Psychiatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) who focus primarily on mental health. The field of nurse practitioning has undergone rapid growth, as well, with more than 30,000 NPs completing their academic programs in 2018-19, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Among the nurse practitioners currently working, fewer than 2% hold certificates in the psychiatric-mental health specialty, AANP data shows.
Additionally, advanced practice nurses can join one of the fastest-growing professions in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of APRNs to increase by 45% from 2019-29.
Individuals hoping to follow this career path must first obtain a master of science in nursing (MSN) with a concentration in psychiatry-mental health. Several students prefer to enroll in online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs, which offers them a greater degree of flexibility and convenience.
If you’re interested in this career path, you can find a list of online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs below.
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Applying to an Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program
Requirements for online mental health nurse practitioner degrees vary, depending on several factors. Applicants should possess both a registered nurse (RN) license and undergraduate degree. Traditionally, graduate programs accept students with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. However, RN-to-MSN bridge programs also allow candidates with an associate degree to apply.
Prospective students need competitive undergraduate GPAs to start a master’s program. Usually graduate programs set the minimum GPA requirement at 2.5-3.0, but higher GPAs can improve an applicant’s chance at admission. Sometimes, schools require candidates to apply with 1-2 years of work experience. Prospective students may need to additionally submit GRE or GMAT scores, letters of recommendations, or personal essays. Finally, some schools require applicants to participate in an admissions interview.
Frequently Asked Questions
What degree do you need to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner?
In order to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you need at least a master’s degree in nursing. Some NPs earn a doctoral degree, which can prepare them for leadership or teaching positions. Either way, nurse practitioners first need an undergraduate degree — either an associate or bachelor’s degree — before they enroll in graduate school.
What is accreditation and why is it important?
Accreditation essentially ensures that students receive a quality education from their program. Accreditation agencies evaluate academic degrees and higher education institutions. Programs that do not receive accreditation usually won’t deliver a proper education or training, so be sure to avoid unaccredited programs. Nurses also need accredited degrees to earn licensure.
What can you do as a nurse practitioner?
Nurse practitioners take on several responsibilities that registered nurses do not. They meet individually with patients, diagnose diseases and illnesses, and treat patients. NPs can prescribe medication independently in many states. In some states, they must go into a supervisory agreement with a physician to prescribe medication.
What does a psychiatric nurse practitioner do?
Psychiatric nurse practitioners focus on mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders in patients. They meet with patients with serious psychiatric illnesses, and those with less severe issues like stress or insomnia. They may carry out therapy sessions or prescribe medications for mental health disorders.
2021’s Top Affordable Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs Online
Idaho State University oversees the education of more than 12,400 students from its campus in Pocatello. ISU's School of Nursing offers an online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) for licensed nurses with a BS or BSN.
The program provides the BSN-to-DNP track to train students for leadership roles in psychiatric clinical nursing practice. It requires DNP candidates to complete 80 credit hours.
In this online PMHNP program, coursework includes neurobiology of mental disorders, statistical analysis in evidence-based practice, and scholarly writing approaches. Distance learning for this program occurs online with students completing clinical work in their surrounding areas.
Potential students must have a BS in nursing or BSN, a cumulative 3.0 GPA, and a completed application.
Located in Columbus, The Ohio State University serves 68,300 students. OSU's College of Nursing offers a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) with a mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) specialty to nurses on a full-time or part-time academic schedule.
This online nursing practitioner program is a BSN-to-DNP pathway for licensed nurses to earn a master's degree, a DNP, and PMHNP certification eligibility. For completion of the program, the full-time and part-time BSN-to-DNP curriculums require 87 credit hours.
This online PMHNP program prepares students for the nurse practitioner role with courses such as the science of practice innovation, psychopharmacology across a lifespan, and neuroscience principles and concepts relevant to psychiatric mental health nursing. To help students with clinical requirements, Ohio State has established preceptors in various clinical locations around Ohio and approved states.
