August 8, 2023
By: Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, also known as a Psychiatric Mental-Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), is an advanced nursing role that requires a Masters's or Doctorate degree.
This career depends on a hybrid background of nursing and psychiatry and requires nurses to attend an accredited Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program.
Keep reading to learn about all the types of PMHNP programs available, as well as the top programs for 2023.
Types of Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
RN-MSN PMHNP Programs
Who is it right for? RNs that have an ADN or Diploma
If you have your RN license and an associate degree, you can enter into a bridge program that will roll the types of classes you would have taken with a Bachelor’s degree into one program to earn your Master’s.
MSN Psychiatric NP Programs
Who is it right for? RNs with a BSN degree
One of the most common options for earning your Master’s degree in any field of nursing, you can enter into a Master’s program if you already have your Bachelor’s in Nursing.
Accelerated MSN Psychiatric NP Programs
Who is it right for? Those with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree
Many graduate nursing programs also allow you to enroll directly if you have your RN license and a bachelor’s in a non-nursing-related field.
Some schools may also accept non-nurses with bachelor’s degrees to fast-track them into a master’s program; by the end of the program, you will have earned your RN and be eligible to sit for the NP certifying exam as well.
Direct-Entry Psychiatric NP MSN Programs
Who is it right for? Those with a non-nursing master’s degree
Similar to the non-nursing Bachelor’s degree, direct-entry MSN (sometimes called post-masters certification) programs welcome individuals who have a master’s degree in a non-nursing field.
With this type of program, you can fast-track your nursing education because you already have many of the master’s level courses needed, and will focus on the nursing component throughout your coursework.
DNP Psychiatric NP Programs
Who is it right for? Those who know they want to further their education
Some nurses will also choose to enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or in a Ph.D. and EdD, to perform additional work as professors, researchers, or administrators.
Show Me Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
Top 10 Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
Most psychiatric nurse practitioner programs are technically considered psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) programs. If you're looking to pursue this path, check out these 10 top-ranked PMHNP programs for 2023.
Tuition: $53,166 per year
A top-ranked institution for psychiatric-mental health, the NP program at the University of Pennsylvania combines neuroscience with psychotherapy. Full-time students finish this program in just 14 months, making this a quick and high-quality option. Part-time students typically finish in two to five years.
Tuition: $1,224 per credit hour
Online Options Available: Yes
Rush University PMHNP program is a doctoral program, keep that in mind before applying - it typically takes two or more years to complete. However, the program is entirely online, so students won’t have to relocate to earn their degrees.
Tuition: $9,934 per quarter in-state, $14,150 per quarter non-resident
UW’s PMHNP program is technically a graduate certificate and is completed in person. Applicants must be either enrolled in the DNP or PhD program at UW OR already earned a doctorate degree from an accredited program. UW has one of the top health and nursing programs in the nation, so even without intense specialization, this is an education worth having.
Tuition: $60,482 per year in-state, $72,727 per year non-resident
While the focus of the psychiatric nurse practitioner program at UCSF is on all demographics, students have the option to complete their residency while focusing on a specific age group. This program is ideal for nurses who want to work exclusively with adults or children.
Tuition: $26,162 per term
A master’s specialty, Yale’s psychiatric-mental health nursing specialty gives students the benefits of Yale’s highly respected nursing education. Yale boasts an impressive 100% pass rate on the PMHNP examination for the last five years. Students will receive an all-around education in the psychiatric-mental health field, preparing them for any setting they might end up in.
Tuition: $34,535 for full program in-state tuition; $61,124 for full program out-of-state tuition
A part of UNC’s Master of Science nursing program, psychiatric-mental health is an advanced practice area that students can focus their studies on. This all-around education will require students to be able to attend in-person practice, something to keep in mind before applying.
Tuition: $1,910 per credit hour. The average fully enrolled tuition per semester is $11,460
According to the 2022 U.S. World News & Report, Duke’s program currently ranks #1 for PMHNP programs in the country. While Duke’s PMHNP program will teach students to help people of all ages, it does focus on people living in rural and underserved areas. Any nurses interested in treating and helping these communities will find that Duke’s program is a good fit.
Tuition: $824 per credit hour in-state, $1,461 per credit non-resident
UM’s psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program takes anywhere from three to five years, making it one of the longer programs of study on this list. This is also a doctoral program, and students are required to be located in the Maryland/Washington, D.C. area for the program.
