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

Discover the best PMHNP programs available in 2024. Learn more about their prerequisites, requirements, costs, and salary expectations after graduation. Programs

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In the ever-evolving mental health field, the role of a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) has never been more critical. As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), PMHNPs are at the forefront of providing comprehensive mental health care to patients across various settings. They are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap in mental health services, especially in underserved areas.

If you'd like to learn more about programs offering a specialty in PMHNP, read more as we've compiled the best available programs across the U.S. in 2024. We've also provided insights into the responsibilities of PMHNP and salary expectations after graduation.

Best PMHNP Programs

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most and with the addition graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

It is recommended that each prospective student conducts thorough research in order to decide which program is ultimately best for their specific needs and preferences.

1. Rush University 

Located in Chicago, IL, Rush University offers entirely online PMHNP programs, allowing students to earn their degrees without relocating. Prospective nursing students can choose from the BSN-DNP, MSN-DNP, and MSN APRN-DNP pathways.

DNP PMHNP Program overview:

  • Duration:
    • 4 years part-time for BSN-DNP students 
    • 3 years part-time for MSN-DNP students 
    • Dependent upon completed coursework for MSN APRN-DNP students 
  • Credit Hours: 
    • 68 for BSN-DNP students 
    • 56 for MSN-DNP students 
    • 41 for MSN APRN-DNP students 
  • Clinical Hours: 500-1,000
  • Cost: $1,344 per credit
  • Accreditation: CCNE

2. The Ohio State University 

In Columbus, Ohio, The Ohio State University offers a PMHNP program designed to empower students with the essential skills needed for providing comprehensive, patient-centered mental health care across all life stages. The program offers versatile pathways, such as the traditional MSN, post-graduate certificate, and BSN-DNP, ensuring flexibility to meet the diverse points at which each nurse finds themselves in their career and educational journeys. With both part-time and full-time study plans available, students have the flexibility to tailor their educational experience, seamlessly aligning it with their professional commitments and personal schedules.

MSN & DNP PMHNP Program overview: 

  • Duration:
    • 3-4 years BSN-DNP students 
    • 1-3 years part-time for BSN-MSN students 
    • Dependent upon completed coursework for post-graduate certificate students.
  • Credit Hours:
    •  72 for BSN-DNP students 
    • 46-70 for BSN-MSN students 
  • Clinical Hours: 600-1,000
  • Cost: $9,682 (in-state) or $22,982 (out of state) per semester/8 credit hours
  • Accreditation: CCNE

3. University of Miami 

The University of Miami, located in Florida, extends an invitation to its PMHNP post-graduate certificate program, emphasizing a comprehensive approach across all demographics. This unique program allows students the flexibility to complete their residency while concentrating on a specific age group of their choice. Applicants should be MSN graduates specializing in family, adult gerontology, or pediatric nurse practitioners to embark on this pathway, ensuring a diverse and specialized foundation for mental health care training.

PMHNP Post-Graduate Program Overview: 

  • Duration: 3 semesters
  • Credit Hours: 36 
  • Clinical Hours: 504
  • Cost: $21,789 per full-time semester 
  • Accreditation: CCNE 

4. Duke University School of Nursing 

In Durham, NC, Duke University's MSN PMHNP program places a strong emphasis on providing mental health care to individuals of all ages, with a specific focus on those residing in rural and underserved communities. Distinguished by its innovative approach, this program is delivered through distance-based online learning, supported by faculty recognized as experts in online education. The flexibility extends to clinical placements, allowing students to complete their clinicals near their homes, thanks to Duke's expansive nationwide clinical network. PMHNP students at Duke University are exceptionally well-prepared for the array of environments they may encounter upon graduation.

