Share this article

The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSNNurseJournal Rankings Team
Updated August 29, 2023
Reviewed by
Our Integrity Network

NurseJournal.org is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for NurseJournal.org as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

There is a growing need for psychiatric nurse practitioners. Think about these factors when choosing an online psychiatric NP program.
mini logo

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

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

As a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), you can help fill a critical need for PMHNPs and provide care to those struggling with mental health challenges. These advanced practice nurses are qualified to diagnose and treat people with mental health disorders.

Completing an online program may allow you to use self-paced options and continue to work. Although many programs are completely online, be sure to check your preferred program as it may require on-campus visits.

As you search for a program among our ranked list of online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs, consider how your life circumstances, personal preferences, and long-term career goals will fit with the 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.

Featured Online MSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

Learn About the Best Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs and Schools

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.
#1 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Stony Brook University

  • Location-markerStony Brook, NY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,070
  • Out-of-state$24,740
  • Retention Rate90%
  • Acceptance Rate49%
  • Students Enrolled26,782
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment90%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

  • Location-markerCincinnati, OH
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,723
  • Out-of-state$25,057
  • Retention Rate88%
  • Acceptance Rate76%
  • Students Enrolled40,826
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment90%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Maryville University of Saint Louis

  • Location-markerSaint Louis, MO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$24,766
  • Out-of-state$24,766
  • Retention Rate83%
  • Acceptance Rate95%
  • Students Enrolled10,979
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment83%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Frontier Nursing University

  • Location-markerVersailles, KY
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$0
  • Out-of-state$0
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled2,436
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment0%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Otterbein University

  • Location-markerWesterville, OH
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$32,624
  • Out-of-state$32,624
  • Retention Rate78%
  • Acceptance Rate76%
  • Students Enrolled2,652
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment81%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Winona State University

  • Location-markerWinona, MN
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,712
  • Out-of-state$13,903
  • Retention Rate75%
  • Acceptance Rate75%
  • Students Enrolled7,106
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment46%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

DeSales University

  • Location-markerCenter Valley, PA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$38,500
  • Out-of-state$38,500
  • Retention Rate81%
  • Acceptance Rate82%
  • Students Enrolled3,302
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment64%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Cox College

  • Location-markerSpringfield, MO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,080
  • Out-of-state$10,080
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate100%
  • Students Enrolled975
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment100%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Mount Marty University

  • Location-markerYankton, SD
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$26,926
  • Out-of-state$26,926
  • Retention Rate76%
  • Acceptance Rate78%
  • Students Enrolled1,167
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment34%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online of 2023

Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global

  • Location-markerMarion, IN
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,871
  • Out-of-state$8,871
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled10,944
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment92%
  • AccreditationYes

Using Our Rankings: What to Look For in an Online Psychiatric NP Program

This list of online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs was evaluated and ranked based on specific metrics. These same data points are crucial to a student’s evaluation of a nursing program. They are an indication of how well the program will fit with the student’s life and educational needs.

Admission Requirements

Each online psychiatric NP program has consistent admission requirements and most include requirements that are unique to the program. For example, you will always need an active registered nurse (RN) license, but not all programs require a GRE score or statement of purpose. These requirements determine your eligibility for admission.

Clinical Experience

Every program requires clinical experience, but the format may vary. Some schools help find student placements and others only approve the placement a student finds. Schools that don’t help students find a placement or have a demanding clinical schedule might place added stress on students, which can influence the decision to enroll in the program.


Accreditation is crucial for a student to receive federal aid, transfer credits to another program, or take the certification exam necessary to practice.

Program Length

Typically master’s online psychiatric NP programs take 2-3 years and include 46 credit hours and roughly 600 clinical hours. A doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program may require more time. Some programs have part-time options for working students.

NP Certification Pass Rate

The program may publish the certification pass rate, which tells a candidate how well the program prepares students to take the national certification required to practice.

Online Learning Format and Requirements

Online learning platforms differ from in-person programs in how the information is taught to students, which can highly influence your decision based on your learning style. Technology requirements may differ between programs requiring students to purchase more hardware or software, which increases cost.

