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    April 21, 2020

    10 Top Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs 2020

    Updated: 4/21/2020

    What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

    A psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, formally known as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), is an advanced nursing role that requires a Masters or Doctorate degree. Psychiatric NPs can work as generalists in the field, or further specialize as geriatric, forensic, psychotherapy, or child and adolescent APPNs.

    Fast Facts:

    • Average national salary: $125,350 - equivalent to $60.26 per hour. 
    • What do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners do? 
      • Psychiatric NPs perform development, 
      • Physical and mental health assessment, 
      • Diagnose mental health conditions,
      • Provide integration and implementation of care, 
      • Prescribe psychopharmacology, 
      • Offer psychotherapy, 
      • Practice evaluation, 
      • Do consultations,
      • Liaison all in the field of mental health. 
    • What certifications are required once you graduate? You will need a Registered Nursing license before advancing to a psychiatric NP education program, where you will receive either a Masters or Doctorate degree, then sit for an exam to certify you for about the PMHNP certs.

    >> Related: How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

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

    For nurses who are interested in the field of psychiatric and wish to advance their skills and education, becoming a psychiatric NP can be a beneficial choice. Not only do psychiatric NPs garner a high average annual income over six figures, but they also have flexibility in their practice field. For example, they can choose the demographic they work with, from 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. Read on for more information on how you can become a PMHNP.

    How To Become A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

    • RN-BSN: If you have your RN license and an associates degree, you can enter into a bridge program that will roll the types of classes you would have taken with a Bachelor’s degree into one program to earn your Master’s. 
    • MSN: One of the most common options for earning your Master’s degree in any field of nursing, you can enter into a Master’s program if you already have your Bachelor’s in Nursing. 
    • Non-nursing Bachelor’s Degree: Many graduate nursing programs also allow you to enroll directly if you have your RN license and a Bachelor’s in a non-nursing related field. Some schools may also accept non-nurses with Bachelor’s degrees to fast-track them into a Master’s program; by the end of the program, you will have earned your RN and be eligible to sit for the NP certifying exam as well. 
    • Non-nursing Master’s: Similar to the non-nursing Bachelor’s degree, some programs welcome individuals who possess a Master’s degree in a non-nursing field; with this type of program, you can fast-track your nursing education because you already have many of the Master’s level courses needed, and will focus on the nursing component throughout your coursework. 
    • DNP: Some nurses will also choose to enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or in a Ph.D. and EdD, to perform additional work as professors, researchers, or administrators. 

    Once you complete your education program, you will have to pass the PMHNP certifying exam, issued by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). According to the ANCC, upon successful completion of the exam, you will be Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PMHNP-BC). Once you earn your license, the credential is valid for 5 years.

    PMHNPs Salary and Job Outlook

    Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners are one of the highest-paying nurse practitioner specialties because they are a highly-specialized field. 

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mental Health Nurse Practitioners makes a mean annual salary of $125,350 with an average hourly wage of $60.26.  

    Although most NPs work full-time, salaries will also vary based on the type of occupation, hours, and the state and city. 

    Nurse Practitioners, in general, have a higher-than-average job outlook and because psychiatric nursing is a field that is still growing in interest and awareness, it’s reasonable to expect that wages are going to gradually climb over the coming years.

    What’s the Difference Between a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and a Psychiatrist?

    The American Psychiatric Nurse Association provides helpful details about what exactly a PMHNP does, and how the role may differ from a traditional physician role as a psychiatric or psychologist. Although many of the duties of a PMHNP and psychiatrists may be very similar (if not the same), the primary differences will be in the educational pathway and some of the state limitations that a PMHNP may have. 

    Some of the duties that a PMHNP could take on include: 

    • Create healthcare plans, based on an outpatient or home-based care for acute or chronic mental health care conditions
    • Provide consultations
    • Perform patient assessments
    • Prescribe medications per their state laws
    • Prescribe and offer various treatments, such as psychotherapy, medication therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc. 
    • Work alongside doctors for referrals and to provide patient care
    • Participate and/or initiate research
    • Education on mental health disorders
    • Contribute to policy development, quality improvement, practice evaluation, and healthcare reform

    Show Me Nurse Practitioner Programs

    A Day in the Life of a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

    10 Best Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

    Most psychiatric nurse practitioner 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:

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. University of Washington

    Tuition: $9,369 per quarter in-state, $13,343 per quarter non-resident

    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.

    4. University of California – San Francisco

    Tuition: $30,580 per year in-state, $42,825 per year non-resident

    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.

    5. Yale University

    Tuition: $23,095 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.

    6. 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.

    7. University of North Carolina

    Tuition: $9,667 per semester in-state, $18,530 per semester non-resident

    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.

    8. University of Maryland

    Tuition: $824 per credit hour in-state, $1,460 per credit non-resident

    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.

    9. Vanderbilt University

    Tuition: $1,642 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.

    10. New York University

    Tuition: $1,834 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.

    While these are some of the top schools, there are many options out there, including some great online programs. Find a school that works for you!

    Find Nursing Programs

    How to Pick the Right School for You

    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 or work with the school to find clinical sites near your home and complete your course work online. 
    • Program length. 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. If you have to continue to work while you’re in school, you’ll also want to verify that the program can be completed while you work. 
    • Accreditation. Accreditation is always something important to keep in mind before selecting any school or program–not only does it ensure that your school will properly prepare you for your certifying exams, but if you plan on applying for federal loans, you may get turned down if your school is not accredited. 

    Deciding on a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner program is a personal choice. In addition to doing your research online, we also recommend talking to medical professionals who currently work in the specialty. Continuing your education is not an easy decision to make but, one thing is for sure, it will open many opportunities for you in the near future!


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