook on their career progression journey and aid in better decision-making.

Written By: Mayowa Racheal Popoola
RN, Content Writer


Abdullahi Suleiman a Certified Registered Nurse based in Nigeria, an Entrepreneur and Also a Blogger, passionate about Community Development and Cosmetic Nursing

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