Psychiatric nurse practitioners (NPs) provide psychotherapy to patients dealing with psychiatric disorders and illnesses. They diagnose and treat patients, and often work with a patient's family to provide holistic care, as explained further on this page. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, more than 290,000 nurse practitioners hold licenses to work in the United States.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the field to experience a 26% increase in demand between 2018-2028. This rate of growth is much faster than the average for all occupations, and assures prospective NP's of a high demand for their expertise.
Many psychiatric NPs hold certificates in areas such as acute care, women’s health, gerontology, and hospice and palliative care. Salaries for psychiatric NPs vary with location and experience, however NPs enjoy lucrative median annual salaries of $115,800. You can explore more about salaries here.
Psychiatric NPs hold either a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice degree. It takes years to become a psychiatric NP, a process that includes completing an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, clinical experience as a registered nurse, and state licensure.
The following list provides more details on the top accredited and affordable online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs. You can also find answers about admission requirements and what to expect from the coursework.
Affordable Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs Online
Yes. The Bureau of Health Workforce projects an 18% increase of psychiatric NPs through 2030. Employers need an increased supply of psychiatric NPs to meet the growing demand for healthcare services and to replenish workers who retire or switch fields. Keep in mind that projections do not always account for the geographic distribution of psychiatric NPs.
Can you get a nurse practitioner degree online?
Yes. Students can enroll in online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs to earn a master of science in nursing with a concentration in psychiatric and mental health. Fully online courses generally run asynchronously, allowing students to work while they go to school. However, clinical rotations and practicums require students to work on site at locations within their local area.
Can a psychiatric nurse practitioner prescribe medicine?
Yes. In all states, and Washington D.C., psychiatric NPs can prescribe medications and controlled substances to patients. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, full-time psychiatric NPs write about 20 prescriptions a day. The job also includes monitoring and assessing a patient’s reaction to medicines.
Can a psychiatric nurse practitioner open their own practice?
Yes and no. Depending on the state, NPs can open a private practice without requiring the supervision of a doctor. Some states require a physician to work on site or be on call. Before NPs own a private practice, they must complete many steps, including file business licenses and permits, receive a national provider identifier number, and get malpractice insurance.
Is a psychiatric nurse practitioner similar to a psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists and psychiatric NPs have similar job functions. However, psychiatric NPs have completed medical school to become a doctor, whereas psychiatric NPs complete registered nurse programs to become nurses. Limitations in the practice also differentiate the two professions. Notably, in specific states nurses cannot perform certain treatments or involuntarily commit a person.
Affordable PMHNP Programs Table Methodology
In late 2017 and early 2018, NursePractitionerSchools.com updated its database of more than 500 online nurse practitioner programs across the U.S. at the MSN, DNP, and post-master’s certificate level. Notably, many schools offered multiple pathways for students pursuing an online NP education.
To be categorized as an "online program," schools must require fewer than 10 campus visits over the course of their program. In terms of affordability, programs are ranked by the total (not annual) cost of tuition for out-of-state students attending part-time (in cases where that option existed), according to the degree plan set forth on the university's website. In most cases, additional fees apply.
Every effort was made to ensure the accuracy of this data, but as with any university, the tuition and availability of the PMHNP programs listed are likely to change over time. A majority of the most affordable PMHNP programs are listed at the MSN level, but many of the schools also offer an affordable DNP option at a similar cost-per-credit.
For those students looking for the most affordable option possible, post-master's certificates will generally come at the lowest cost; this is because qualifying students already have finished their MSN core coursework and therefore have fewer credits to complete overall. This list focuses on degree-awarding programs. Aspiring PMHNPs with questions not answered in this analysis are encouraged to contact program coordinators directly. To add programs or correct existing information, please contact us.
For incoming students with master's degrees, the DNP requires 33 credits. Learners can apply if they only hold a bachelor's degree, although the curriculum then demands an additional 40 credits of coursework. Degree-seekers complete their courses online, but must also participate in at least 1,000 clinical contact hours. The curriculum includes a DNP final project, and learners can graduate within six years.
The MSN program follows an eight-semester, four-year curriculum. Students complete 47 credits, or two courses each term. Advanced practice students must also travel to campus at least one time during each clinical course.
Applicants must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA in previous academic experience. MSN applicants should also possess at least one year of full-time nursing experience within the past 24 months. UofSC prefers candidates with experience within psychology or psychiatry, but does not require it. UofSC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Students can enter the program with either a bachelor's or a master's degree. The BSN-to-DNP includes a 69-credit curriculum and 1024 required clinical contact hours. In contrast, MSN-to-DNP students need to complete just 33 credits.