Admission to OSU College of Nursing requires a BSN from an accredited university, a 3.0 GPA, and official transcripts.
Regis College is a coed, Catholic university located in Weston, Massachusetts that serves 3,000 students. Regis has an online MSN to doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program for master-prepared nurses intending to specialize as mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP).
Regis' DNP program has a psychiatric mental health specialty that focuses on the latest psychotherapy methods and psychopharmacology evidence to help nurses provide optimal care for their mental health patients. Completion of this program requires 64 credits.
This online PMHNP program's curriculum focuses on current psychotherapy methods and empirical expertise in psycho-pharmacology as a means of treating mental health clients. It features courses such as advanced pharmacology and theory/practice of contemporary psychotherapies. All coursework is 100% online.
Along with two letters of recommendation, applicants must provide proof of an MSN from an accredited institution or nursing program, a BSN from an accredited program, an active RN license, and a master's degree in related fields.
From its Tucson campus, the University of Arizona operates as a land-grant university with nearly 47,000 students. UofA offers an online doctor of nursing — psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program for registered nurses with at least a BSN.
The doctor of nursing program at UA uses a hybrid structure with a blend of online and on-ground academic activities. With full- and part-time options, students must fulfill the 67-credit requirement to graduate.
UofA's online PMHNP program emphasizes the mind-body relationship and its importance in treating mental health clients. Some of the featured courses are healthcare informatics, evidence-based practice, and advanced pharmacotherapeutics. BSN-to-DNP students must attend the Resident Intensive Summer Experience (RISE) during the first two years of the program. MSN students must go once.
Applicants must submit a BSN degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, an RN licensure, and a completed application on NursingCAS.com.
University of Michigan-Flint
The University of Michigan's campus sits in the center of downtown Flint, where it facilitates the education of more than 7,200 students. UM-Flint offers an online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) with a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) specialization to registered nurses with a BSN or MSN.
This online DNP degree program has BSN and MSN tracks with this specialty. It uses a distance-learning format that only requires three to six campus visits a year. To graduate, BSN holders must complete at least 72 credits, and MSN holders must finish a minimum of 28 credits.
UM-Flint's online PMHNP program features core courses such as biostatistics and epidemiology for advanced practice in health care. All PMHNP students must complete 500 practicum hours with patients.
Applicants must hold a BSN or MSN with a minimum 3.2 GPA, and an unencumbered RN license in the United States.
The University of Pittsburgh educates nearly 34,000 students and offers an online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program that helps licensed nurses enhance their MSN training and further their careers.
This online MSN-to-DNP psych program prepares licensed nurses to be primary health-care providers to patients with mental disorders. To graduate, students must complete a minimum of 36 credits. Most students finish the program in 18 months.
Pitt's online psych DNP program has a practice-focused curriculum with courses such as the science of health care delivery and leadership development. Students may choose between the full-time and part-time curriculum plans. Distance learning technology allows all graduate-level courses to be available online.
Candidates must provide proof of an RN license valid in the US, an MSN with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and competitive GRE scores.
University of South Alabama
Located in Mobile, the University of South Alabama features over 100 academic programs and 14,000 students. USA's online College of Nursing provides nurses with an affordable and flexible way to earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.
USA's online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program concentrates on preparing nurses to provide advanced psychiatric nursing treatment to patients in hospitals, outpatient clients, and other primary care facilities. BSN-to-DNP students must complete 69 credits, and MSN-to-DPN students must finish 36 credits.
The curriculums of both PMHNP degree tracks share the same support, core curriculum, and specialty class course requirements, including the physio-pathological basis of advanced nursing and scientific underpinnings of advanced nursing practice. This program also gives its graduates the eligibility to take the ANCC exam for PMHNP certification.
Along with a 500-word personal statement, graduate school applicants must submit evidence of a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and a GRE verbal score of at least 153.