2022 Best Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs [PMHNP Guide]

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Psychiatric nurse practitioner programs combine the study of nursing care and mental health support. A graduate program in this field could provide the necessary training to pursue certification as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP).

Best Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

You could even earn this degree online so that you can continue your current nursing career while working toward advanced credentials.

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To see whether a graduate degree is the right move for you, let’s take a look at the coursework and career options that online PMHNP programs could provide.

Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Man taking Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner online

As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you could apply your nursing skills in mental health settings. Patients with behavioral disorders, substance addictions, mental health conditions, and other psychiatric needs can benefit from a PMHNP’s expert services.

If you are already a practicing nurse, becoming a nurse practitioner could be the logical next step in your career. There are different masters programs for registered nurses (RNs) with and without a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you already hold RN licensure and would like to earn a BSN quickly, some schools offer fast track RN to BSN online programs. You may also find program options for students with bachelor’s degrees from non-nursing fields.

No matter your previous background, becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner requires earning a graduate degree. For this specialty, you can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Either graduate degree can help qualify you to become a nurse practitioner in your state.

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Whether you get an MSN or a DNP, the topics you’ll study during your psychiatric nurse practitioner schooling could include:

  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Behavioral health
  • Gerontology
  • Healthcare leadership
  • Informatics
  • Nursing research and evidence-based practice
  • Pathophysiology
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Youth mental health

Most psychiatric nurse practitioner students learn to work with patients of all ages. Although your future job may focus on just one demographic, your training will probably cover kids, teens, adults, and senior citizens. In addition to the classroom work that is required for this program, you can also expect to do one or more internships.

During your internships, you’ll practice your clinical skills and learn from established healthcare providers. These experiences may extend over several semesters. To meet the requirements, you may be able to partner with healthcare facilities in your local area.

A college’s curriculum may prepare you to become certified as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). It might also meet your state’s requirements for nurse practitioner licensure.

Licensed psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners might offer healthcare services in hospitals, prisons, community clinics, residential facilities, schools, or other settings. Other career paths in this field can include program director, medical writer, nursing teacher, or scientific researcher.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Careers & Salaries

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Careers & Salaries

Where do psychiatric nurse practitioners work? Many workplaces have roles for nurse practitioners in this specialty. For example, some PMHNPs are employed in hospitals, schools, correctional facilities, or rehab clinics.

Depending on your responsibilities and your background, you could hold different job titles. For example, nurse practitioners who assist with criminal investigations and provide expert testimony might be considered forensic science technicians. Those who play a role in addiction treatment facilities could be grouped with substance abuse counselors.

Your nursing degree could also prepare you for a career in science communication. The knowledge you have on medical topics might equip you to work as a technical writer who shares healthcare information with the general public or your industry colleagues.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for healthcare practitioners is $75,040. Here is more salary information for career paths related to PMHNP studies.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Nurse Practitioners $120,680
Medical and Health Services Managers $101,340
Medical Scientists $95,310
Psychologists $81,040
Technical Writers $78,060
Registered Nurses $77,600
Postsecondary Nursing Instructors and Teachers $77,440
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000
Forensic Science Technicians $61,930
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $48,520

For some of these careers, experience and an advanced degree may help you earn an income that’s higher than the national average.

Working as a psychologist usually requires a doctoral degree in the field. A Master of Science in Nursing alone isn’t sufficient for that job title, but it could be a complement to your psychology training. Nurse practitioners are often leaders. Some work as directors of community mental health organizations or serve as medical managers of a clinical practice.

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Academia is another path to consider. Some nurse practitioners work as college instructors for nursing trainees. Others may be researchers. For example, an MSN could be a step along the path to earning a PhD and becoming a medical scientist.