Tuition: $1,793 per credit hour
Online Options Available:Yes
One of the top nursing schools in the nation for graduates, Vanderbilt’s PMHNP program offers a holistic approach to a complicated subject. This program doesn’t require relocation - it is offered entirely online. Also, it is possible to earn this degree without a strong psychiatric nursing background.
Tuition: $1,983 per credit hour
The master’s program in psychiatric-mental health at NYU will teach nurses how to help people of all ages. By the end of the program, nurses will be able to conduct individual or group therapy, allowing them to pick whichever focus they feel is best for them.
While these are some of the top schools, there are many options out there, including some great online programs. Find a school that works for you!
Show Me Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
How to Pick the Right Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner School for You
It’s hard to know what the perfect school is for what you’re looking for. While there are only a handful of institutions that offer a psychiatric nurse practitioner program, narrowing it down further will likely be based on different factors, including:
- Cost:Is the school within an affordable range? Will you have to move to attend school, and how expensive is the new city going to be? Do they offerfinancial aid?
- Location: Commuting to and from facilities where you get real-world experience is common for psychiatric NPs. This means you might have to move to a new area for school or work with the school to find clinical sites near your home and complete your coursework online.
- Program length:Depending on the program you study toward, you may have to plan to be in school for 2-4 years, and possibly even longer if you’re working full-time and studying part-time. If you have to continue to work while you’re in school, you’ll also want to verify that the program can be completed while you work.
- Accreditation:Accreditation is always something important to keep in mind before selecting any school or program–not only does it ensure that your school will properly prepare you for your certifying exams, but if you plan on applying for federal loans, you may get turned down if your school is not accredited.
Deciding on a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner program is a personal choice. In addition to doing your research online, we also recommend talking to medical professionals who currently work in the specialty. Continuing your education is not an easy decision to make but, one thing is for sure, it will open many opportunities for you in the near future.
More Information on a Career as a Psychiatric Mental-Health Nurse Practitioner
What does a psychiatric nurse practitioner do? Some primary duties for these APRNs include the following:
- Create healthcare plans based on outpatient or home-based care for acute or chronic mental healthcare conditions
- Provide consultations
- Perform patient assessments
- Prescribe medications per their state laws
- Prescribe and offer various treatments, such as psychotherapy, medication therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.
- Work alongside doctors for referrals and to provide patient care
- Participate and/or initiate research
- Education on mental health disorders
- Contribute to policy development, quality improvement, practice evaluation, and healthcare reform
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are one of the highest-paying nurse practitioner specialties because they are a highly specialized field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mental Health Nurse Practitioners make a mean annual salary of $ 131,830 with an average hourly wage of $63.38 as of May 2021.
Although most NPs work full-time, salaries will also vary based on the type of occupation, hours, and the state and city.
Nurse Practitioners, in general, have a higher-than-average job outlook, and because psychiatric nursing is a field that is still growing in interest and awareness, it’s reasonable to expect that wages are going to gradually climb over the coming years.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certification
Once you complete your education program, you will have to pass the PMHNP certifying exam issued by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). According to the ANCC, upon successful completion of the exam, you will be Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC). Once you earn your license, the credential is valid for 5 years.
What’s the Difference Between a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and a Psychiatrist?
The American Psychiatric Nurse Association provides helpful details about what exactly a PMHNP does, and how the role may differ from a traditional physician role as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Although many of the duties of a PMHNP and psychiatrists may be very similar (if not the same), the primary differences will be in the educational pathway and some of the state limitations that a PMHNP may have.
PMHNP Program FAQs
How Much Do Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Make?
- $126,200 per year, $60.67 per hour
What Do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Do?
- Psychiatric NPs perform developmental, physical, and mental health assessments. They diagnose mental health conditions, provide integration and implementation of care, prescribe psychopharmacology, offer psychotherapy, and act as a liaison all in the field of mental health.
What Certifications Do Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Need?
- You will need a Registered Nursing license before advancing to a psychiatric NP education program, where you will receive either a Masters or Doctorate degree, then sit for an exam to certify you for about the PMHNP certs.
*Indicates an affiliate link. At no additional cost to you, Nurse.org may earn a commission if you click through and use this service.