MSN PMHNP Program Overview: 

  • Duration: 2.5 years
  • Credit Hours: 49 
  • Clinical Hours: 560
  • Cost: $2,075 per credit hour. 
  • Accreditation: CCNE 

5. University of Cincinnati 

Located in Cincinnati, the University of Cincinnati offers a 100% online DNP PMHNP program, preparing nurses to deliver comprehensive mental health services across the lifespan. This program requires applicants to have at least one year of RN experience and strong assessment skills. Alternatively, candidates who do not meet this requirement can continue working to gain the necessary experience.

DNP PMHNP Program Overview:  

  • Duration: 3 years, 9 semesters
  • Credit Hours: 76-79
  • Clinical Hours: 1,000
  • Cost: $836 per credit hour. 
  • Accreditation: CCNE 

6. Frontier Nursing University 

In the scenic setting of Versailles, KY, Frontier Nursing University offers both a traditional MSN PMHN program and a post-graduate certificate in PMHNP, each crafted to deliver a thorough understanding of mental health care. The university's commitment to flexible learning shines through its entirely online coursework, allowing students in the PMHNP program to adapt their education to their individual needs. FNU's extensive network, featuring nearly 13,000 clinical sites and 16,000 preceptors across the country, provides students with valuable, accessible learning experiences in advanced mental health nursing.

MSN & Post-Graduate PMHNP Program overview: 

  • Duration:
    • 8 11-week terms at a full-time pace for MSN students 
    • 6 11-week terms at a full-time pace for post-graduate certificate students
  • Credit Hours: 
    • 48 for MSN students 
    • 35 for post-graduate certificate
  • Clinical Hours: 675 clinical hours 
  • Cost: $836 per credit hour. 
  • Accreditation: CCNE 

Upon completing the MSN PMHNP program, nursing students have the option to continue to complete the DNP program.

7. Stony Brook University 

At Stony Brook University in New York, the MSN PMHNP program is designed to thoroughly prepare students to provide all-encompassing psychiatric mental health care across the lifespan. This program, blending distance education with essential on-site components, equips students with advanced skills for mental health care in diverse environments. The curriculum is comprehensive, addressing critical areas of mental health practice and incorporating both foundational nursing concepts and the specialized role of Nurse Practitioners. Graduates are poised to contribute significantly in various healthcare settings, supported by a robust understanding of psychiatric care and its practical applications.

MSN PMHNP Program Overview: 

  • Duration: 57 weeks
  • Credit Hours: 45
  • Cost:  $471 per credit (NY residents),  $1,020 per credit (non-residents) 
  • Accreditation: CCNE 

8. University of Washington 

In the heart of Seattle, WA, the University of Washington's DNP PMHNP and post-graduate certificate PMHNP programs stand as exceptional pathways for advanced nursing practice in mental health. The University uniquely positions its programs to build upon prior clinical experience in psychiatric settings, emphasizing a deep and practical understanding of mental health care. These programs integrate advanced clinical training with a strong academic foundation, preparing graduates to become leaders in the field of psychiatric and mental health nursing. The immersive curriculum and extensive clinical hours at UW are designed to foster expertise in handling complex mental health issues, equipping students to make meaningful contributions in various healthcare settings.

DNP PMHNP Program Overview: 

  • Duration: 3 years, 9 quarters 
  • Credit Hours: 93
  • Clinical Hours: 1,000 clinical hours 
  • Cost:  $10,836 per quarter (WA residents), $15,440 per quarter (non-residents)
  • Accreditation: CCNE 

9. University of California - San Francisco

The direct entry BSN to DNP PMHNP program at UCSF provides a comprehensive curriculum addressing mental health across all demographics, allowing students the flexibility to concentrate on a specific age group during their residency. This 12-month hybrid program is particularly well-suited for nurses specializing in adult or pediatric care. Core courses are available throughout the year, and virtual classes are scheduled on weekdays. Clinical experiences are thoughtfully arranged during evenings or weekends to accommodate diverse schedules. 

