Online PMHNP Programs – Psychiatric-Mental Health NP

A psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is an advanced practice nurse (ARPN) trained to diagnose and treat patients with mental health issues. PMHNPs are specialty nurses who have completed a master’s or doctoral degree or a post-master’s certificate program in nursing with a focus on psychiatric mental health. Using various methods to assess and treat their patients, including psychotherapy, medication management, and counseling PMHNPs ensure their patients receive the best possible mental healthcare to cope with life’s challenges. 

Like a family nurse practitioner (FNP) who focuses on the physical healthcare needs of individuals and families, a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) focuses on all things related to mental health. A PMHNP can provide formal mental health diagnoses, administer psychotherapy, and prescribe medications. 

There is a growing demand for mental health services in the U.S. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Association of American Medical Colleges noted that the United States was facing an acute shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health specialists. According to a national survey by the National Institute on Mental Health (June 2022), nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness. However, in recent years, the demand for mental health services has skyrocketed while the supply of psychiatrists has dropped. The Harvard Gazette (Sept. 2022) credits the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner profession for bridging the gap created by reduced access to mental health services. The Harvard Gazette also shows that PMHNPs have increased 162 percent from 2011 to 2019, and one in three patients who receive mental health services do so with a PMHNP. 

With so many needing mental health services, the occupational demand in this area of advanced practice nursing is growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) confirms this trend, showing that openings for nurse practitioners will increase by 46 percent in the coming decade, creating 112,700 new positions from 2021-2031. According to Payscale.com (Dec. 2022), the average annual salary for psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners is $113,807. 

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners are uniquely positioned to pursue a variety of different types of jobs. PMHNPs are essential in designing and implementing treatment plans for adults and children. In general, PMHNPs assess and treat patients with mental health conditions. More specialized roles include providing support and guidance to those struggling with addiction. In addition, some PMHNP nurse practitioners are involved in research initiatives to improve mental healthcare quality. In all these roles, PMHNP nurse practitioners can find employment in hospitals, clinics, private practices, academia, and research organizations. 

Keep reading for a helpful guide that features online psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner programs, information about different types of programs, accreditation details, requirements for admission, clinical supervision hours needed to graduate, and 12 profiles of accredited online PMHNP programs.

Featured Online Psychiatric NP Programs

Wilkes University
MSN - Psychiatric Mental Health NP (RN to MS option)
Wilkes University
MSN - Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Walden University
MSN - Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Sacred Heart University
MSN - Psychiatric-Mental Health NP
Sacred Heart University
Post-MSN Certificate - Psychiatric-Mental Health NP
Seton Hall University
MSN - Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Sponsored

Types of PMHNP Degree Programs

A PMHNP program is a natural fit for registered nurses interested in psychiatry and wanting to advance their careers. Applicants must be registered nurses and hold a BSN, MSN, or DNP degree from an accredited university to apply for a psychiatric-mental health nursing program. Other application requirements include at least one year of clinical experience and a current and unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license.

Aspiring psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners have several on-campus, online, and hybrid options, each with unique admissions requirements. In general, there are three types of PMHNP programs: 

MSN Programs

Master of science in nursing (MSN) PMHNP programs require a bachelor of science (BSN) for admission, typically two years in length. At the master’s and doctoral levels, PMHNP programs include coursework in advanced nursing practice, psychopathology, psychopharmacology, and psychotherapy.

DNP Programs

A doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) PMHNP degree prepares students to become psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and requires either a BSN or MSN, depending on the program. PMHNP DNP programs are 2.5 to four years long and include coursework in advanced nursing practice, psychiatric mental health, and clinical research. 

Like MSN programs, PMHNP DNP programs also include clinical components, which provide students with experience working with patients in psychiatric settings. 

Post-Master’s Certificate Programs

A PMHNP post-master’s certificate program is designed to prepare registered nurses with a master’s degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing for advanced practice as a PMHNP. A PMHNP post-master’s certificate program consists of didactic and clinical coursework that builds upon the student’s previous graduate nursing education and experience. 

The curriculum includes coursework in advanced pharmacology, assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning, and evidence-based interventions for individuals across the lifespan with mental health disorders. The program also emphasizes leadership, quality improvement, and ethical and legal issues in healthcare. 

Some PMHNP programs specialize in adults, adolescents, or pediatric patients. After completing a PMHNP DNP program, PMHNP graduates can take the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner examination to earn board certification.

PMHNP Program & School Accreditation

There are two primary types of accreditation: programmatic and institutional.

Programmatic accreditation externally evaluates the rigor of an educational program to ensure that it satisfies high standards. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) vets baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral-level nursing programs, while the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) regulates associate’s, bachelor’s, and doctoral degrees. To take the NCLEX exam, required for all nurses to work legally in all 50 states, one must complete a CCNE- or ACEN-accredited PMHNP program.

