The Best Psychiatric NP Programs Online

January 21, 2022 · 6 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 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.

Learn More About the Top Online Psychiatric NP Programs and Schools

Georgia College & State University true View School Profile $$$$ Milledgeville, GA 64% 44% 25% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Description:

At Georgia State, students can enroll in an online master of science in nursing (MSN) degree program with a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) concentration. The degree comprises 39 credits completed over the course of two years for full-time students or three years for part-time students.

The online psychiatric nurse practitioner program includes some synchronous components with students streaming didactic classes on Thursdays. But distance learners also participate in some asynchronous online modules and lectures. Degree seekers must complete 570 clinical hours at a location within their own communities.

In addition, students visit campus a few times for face-to-face immersion experiences. These include an orientation experience during the student's first summer and an intensive skills practice experience as part of the advanced assessment course.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN with PMHNP concentration
    • Campus: Milledgeville, Georgia
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $543 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing; Georgia or compact registered nurse license; three reference letters; resume; personal goals statement
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99.06%
George Washington University true View School Profile Washington, DC 82% 36% 24% Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Description:

The online master of science in nursing (MSN) degree at GW includes a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) concentration. The full program comprises 50 credits and 600 clinical hours. The curriculum covers topics in neuropsychopharmacology, crisis intervention, and psychotherapy.

The program is designed for registered nurses who can continue to work while pursuing their degree on a part-time schedule. Distance learners also participate in one on-campus session for the health assessment and diagnostic reasoning course. The in-person learning experience trains students how to carry out a patient history and physical examination.

Although the program enrolls students from most states, it cannot accept applicants from Alabama and Louisiana.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN with PMHNP concentration
  • Campus: Washington, D.C.
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,395 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA; two recommendation letters; active nursing license; statement of purpose
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: N/A
  • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
Samford University true View School Profile Birmingham, AL 76% 33% 31% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Description:

The online master of science in nursing (MSN) program at Samford offers a unique opportunity for students to specialize in both the family nurse practitioner (FNP) and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) fields simultaneously. After graduating, alumni can sit for both certification exams.

The distance learning curriculum includes four intensive on-campus visits when they can practice their clinical skills. Degree seekers also participate in 1,200 clinical hours overall, including adult, pediatric, mental health, and OB/GYN care. Courses cover all of these demographic areas, in addition to research, ethics, physical care, and pharmacology. Distance learners can complete these at sites in their local communities across the United States.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN with FNP/PMHNP dual concentration
    • Campus: Birmingham, Alabama
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $888 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA; registered nurse license; undergraduate nursing research course with at least a grade of "C"; undergraduate health assessment course with at least a grade of "B"; three recommendation letters; personal statement
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 28 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 90.08%
Maryville University of Saint Louis true View School Profile Saint Louis, MO 72% 49% 56% Higher Learning Commission

Description:

Maryville facilitates an online master's degree for nurses with a concentration in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). Unlike many online PMHNP programs, Maryville does not require on-campus visits. Degree seekers also arrange supervised clinical hours at sites within their own communities.

The program prioritizes holistic nursing, training students how to proactively find healthcare solutions while on the job. The 50-credit curriculum includes courses such as evidence-based practice in nursing, health promotion and disease prevention, and psychopharmacology and mental health assessment.

Students interested in pursuing this specialization can also pursue Maryville's doctor of nursing practice or post-master's psychiatric mental health certificate.

Details:

  • Program(s): Master of science in nursing with PMHNP concentration
    • Campus: Saint Louis, Missouri
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $813 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA; registered nurse licensure; personal statement
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 32 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92.97%
Cox College true View School Profile Springfield, MO 60% 74% 100% Higher Learning Commission

Description:

Cox operates as a private college in Springfield, Missouri, focusing on nursing and other healthcare professions, including a master of science in nursing (MSN) with a concentration in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP).

The curriculum includes didactic courses that students complete online, such as leadership in healthcare and nursing education systems, family and child dynamics, and psychiatric management across the lifespan. They also participate in clinical practicum experiences in their communities.

Graduates of this online PMHNP program qualify to take the national certification exam as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. About 96% of graduates of Cox's MSN program find employment within one year of graduation.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN with PMHNP concentration
    • Campus: Springfield, Missouri
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $600 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA; registered nurse licensure
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.55%
The University of Texas at El Paso View School Profile $ El Paso, TX 39% 41% 39% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Description:

Students at UTEP can enroll in the master of science in nursing-nurse practitioner (MSN-NP) degree program with an emphasis in psychiatric mental health across the lifespan.

The curriculum plan lasts two years, plus an additional semester. Degree seekers complete 49 credits with courses in neuroscience across the lifespan, telehealth and rural service delivery, and diagnosis and management of substance abuse disorders. The program requires 675 clinical hours, including 630 within the psychiatric mental health specialization.

This particular degree follows a hybrid format which means students take both online and face-to-face courses. On-campus courses occur on alternating weekends starting with students' second year.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN-NP with psychiatric mental health concentration
    • Campus: El Paso, Texas
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $552 per credit for Texas residents; $782 per credit for nonresidents
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing; registered nurse license
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.64%
Duquesne University View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA 80% 68% 18% Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Description:

Students at Duquesne can enroll in an online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program that allows students to study either part or full time. The degree focuses on relationship-based care, training students in skills like diagnosis and management of psychiatric disorders.