DNP PMHNP Program Overview: 

  • Duration: 4 quarters, 12 months
  • Credit Units: 34
  • Clinical Hours: 1,000 clinical hours 
  • Cost:  $42,199 annual tuition 2024
  • Accreditation: CCNE 

PMHNP Program Overview

A PMHNP program is an advanced educational pathway for RNs who wish to specialize in mental health care. This program prepares nurses to provide a wide range of mental health services to patients across the lifespan, including assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychiatric disorders. PMHNPs can work in various settings, such as hospitals, private practices, mental health clinics, and community health centers.

Achieving PMHNP through MSN, DNP, or Graduate Certificate

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): An MSN with a specialization in psychiatric-mental health nursing is a common route for becoming a PMHNP. This program typically takes 2-3 years to complete and includes both coursework and clinical training. Graduates are eligible to sit for the PMHNP certification exam.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): A DNP is a more advanced degree that focuses on clinical practice at a higher level. It usually takes 3-4 years to complete. A DNP program with a PMHNP specialization includes extensive clinical training and often involves a capstone project that demonstrates clinical expertise in psychiatric nursing.

Post-Graduate Certificate: For nurses who already hold an MSN or DNP in another specialty, a post-graduate certificate in psychiatric-mental health is an option. This program focuses on the specific skills and knowledge needed for the PMHNP role and is shorter than a full degree program, typically taking about a year.

PMHNP Coursework

The coursework in a PMHNP program covers a range of topics essential for mental health care. This includes:

  • Psychopharmacology: Understanding the use of medications in treating psychiatric disorders.
  • Psychotherapy: Techniques and methods for providing therapy to individuals, groups, and families.
  • Neuroscience: The study of the nervous system, particularly how it relates to behavior and mental processes.
  • Psychiatric Assessment and Diagnosis: Skills for assessing mental health conditions and formulating diagnoses.
  • Health Policy and Ethics: Understanding the legal, ethical, and policy issues in mental health care.

PMHNP Clinical Training

Clinical training is a critical component of the PMHNP program, providing hands-on experience in psychiatric care. This includes:

  • Direct Patient Care: Working with patients under supervision to develop skills in psychiatric evaluation, treatment planning, and implementation.
  • Diverse Settings: Training in various settings like hospitals, outpatient clinics, and community health centers.
  • Specialized Populations: Opportunities to work with specific groups such as children, adolescents, the elderly, or those with substance use disorders.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Learning to work as part of a healthcare team that may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other health professionals.

Prerequisites & Requirements

Candidates must meet specific prerequisites and requirements to enroll in a PMHNP program. These ensure that students have the necessary background and skills to complete the program and practice effectively in the field.

PMHNP Prerequisites

Prerequisites for a PMHNP program typically include educational and professional criteria that must be met before admission. These prerequisites are designed to ensure that students have a solid foundation in nursing and related fields.

  • Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN): Most PMHNP programs require applicants to have a BSN from an accredited nursing program.
  • RN Licensure: Applicants must hold a current and unencumbered RN license.
  • Clinical Experience: Some programs require a certain amount of clinical experience, often in a psychiatric or mental health setting.
  • Undergraduate Coursework: Prerequisite courses may include statistics, research methods, and physical and behavioral sciences.
  • Minimum GPA: Many programs require a minimum undergraduate GPA, often around 3.0 or higher.

PMHNP Requirements

Requirements refer to the criteria that students must fulfill during the course of their PMHNP program. These include academic and clinical components that are essential for developing the skills and knowledge necessary to become a competent PMHNP.

  • Completion of Coursework: Students must successfully complete all required coursework, which typically includes advanced pharmacology, advanced health assessment, and mental health nursing theory.
  • Clinical Hours: PMHNP programs require a certain number of supervised clinical hours in psychiatric-mental health settings.
  • Capstone or Thesis Project: Some programs may require a capstone project or thesis that demonstrates mastery of a specific area within psychiatric-mental health nursing.
  • Certification Exam: Upon completion of the program, graduates are usually required to pass a certification exam to become a board-certified PMHNP.
  • Maintaining RN Licensure: Students must maintain their RN licensure throughout the duration of the program.

