The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

Updated December 6, 2022

If you're interested in becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner, explore our list of the best online psychiatric nursing programs of 2021 and 2022.
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NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Psychiatric NP listens to patient with compasssion. Credit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

Psychiatric nurse practitioners (also known as psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners or PMHNPs) are in high demand and earn a healthy salary. According to Payscale data from November 2021, most PMHNPs earn an average median salary of $112,160.

As a nurse practitioner, you enjoy a high level of professional autonomy and the satisfaction of providing vital care. This guide explores online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs, including application guidelines and advice on paying for an online psych NP program.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including: academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about online psychiatric NP programs, or go straight to our list of the best online psychiatric NP programs.

Featured Online MSN Programs

What Can You Do as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses (APRNs), who have at least an MSN degree and have passed the certification examination. While psychiatric nurse practitioners have more professional autonomy than RNs, their specific authority to prescribe and practice independently varies by state. However, in most states, PMHNPs can diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe treatment, including medication, either independently or in collaboration with a physician.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners can work in hospitals and health systems, independent practices, or in other settings, such as clinics, residential care, or psychiatric facilities.

Demand for all nurse practitioners, including psychiatric nurse practitioners, is high, as is demand for mental health care in general. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 50% job growth between 2020 and 2030 for all nurse practitioners.

What to Look for in an Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program

There are many online PMHNP programs to choose from. When making your decision, consider the following factors.

  • The personal fit with your career goals
  • On-campus requirements
  • The expense and your budget
  • Logistics around attending classes and clinical experience
  • How likely you are to succeed

Other related factors include:

  • Admission Requirements

    Admission requirements demonstrate the program's academic rigor and how well your background has prepared you for success. Look for a program demanding enough to challenge you, but not so demanding that you might not succeed.
  • Program Curriculum

    The curriculum should meet your interests and prepare you for the career you want. For example, if you choose to specialize in under-served communities or would like to conduct research, the right school should offer these courses or allow you to conduct independent study.
  • Clinical Experience

    The logistics of clinical experience are especially important to students in online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs. Are the schedule and format compatible with any other responsibilities you may have? Is the school likely to help you find clinical placement in your community?
  • Accreditation

    To become certified, you must graduate from a program (master's, certificate, or DNP) accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the National League for Nursing (NLN) Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA).
  • Program Length

    Most online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs take 2-3 years of full-time study to earn an MSN. A DNP program typically takes another two years for completion.
  • School NCLEX Pass Rate

    You should consider certification exam pass rates for the program you want to attend. In addition, if the school offers a BSN program, the NCLEX-RN pass rate can indicate how well the program prepares students for success.
  • School Graduation Rate

    You should consider both the graduation rate and the pass rate when considering online psych NP programs. A low graduation rate can suggest that the program admits students who are unprepared to meet program expectations, even if the program has a high certification pass rate.
  • Online Learning Format and Requirements

    Consider how different online PMHNP programs work with your learning style and existing responsibilities. If the school is in a different time zone, how does that affect your schedule? Will any on-campus requirements be a problem? How can you interact with your classmates?

Applying to an Online Psychiatric NP Program

Applying to online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs can be nerve-wracking. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare and talk to mentors, admission counselors, and recent graduates from the program for guidance.

Admission Materials

You need a BSN from an accredited program, at least two references, a current and unencumbered nursing license, and an application that includes an essay or personal statement.

GPA Requirements

Most schools require or strongly prefer a 3.0 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than your preferred school's usual requirements, you may have other characteristics to offset this, such as an excellent track record in nursing. Ask to discuss your case with an advisor.

Other Requirements

Some programs require course hours in specific areas, such as research, statistics, or health assessment. Others require or prefer at least some experience as a licensed nurse as well as a current RN license.

Why is Online Psychiatric NP Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation is important for any college, but even more important for your online psych NP program.

  • Certification requires graduating from an accredited program.
  • Even if you have an MSN, DNP, or post-graduate certification from another accredited program, you can take the certification examination.
  • Accreditation is a sign of quality for online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs.
  • Many government loans do not apply to non-accredited programs.
  • Many employers only consider graduates of accredited programs.
  • Even if an unaccredited program appears to be cheaper or faster, it is likely to be a waste of the time and money you invest in your education.

Paying for Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Tuition is the biggest cost for most online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs. The program length and whether you are eligible for in-state tuition (if applicable) affect tuition costs. Consider books, supplies, and travel costs for any on-campus components. If you plan to work, you may want to budget for less hours before and during exam times.

Because of the demand for nurses, paying for a nursing degree is easier than for many other professions. Financial aid options include grants and scholarships, traditional loans, and loans with forgiveness programs, usually involving working in an under-served area after graduation Some government programs pay your full expenses, including a living stipend, in exchange for your commitment to practice in an under-served area.

