How Much Do Psychiatric Nurses Make?

March 3, 2022 , Modified on May 6, 2022 · 3 Min Read

Reviewed by Brandy Gleason

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The average annual salary for psychiatric nurses is $67,360. Learn about the highest-paying states for psychiatric nurses and how to increase your salary.

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How Much Do Psychiatric Nurses Make?
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As a psychiatric nurse, you can pursue a rewarding career providing care to individuals and communities in need of mental health and substance misuse services. Demand for mental health professionals is rising in response to the opioid crisis, COVID-19 and its aftermath, and increased health insurance coverage.

As a result, psychiatric nurse salaries are likely to increase. Pursuing a role as a psychiatric nurse can also open a path to becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner (NP), one of the highest-paid nurse practitioner specialties.

Average Salary for Psychiatric Nurses

Many factors can influence psychiatric nurse salaries. This includes years of experience, education and certification, hospital or agency size, and geographic location. According to Payscale as of February 2022, the average registered nurse (RN) salary is $67,450 annually ($30.86 hourly), compared to the average psych nurse salary of $67,360.

The average hourly psychiatric nurse salary for a nurse with less than one year of experience is $29.47, but nurses with 5-9 years of experience earn an average $32.47. The average hourly psych nurse salary for late-career nurses (20 years or more) is $36.17.


$67,360
Average Annual Salary

Source: Payscale as of February 2022

$32.59
Average Hourly Wage

Source: Payscale as of February 2022


Highest Paying States for Psychiatric Nurses

Psychiatric nurse salaries may vary depending on each state's demand and cost of living. Wyoming has the highest average psych nurse salary, $85,420, according to ZipRecruiter as of February 2022, followed by Massachusetts, at $81,290, Montana, at $80,490, Arizona, at $79,660, and Hawaii, at $79,590.

Among these states, Hawaii has a cost of living index of 192.9, almost twice the national index of 100. Massachusetts is lower but still well above average at 131.6. Montana's is 106.9 and Arizona's cost of living is 97.

Wyoming's cost of living is 89.3, meaning that a psychiatric nurse salary will go considerably further.

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How Do Psychiatric Nurse Salaries Compare to Other Nurses?

Psychiatric nurse salaries are in the middle range of nurse salaries, with the average psych nurse salary above the pediatric and home health nurse averages but below the average geriatric and oncology nurse salaries.

Other factors affect salary, including certification, experience, and whether you have an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

3 Ways to Increase Pay As a Psychiatric Nurse

Further education is the most effective way to increase your psychiatric nurse salary. Nurse practitioners typically earn a six-figure salary, making a graduate degree in nursing an excellent investment.

Certification is another powerful tool. However, if the time isn't right for you to pursue additional education, you can explore telehealth services in nursing opportunities.

1. Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioner salaries are considerably higher than RN psychiatric nurse salaries, with a median annual base salary of $116,500 according to the 2019 AANP Compensation Survey. To become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you must attend an accredited master of science in nursing or doctoral nursing program and pass the board certification examination.

As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you can order tests, diagnose conditions, and prescribe medications. Depending on the state, you may need to work in collaboration with a physician or under a physician's supervision.

2. Become Certified in Psychiatric Mental Health

Another option for increasing your psychiatric nurse salary is to earn certification. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse — Board Certified credential.

You must have at least two years of experience as an RN and at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in psychiatric nursing. You should also complete at least 30 hours of continuing education in psychiatric nursing within the last three years.

Many employers require or strongly prefer certification for higher-level positions, and the education also counts for your RN continuing education requirements.

3. Explore Opportunities in Telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated telehealth greatly. For Medicare, telehealth visits grew from approximately 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million. Telehealth visits made up one in three visits to mental health specialists, compared to only 8% percent of visits to primary care providers.

Once the pandemic is over, 43% of Americans want to continue using telehealth. Especially if you have a multistate nursing license, you can help meet the demand for mental healthcare as a telehealth nurse and earn a higher salary.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychiatric Nurse Salaries


Can a psychiatric nurse prescribe medication?

Psychiatric RNs cannot prescribe medication, but psychiatric nurse practitioners can. Practice authority for nurse practitioners by state regulations set the conditions for NPs to prescribe. These vary by state. Many states require additional education or separate licensing to prescribe controlled substances.

Do psychiatric nurses with a BSN earn more than those with an ADN?

In general, psychiatric nurse salaries are higher for nurses with BSNs. However, many other factors affect psych nurse salaries, including experience, certification, and geographic location.

An ADN takes two years, while a BSN takes four years to earn. A BSN includes advanced topics and courses beyond practical nursing.

If you have an ADN, you can take advantage of RN-to-BSN programs to earn your BSN.

Where do psychiatric nurses work?

Psychiatric nurses work in hospitals and health systems, standalone mental health settings, residential care facilities, clinics, and other healthcare settings.

Many psychiatric nurses work in behavioral and substance use treatment settings, both outpatient and inpatient. In general, nurse salaries are highest in governmental facilities, so you may be able to earn a higher psychiatric nurse salary in a government setting like a Veterans Affairs hospital, military base, or prison.

Are psychiatric nurses in demand?

All mental healthcare professionals are in demand, due to the general nursing shortage and to the growing need for mental healthcare. The demand for psychiatric nurses and psychiatric nurse practitioners is high and growing. Psychiatric nurse salaries are likely to increase as a result of this demand.

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Page last reviewed February 8, 2022

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