MSN in Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Curriculum & Courses

Students taking MSN in Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs often require completing 50 or more credit hours. Your curriculum might include classes like the ones listed below:

  • Evidence-Based Nursing Practice: This course teaches you to understand research studies, to pay attention to the latest developments in nursing practice, and to treat your patients using strategies that are backed by solid research.
  • Health Data and Statistics: Today’s organizations use digital data systems to record patient information and track healthcare data—practices known as health informatics.
  • Leadership in Health Organizations: As a nurse practitioner, you may take a leadership role that requires you to navigate organizational structure and interpersonal dynamics.
  • Lifespan Psychiatric Nursing: You’ll talk about providing mental health support to people of all ages, from young children to aging seniors.
  • Nursing Advocacy: You may study the ways that advanced nursing professionals can influence public policy and speak up for patients’ needs.
  • Professional Nursing Practices: This graduate-level course focuses on advanced skills for calm, competent nursing professionals who meet patients’ needs and serve as leaders in their workplaces.
  • Psychiatric Patient Interviews: A course on interviewing can prepare you to ask questions and pay attention to the answers as you diagnose the patients in your practice.
  • Psychopharmacology: You’ll learn about medications used in the treatment of mental and behavioral health disorders.
  • Psychotherapeutic Techniques: This course presents you with therapy strategies you can use with individuals and groups.
  • Youth Mental Health: Focusing on children and adolescents, this class covers the unique developmental, social, and environmental needs of young patients.

The curriculum you follow—and the credit hours required—may depend on whether you currently hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Non-BSN students usually have to take more classes during the master’s degree program.

How to Choose a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Online Program

Woman choosing Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner program online

Comparing program features can help you find the school that’s best for you. You might want to consider the following factors:

  • Accreditation. In addition to regional accreditation for schools, you can look for programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
  • Admission requirements. There are different programs available for people who hold a BSN, for RNs without a bachelors degree, and for students with degrees from other fields.
  • Evidenced-based practices. It’s strategic to attend a nursing program that emphasizes the importance of consulting peer-reviewed research and using evidence-based interventions.
  • Internship details. Preparing to work as a nurse practitioner usually requires earning hands-on experience during several semesters of your college program. The school may be able to help you connect with a local health organization.
  • Online approach. Distance-learning programs are often flexible, but they may go about it in different ways. You might prefer a school that offers live online classes or one that has a 24/7 virtual classroom.
  • Time commitment. If you’re in a hurry, you can look for accelerated programs that take just 18 to 24 months. For a more relaxed pace, you might consider part-time schools that give you up to 5 years to finish.

Making a list of pros and cons may help you decide which program is right for you.

Online Psych NP Programs Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for MSN in Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

For a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, there may be some admission requirements that you won’t find for other programs. For one thing, some programs are designed for registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Many schools do have exceptions for students with other backgrounds, but additional coursework is often required. Applying to this type of program may require turning in:

  • A copy of your nursing license
  • GRE scores (not required at all schools)
  • Transcripts from previous college coursework
  • Your resume

Other application requirements could include a writing sample, reference letters, a background check, or an interview.

PMHNP Programs Online Accreditation

University offering PMHNP Programs Online

For your psychiatric nurse practitioner schooling, it’s essential to select a college that is regionally accredited. Accreditation is a distinction that’s granted to colleges and universities that meet certain standards. You can trust that you’ll receive a quality education at a school that’s been regionally accredited.

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Both campus-based and online programs can qualify for this type of accreditation. Completing your coursework at an accredited school means that others will respect the education you receive, and you may be able to transfer your credits elsewhere. Attending an accredited school can also help you secure an internship, get into additional grad programs, or qualify for state licensure.

Psychiatric Mental Health NP Licensure and Certifications

Attending Review for Psychiatric Mental Health NP Licensure

After you complete an NP degree in this field, you may qualify for licensure as a nurse practitioner in your state. The requirements are different in each state, but it’s usually required for you to hold at least a masters degree in the field. In some states, nursing professionals who have a master’s degree in another nursing area may be able to become a PMHNP by earning an on-campus or online post master’s certificate psychiatric nurse practitioner at certain universities.

You can also pursue national board certification. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) provides certification in this field. The credential that most graduates pursue is Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC).