By comparison, institutional accreditation assesses whole institutions. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), affiliated with the US Department of Education, grants its approval to seven regional institutional accrediting bodies.

When considering online programs, it’s critical to examine the state authorization and NC-SARA status when researching online programs. In addition, prospective students interested in earning degrees from state government boards that need licensing, such as nursing, should verify whether a program admits students from their state of residence and meets licensing requirements where they plan to seek PMHNP professional licensure. This information is available on program websites and by contacting schools directly.

Typical Admissions Requirements for PMHNP Degrees

Aspiring psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) must complete a rigorous educational process that includes completing a master’s degree, doctoral degree, or post-master’s certificate program and passing a national certification exam. Admissions requirements vary by program, but here’s a list of standard prerequisite courses and application materials. 

Prerequisite Courses:

  • Advanced (lifespan) physical health assessment
  • Advanced pathophysiology 
  • Advanced pharmacology 

Application Requirements:

  • A bachelor of science in nursing degree from an accredited institution or
  • A master of science in nursing (MSN) from a CCNE- or ACEN-accredited program 
  • An active RN license
  • At least one year of clinical nursing experience
  • Current unrestricted RN license 
  • Curriculum vitae or résumé
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Official transcripts from all previous college coursework
  • Official transcript with science and statistics coursework
  • Professional statement
  • Psychiatric mental health nursing experience (one year or more)
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores for students whose native language is not English

Supervised Hour Requirements for PMHNP Degrees

In addition to academic coursework, PMHNP programs require students to complete clinical rotations in various settings, such as hospitals, community mental health centers, and private practices.

To be eligible for the PMHNP national certification exam, students must complete a minimum of 500 clinical hours, according to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). However, many programs require students to complete more than 500 clinical hours. For example, the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, requires PMHNP students to complete 540 clinical hours, while Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, requires students to complete 620 clinical hours.

The number of clinical hours required varies by program. Still, all programs require students to complete a significant amount of clinical work to graduate and be eligible to take national certification exams, such as the one offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Featured Online PMHNP Degrees

Nowadays, earning a degree is possible without moving or sacrificing full-time work through an online PMHNP program. Here are 12 online PMHNP programs that admit students with BSN and MSN nursing degrees and working experience.

MSN Programs

Western Governors University

The PMHNP program at WGU is an online MSN program designed to prepare BSN-holding nurses to become mental health practitioners. 

The program includes coursework in topics such as psychopathology, advanced pharmacology, and assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders. In addition, students complete clinical rotations in inpatient and outpatient settings.

  • Location: Campuses across the US
  • Duration: 2.5 years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)    
  • Tuition: $6,350 per year

Walden University 

The online PMHNP program at Walden University prepares nurses to provide holistic care for patients with psychiatric disorders and emotional challenges. The program offers three admission tracks: BSN-to-MSN, RN-to-MSN, and BSN-DNP. 

In addition, students will complete 63 quarter credits, including a practicum. The practicum is a crucial component of the program. In addition, Walden offers Practicum Advantage—an ensemble of resources, self-help tools, and staff who understand the challenges of completing the nursing practicum. 

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)   
  • Tuition: $726 per quarter hour (BSN-to-MSN); $401 per quarter hour (RN-to-MSN)

Simmons University

Simmons University’s online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program is designed for registered nurses (RNs) who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The program consists of 47 credits and three start dates throughout the year: January, May, and September. There is one in-person immersion, and the minimum clinical hours are 672. 

To be eligible for this program, RNs must have a current RN license, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited institution, and two years of full-time RN experience. 

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)  
  • Tuition: $1,235 per credit

Drexel University 

Drexel University’s online PMHNP program is consistently ranked among the best in the nation for veterans. The program challenges and engages students with synchronous online lectures led by experienced and board-certified faculty from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible for Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification through ANCC. 

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $1,069 per credit

DNP Programs

Maryville University

Maryville University’s online PMHNP DNP program prepares students to provide high-quality psychiatric care to patients of all ages. The curriculum gives students the knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Maryville University also offers an MSN program for BSN degree holders.

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)  
  • Tuition: $897 per credit

Rush University 

The online psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program at Rush University is designed to prepare nurses for a career in psychiatric nursing. The program focuses on the behavioral and biological aspects of psychiatric disorders and emphasizes the development of autonomous nurse practitioners who can function effectively in various clinical settings. 

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Duration: Two to 3.5 years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)  
  • Tuition: $1,286 per credit

Washington State University 

The PMHNP program at Washington State University is a hybrid program that blends online didactic coursework with on-campus intensives and on-ground clinical placements. The program is designed to prepare nurses for advanced psychiatric mental health care practice, emphasizing evidence-based practice and the application of research findings. 

