12 Fastest Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Programs | 2024

Are you interested in accelerating your education and becoming a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP)? Here's the fastest programs available, along with information on the job description and salary expectations. Articles Programs

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Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) play a crucial role in delivering comprehensive care to patients in the dynamic landscape of mental health.

As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), PMHNPs are at the forefront of the evolving field of mental health, providing essential services to patients in diverse settings and addressing the growing need for accessible and high-quality mental health care.

If you're interested in a career as a PMHNP and prefer an accelerated nursing education, read more about the fastest programs available in 2024. These programs allow students to kickstart their careers while maintaining a quality education, fully preparing them to be leaders in their fields.

Fastest 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 of graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. Anderson University - Anderson, SC

Anderson University's hybrid PMHNP program requires the successful completion of online courses with in-person clinical hours over a duration of 15 months. Classes include Advanced Assessment, Processes in Mental Health, Psychopharmacological Therapies across the Lifespan, Care of Aging Adult, and more.

2. Union University - Jackson, TN

Union University offers a 16-month PMHNP MSN focusing on the management of mental health disorders across the lifespan. The program is available full-time only with rolling admissions. 2024 tuition rates are $685.00 per credit hour, and general student fees are $34.00 per hour. Admission criteria include unencumbered Tennessee or compact state RN licensure, completion of a BSN from an ACEN- or CCNE-accredited state-approved nursing program, and a  GPA minimum of 3.0.

3. University of St. Thomas - St. Paul, MN

The University of St. Thomas offers an accelerated PMHNP MSN program that can be completed in as little as 18 months of full-time study. The program focuses on developing advanced psychiatric assessment and intervention skills in a supportive learning environment. Total tuition is $30,600.00 for a 50-credit curriculum that is CCNE accredited.

4. Northern Kentucky University - Highland Heights, KY

NKU offers an online CCNE-accredited MSN in PMHNP covering the full scope of practice, integrating diagnosis, treatment, and management of mental health disorders for patients across their lifespans. The program can be completed in as few as 22 months and costs $27,066.00 in total. Graduates of NKU's PMHNP MSN are eligible to take the ANCC NCC Psychiatric-Mental Health NP certification exam.

5. University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus - Aurora, CO

The College of Nursing at the University of Colorado offers a PMHNP graduate certificate that can be completed in 24 months of full-time study. The program combines online coursework with on-campus intensives and clinical experiences to prepare students for psychiatric practice. An MSN in PMHNP can also be completed in 3 years, while a BSN to DNP can be completed in 4.

6. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

The School of Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh offers an accelerated online PMHNP graduate certificate that can typically be completed in 24 months. The program focuses on developing advanced psychiatric assessment, psychotherapy, and psychopharmacology skills. 

Admission criteria include a valid RN license, previous MS or MSN as an NP or CNS, minimum GPA of 3.0, one-year nursing experience, prerequisite courses, and a pre-admission interview.

7. Drexel University - Philadelphia, PA

Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions offers an online PMHNP graduate certificate that can be completed within 24-28 months of full-time study. The program prepares students to provide mental health care across the lifespan, integrating psychopharmacology and therapeutic interventions. A PMHNP MSN is also available but will require a longer duration of study.

8. Eastern Tennessee State University - Johnson City, TN

ETSU's online PMHNP MSN can be completed in as few as 5 semesters with start times in the fall or Spring. It offers fully online coursework with in-person clinical hours, ultimately providing interprofessional and simulation experience opportunities with a rural focus. ETSU's baccalaureate degree in nursing, MSN, DNP, and post-graduate APRN certificates are CCNE-accredited.

9. Frontier Nursing University - Hyden, KY

Frontier Nursing University offers a PMHNP graduate certificate designed to be completed in as little as 6 terms. The program follows a flexible, distance-learning format, allowing students to study at their own pace while maintaining clinical practice. MSN and DNP PMHNP options are also available but are longer in duration.

10. Regis College - Weston, MA

Regis College offers an online PMHNP program that can be completed in approximately 28 months. The program focuses on developing advanced psychiatric assessment, therapy, and pharmacological management skills to provide holistic mental health care. Graduates of this MSN program are eligible to sit for ANCC certification, with NP exam rates exceeding the national average at 92%.

11. Simmons University - Boston, MA

Simmons University offers an online CCNE-accredited PMHNP MSN that can be completed in as little as 6 terms. The program provides a comprehensive curriculum covering advanced mental health assessment, psychopharmacology, and therapeutic interventions. Start dates are offered in January, May, and September, and admission is conducted on a rolling basis.

12. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, NC

The School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina offers a hybrid PMHNP MSN program that can be completed in a suggested 24-month plan of study. The program emphasizes evidence-based practice, cultural competency, and the integration of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy.

