Best Online Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Programs in 2024

See the 10 best online PMHNP degree programs. We'll walk you through what matters, how we compare the programs, costs, classes, and more. Programs

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In today's rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, the role of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) holds monumental significance in providing compassionate care to people grappling with mental health challenges.

If you're committed to making a profound impact on mental health care, your journey toward becoming a PMHNP begins right here — by navigating the confusing, complex decision of choosing which online program to attend.

Summary of 2024's Top Online PMHNP Programs

Rush University

Psychiatric Mental Health Across the Life Span


DNP (MSN required)

68 Credit Hours

Cost per Credit

$1,344 In State

$1,344 Out of State


$91,392 In State

$91,392 Out of State

  • Illinois
  • - Accredited
  • - Hybrid
  • - On-campus
  • - Online
  • - Public
  • Clinical Hours: 1008
  • GPA: 3.00 Required
  • Full Time: 48 months
  • Part-Time: 36 months

Duke University

Psychiatric Mental Health Program


DNP (MSN required)

49 Credit Hours

Cost per Credit

$2,075 In State

$2,075 Out of State


$101,675 In State

$101,675 Out of State

  • North Carolina
  • - Accredited
  • - Hybrid
  • - On-campus
  • - Online
  • - Public
  • Clinical Hours: 616
  • GPA: 3.00 Required
  • Full Time: 30 months
  • Part-Time: 36 months

University Of Cincinnati

Psychiatric Mental Health Program


DNP (BSN required)

79 Credit Hours

Cost per Credit

$836 In State

$851 Out of State


$66,044 In State

$67,229 Out of State

  • Ohio
  • - Accredited
  • - Hybrid
  • - On-campus
  • - Online
  • - Public
  • Clinical Hours: 1000
  • GPA: 3.00 Required
  • Full Time: 36 months
  • Part-Time: Not Available

Best Online PMHNP Programs

The following programs have been ranked based on allnurses' data-driven methodology. We reviewed and aggregated data on over 50 CCNE-accredited nursing schools offering PMHNP programs. Then we used that information to score each accordingly and develop our proprietary allnurses ranking.

While the following schools offer fully online coursework, it's important to note that all PMHNP programs will require clinical hours that must be conducted in person.

1. Duke University

Type: Online with intensives at Duke
Programs Offered: MSN, BSN to DNP, Post-Graduate Certificates

Overview: Duke University's PMHNP program focuses on developing the expertise and innovative skills necessary to provide comprehensive care to patients.

The program is distance-based with online learning, and clinical practice experiences can take place near where you live to allow students to continue working while completing their degree. Most students can complete the program in two and a half years.

Who Duke University's NP Program is for: For those who envision applying for competitive positions after graduation, Duke on your resume may move you to the top. Their alumni network is top-notch, too, which may be one reason why the Median post-graduate earnings for Duke's MSN Nursing Programs is $109,928.

Why we like it: Duke helps students find their clinical placements as they have a network of 2,000 partners nationwide and even abroad.

Read Duke NP Reviews

2. Vanderbilt University

Known for its excellence in healthcare education, Vanderbilt's online PMHNP program offers a comprehensive curriculum that equips you with the skills needed to excel in the field. The program's reputation and commitment to quality education make it a preferred choice among aspiring PMHNPs. Vanderbilt University School of Nursing holds the 6th position in the U.S. News & World Report's rankings for its MSN program and is ranked 13th for its DNP program. Additionally, it's ranked as the top 2 program in Psychiatric-Mental Health.

3. Rush University

With a legacy of healthcare education, Rush University's online PMHNP program stands out for its innovative approach to mental health care. The program combines cutting-edge technology with personalized instruction to provide a well-rounded educational experience. For those with a BSN degree, it takes a period of four years to complete the program (part-time). However, those with a master's degree can finish it part-time in three years.

4. Ohio State University 

Offering a blend of flexibility and rigor, Ohio State University's online PMHNP program empowers students to master both the theoretical and practical aspects of psychiatric nursing. The program's commitment to fostering clinical proficiency prepares graduates to make a tangible impact in mental health care. Students are required to complete 600 clinical hours in their final year. 

5. University of Cincinnati 

The University of Cincinnati's 100% online PMHNP program is designed to cater to the needs of working professionals seeking advanced education. The program's emphasis on evidence-based practices and hands-on experiences ensures that graduates are well-prepared to provide holistic mental health care. You can choose either a part-time or full-time program, with most of them having fewer than 10 credits per semester.

6. University of Alabama 

With a strong focus on shaping compassionate and competent PMHNPs, the University of Alabama's online program offers a well-rounded curriculum that encompasses the complexities of mental health care. Graduates are equipped to address the diverse needs of individuals and communities. The method of learning is online, with a requirement of 21 credit hours and a $440 tuition per hour.

