Pathways for Nigerians to Become Highly Paid Nurses in the United States

The nursing profession in Nigeria plays a critical role in the healthcare system, providing essential services across various medical settings. Despite its importance, the sector faces several challenges, including limited resources, inadequate training facilities, and the migration of skilled nurses to more developed countries for better opportunities. The allure of a lucrative nursing career in the United States has captivated many Nigerian nurses, offering competitive salaries and numerous opportunities for professional growth and development.

For a Nigerian nurse looking to transition to the U.S., or for someone in Nigeria aspiring to start a nursing career, understanding the necessary steps and associated costs is crucial. This article explores the pathways that Nigerians can take to become well-paid nurses in the United States.

Transitioning from a Nigerian Nurse to a U.S. Nurse

Nigerian nurses typically hold a diploma or degree in nursing from an accredited institution. However, to practice in the U.S., one must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an equivalent degree. Here are the key steps:

  1. Credential Evaluation:
  • Nurses with a diploma or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) should enroll in a bridging program to obtain a BSN.
  • Those with a BSN should apply for a nursing license in their preferred U.S. state.
  • Credentials must be evaluated to ensure they meet American standards. The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) offers credential evaluation services, which cost $485. This process involves submitting academic transcripts, including secondary school transcripts, and proof of your nursing license.
  1. English Language Proficiency:
  • Proficiency in English is mandatory. Nigerian nurses need to pass an English language proficiency test such as the TOEFL or IELTS, costing around $250.
  1. NCLEX-RN Examination:
  • The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) assesses readiness to practice nursing in the U.S. The exam costs $200.
  1. State Licensure:
  • Each U.S. state has its nursing board. Nurses must apply for a license in the state where they plan to work. This involves submitting your credential evaluation report, proof of English proficiency, and passing the NCLEX-RN. Licensing fees vary by state but typically range from $100 to $300.
  1. Visa Application:
  • Once these steps are completed, Nigerian nurses can apply for a visa to work in the U.S.

Starting a Nursing Career from Scratch

Nigerians who wish to practice nursing but haven’t studied nursing have two primary options:

  1. Pursue a BSN in Nigeria:
  • Enroll in an accredited Nigerian university to obtain a BSN and follow the pathway for transitioning as described above.
  1. Pursue a BSN in the U.S.:
  • Enroll in a nursing program in the U.S. After completing your education, take the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain your license.

Pathway to Becoming a Highly Paid U.S. Nurse

To become a highly paid nurse in the United States, specialization in a high-demand field is essential. Specializations can include critical care, anesthesia, nurse midwifery, oncology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and emergency nursing. Here’s how to achieve this:

  1. Gain Experience:
  • Nigerian nurses who have successfully transitioned to the U.S. should work as registered nurses to gain practical experience for at least a year.
  1. Advanced Education:
  • Enroll in a Master’s or Doctoral program in the U.S. specific to your chosen specialty.
  1. Certification:
  • Obtain certification from relevant bodies like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or specialty-specific organizations.
  1. Continuous Education:
  • Engage in continuous education to maintain certification and stay updated with the latest practices in your field.

Specialist nurses can earn between $70,000 and $150,000 per annum, depending on the competitiveness of the specialty.

Important Considerations

Nursing in Nigeria is regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), which sets the standards for education, practice, and professional conduct. Despite the critical role nurses play, the profession in Nigeria is often plagued by low wages, poor working conditions, and a lack of career advancement opportunities, contributing to a high turnover rate and the search for better prospects abroad.

To address this, the Nigerian government has mandated that nurses obtain at least two years of clinical experience within Nigeria before they are eligible to practice abroad. This policy aims to ensure that the local healthcare system retains experienced professionals who can provide quality care and contribute to sector development. While this rule helps maintain a stable workforce in the country, it is seen by some as a hindrance to pursuing more lucrative opportunities abroad.


For Nigerian nurses aspiring to work in the U.S., the journey involves several key steps, from credential evaluation to licensure and specialization. Despite the challenges, the opportunities for a lucrative and fulfilling nursing career in the U.S. are significant, offering a pathway to professional growth and higher earnings. By understanding and navigating these pathways, Nigerian nurses can achieve their goals and contribute to the global healthcare system.

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