PMHNP Job Description

A PMHNP is an APRN trained to provide a wide range of mental health services to patients and families in various settings.

Responsibilities

Here are some of the key responsibilities and duties of a PMHNP:

  • Patient Assessment: PMHNPs conduct thorough psychiatric evaluations, develop differential diagnoses, and manage health and illness complications. Psychiatric nursing assessment is vital to have proper planning and intervention.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: They diagnose mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, or dementia using criteria outlined in the DSM-5. They also develop and manage treatment plans, including psychotherapy and medication management.
  • Psychotherapy: PMHNPs provide various forms of psychotherapy, including individual, group, and family therapy. They may use different therapeutic approaches based on the patient's needs, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or other evidence-based therapies.
  • Medication Management: They can prescribe medication and monitor its effectiveness. They must understand psychiatric medications' uses, risks, and side effects.
  • Patient Education: PMHNPs educate patients and their families about mental health, coping mechanisms, recovery strategies, and how to manage their symptoms at home. They also provide resources for self-care and wellness.
  • Consultation: They often consult with other healthcare professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and occupational therapists, to ensure a comprehensive approach to patient care.
  • Research and Policy: Some PMHNPs are involved in research, studying the effects of mental health disorders and the impact of mental health policy.
  • Crisis Intervention: They may provide emergency psychiatric services to individuals experiencing acute distress.
  • Advocacy: PMHNPs advocate for policies and services that promote mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

It's important to note that the scope of practice for a PMHNP can vary depending on the state's laws and regulations. Some states allow PMHNPs to practice independently, while others require them to work under the supervision of a physician or psychiatrist.

PMHNP Program Costs

The costs of PMHNP programs can vary widely depending on factors such as the type of institution (public or private), whether the program is online or on-campus, and the student's residency status (in-state or out-of-state). Here are some general cost estimates based on recent data:

  • In-State Tuition: For in-state students, the cost of a PMHNP program can be more affordable. For example, an MSN with a PMHNPspecialization may cost around $12,720 for in-state tuition
  • Out-of-State Tuition: Out-of-state students typically pay higher tuition fees. The cost can go up to $32,880 or more for out-of-state tuition in some programs.
  • Online Programs: Online PMHNP programs can offer a range of tuition fees, oftentimes costing less due to not requiring in-person study with the exception of clinical hours.
  • DNP Programs: DNP programs, which are more advanced, can be more expensive. For example, a DNP program with a PMHNP specialty from Yale School of Nursing costs approximately $107,000.
  • Per Credit Hour Cost: The tuition for psychiatric nurse practitioner programs is often listed per credit hour. Both MSN and DNP level programs can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 or more per credit hour.
  • Certification Fees: Apart from tuition, there are also certification fees for PMHNP-BC (Board Certified).

To cut down on overall costs you can consider exploring the 12 Most Affordable Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Programs | 2024

PMHNP Career Outlook & Salary Expectations in 2024

Recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate a projected surge in demand for various healthcare roles, including NPs, CRNAs, and Certified Nurse Midwives, expected to grow by 38% by the year 2023, offering approximately 123,600 new job openings.

Across the United States, there exists a pronounced deficit in mental health practitioners, with more than 150 million individuals residing in areas underserved by adequate mental health services. While the BLS doesn't provide a precise outlook for PMHNPs, the expanding population and heightened demand for mental health services underscore a substantial need for professionals in this field. Analysts predict that the scarcity of psychiatrists will result in a shortfall of between 14,280 and 31,109 mental health professionals. Furthermore, the escalating demand is expected to strain other mental health professions, including psychologists and social workers.

PMHNP Salary

PMHNP salary is influenced by various factors. Every city has a different rate and even the type of industry they are in plays a big role. Past clinical experience, educational credentials, and certifications obtained are additional factors that affect salary.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean average salary for NPs was $128,490 or $61.78 hourly.