7. Chamberlain University

Chamberlain University's fully online PMHNP track prepares students to manage the mental health needs of their patients. The university has the second largest PMHNP program in the US, along with dedicated and focused faculty who bring real-world experience into the classroom. Their matching service can help students identify a practicum location and preceptor. The MSN to PMHNP can be completed in 2.5 years of full-time study.

8. Northern Kentucky University

The online PMHNP program at Northern Kentucky University covers the full scope of practice and integrates diagnosis, treatment, and mental health management for patients across their lifespans. The curriculum synthesizes neuroscientific principles, neurophysiological theory, and a broad range of therapeutic methods. The program spans 22 months, covers 46 credits, and has a total tuition fee of $27,066. It also proudly reports an 88.94% pass rate on the ANCC NCC Mental Health NP certification examination.

9. Anderson University

Anderson University's online PMHNP program takes 49 hours of coursework, with classes including Advanced Assessment, Processes in Mental Health, Psychopharmacological Therapies across the Lifespan, Care of Aging Adults, and Management of the Complex Client. For hands-on training, 500 hours of clinical work is expected during the third and fourth semesters. The program starts off in the Fall and wraps up in just 15 months. You'll need to attend an on-campus seminar once a semester, usually lasting 2-3 consecutive days.

10. Texas State University

Texas State University's online PMHNP program offers a 40-credit hour curriculum for registered nurses with a Bachelor's degree in Nursing. This program prepares them for PMHNP certification and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse licensure. While most instruction is online, students must attend on-campus intensives twice a semester at the St. David's School of Nursing in Round Rock. These sessions complement online learning and evaluate students' advanced competencies.

What Is a PMHNP?

A PMHNP, or Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, is a specialized advanced practice registered nurse (APRN)  dedicated to delivering comprehensive mental health care. These highly trained professionals serve diverse patient populations spanning from children to the elderly, addressing a broad spectrum of mental health concerns. The multifaceted role of a PMHNP encompasses various essential functions:

  • Assessment and Diagnosis: PMHNPs can conduct comprehensive psychiatric assessments, diagnose mental health disorders, and recognize potential medical issues that may be contributing to psychiatric symptoms.
  • Therapeutic Interventions: They can provide psychotherapy and counseling services to individuals, families, and groups.
  • Medication Management: PMHNPs are licensed to prescribe medications, including psychiatric medications, and can manage and monitor their effects on patients.
  • Patient Education: They educate patients and their families about mental health disorders, treatment options, potential side effects of medications, and strategies for managing symptoms.
  • Collaboration: PMHNPs often collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and primary care providers, to ensure comprehensive care for their patients.
  • Prevention and Health Promotion: They can also work on preventive care strategies, helping patients develop coping skills and resilience.

In addition to the core responsibilities mentioned, PMHNPs are pivotal in crisis intervention and management. They are equipped to assess and navigate complex situations, providing immediate support during mental health crises.

Furthermore, PMHNPs actively participate in community outreach and mental health advocacy, working to reduce stigma and promote awareness. Their involvement extends beyond clinical settings, aiming to create a more inclusive and supportive societal approach to mental health.

PMHNPs also contribute to policy development and research initiatives, leveraging their expertise to advance mental health care. Through active participation in professional organizations and ongoing education, they stay at the forefront of advancements, ensuring the delivery of evidence-based and innovative care.

In essence, the role of a PMHNP is dynamic, encompassing a wide array of responsibilities that extend far beyond traditional clinical practice. Their impact resonates across individual patient care, community well-being, and mental health policies and advancements.

How to Become a PMHNP

  1. Start by obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN).
  2. Successfully pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become an RN.
  3. Gain valuable and pertinent clinical experience in nursing practice.
  4. Pursue advanced education by enrolling in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program with a psychiatric-mental health specialization.
  5. Upon graduation, take the national certification exam administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to achieve board certification as a PMHNP. Remember that specific requirements can vary by state, as the scope of practice regulations is determined at the state level.
  6. In addition to national certification, PMHNPs must obtain state licensure to practice. Each state has its specific licensing requirements, so it's essential to understand and fulfill the criteria set by the respective state nursing board.

