January 11, 2019

10 Top Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs - 2019

10 Top Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs - 2019

It is true, nurses wear a lot of hats. However, when it comes to offering a wide-range of duties, psychiatric nurse practitioner would be difficult to beat. 

Psychiatric nurse practitioners, also called mental health nurse practitioners, depend on a hybrid background of nursing and psychiatry. Most psych nurses start in the nursing profession, then go on to earn their graduate degree in the field of psychiatric mental health. 

One of the draws to a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner is most definitely the pay. It’s one of the highest paying nursing specialties with the median salary coming in at $97,800. However, other benefits include getting to choose the demographic you work with - adults, children, or even families as a whole.

The demand for all types of nurse practitioners is increasing, so studying to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner is a viable option. Also, as demand for nurse practitioners increase, the average wages should increase as well.

Education is the most important start for psychiatric NPs. With the right education, nurses will have a better shot at landing their dream job in the field of psychiatric nursing.

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What do psych nurse practitioners do?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners have similar responsibilities as psychiatrists, including: 

  • Diagnosing mental illnesses, 
  • Treating those with psychiatric disorders, 
  • Prescribing medication,
  • Counseling, therapy and helping those with depression or anxiety.

Depending on the track you might choose to take, you could end up working exclusively with adults or with families. 

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 2.1% of all NPs work as a psychiatric NP in a family setting, and 1.7% work specifically with adults.

Most psychiatric nurse practitioners work in hospitals, agencies or community facilities and programs, but private practice is also possible.

How much do psych nurse practitioners make? 

The BLS doesn’t have specific data regarding a psychiatric NP’s salary. However, the median pay for general nurse practitioners in 2016 was $107,460. Salaries also vary based on the state and city.

Because psychiatric nursing is a field that is still growing both in interested and awareness, it’s reasonable to expect that wages are going to gradually climb over the coming years.

The real indicator for how much a psychiatric NP makes depends on how good they are at their job, and that often begins with the quality of their education.

10 best psych NP programs

Most psych NP programs are technically considered psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) programs. Nurses that want to become psychiatric NPs shouldn’t be concerned by the label - it’s all the same field.

Below are the 10 best psychiatric nurse practitioner programs:

University of Pennsylvania

Tuition: $45,484 per year

A top-ranked institution for psychiatric-mental health, the NP program at the University of Pennsylvania combines neuroscience with psychotherapy. Full-time students finish this program in just 14 months, making this a quick and high-quality option.

Rush University

Tuition: $1066 per credit hour

Rush University PMHNP program is a doctoral program, keep that in mind before applying - it typically takes two or more years to complete. However, the program is entirely online, so students won’t have to relocate to earn their degree.

University of Washington

Tuition: $8,842 per quarter

UW’s PMHNP program is technically a graduate certificate - students who are studying toward, or have already earned a doctorate, are eligible for this program. UW has one of the top health and nursing programs in the nation, so even without intense specialization, this is an education worth having.

University of California – San Francisco

Tuition: $3,834 per quarter

While the focus of the psychiatric nurse practitioner program at UCSF is on all demographics, students have the option to complete their residency while focusing on a specific age group. This program is ideal for nurses who want to work exclusively with adults or children.


Tuition: $20,910 per term

A master’s speciality, Yale’s psychiatric-mental health nursing specialty gives students the benefits of Yale’s highly respected nursing education. Students will receive an all-around education in the psychiatric-mental health field, preparing them for any setting they might end up in.

University of North Carolina

Tuition: $44,633 for full program

A part of UNC’s master’s of science, nursing program, psychiatric-mental health is an advanced practice area that students can focus their studies on. This all-around education will require students to be able to attend in-person practice, something to keep in mind before applying.

Duke University 

Tuition: $16,463 per semester

While Duke’s PMHNP program will teach students to help people of all ages, it does focus on people living in rural and underserved areas. Any nurses interested in treating and helping these communities will find that Duke’s program is a good fit.

University of Maryland

Tuition: $777 per credit hour

UM’s psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program takes anywhere from three to five years, making it one of the longer programs of study on this list. This is also a doctoral program, and students are required to be located in the Maryland/Washington, D.C. area for the program.

Vanderbilt University

Tuition: $1,454 per credit hour

One of the top nursing schools in the nation for graduates, Vanderbilt’s PMHNP program offers a holistic approach to a complicated subject. This program doesn’t require relocation -  it is offered entirely online. Also, it is possible to earn this degree without a strong nursing background.

New York University

Tuition: $1,696 per credit hour

The master’s program in psychiatric-mental health at NYU, will teach nurses how to help people of all ages. By the end of the program, nurses will be able to conduct individual or group therapy, allowing them to pick whichever focus they feel is best for them.

Picking the right school

It’s hard to know what the perfect school is for what you’re looking for. While there are only a handful of institutions that offer a psychiatric nurse practitioner program, narrowing it down further will likely be based on different factors, including:

  • Cost: Is the school within an affordable range? Will you have to move to attend school, and how expensive is the new city going to be? Do they offer financial aid?
  • Location: Commuting to and from facilities where you get real-world experience is common for psychiatric NPs. This means you might have to move to a new area for school.
  • How long it takes to earn a degree: Depending on the program you study toward, you may have to plan to be in school for 2-4 years, and possibly even longer if you’re working full-time and studying part-time.
  • Is it a master’s or PhD program: The specific position you’re looking for might only require a master’s degree. On the other hand, a PhD might open up more doors down the road.
  • Is the school accredited: Accreditation is always something important to keep in mind before selecting any school or program. Double check to make sure that all the schools you’re looking at are accredited. 

Next Up: Top 10 Nursing Specialties - Voted By Nurses!

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