Coursework covers advanced health assessment, diagnosis, psychotherapy, and medication management. All students complete a doctoral project. Additionally, BSN-to-DNP learners must enroll full-time, participate in a two-day in-person orientation at the start of their first semester, and complete a one-week clinical seminar during the summer of their second year.
Prospective students should hold at least a 3.0 GPA in previous coursework. MSN-to-DNP students should also possess an active APRN licensed and advanced practice nursing certification. NMSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The MSN program follows a hybrid format in which students complete on-campus components in addition to online requirements. Full-time students can complete this 46-credit master's degree in five semesters. Students may also enroll part-time.
The BSN-to-DNP is offered mostly online, though students must visit campus each semester for didactic courses. Degree-seekers can finish this 73-credit program in three years if they enroll full-time. Learners must complete a doctoral project, pass a comprehensive exam, and maintain a 3.0 GPA to graduate.
Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an active RN license. Southern Miss requires GRE scores and expects candidates to apply with at least one year of clinical experience as an RN. Southern Miss is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of North Dakota
Based in Grand Forks, UND was founded in 1883, before North Dakota officially acquired statehood. Among its many academic programs, UND offers an online psychiatric nurse practitioner program that prepares learners to sit for the PMHNP certification exam after eight semesters of study.
The 49-credit curriculum includes 22 credits of common coursework and 27 credits of psychiatric-mental health concentration credits. Students learn to approach mental health for patients across the lifespan, as well as how to administer psychotherapy for both groups and individuals. Degree-seekers also complete three clinical practicums that total 12 credits. UND offers assistance to students searching for these clinical placements.
Interested individuals may apply if they earned an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA during their last two years. They must also possess an unencumbered nursing license and at least one year of nursing experience. UND is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The 45-credit curriculum includes 35 credits of didactic coursework and 10 clinical credits. Learners enroll part-time, and the distance learning format integrates on-campus intensives. These on-campus experiences include laboratory work and simulations to gain hands-on practice. Degree-seekers generally finish these requirements within six or seven semesters of study.
Applicants must possess at least a 3.0 GPA in the last 60 hours of their undergraduate degree. However, those with a GPA under 3.2 must send in GRE scores with their application. Prospective students should also hold a registered nursing license. UAB is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of South Alabama
Based in Mobile, Alabama, USA offers its approximately 15,000 students several healthcare-oriented academic options, including a few different online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs. Registered nurses with bachelor's degrees can pursue either an MSN or a DNP within this specialization. In addition, USA offers an RN-to-MSN pathway for nurses without BSN degrees who want to earn their master's.
Both the MSN and DNP focuses specifically on family psychiatric health. As a result, the curriculum covers mental health psychotherapy for families rather than individuals. MSN students complete 45 credits of coursework and 600 clinical hours, while DNP candidates must enroll in 69 credits and 1,140 clinical hours.
Students must travel to campus for a mandatory clinical skills intensive orientation during the fall semester when they take their first clinical course. Learners also need to attend campus for certain simulation intensives. Finally, DNP candidates must undertake an evidence-based scholarly project that examines different ways to improve the healthcare system. They can complete this project within their home region if they work with an approved mentor.
Incoming DNP students must possess at least two years of clinical experience before they can begin the program. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores or meet a certain GPA requirement, but they should possess nursing licensure. USA is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
AU is a Christian-affiliated liberal arts institution with about 3,500 students. Based in Anderson, South Carolina, the school offers 17 master's and doctoral programs, including MSN and DNP programs with a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner focus.
The MSN degree follows a hybrid format and lasts about 15 months. Although learners complete most of the coursework online, they also meet their classmates and professors in person for 2-3 days each semester. These on-campus experiences allow students to participate in hands-on simulations and clinical training. Overall, the curriculum consists of 49 credit hours and 500 clinical contact hours.
The longer, 75-credit DNP can be completed in about three years. In addition to online classes, students also travel to campus once a semester for simulation labs and seminars. Learners must also complete 1,000 clinical contact hours.
For both the MSN and DNP programs, application requirements include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.2 GPA and an active nursing license. AU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Located in Wilkes-Barre in eastern Pennsylvania, Wilkes educates 5,000 students, about half of whom pursue graduate degrees. The university offers an online MSN with a psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner specialization for registered nurses both with and without bachelor's degrees.
Students can complete this 15-credit degree in just 2.5 years. Courses cover topics like advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, and psychopharmacology. Students must also participate in two residency visits and 500 clinical hours. Wilkes helps students identify clinical placements. The curriculum prepares students for the PMHNP certification exam, which 95% of alumni pass.