PMHNP Prerequisites & Requirements

Requirements for admission to a PMHNP program can vary among institutions and levels of entry. However, here are the fundamental prerequisites commonly expected:

  • Educational Background: Typically, applicants should possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited institution. Some programs may also consider individuals with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a nursing diploma if they hold a bachelor's degree in another field. For graduate certificates, an MSN is often required.
  • RN Licensure: An active and unencumbered RN license is usually mandatory, either in the state where the program is located or where clinical rotations will take place. Some programs may necessitate multi-state licensure if rotations cross state lines.
  • Clinical Experience: Most PMHNP programs require candidates to have prior clinical nursing experience, usually ranging from one to two years as an RN. This experience serves as a foundational step for advanced practice and ensures a robust understanding of nursing before embarking on the PMHNP role.
  • GPA Standards: Many programs establish a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement, often around 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. Some programs may consider applicants with slightly lower GPAs on a conditional basis.
  • Prerequisite Courses: Candidates are often expected to complete specific prerequisite courses in subjects like anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and statistics. These courses help establish the foundational knowledge necessary for advanced practice and may be integrated into the BSN curriculum or taken separately.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Applicants may need to submit letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources who can vouch for their qualifications and readiness for advanced practice.
  • Personal Statement or Essay: Many programs request a personal statement or essay outlining the applicant's motivations for pursuing a PMHNP career, their professional goals, and their dedication to mental health nursing.
  • Interview: Some institutions may invite applicants for an interview during the admissions process to evaluate their interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Background Check and Drug Screening: To ensure compliance with legal and ethical standards in nursing practice, most programs require background checks and drug screenings.
  • English Language Proficiency: International applicants, whose native language is not English, may need to demonstrate proficiency through standardized tests like TOEFL or IELTS.

Remember to review the specific admission criteria of your chosen PMHNP program, as there may be additional requirements or variations in the application process unique to each institution.

PMHNP Job Description

A PMHNP is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) trained to provide comprehensive mental health services in various healthcare settings. Their responsibilities and duties encompass a wide range of crucial tasks related to patient assessment, diagnosis, treatment, psychotherapy, medication management, patient education, consultation, research, crisis intervention, and advocacy.


  • Patient Assessment: PMHNPs conduct thorough psychiatric evaluations, utilizing their advanced knowledge and skills to assess patients' mental health status, identify symptoms, and develop differential diagnoses. They evaluate patients' overall health and well-being, considering physical, psychological, and social factors that contribute to mental health conditions.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: With an in-depth comprehension of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), PMHNPs proficiently diagnose a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, and dementia. They formulate comprehensive treatment plans tailored to each patient's unique needs, combining therapeutic interventions and medication management strategies.
  • Psychotherapy: PMHNPs are trained to provide various forms of psychotherapy, including individual, group, and family therapy. They utilize evidence-based therapeutic approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other modalities to help patients manage their mental health conditions and improve overall well-being.
  • Medication Management: PMHNPs have the authority to prescribe and manage psychiatric medications as part of the treatment plan. They possess in-depth knowledge of psychopharmacology, understanding different medications' uses, potential risks, and side effects. PMHNPs closely monitor patients' responses to medication, make necessary adjustments, and educate patients about medication adherence and potential interactions.
  • Patient Education: A crucial aspect of the PMHNP role is patient education. They provide patients and their families with comprehensive information about mental health conditions, treatment options, coping mechanisms, and self-care strategies. PMHNPs empower individuals to actively participate in their own mental health management and promote overall wellness.
  • Consultation: PMHNPs collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure holistic and comprehensive patient care. They work closely with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and other healthcare team members, exchanging expertise and coordinating treatment plans.
  • Research and Policy: Some PMHNPs are actively involved in research activities, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in the field of mental health. They may conduct studies, evaluate treatment modalities, and contribute to evidence-based practice. Additionally, PMHNPs may engage in policy advocacy to promote mental health awareness, reduce stigma, and advocate for accessible and quality mental health services.
  • Crisis Intervention: PMHNPs are fully prepared to deliver urgent psychiatric services to individuals undergoing acute psychological distress or facing critical situations. They are trained to assess and stabilize patients in crisis, providing immediate care and coordinating appropriate interventions.
  • Advocacy: PMHNPs advocate for policies and services that prioritize mental health, raise awareness about mental illness, and work towards reducing stigma associated with mental health conditions. They actively participate in initiatives to improve mental health care access, resources, and support systems.

It's important to note that the scope of practice for PMHNPs may vary depending on state regulations and laws governing advanced practice nursing. Some states grant PMHNPs the autonomy to practice independently, while others require collaboration or supervision from physicians or psychiatrists.

As highly skilled mental health professionals, PMHNPs play a vital role in addressing the growing demand for mental health services and improving the overall well-being of individuals and communities.

PMHNP Salary Expectations

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 as of May 2022 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

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 the state of practice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about PMHNP

What education is required to become a PMHNP?

To pursue a career as a PMHNP, individuals typically need to complete a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN) and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN). After gaining experience as an RN, aspiring PMHNPs can then pursue a Master's Degree in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a specialization in psychiatric-mental health. Upon graduation, they are eligible to take a national certification exam to become certified PMHNPs.

Where do PMHNPs work?

PMHNPs have the flexibility to work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, private practices, correctional facilities, community health centers, and outpatient psychiatric services. They can also provide telepsychiatry services, which allow them to deliver mental health care remotely through telecommunication technologies.

What is the difference between a PMHNP and a psychiatrist?

While both PMHNPs and psychiatrists are involved in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, there are some differences in their training and approach to care. PMHNPs are APRNs with specialized training in psychiatric-mental health care. They follow a holistic approach to health care and often focus on combining therapy and medication management. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry. They primarily focus on medication management, although they may also provide therapy. Psychiatrists often work closely with PMHNPs and other mental health professionals to provide comprehensive patient care.

It's important to consult specific state regulations and practice guidelines to understand the full scope of practice for PMHNPs and their collaborative relationships with other healthcare providers in different jurisdictions.

Editorial Team / Admin

Julia Liou has 3 years experience as a RN and specializes in Postpartum/Public Health.

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