How to Become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner In 2022

Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

How to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner: Do you want to know the right step to take to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner? This article is the right place to acquire such knowledge.

After our article on How to Become a Psychiatrist – Career Path, Salary and Job Description, we understand that some of followers wanted to know how to become Psychiatric Nurse.

So without further ado let’s dive in…

First let’s start by making you understand who a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses that specialize in the mental health needs of adults, children, families, groups, and/or communities.

They specialize in assisting persons with various psychological problems and illnesses, as well as substance misuse disorders.

Professionals interested in learning how to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner can use this guide to discover more about the field, including step-by-step instructions for getting started.

In addition to the criteria for mental nurse practitioners, this website includes information on how much psychiatric NPs earn and the expected growth of the specialty.

We’ll go over what a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner does, where they work, how much they make, how to become one, and more in this article.

Let’s get started.

Content Summary

What is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

To become a mental health nurse practitioner, you need to know who you’re or about to become.

According to Wikipedia, a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse who has been trained to deliver a variety of mental health services to patients and families in a variety of settings in the United States.

Patients with psychiatric disorders, medical organic brain disorders, or substance misuse issues are diagnosed, treated, and prescribed medications by PMHNPs.

They have the necessary licenses to provide emergency psychiatric services, psychological and physical assessments, treatment programs, and patient care management.  

They may also work with families and employees as advisors or educators.

What Does a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Do?

To become a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, you need to understand what they do

Basically, PMHNPs diagnose, treat, and enhance the outcomes of patients with psychiatric or mental health issues by combining nursing, psychosocial, and neurobiological expertise and approaches.

PMHNPs have a wide range of responsibilities that contribute to the development of therapeutic relationships with their clients on a daily basis.

Daily techniques and methodologies may differ depending on a PMHNP’s specialty and desired client base.

However, a PMHNP’s scope of practice typically includes patient assessment, diagnosis, planning, treatment, and evaluation, which can last months or even years depending on the client.

PMHNPs not only provide tailored care to their patients, but they also collaborate with their patients’ families, engage their colleagues in discourse and research, and actively educate communities to reduce stigma around mental health and obtaining mental health services.

Their responsibilities will vary depending on where they work, but they typically include:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of common acute psychiatric issues, illnesses, and crises.
  • In conjunction with a psychiatrist, psychopharmacologic management is used.
  • Individual, group, and family counseling are available.
  • Clients with common recognized persistent psychiatric illnesses are cared for and counseled.
  • Multidisciplinary services for clients with complicated psychiatric disorders must be coordinated and integrated.
  • Monitoring common health-care issues and sending patients to specialized medical care when necessary.
  • Providing comprehensive psychiatric and mental health education to families.
  • Screening procedures that are age-appropriate are performed or recommended.

Where Does a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Work?

PMHNPs can practice in a variety of venues. Hospitals, primary care settings, clinics, schools, telemedicine settings, public health institutions, and private practices are all typical employment contexts.

PMHNPs can work with a range of patient characteristics depending on the environment.

After graduation, most psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner go in search for jobs at hospitals, private offices, and organizations that help people with mental illnesses after graduation.

Also, community mental health clinics, state in-patient or outpatient psychiatric facilities, correctional facilities, Veterans Administration psychiatric facilities, and domestic violence shelters are all places where psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners work.

Many psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners begin their job search while still in school to assure they have a job after graduation.

Is it Worth Being a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

Psychiatric nursing is a rigorous profession, in some ways much more so than general practice nursing, but many nurses find it to be the perfect fit for their skills and interests.

It can also be a financially lucrative nursing specialty.

According to Payscale, the median hourly rate for psychiatric nurses in the United States is around $32.05 per hour, but this value is affected by career length and geographic area.

Total salary ranges from roughly $53,000 to slightly over $90,000 per year on an annual basis.

In the coming years, mental health employment, in general, and mental health nursing jobs, in particular, are likely to be in great demand.

Caring individuals who feel called to this nursing specialization can look forward to a variety of possibilities to practice their craft, whether in a typical nursing setting or as a traveling healthcare practitioner.

In addition to at least two years of experience as a full-time RN, certification in psychiatric nursing requires particular experience as well as completion of continuing education.

Jobs as a mental health nurse can be found at an outpatient clinic or other facility, as well as in a hospital setting. Each location has its own set of benefits and drawbacks that should be carefully considered.

Because of the strong demand for mental health nursing employment and the advanced qualifications required, today’s psychiatric nurse can expect to earn a competitive pay, as well as benefits such as health insurance, dental care, and eye care in many situations.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Nurse Practitioner?

It’s a significant decision to leave the bedside and pursue an advanced practice degree. The nurse practitioner degree is one form of advanced practice degree that you might be interested in.