Top Paying States for NPs

  • California: $161,540.00
  • Nevada: $148,670.00
  • Washington: $145,400.00
  • New Jersey: $145,030.00
  • Oregon: $144,950.00

The states with the highest level of employment for nurse practitioners, along with their corresponding average salaries, are listed in the table below:

  • California (19,130 NPs) $161,540.00
  • Texas (18,8820 NPs) $130,010.00
  • Floriad (18,530 NPs) $119,710.00

The BLS does not provide a breakdown of salaries for various NP specialties. However, according to ZipRecruiter, PMHNP salaries vary between $118,500 and $211,500, contingent on the state of practice. The majority of PMHNPs earn around $118,500, with a national average salary of $139,486.

Top paying cities for PMHNPs:

  • Santa Clara, CA: $181,671.00
  • San Francisco, CA: $173,138.00
  • Newport Beach, CA: $169,019.00
  • San Jose, CA: $167,585.00
  • Alexandria, VA: $165,553.00

Top paying PMHNP Jobs:

  • PMHNP: $141,112.00
  • PMHNP Telepsychiatry Internship: $134,369.00
  • PMHNP Temp: $130,295.00
  • Pernatal PMHNP: $126,034.00
  • Rehabillitation PMHNP: $112,339.00

Are PMHNP Programs Worth It?

PMHNP programs can be a significant career step for those interested in advanced practice nursing in mental health. However, like any educational pursuit, there are advantages and disadvantageous to be considered.

Pros of PMHNP Programs

  1. High Demand: With a growing focus on mental health, PMHNPs are in high demand. This demand is likely to increase, given the rising awareness of mental health issues and the need for specialized care.
  2. Competitive Salary: PMHNPs often earn a higher salary compared to RNs and some other nursing specialties. Their advanced degree and specialized skills are typically rewarded with competitive compensation.
  3. Autonomy in Practice: PMHNPs enjoy a higher degree of autonomy in their practice, often including the ability to diagnose conditions, prescribe medication, and develop treatment plans.
  4. Personal Fulfillment: Working in mental health can be incredibly rewarding. PMHNPs make a significant difference in the lives of patients struggling with mental health issues, which can be personally fulfilling.
  5. Diverse Opportunities: PMHNPs have diverse career opportunities, including private practice, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and telehealth services. This variety allows for flexibility in choosing a work environment that suits personal preferences and lifestyles.

Cons of PMHNP Programs

  1. Stressful and Emotionally Demanding: The nature of mental health work can be emotionally taxing. Dealing with patients with severe mental health issues requires resilience and can lead to burnout.
  2. Cost and Time of Education: PMHNP programs require a significant investment of time and money. The cost of advanced education and the time commitment for both coursework and clinical hours can be substantial.
  3. Licensing and Certification Requirements: PMHNPs must meet stringent licensing and certification requirements, which can vary by state and involve rigorous exams and ongoing education.
  4. Liability Risks: Working in mental health can come with higher liability risks. The responsibility of prescribing medications and managing complex mental health conditions requires careful practice.
  5. Limited Scope in Some Regions: Depending on the state, PMHNPs may face restrictions on their practice, such as supervision requirements or limits on prescribing privileges, which can affect their autonomy and scope of work.

Ultimately, PMHNP programs can lead to highly rewarding careers but require careful consideration of the emotional, financial, and regulatory challenges to determine if they're worth it to you.