The Best Online Psychiatric NP Programs of 2022

#1 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

Cox College

  • Springfield, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cox College has provided nursing education since it was founded in 1907. The school offers an MSN with a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner track. Designed for working nurses, the 42-credit program admits students throughout the academic year. Distance learners complete didactic courses online and can fulfill clinical placements locally.

  • Program: MSN psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: Springfield, Missouri
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $600 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, current RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.4% first time pass rate 
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $97,959 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$10,080
Out-of-state
$10,080
Retention Rate
100%
Admission Rate
39%
Students Enrolled
956
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

Maryville University of Saint Louis

  • Saint Louis, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Maryville offers five MSN concentrations, including a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner track. The program emphasizes holistic healthcare and evidence-based practice. Admission to the program does not require GRE scores. Distance learners can complete all 50 credits online with no campus visits. The program helps degree-seekers arrange clinical experiences near their location.

  • Program: MSN psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $813 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, current RN license, personal statement
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 32 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93% first time pass rate 
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $93,724 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$26,070
Out-of-state
$26,070
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
10,013
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
76% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

Frontier Nursing University

  • Hyden, KY
  • 4 years
  • Online

FNU delivers an online MSN with a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner specialty track. The program requires two on-campus residencies: a four-day orientation and a five-day clinical intensive. MSN degree-seekers can take 21 additional credits to earn a doctor of nursing practice through the direct admission option.

  • Program: MSN psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: Versailles, Kentucky
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $636 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, current RN license, one year of RN experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,237
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

DeSales University

  • Center Valley, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

DeSales offers an online MSN with a nurse practitioner concentration in psychiatric mental health. Learners can study part time or full time. Degree-seekers complete all advanced core, specialty, and clinical courses on campus. Students fulfill clinical requirements at healthcare facilities in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania.

  • Program: MSN psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: Center Valley, Pennsylvania
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 
  • Tuition: $ 910 per credit hour 
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, current RN license, one year RN experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.9% first time pass rate 
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $99,251 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$37,200
Out-of-state
$37,200
Retention Rate
80%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
3,460
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global

  • Marion, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online

IWU's online division delivers an MSN with a primary care psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner concentration. The degree focuses on the interrelationship of theory, research, and evidence-based practice. The mostly online program requires two in-person residencies and seven workshops for clinical orientation and assessment training.

  • Program: MSN primary care psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: Marion, Indiana
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $683 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, three letters of reference, current RN license, one year of RN experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 28 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $98,512 for graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$8,453
Out-of-state
$8,453
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
11,410
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

Husson University

  • Bangor, ME
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Established in 1898, Husson delivers accessible online programs, including an MSN with a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner specialty. The 51-credit program features fully online, 15-week classes. Students participate in a virtual orientation prior to beginning the 600 required clinical hours.

  • Program: MSN psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: Bangor, Maine
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $682 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, one letter of reference, current RN license, essay, resume
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 86.8% first time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,274 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$17,770
Out-of-state
$17,770
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
85%
Students Enrolled
3,744
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#7 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

Briar Cliff University

  • Sioux City, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A Catholic institution, BCU offers a part-time psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner MSN program. The university delivers all courses online, except a summer health assessment course and clinicals. Students complete 600 clinical hours in rural, underserved, or multicultural settings.

  • Program: MSN-psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: Sioux City, Iowa
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $525 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, minimum 3.0 GPA, two letters of reference, current RN license, at least 2,000 hours of RN clinical nursing practice
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 75% first time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $57,657 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$30,988
Out-of-state
$30,988
Retention Rate
66%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,129
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Psychiatric NP Programs


What degree do you need to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner?

Licensed psychiatric NPs must hold both a bachelor's and a master's degree in nursing or higher. Many universities offer MSN programs with a concentration in psychiatric mental health. Some students earn an associate degree in nursing instead of a BSN and bypass a bachelor's degree by enrolling in an RN-to-MSN program.

How much more can you earn as a psychiatric nurse practitioner?

RNs earn a median annual salary of $75,330, according to the BLS, compared to a median annual salary of $112,160, according to Payscale. Experience, additional certifications, geographic location, and workplace setting also affect your salary.

What is the fastest way to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner?

The fastest way to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner depends on your current level of education. If you have a BSN and nursing experience, some MSN programs take just 24 months. If you have an ADN or a degree in a field other than nursing, you can enroll in a bridge or accelerated MSN program, rather than spending four years on a BSN plus an MSN program.

Is certification required to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner?

You must earn certification to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Whether you graduate from an accredited on-campus or online psychiatric nurse practitioner program, you must have at least 500 clinical hours; an RN license; graduate courses in advanced pharmacology, health assessment, and physiology/pathophysiology; and other content related to psychiatric care.

Related Online Psychiatric NP Program Resources

NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

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