There’s also the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), which offers continuing education and certification programs. One example is the Understanding the Brain-Behavior Connection certificate for both RNs and APRNs.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Financial Aid

If you want to change people’s lives by working as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you may need some help to make it happen. That’s what financial aid is for. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is often a key part of the college enrollment process.

Need-based aid from government programs—both state and federal—include student loans and grants. In general, graduate students are more likely to qualify for loans than grants. Loans allow you to borrow money for school and pay it back over time.

In addition to government assistance, you can look into private funding from your college, an industry organization, or a community group. This type of aid is often given as scholarships or fellowships. You can also talk to your employer about the possibility of having some of your tuition costs covered.

What Can You Do with an MSN in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioner mental health programs prepare students to become licensed as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who specialize in psychiatric care. Jobs may be available in hospitals, addiction treatment centers, and prisons.

Another option is to work as a clinical care director. Some professionals run community programs or coordinate medical services for the patients in a healthcare system. Some nurse practitioners equip students to work in the nursing field. They might teach college classes at the undergraduate or graduate level.

How Long Does It Take to Get an MSN in Psychiatric Mental Health NP Online?

Woman getting MSN in Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner online

Online programs vary in length, but full-time students can often finish in 2 to 3 years. Some accelerated PMHNP programs, typically reserved for students with a BSN, take closer to 18 months.

Earning the required practicum hours is a commitment that you can’t speed up too much, though. Part-time programs give students more time to complete the requirements. If a relaxed schedule is more important to you than finishing quickly, you may get 3 to 5 years to finish your program.

What Does a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Do?

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners can diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe medication, and offer therapy. The responsibilities of PMHNPs can vary from state to state, though. In some places, you would need to practice under the supervision of a doctor in your field.

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Psychiatric nurse practitioners might work with patients individually or see them in groups. That could include offering therapy to a family unit or leading group sessions for people with similar struggles. Psych NPs may focus on mental health services for a specific population, such as kids or older adults.

How Much Does a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Make?

Nurse Practitioner assisting a patient

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most nurse practitioners earn between $79,470 and $163,350 each year. The annual median is $120,680.

Advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) who work in hospitals or outpatient care settings often earn the highest wages, with a median salary of $128,190 per year. For APRNs who work in physicians’ offices, the median salary is $121,280. Working as a medical or health services manager is another job with high income potential. This position usually makes between $60,780 and $205,620.

The median salary for nursing professors and instructors is $77,440. The top earners make over $125,930 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Worth It?

Yes, a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner is worth it for many students. This degree program can help prepare you for a specialized career as an advanced practice RN who cares for people’s mental health needs.

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Demand for nurse practitioners is incredibly strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 52% increase in NP jobs over the next ten years. The predicted job growth rate for medical and health services managers is 32%, while social and community services managers are expected to see 15% job growth.

Universities Offering Online MSN in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree Program

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Bradley University

Bradley University

Bradley University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Drexel University

Drexel University

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Hawai’i Pacific University

Hawaii Pacific University

Hawai’i Pacific University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Herzing University

Herzing University

Herzing University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Husson University

Husson University

Husson University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Liberty University

Liberty University

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Marymount University

Marymount University

Marymount University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Maryville University

Maryville University

Maryville University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Regis College

Regis College

Regis College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Rivier University

Rivier University

Rivier is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Simmons University

Simmons University

Simmons University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

St. Thomas University

St Thomas University

St. Thomas University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Arizona

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

West Coast University

West Coast University

West Coast University is accredited by WASC Senior College of University Commission.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University

Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Wilkes University

Wilkes University

Wilkes University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Getting Your MSN in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Online

Man pursuing Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner online

If you want to become a nurse practitioner who specializes in mental health services, then you can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. An MSN in PMHNP can offer essential preparation for national certification or state licensure.

If you’re already practicing as a registered nurse, then you can go ahead and take a look at accredited online graduate programs. With psychiatric NP programs online, you might be able to better balance college coursework and a full-time job. It can be a strategic way to put yourself through school as you work toward advanced responsibilities and leadership opportunities.

You can start exploring accredited colleges and universities that offer online NP studies today.

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Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.