Two pathways are available: post-baccalaureate and post-master’s. The program is intended for registered nurses who hold a BSN or MSN. Upon completion of the PMHNP program, graduates will be prepared to sit for national certification exams.

  • Location: Richland, WA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)  
  • Tuition: $8.873 per semester

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona’s online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program is ranked #31 best in the nation, according to the U.S. News & World Report. The PMHNP program at the University of Arizona is 67 credits and can be completed in approximately three years. The PMHNP program at the University of Arizona offers full-time and part-time options for students, and students can choose to complete the PMHNP program as a dual degree with a PhD or MPH.

  • Location: Tucson, AZ
  • Duration: 2.5 to 3.5 years 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)  
  • Tuition: $1,053 per credit

Post-Master’s Certificate Programs

University of Cincinnati 

The University of Cincinnati’s PMHNP program is offered entirely online, with a two-day virtual, synchronous program intensive to help students network with cohort members, meet faculty and personally experience the high-quality culture and competence of the university. 

The program requires 504 total clinical hours, divided among pediatrics, adults, and geriatrics: 100 clinical hours in pediatrics, 100 in adult care, and 100 in geriatrics. The remaining hours are the students’ choice so long as the faculty advisor approves the degree plan. This comprehensive program provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel as psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners.

  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)  
  • Tuition: $1,309 per credit (residents); $1,324 per credit (non-residents)

UMass Amherst

The PMHNP online certificate program at UMass Amherst is designed for nurses who have completed a master’s degree and wish to expand their scope of practice to include the care of individuals, families, and groups with psychiatric and mental health needs. Therefore, admissions preference is given to nurses with experience in psychiatric mental health nursing. 

This online accelerated program will prepare students to address mental healthcare’s biological, psychological, social, and spiritual elements. Clinical hours are required to complete the PMHNP online certificate program: non-APRNS must complete 728 clinical hours, and APRNs must complete 560 clinical hours.

  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $825 per credit

University of New Hampshire

The University of New Hampshire offers an online PMHNP program that is 29 credits. This graduate certificate program is for APRNs who want to learn the skills to evaluate and treat mental health needs. 

The program is full-time and includes simulation experiences and competency-based education under the guidance of expert faculty. There is also an immersive clinical practicum experience with a minimum of 750 clinical hours and three on-campus intensives throughout the program.

  • Location: Durham, NH
  • Duration: 17 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $785 per credit (residents); $865 per credit (non-residents)

Johns Hopkins University

Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins University offers an online post-master’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) certificate program. To be eligible for the PMHNP program, applicants must have a current RN license and a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited institution. 

The PMHNP program at Johns Hopkins University prepares graduates to provide evidence-based care to patients with mental health disorders. Courses include advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, and clinical assessment. 

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $37,007 total

Jobs for PMHNP Graduates

Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners can pursue various jobs after graduation in several clinical settings, such as hospitals, private practice, or community mental health centers. Here are three positions for PMHNP graduates. 

Addiction-Focused Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 

Addiction nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in treating patients with addictive disorders. PMHNPs must have a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing and be certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners. 

Addiction PMHNPs provide their patients a wide range of services, including assessing, diagnosing, and treating addictive disorders. They also offer counseling and education to both patients and their families. Addiction PMHNPs work in various settings, including outpatient clinics, residential treatment facilities, hospitals, and private practices.

Private Practice Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 

Private practice PMHNP jobs are becoming increasingly popular as more and more healthcare providers seek the flexibility and autonomy of owning their practice. As a result, private practice PMHNP positions are in high demand. Independently owned and operated, private practice PMHNP jobs offer a unique opportunity to work independently and directly with patients. 

Benefits include the satisfaction of owning one’s own business, setting their hours, and working directly with clients to provide comprehensive psychiatric care. Private practice also offers the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of psychiatry, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, substance abuse psychiatry, or geriatric psychiatry. 

Veterans Health Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 

Veterans health PMHNP jobs are in high demand due to the large veteran population and their unique challenges in serving their country. Veterans often suffer from mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. They may also have difficulty readjusting to civilian life after serving in the military. As a result, veterans require specialized care from providers who understand their unique needs. 

PMHNPs are uniquely qualified to provide this care, and veterans’ health PMHNP jobs offer an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who have served our country. PMHNPs who work in veterans’ health settings provide comprehensive care, including mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. In addition, they may also provide case management and referral services. As a result, veterans health PMHNP jobs offer an opportunity to work with a population needing specialized mental health care.

In each of these settings, PMHNP nurse practitioners can make a significant difference in the lives of their patients.

Rachel Drummond, MEd

Rachel Drummond, MEd

Writer

At NursingColleges.com, Rachel Drummond has applied her extensive experience in education and mindfulness to elucidate the importance of self-care for nursing students since 2022. Through her writings, she underscores the role of mental and physical well-being in fostering resilient and compassionate healthcare professionals.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.