The 44-credit program emphasizes collaboration among distance learners who enter the program with a cohort of 12-15 fellow students. The curriculum covers foundational skills such as pharmacology and assessment, and it includes advanced courses in caring for people with substance abuse issues.

Degree seekers complete 550 clinical hours overall. They also participate in two in-person experiences at Duquesne's Pittsburgh campus.

Details:

  • Program(s): Master of science in nursing with PMHNP concentration
    • Campus: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $1,509 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA; undergraduate statistics course with at least a "C" grade; registered nurse (RN) license; at least one year of full-time RN work experience
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.38%
The University of Texas at Tyler View School Profile $$ Tyler, TX 45% 37% 68% Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Description:

At UT Tyler's School of Nursing, distance learners may pursue a master of science in nursing (MSN) with a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) focus. The program takes a holistic approach to the specialization, teaching integrated mental healthcare across the lifespan.

Students can choose between a two-year, full-time curriculum or a three-year, part-time curriculum. UT Tyler offers small class sizes so that distance learners may interact with each other. The curriculum includes certification exam prep to supplement foundational and advanced courses. While most courses are online, the advanced health assessment course is a hybrid format, and the program requires a couple of on-campus visits so that students can practice their clinicals in a hands-on setting. Degree seekers must also complete 500 clinical hours.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN with PMHNP concentration
    • Campus: Tyler, Texas
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $915 per credit for Texas residents; $1,386 for nonresidents
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 course credits; registered nurse licensure; three professional recommendation letters; personal statement
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.86%
Clarkson College View School Profile Omaha, NE 53% 49% 95% Higher Learning Commission

Description:

Omaha-based Clarkson College facilitates an online registered nurse to master of science in nursing (RN-to-MSN) degree with a speciality option in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). This particular program admits individuals who possess RN licensure but not necessarily a bachelor's in nursing. The curriculum includes courses at both the bachelor's and master's level to serve as a bridge program for RNs.

The 51-credit program comprises core and major courses. Core courses cover skills, such as research design and methods, scholarly writing, and statistics. Major courses move into the mental health concentration, with courses such as pharmacology for practitioners and advanced psychiatric-mental health concepts.

Degree seekers complete all of their didactic coursework online, but they must visit campus to practice their clinical skills. They also may carry out their clinical practicum experiences at sites in their own communities.

Details:

  • Program(s): RN-to-MSN with PMHNP concentration
    • Campus: Omaha, Nebraska
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
    • Tuition: $621 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA; RN licensure
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.1%
MCPHS University View School Profile Boston, MA 69% 66% 27% New England Commission on Higher Education

Description:

MCPHS operates as a Boston-based higher education institution focused on health sciences. Students who pursue the master of science in nursing (MSN) in psychiatric mental health can complete the program on a part-time schedule in two years.

Distance learners complete their coursework primarily online, but they also participate in three residences. These include a new student orientation, second-year residency, and final graduation residency. Each of these experiences lasts 1-3 days.

The curriculum comprises 45 credits, and students enroll in courses such as the study of telemedicine, psychopharmacology for the advanced practice nurse, and basic counseling theory and techniques. Degree seekers must also participate in at least 630 supervised clinical hours.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN with psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner concentration
    • Campus: Boston, Massachusetts
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $1,235 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing; registered nurse licensure
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93%
Graceland University-Lamoni View School Profile Lamoni, IA 49% 68% 51% Higher Learning Commission

Description:

At GU, students can enroll in a 47-credit master of science in nursing (MSN) with a nurse practitioner concentration in psychiatric mental health. The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program prepares students to provide mental healthcare to patients across the lifespan. While the main, residential campus is in Iowa, the School of Nursing as well as GU's online programs are based in the school's Missouri location.

Courses cover advanced topics within the concentration, such as psychopharmacology and psychotherapeutics. Students enroll in three practicum courses, each consisting of 180 supervised clinical hours. Degree seekers also participate in a synthesis project in which they identify a clinically significant issue in the field and use evidence-based research to develop an improvement within the field.

The degree follows an online format, although a few courses require mandatory face-to-face sessions on Graceland's School of Nursing campus in Independence, Missouri.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN with PMHNP concentration
    • Campus: Lamoni, Iowa
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $830 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA; registered license licensure; three references; professional goals statement
    • Minimum Time Commitment: Varies
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
Briar Cliff University View School Profile Sioux City, IA 45% 83% 37% Higher Learning Commission

Description:

Located in Sioux City, Iowa, BCU offers a master of science in nursing (MSN) program for aspiring nurse practitioners with a focus in psychiatric mental health. The distance learning degree includes on-site lab requirements in a few of its courses. Students spend a total of six days on campus.

The online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program lasts three years, with students completing 52 credits and participating in 600 clinical hours. Degree seekers take 2-3 courses each semester, learning about topics in neuroscience of pharmacology and therapeutic modalities for advanced practice learning. BCU also helps students find clinical placements in rural, underserved, and multicultural settings.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN with PMHNP concentration
    • Campus: Sioux City, Iowa
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $525 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA; at least 2,000 hours of professional nursing experience; personal goals statement
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 75%

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

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