Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs)—also referred to as psychiatric NPs—are expected to enjoy a thriving employment climate and high salaries into the future. To the first point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) projected a 35 percent explosion in openings for NPs nationwide between 2014 and 2024, much higher than the average growth rate expected across all occupations during that time period (7 percent). This upswing in job opportunities is expected to produce positions for 44,700 NPs across all specializations due to the increasing demand for healthcare professionals around the country. To the second point, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP Oct. 2016), a prominent professional organization in this field, found that the average full-time base salary for all NPs was an impressive $102,526, more than double the average annual wages of all professions in the nation ($48,320, BLS 2015).
The AANP (2016) found that 5.4 percent of all NPs worked in the psychiatric subfield—2.4 percent in adult care and 3 percent in family care—and the vast majority were employed in psychiatric facilities around the nation. The American Psychiatric Nurses Association (2017) reported that these healthcare professionals take on responsibilities such as developing mental and physical health diagnoses for conditions (e.g., ADHD, mood disorders, schizophrenia, addictions); laying out detailed treatment plans with multivariate approaches (e.g., psychotherapy, prescribing medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.); maintaining detailed client records; identifying family and sociobehavioral risk factors; evaluating the effectiveness of treatments; educating patients, families, communities, and others on the implications of psychosocial health; offering insights to policy organizations; and collaborating with other healthcare professionals.
It’s worth noting that the scope of practice for PMHNPs varies by region. There’s some evidence that working in a full practice state (as opposed to one with ‘restricted’ or ‘reduced’ practice) is correlated with higher wages, a consideration beyond the purview of this discussion.
Irrespective of the state practice environment, PMHNPs tend to enjoy some of the highest salaries compared to other specializations. This guide details how much these healthcare professionals can expect to make according to experience level, region, source of data, and other factors.
According to AANP’s 2015 National Compensation Survey of more than 2,200 NPs, psychiatric-mental health was the top-paying clinical focus area. In fact, the PMHNP respondents earned an annual average salary of $106,033, which jumped to $125,979 when bonuses were taken into account. The survey also broke this figure down by patient population, and found the following mean annual salaries:
These estimates were similar to findings from other major sources of wage data, including Indeed (Jan. 2017), which found that PMHNPs nationally earned an average annual salary of $105,029. This was based on data points from 9,716 relevant employee reports and job postings. GlassDoor (Jan. 2017), a site which relies on self-reported salary data, found that PMHNPs earned an average annual salary of $101,600, a figure based on 32 respondents.
Lastly, the most reliable source of employment and salary figures in the US is the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the BLS (May 2015) did not report numbers specifically for NPs in the PMH subfield, it did have figures for NPs as a whole. Among the 136,060 NPs across all specializations in the US, there was an annual average salary of $101,260 and the following wage percentiles:
Translated into hourly figures, these wages became:
Furthermore, these salaries varied by many variables including level of experience and region of practice. Here is an overview of the expected salaries of PMHNPs according to these factors.
Not surprisingly, salaries tended to increase with more experience on the job. In the aforementioned AANP 2015 National NP Compensation Survey of more than 2,200 NPs, here were the average annual salaries among NPs of different experience levels:
While the AANP survey was not broken down by specialty, Payscale (Jan. 2017) did boast that capability. In fact, in the aforementioned self-reported survey, the 771 PMHNP respondents around the country earned the following annual mean salaries according to their levels of experience:
The Advance Healthcare Network (AHN) also presented a self-reported compensation measure—the “2015 NP Salary Survey Results: Salary By Degree & Experience”—which interestingly found a slight drop-off in wages in the upper tier of years of experience:
It’s worth noting that years on the job wasn’t the only important experiential consideration; academic experience (i.e., degree achieved) also mattered. In the same AHN (2015) report, NP respondents with non-DNP doctoral degrees (e.g., PhDs) commanded somewhat higher annual average salaries than other levels of education. Here were the average annual salaries for NPs according to academic degree:
Lastly, as mentioned above, the BLS (May 2015) does not track data specifically about PMHNPs, but it does provide a region-based overview of NP salaries across all specializations. According to the report, the top-paying states for NPs nationwide were:
Also, four of the five top-paying metropolitan regions were concentrated in California:
While the NP salary prospects look especially bright for the Golden State, it’s important to note that it’s also one of the most expensive states in the country. As proof of point, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) found that the five American states (or regions) with the highest cost of living were Hawaii, District of Columbia, California, Massachusetts, and Alaska. By extension, two of the most lucrative states for NPs also incur a relatively high cost of living.
The Advance Healthcare Network also presented some regional wage estimates for NPs in its 2015 NP Salary Survey Results: By Region. Interestingly, the west had substantially higher annual salaries for NPs than the rest of the country:
Additionally, in its “2015 NP Salary Survey Results: Salary By Specialty & Setting,” AHN found the following differences among different types of regions nationwide:
Not only were there geographic differences in NP salaries, but there were also variations among practice settings. In its 2015 Salary by Specialty and Setting, the AHN reported that ‘psychiatry’ was the third highest paying setting where NPs were employed with an annual average salary of $116,806. Please note that updated 2016 figures should be available by the end of January 2016.
And finally, similar to the AHN’s findings, the AANP’s (2015) National Compensation Survey for Nurse Practitioners reported that psychiatric/mental health facilities were among the five top-paying environments for NP practice:
In sum, salaries for PMHNPs vary according to many factors, but there’s ample evidence that it’s one of the top-paying specializations for nurse practitioners.