So, you’re sitting there, racking your brain for the benefits and drawbacks of becoming a nurse practitioner.

Rest assured, I’ve already done the legwork for you.

The top ten advantages and disadvantages of working as a nurse practitioner are listed below. This will undoubtedly assist you in making a more informed selection.

 Flexibility in your work hoursVariability of working hours
 Prosperous job outlookWorkplace stress
 Competitive payWorking conditions challenging
 Having a challenging careerLengthy education path
 Having the opportunity to specializeMay not be able to continue to work full time while being in NP school
 The longevity of the careerRepaying student loans
 Traveling opportunityEmotional stress
 Respected and trusted professionInconsistency in your scope of practice
 Employer tuition assistance programLegal responsibilities
 Growth of TelehealthYou must pass a certification exam to practice

How Long Does it Take to be a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

The time it takes to become a certified psychiatric nurse practitioner is long, although it varies based on the circumstances of each student.

In most situations, a bachelor’s degree in nursing takes four years to complete. Nurses must then complete the prerequisites to become registered nurses (RNs), and many choose to work in this sector for a period of time to obtain experience.

Depending on the student’s course load, a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing can take two or more years. Following that, you must complete clinical hours and pass the license exam, which can take up to a year.

Psychiatric nurse practitioner study can take six years or longer, depending on a student’s educational background, if they attend full-time studies, and whether they want to pursue a DNP degree.

Most MSN programs demand two years of work experience, which adds time to the process.

What is the Fastest Way to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Obtaining a BSN and an MSN in six years is the normal educational path to becoming a PMHNP.

Depending on an applicant’s previous college credits or RN experience, online, bridge, direct-entry, or other expedited programs can result in a degree in as little as two years.

Steps to Become a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Before working as a psychiatric primary care provider, psychotherapist, consultant, or educator, PMHNPs must complete numerous phases, just like all advanced nursing professions.

A valid registered nurse (RN) license in the state where they plan to practice, a graduate degree, and national board certification as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner are all required of these nurses.

To become a PMHNP, there are a few standard steps to follow. To obtain a rough idea of what the procedure comprises, look at the step-by-step guide below:

#1. Earn a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing)

A BSN degree is the initial step towards becoming a PMHNP. A standard bachelor’s degree program lasts four years of full-time study.

RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) can, however, enroll in an RN-to-BSN bridge program to reduce the time it takes to finish their BSN.

An accelerated BSN program permits students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline to finish all of their undergraduate nursing prerequisites in 18 months or fewer.

#2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Examination

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is used by state nursing regulatory boards to assess eligibility for a nursing license.

Registered nurses must apply to the state board and pass the NCLEX-RN to practice in their preferred state.

Professionals must first get an RN licensure before pursuing professions as psychiatric NPs.

Candidates for RN licensure must complete a BSN and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Individuals with an associate degree in nursing can also pursue RN licensure.

#3. Work as an RN for a while

After obtaining an RN license, individuals can begin working in the field of mental nursing.

Professionals can get the Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Certification by passing a competency-based test, which allows them to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the field.

Professionals that meet the certification requirements become nursing professional development-board certified, which is a five-year certificate.

Applicants to most NP schools must have at least two years of nursing experience.

#4. Enroll in a Graduate Nursing Program

PMHNPs must get a master’s degree in nursing with a specialization in population health.

The Master of Science in nursing (MSN), which is the minimum educational requirement for nurse practitioners, usually takes two years to complete and includes both didactic and clinical rotations.

A doctoral degree, which can take up to six years to finish, is recommended for students who desire to expand their professional possibilities in clinical leadership or teaching.

Professionals with a Specialty in Psychiatric-Mental Health Care Professionals who want to work as psychiatric NPs must enroll in an accredited MSN or DNP program with a psychiatric-mental health care specialization. MSN programs require students to have RN license and a BSN.

Admissions processes differ by school, but all MSN programs require students to have RN licensure and a BSN. Applicants for DNP programs must have a master’s degree in nursing.

Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

#5. Get Certified in Psychiatric Mental Health and Become a Nurse Practitioner

Practitioners must receive a graduate degree and 500 supervised hours as a PMHNP before applying for the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification (PMHNP-BC).

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) administers the PMHNP-BC test, which provides a valid and accurate assessment of clinical knowledge and skills.

In addition to certification, each state’s nursing regulatory body has its own psychiatric nurse practitioner license standards.

Once all of the prerequisites have been satisfied, PMHNPs can apply for licensure through their state nursing board.

#6. Obtain NP State Licensure

Each state has its own rules for NP license. Educational, experience, and examination requirements are usually included in licensing criteria.