Importance of Attending an Accredited PMHNP Program

Attending an accredited PMHNP program is crucial for several reasons, which are vital for both the immediate educational experience and long-term professional success:

  • Quality of Education: Accreditation ensures that the program meets rigorous educational standards. This guarantees a comprehensive and up-to-date curriculum that covers all necessary aspects of psychiatric and mental health nursing, preparing students with the knowledge and skills required in this specialized field.
  • Eligibility for Certification and Licensure: Graduating from an accredited PMHNP program is often a prerequisite for taking the national certification exams required to practice as a PMHNP. Most state boards of nursing also require completion of an accredited program for licensure. Without this, graduates may not be eligible to practice.
  • Professional Credibility: An accredited program is recognized for its quality and rigor, enhancing a graduate's professional credibility. Employers often prefer or exclusively hire nurse practitioners who have graduated from accredited programs, as it assures them of the practitioner's competent educational background.
  • Career Opportunities: Accredited programs are well-regarded in the healthcare community, opening up more job opportunities. Many healthcare facilities and organizations give preference to candidates from accredited programs due to their proven educational standards.
  • Access to Federal Financial Aid: Students in accredited programs are typically eligible for federal financial aid, which can be crucial in funding their education. This is particularly important given the significant investment required for advanced nursing education.

An additional reason for attending an accredited program is that it ensures PMHNPs are adequately prepared for the demands of the role. While researching programs it's important to ensure nursing schools are accredited by:

PMHNP Scope of Practice & Certification

The extent of practice and independence for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) varies significantly across the United States, influenced by state-level regulatory frameworks. It's crucial for PMHNPs in training to be well-informed about these regulations to align their education and certification with the specific professional roles they envision.

Considerations include:

  • State Licensing: PMHNPs must acquire a license pertinent to the state they wish to practice in. This process can differ from state to state and may include extra steps if relocating.
  • Practice Authority Levels: Defined by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), NP practice authority is classified into:
    • Full Practice States: PMHNPs enjoy complete autonomy in performing NP duties. 
    • Reduced Practice States: Mandated to have collaborative agreements with healthcare providers for certain practices.
    • Restricted Practice States: Requires continuous supervision or collaboration with healthcare professionals.
  • National Certification Requirements: While state licensure varies, national certification is a universal requisite for all NPs, including PMHNPs. Obtaining a PMHNP-BC certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or a similar credential from another recognized NP certification board, like the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (ANPCB), is critical for specializing in mental health.

PMHNPs must ensure that their educational program is recognized by the nursing board in their intended state of practice, as the approval criteria for educational programs can vary from state to state.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

What kind of education is required to become a PMHNP?

To become a PMHNP, one must first obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN) and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become an RN. After gaining some experience, they can pursue an MSN or DNP with a specialization in psychiatric-mental health. After graduation, they must pass a national certification exam to become a certified PMHNP.

Where do PMHNPs work?

PMHNPs can work in various settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, private practices, correctional facilities, and community health centers. They can also provide telepsychiatry services.

What is the difference between a PMHNP and a psychiatrist?

Both PMHNPs and psychiatrists can diagnose mental health disorders and prescribe medication. The main difference is in their training: PMHNPs are nurses with advanced training in psychiatric care, while psychiatrists are medical doctors specializing in psychiatry. PMHNPs also often focus on a holistic approach to care, considering mental and physical health, while psychiatrists may focus more on medication management.

Can I transition from a non-nursing background to a PMHNP role?

Individuals from non-nursing backgrounds can transition into a PMHNP role through accelerated nursing programs. These programs, designed for those holding a bachelor's degree in another field, allow you to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in an accelerated timeframe. After obtaining your BSN and RN license, you can then pursue a PMHNP program.

Are there any fellowship or residency programs for PMHNPs after graduation?

Some healthcare facilities offer fellowship or residency programs for newly graduated PMHNPs. These programs provide additional, specialized training in psychiatric-mental health care, offering a deeper understanding of complex mental health conditions and treatment strategies.

What are the continuing education requirements for PMHNPs?

PMHNPs are required to complete continuing education (CE) hours to maintain their certification and licensure. The specific number of hours and the frequency vary by state and certifying body. Continuing education helps PMHNPs stay current with advances in psychiatric care and pharmacology.

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Editorial Team / Admin

Julia Liou has 4 years experience as a RN and specializes in Postpartum/Public Health.

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