PMHNP Work Setting

PMHNPs can work in a variety of settings, reflecting the diverse needs of the individuals they treat. Some common places include:

  • Private Practice: Some PMHNPs establish their own private practices, where they provide therapy, medication management, and other psychiatric services directly to patients.
  • Hospitals: Within both general and psychiatric hospitals, PMHNPs can work in inpatient psychiatric units, providing acute care to patients with severe mental health issues.
  • Outpatient Clinics: These can be standalone mental health clinics or integrated within larger healthcare systems. PMHNPs see patients for follow-up visits, medication management, and therapy.
  • Community Mental Health Centers: These centers often serve populations that might not have access to other forms of healthcare. PMHNPs in these settings provide a range of services, from preventive care to treatment of acute mental health crises.
  • Residential Treatment Centers: These are facilities where individuals live for a period of time to receive intensive therapy and support. PMHNPs might provide medication management, therapy, and other treatments in these settings.
  • Correctional Facilities: Jails and prisons have a significant number of inmates with mental health challenges. PMHNPs can work in these settings to provide assessment, therapy, and medication management.
  • Schools and Universities: Some educational institutions employ PMHNPs to address the mental health needs of students, ranging from elementary schools to colleges.
  • Telehealth Services: With the rise of telemedicine, many PMHNPs are now providing services remotely, offering therapy and medication management through video calls.
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers: Given the unique mental health challenges faced by veterans, the VA employs PMHNPs to provide specialized care.
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers: PMHNPs can work in facilities that treat individuals with substance use disorders, providing therapy, medication management, and support for co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Research Institutions: Some PMHNPs are involved in research, studying the efficacy of treatments, understanding the etiology of mental health disorders, or developing new interventions.
  • Consultation and Liaison Services: In larger hospitals, PMHNPs might work as consultants, helping to manage the psychiatric symptoms of patients admitted for other medical conditions.

PMHNP Scope of Practice 

The level of independence and duties assigned to Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) is influenced by the regulations set by each state regarding their scope of practice. Some states allow PMHNPs to work autonomously, while others require them to be supervised by a healthcare provider or a licensed physician.

When selecting a PMHNP program, consider state regulations as some programs may not qualify graduates to work in certain states. Comprehend the scope of practice regulations in the state where you plan to work and the specific responsibilities of the PMHNP specialty you intend to pursue to align your career goals with the most suitable position.foresight ensures that your chosen PMHNP program aligns with the practice environment you aim to enter upon graduation.


Online PMHNP Pros & Cons

Online PMHNP programs offer flexibility but have advantages and challenges. Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons.

Online PMHNP Pros:

  • Flexibility and Convenience: Online programs offer flexibility for busy professionals. Students can typically complete coursework at their own pace, promoting work-life balance.
  • Accessibility: Online programs break down geographical barriers for students, especially those in rural areas.
  • Networking Opportunities: Virtual learning allows PMHNP peers to collaborate and connect with professionals from diverse locations.
  • Cost Savings: Online PMHNP programs save on-campus expenses, making PMHNP school more affordable for students.

Online PMHNP Cons:

  • Limited Face-to-Face Interaction: Online programs lack personal connections and immediate feedback from professors and peers like traditional classrooms.
  • Technology Challenges: Reliable internet access and digital skills are essential for students to navigate online coursework effectively and avoid technical disruptions.
  • Self-Discipline Required: Online learning demands self-discipline and effective time management.
  • Limited Hands-On Experience: Online PMHNP education may lack hands-on clinical training, impacting practical skill development.

When considering an online PMHNP program, weigh your learning style, lifestyle, and career objectives. Online programs offer flexibility but require self-motivation and digital skills.

Cost Considerations for PMHNP Programs

Below is a breakdown of essential factors to consider when evaluating the cost of a PMHNP program:

• Tuition: Students' tuition fees are determined based on their residency status and the type of institution they attend, with non-residents often paying higher fees.

• Program Pathway: While a post-grad PMHNP certification seems cost-effective, the prerequisite of an MSN NP degree adds to the overall financial investment, making it essential to consider the full cost.

• Books and Supplies: Expenses for educational materials, such as textbooks and medical supplies, can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

• Technology Fees: Online or hybrid programs may require students to pay extra fees for technology, software, or online resources.

• Lab Fees: Some courses may have associated lab fees for materials or equipment use.

• Miscellaneous Fees: Includes application fees, graduation fees, and other administrative expenses.

• Living Expenses: Pertains to day-to-day living costs such as food, utilities, and personal expenses, especially significant for those who won't be working or need to relocate for their PMHNP program.

• Certification Fees: In addition to tuition, there are certification fees for PMHNP-BC (Board Certified).

PMHNP Salary Expectations in 2024

The salary of a PMHNP can vary widely depending on factors such as geographical location, years of experience, type of practice setting, and level of education and certification.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for NPs was $124,680 or $59.94 hourly.

The top-paying states were:

  • California: $158,130
  • New Jersey: $143,250
  • Massachusetts: $138,700
  • Oregon: $136,250
  • Nevada: $136,230

Metropolitan cities with the highest employment levels include the New York Metropolitan area, which encompasses parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The employment level is 16,910 with an annual wage of $170,320, and an hourly rate of $81.89.

