The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

March 4, 2022 , Modified on May 9, 2022 · 5 Min Read

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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The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online
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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 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. 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. 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? 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). 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. 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. 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. 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

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.

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