Individuals meet application eligibility if they possess either a bachelor's or associate degree with at least 3.0 GPA. They should also hold an active RN license with at least one year of clinical nursing experience. Wilkes is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Students pursue this degree mostly online, with the exception of two on-campus clinical intensives. Online courses consist of both synchronous and asynchronous components.
Courses include advanced health assessment, sociocultural perception of addiction and population health, diagnosis and pharmacologic management of psychiatric illness, and a graduate nursing capstone. During this capstone course, students complete a scholarly project through a presentation or paper. The 51-credit curriculum also includes 600 clinical contact hours.
Applicants should possess an active RN license and a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The admissions process also requires an interview. Husson is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.
Tennessee Technological University/East Tennessee State University Joint
Cookeville-based Tennessee Tech and Johnson City-based ETSU jointly offer a distance learning DNP with several concentrations, including psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner.
This degree follows an online format with required on-campus intensive experiences 2-3 times a year. Students who pursue the PMHNP programs attend these intensives at ETSU. The curriculum DNP candidates to complete a doctoral project meant to demonstrate their advanced knowledge and skills. Students must defend this project in front of a committee to graduate.
Learners who start the program with a bachelor's degree must complete 80 credits and 1040 clinical contact hours. Those who already possess an MSN only need to complete 32 credits and 500 clinical contact hours. BSN-to-DNP students who enroll full time can graduate in nine semesters, while full-time MSN-to-DNP students can graduate in four semesters.
Applicants should submit previous academic transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA; those with a GPA below 3.2 should send in GRE scores as well. All candidates should hold a registered nursing license and possess at least two years of clinical experience. Tennessee Tech and ETSU are regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Students may transfer up to 12 graduate transfer credits into the 46-credit degree. The entirely online curriculum does not require any campus visits, and core courses follow an abbreviated eight-week schedule.
In addition to a seven-credit clinical course, students complete an internship and other practicum courses, including one on rural PMHNP. Courses may include both synchronous and asynchronous components, like discussion boards and virtual quizzes. Once learners finish their coursework and clinical hours, they can take the PMHNP certification exam; EKU graduates pass with 98% on the first attempt.
Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, as well as an RN license with at least one year of clinical nursing experience. EKU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Southern Indiana
Established in 1965 and based in Evansville, USI now enrolls almost 11,000 students. The university's online PMHNP program allows learners to earn an MSN through distance learning.
The 44-credit psychiatric-mental health concentration requires 655 clinical contact hours. The speciality courses include one psychopharmacology course and three courses covering the mental health care of families. Degree-seekers can graduate in three years.
Although learners complete their coursework online, they must participate in one orientation session and three on-campus requirements for specific courses. These on-campus experiences last two days. In addition, students must take select exams at specific times through a synchronous format.
Prospective students may apply if they earned a bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an active nursing license. USI recommends, but does not require, that candidates also complete one year of full-time work experience in nursing before applying. USI is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
East Tennessee State University
With its main campus in Johnson City, ETSU began as East Tennessee State Normal School 1911, focused on agriculture and industrial training. Over a century later, ETSU now offers programs in several other areas, including nursing. Students interested in psychiatric mental health nursing can pursue either an online MSN or online/blended DNP.
The 48-credit MSN can be completed in four semesters if taken full-time. Individuals with a PMHNP concentration need to participate in 540 clinical hours as well.
Students enrolled in the DNP program can complete most of their coursework online. However, they must also visit campus 1-2 times each semester for on-campus intensive sessions. The 80-credit degree requires 1040 clinical hours. Learners complete this program in conjunction with Tennessee Tech.
ETSU requires MSN applicants to possess a BSN with at least a 3.0 GPA and an active RN license. DNP candidates may apply with either a BSN or an MSN. Either way, they should have earned a minimum 3.0 GPA. They also need a nursing license with at least two years of full-time work experience.
ETSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Frontier Nursing University
Originally founded as the Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery in 1939, this university now offers several nursing programs at the graduate level. Based in Hyden, Kentucky, FNU enrolls over 2,000 graduate students.
The psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program allows students to earn an MSN through a web-based model and complete their clinical practicum in their local community. The MSN also requires two short on-campus experiences, including a four-day orientation and a three-day clinical skills-intensive training.
Students may enroll either part- or full-time. They need to complete 57 credits of coursework, plus 675 clinical contact hours. They may also choose to turn their MSN into a DNP by taking 21 additional credits.