Unfortunately, the BLS does not specify between different types of NP specialties. However, ZipRecruiter reports that PMHNP salary ranges between $96,000 to $140,000 depending on state of practice.

Cities where the pay is above national average levels include:

  • Washington: $140,060
  • Colorado: $157,510
  • Delaware: $146,478

PMHNP Job Projection 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for NPs, CRNAs, and Certified Nurse Midwives is projected to grow by 38%, resulting in around 123,600 new jobs by 2023.

The United States is experiencing a shortage of mental health professionals, with more than 150 million individuals residing in areas designated as having a shortage. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide a specific projection of the demand for PMHNPs, the growing population and increasing need for mental health providers emphasize the significant demand for PMHNPs. Experts predict that the shortage in psychiatrists will affect between 14,280 and 31,109 in the near future. Other mental health professionals such as psychologists and social workers are also expected to face overextension.

Importance of Choosing an Accredited Online PMHNP Program

Choosing an accredited PMHNP program is crucial for several compelling reasons:

  • Educational Quality: Accreditation ensures high standards in education, maintained through ongoing reviews of curriculum, faculty qualifications, student resources, and clinical training.
  • Clinical Hours: An accrediting PMHNP program will ensure you meet the minimal clinical hour requirement.
  • Certification and Licensure Eligibility: Graduation from an accredited program is required for advanced nursing certifications and most state's NP licensure.
  • Career Prospects: Employers prefer graduates from accredited programs due to the assurance of high-quality education and adherence to recognized standards.
  • Credit Transferability: Credits earned in an accredited nursing program are more likely to be accepted by other accredited institutions, making it easier to pursue further education such as a PhD or DNP.
  • Professional Credibility: Completing an accredited PMHNP program establishes professional credibility by demonstrating that one has undergone education and training meeting national standards for advanced nursing practice. 
  •  Federal Financial Aid: Students seeking federal financial aid, including grants and loans, often require accreditation. 

Given these considerations, students should always confirm that their chosen PMHNP programs hold accreditation from reputable bodies such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is the difference between a PMHNP and a psychiatrist?

PMHNPs and psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental health conditions, but differ in their training and care methodologies. PMHNPs undergo specialized training in psychiatric-mental health care, integrating therapy and medication management. Psychiatrists specialize in psychiatry, primarily offering medication management and therapy. Collaboration between mental health professionals is common for comprehensive patient care.

Q: Is PMHNP a good career?

The PMHNP career is generally considered a rewarding and promising profession for several reasons, including but not limited to:

  • High Demand: There's a growing need for mental health services, and PMHNPs play a crucial role in addressing this demand, especially in areas underserved by psychiatrists.
  • Competitive Salary: PMHNPs often earn higher salaries compared to many other nursing specialties due to their advanced training and the specialized nature of their work.
  • Autonomy in Practice: In many states, PMHNPs have the authority to practice independently, diagnose mental health disorders, provide therapy, and prescribe medications.
  • Diverse Work Settings: As mentioned previously, PMHNPs can work in a variety of settings, from private practices and hospitals to schools and correctional facilities.
  • Personal Fulfillment: Helping individuals overcome or manage mental health challenges can be deeply rewarding.

Q: What skills make for a great PMHNP?

To be an effective PMHNP (Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner), several mental health nursing skills and qualities are essential:

  • Clinical Knowledge: A strong foundation in psychiatric nursing, pharmacology, and evidence-based therapeutic interventions is crucial.
  • Assessment Skills: The ability to conduct thorough psychiatric evaluations and differentiate between various mental health disorders.
  • Communication Skills: Effective verbal and non-verbal communication is vital for patient interviews, therapy sessions, and collaboration with other healthcare professionals.
  • Empathy and Compassion: Understanding and resonating with patients' feelings and struggles is essential for building trust and therapeutic relationships.
  • Critical Thinking: PMHNPs must be able to analyze complex situations, make decisions about patient care, and adjust treatment plans as necessary.
  • Cultural Competence: Recognizing and respecting the diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and values of patients to provide appropriate care.
  • Ethical Judgment: Adhering to professional and ethical guidelines, especially when faced with challenging situations.
  • Patience: Mental health progress can be slow, and setbacks are common. Patience is essential in guiding patients through their journey.

AD DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links. These links are designed for allnurses to generate revenue at no cost to you. The websites you visit are operated by third parties and have no influence in our recommendations, which are grounded in research.

Editorial Team / Admin

Erin Lee has 12 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care, Procedural, Care Coordination, LNC.

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