Why Is Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation is a voluntary, peer-reviewed process by an organization. The program’s curriculum and clinicals are evaluated to ensure they meet minimum national standards. The accreditation process is used by federal and private financial aid institutions to demonstrate the program prepares students for success.

The process is meant to protect employers and the public by graduating students who are fully prepared to take on a professional psychiatric nurse practitioner role. The best online PMHNP programs are accredited, which ensures the student can:

  • Meet the accreditation nursing qualification for federal student aid
  • Receive a quality education that meets national standards
  • Transfer credits to another program if needed
  • Take the national certification examination
  • Advance to a DNP program or another master’s
  • Hold a greater potential for employment and advancement

How Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs Work

Candidates may choose a master’s or doctorate-level online psychiatric NP program to complete their education. A master of science in nursing (MSN) program offers the opportunity for nurses to function as an NP and earn a higher salary.

The terminal degree in nursing is a DNP, which a nurse can also earn through an online psychiatric NP program. Both programs have required clinical components.

Depending on the school, an MSN or a DNP may also have lab components that require in-person attendance, or the school may allow the clinical preceptor to check off the skills. This also depends on the school requirements so students should verify if they are required to attend in-person labs.

Students who are attending an online program find clinical placement assistance as an online nursing student an important factor in program choice. This takes added stress off the student as they are moving into a new role.

It should be noted that due to the national shortage of PMHNPs, clinical experiences may be hard to find, even for schools that provide placements.

National board certification for a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The computer-based test is offered year round. After application, students can test during a 90-day window at a time and location that is best for them.

Applying to an Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program

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

  • Certification requires graduating from an accredited program.
  • Even if you have an MSN, a DNP, or a postgraduate 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 unaccredited 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 time and money.

Paying for Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Several factors affect the cost of an online psychiatric NP program, which in turn affects the student’s ability to pay out-of-pocket for nursing degrees. These factors include many of the criteria used in the ranking of the best online PMHNP programs.

For example, the length of the program influences the amount of money it will cost a student. Students should be aware of the cost per credit hour and the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs.

Some students may be able to work to help cover the cost of living during school. Each of these factors should be evaluated before enrolling. Attending an accredited program allows the student to apply for federal financial aid, including nursing grants, loans, and federal scholarship programs.

Accreditation also influences the ability to qualify for private grants and loans. Students should search for scholarship programs that help cover the cost of an online psychiatric nurse practitioner program. It is important to seek out information about financial aid for nurses to help pay for your program, including loan forgiveness for nurses and programs to help support economically disadvantaged and minority students.

What Can You Do as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

Roughly 21% of all adults experience some type of mental illness. This is a sharp increase since before 2020 and an increase in the demand for qualified psychiatric nurse practitioners.

A licensed and nationally board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner can care for patients in a variety of settings. They focus on mental health disorders and most frequently address the needs of patients with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Trauma
  • Psychosis

These professionals are highly analytical and adept at problem-solving. Some of the common areas where they work include hospital mental health departments, private clinics, mental health clinics, or mental health departments.

According to the 2020 American Association of Nurse Practitioners Salary Report, the median annual salary of a psychiatric nurse practitioner is $131,500. This is one of the highest-earning NP specialties.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

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 (ADN) instead of a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and bypass a bachelor’s degree by enrolling in an RN-to-MSN program.

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

The quickest way to become a nurse, such as an PMHNP, depends on your current level of education. You may consider a 3-4 year RN-to-MSN program if you have an ADN. Online BSN-to-DNP programs can take 3-4 years, depending on if you are full time or part time.

Is the psychiatric NP market oversaturated?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pandemic sparked a roughly 25% rise in depression and anxiety. The rise in patient population in a short time, coupled with the time it takes to become a psychiatric NP, has meant the market is not oversaturated. However, it may be more difficult to find employment in a small town or an attractive private practice.

What are the eligibility requirements for psychiatric nurse practitioner certification?

The American Nurses Credentialing Center requires candidates to hold an active and unencumbered RN license and an MSN or a DNP from an accredited PMHNP program.

A candidate must also have graduate-level courses in pathophysiology/physiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology. Additional eligibility requirements include clinical training in at least two psychotherapeutic interventions.

Related Online Psychiatric NP Program Resources

Page last reviewed November 14, 2022. Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.