Interested individuals may apply if they possess a registered nursing license, one year of nursing experience, and a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. FNU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of St. Francis
As a Catholic liberal arts university in Joliet, Illinois, the University of St. Francis educates a student body of about 4,000 on-campus and distance learners. The university's Leach College of Nursing offers an online MSN with a psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner concentration.
The degree requires students to complete 47 credits of coursework. RNs without a bachelor's degree can also enroll, but they need to complete 56 total credits. Advanced practice courses cover topics like advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, health assessment, and pharmacotherapeutics. Practicum courses, on the other hand, focus on psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner clinical management. Students may also add an extra 12 credits in nursing education.
Application requirements include an undergraduate transcript demonstrating at least a 3.0 GPA, an active RN license, two recommendation letters, and an admissions essay. USF is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
TTUHSC operates as an institution separate from Texas Tech university, with five schools around the state. The university enrolls about 5,000 students specifically within the health sciences and healthcare professions.
The university offers an MSN with a nurse practitioner track primarily through online instruction. However, students may need to travel to campus for occasional in-person learning experiences. The 49-credit curriculum examines mental health management across the lifespan, with courses specifically focusing on psychiatric mental health care for adults and children.
Full-time students can complete the program in six semesters, while part-time students may take up to nine semesters to graduate. Learners must participate in 575 clinical contact hours as well.
Individuals can apply as long as they possess a BSN degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an active RN license. The university also considers work experience and any history of leadership, although prospective students do not need a certain amount of experience to apply.
TTUHSC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The MSN requires 52 credits of coursework, while the DNP totals 64 credits. Within the curriculum for both programs, students complete 630 hours of supervised clinical experience. CU runs this program mostly online with some on-campus components. The courses focus on holistic care, cultural sensitivity, and substance treatment in addition to integrated mental health.
MSN students can graduate in 2.5 years, and the DNP program typically lasts 4.5 years. CU recommends that students do not work while completing their clinical requirements if they wish to graduate within this timeframe.
Prospective students can apply for both the MSN and DNP programs with a bachelor's degree. They should possess a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate nursing courses and an active RN license. CU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
With a focus on medicine, pharmacy, and healthcare studies, MCPHS educates students on its Boston campus and through distance learning. The online MSN in psychiatric mental health nursing allows students to enroll part-time and graduate in 24 months.
Degree-seekers complete 45 credits of coursework and 630 supervised clinical hours. Coursework covers topics like psychiatric mental health across the lifespan and human diversity, social, and policy issues. Learners take a translating and integrating scholarship practicum over the course of their last two semesters.
In addition to online coursework, students must participate in a few residencies on campus. These include an orientation, second-year residency, and final-year residency that last 1-3 days each.
MCPHS considers applicants with an active RN license and a bachelor's degree in nursing. The school gives priority to candidates with a minimum 3.0 GPA, but does not require this academic achievement for admissions. MCPHS is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.
Located in Weston, Massachusetts, the Catholic-affiliated Regis College offers a liberal arts education to its nearly 2,800 students. Students can pursue an online master's or doctoral degree with a specialization in psychiatric-mental health nursing.
Learners can begin the MSN with or without a bachelor's degree, as long as they hold an RN license. BSN-holders can complete the 49 required credits and 664 clinical hours in seven semesters. In comparison, RNs without a bachelor's degree enroll in 64 credits and 724 clinical hours over the course of nine semesters.
The doctoral program follows a BSN-to-DNP format, which means incoming students do not need an MSN. The full program lasts about 40 months, or just over three years. Students complete a scholarly DNP project over the course of four semesters. DNP candidates also need to participate in 664 hours of supervised clinical experience.
Applicants should submit the appropriate undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and possess an active RN license. Regis is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.
Maryville University enrolls over 10,000 students, with about half attending class on the school's campus in Town and Country, Missouri. The other half of students enroll in distance learning programs, such as the online mental health nurse practitioner programs.
Distance learners can choose between three different types of degree programs within this specialty: an MSN, BSN-to-DNP, and DNP-NP.
Learners can complete the 50-credit MSN in 32 months -- or under three years. The BSN-to-DNP program allows bachelor's degree-holders to jump straight into a doctoral program without first earning an MSN. This degree requires 77 credits, which DNP candidates can complete in four years. Finally, the DNP-NP curriculum includes 71 credits. Students in both doctoral degrees dedicate nine of these credits to completing a scholarly doctoral project.
Prospective students can apply for the MSN and BSN-to-DNP programs with at least a bachelor's degree; candidates for the DNP-NP program must hold a master's in nursing. MSN applicants should possess a previous 3.0 GPA, while all DNP candidates should have achieved at least a 3.2 GPA. All candidates should hold an active nursing license. Maryville is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.