Individuals who have obtained licensure have the requisite credentials to begin working as psychiatric nurse practitioners.

#7. Find Employment

Hospitals, primary care clinics, and private practice are common work environments for PMHNPs.

Telemedicine programs, campus healthcare facilities, and public health organizations will all be boosting prospects for these specialists.

PMHNPs provide services to a wide range of client groups suffering from ailments such as substance misuse disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, depression, and behavioral issues connected to dementia.

Specific duties vary according on the employment environment.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC) Certification 

The ANCC offers only one certification for PMHNPs to pursue. The PMHNP accreditation granted by the ANCC is in line with the APRN Consensus Model.

Nurses are given the certificate after satisfying the eligibility conditions and passing the competency assessment.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) (PMHNP-BC):

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Active RN license in a United States state or territory, or a legally recognized equivalent.
  • A master’s degree or higher from a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program with at least 500 clinical hours accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the American Commission on Education in Nursing (ACEN).
  • Advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology are three graduate-level courses.
  • Health promotion and/or maintenance, as well as differential diagnosis and disease management, are all covered.
  • At least two psychotherapy modalities are required for clinical training.
  • Passing a competency-based test


  • Non-members pay $395.
  • $295 if you’re a member of the American Nurses Association.
  • $340 member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  • AANP student member pays $290
  • $220 for a member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association
  • $340 for a member of the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses


Every five years, certifications must be renewed. Renewal applications must be submitted at least three months prior to the expiration of your certification.

Can a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Diagnose Mental Illness?

Psychiatric NPs diagnose and assess patients, prescribe medicine, and provide psychotherapy in addition to treating patients for diagnosed disorders.
All 50 states and Washington, D.C. allow NPs to prescribe medication.

Some states, on the other hand, govern practice authority, limiting the extent to which NPs can prescribe drugs without the supervision of a physician.

In 25 states, PMHNPs can practice independently and without supervision.
They have limited or restricted practice power in other states, requiring them to engage in collaborative agreements with a supervising doctor or adhere to other restrictions.

How Much Do Psych NPS Make?

Nurse practitioners’ salary vary depending on their specialty, location, and job.

Nurse practitioners who specialize in psychiatry have typically received higher-than-average compensation, according to Barton Associates, a recruiting and staffing organization for NPs.

The median annual pay for nurse practitioners in 2019 was $109,820, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In 2019, California, Washington, and Hawaii were among the highest-paying states for nurse practitioners in the United States.

The table below shows their average hourly and annual wages:

 Mean Hourly WageMean Annual Wage

Becoming a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: FAQs

Can a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Prescribe Medication?

The extent to which a state has prescriptive authority varies by state. Most states allow PMHNPs to prescribe medications, although other states require NPs to work under the supervision of a licensed physician or under a collaborative agreement. To understand their responsibilities, professionals should research their state-specific requirements.

What Does a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Do?

PMHNPs are responsible for a variety of tasks, including evaluating and diagnosing patients as well as providing psychotherapy. These NPs frequently write prescriptions and have a holistic approach to healthcare. PMHNPs are trained to identify and treat mental health concerns such as substance misuse, anxiety, and depression.

Where Do Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners Work?

PMHNPs can work in private clinics, psychiatric institutions, and public and private hospitals’ dedicated mental health units. These NPs have varying compensation opportunities and job development rates according to the setting.

What Job Can I Get As A Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

Patients in need of mental health therapy are seen by PMHNPs. These experts may work with patients of all ages, including children and the elderly. Throughout their careers, nurses in this field work with a wide range of patients.

What Is the Difference Between PMHNPs and Psychologists?

PMHNPs are advanced practice registered nurses with master’s or doctorate degrees in nursing. Psychologists with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. are experts in diagnostic testing, whereas PMHNPs interpret findings and prescribe medicine.

Are There Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs Online?

Nursing students can earn associate, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees entirely online. At the graduate level, aspiring PMHNPs might typically look into specialized options. In a flexible, online approach, many programs offer the PMHNP field as a specialization.

How Do You Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

A bachelor’s degree in nursing is required to become a licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner. After that, the majority of psychiatric nurse practitioners finish their registered nurse license requirements. Your study must then continue with a master’s degree program in psychiatric nursing, usually in a specialized area.

To become a certified psychiatric nurse practitioner, you must complete the appropriate clinical hours and tests after completing the degree.


As you can see, there are many pros and cons of being a nurse practitioner to consider when contemplating if this career path is for you.

You may feel that some of the pros may outweigh the cons, and you are just going to go for it, or you may feel that the cons pose too many challenges to make becoming an NP worth it. Ultimately, deciding on a career path is always a big decision.

You May Also Like