Psychiatric Nurse 2021 Salary Guide
| Maura Deering
In This Article
Psychiatric nursing offers a rewarding healthcare career that helps patients with mental health challenges. Nurses working within the psychiatric nursing specialty can earn higher wages compared to other specialties.
This guide includes the most recently available psychiatric nurse salary data, including the 2020 statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other sources. Read on for details about psych nurse salaries, projected employment growth rates, and ways to increase earnings for a psychiatric nurse.
For a more general overview on psychiatric nursing, check out NurseJournal's career guide.
Fast Facts About Psychiatric Nurses
- Psychiatric nurses generally earn $50,000-$92,000.
- About 3.7% of registered nurses (RNs) report psychiatric, mental health, or substance abuse nursing as their primary specialty.
- Nurses who earn graduate degrees in advanced practice nursing can become psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs).
Average Salary for Psychiatric Nurses
PayScale reports an average annual psychiatric nurse salary of $66,840. According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, nurses who specialize in psychiatric, mental health, and substance abuse earn comparable paychecks to nurses specializing in acute care/critical care, cardiology, emergency/trauma, oncology, and perioperative nursing.
Psychiatric nurse salaries vary with geography, education level, experience, subspecialty, and certification.
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What Kind of Salary Growth Can Psychiatric Nurses Expect?
Experience leads to a steady psychiatric nurse salary. The 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey indicates that RNs have more experience and education than in prior years.
The survey demonstrates RNs' annual pay increasing by $10,000 by the fifth year of practice, another $5,000 up to year 10, and an additional $10,000 after 11 years. Earning a graduate degree and an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license leads to even higher compensation.
Average Annual Salary of Psychiatric Nurses by Experience
Highest-Paying and Lowest-Paying States for Psychiatric Nurses in 2020
BLS state data does not include salaries specific to psychiatric nurses, but the statistics for RNs are typically comparable. The top highest-paying states for RNs include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Alaska. The five lowest-paying states are Alabama, South Dakota, Mississippi, Iowa, and Arkansas.
Compensation depends on population rates, available jobs, and cost of living. For example, California tops the list of highest-paying states, and the state hosts the nation's top 10 metropolitan areas for earnings, including San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles.
How Do Psychiatric Nurse Salaries Compare to Other Nurses?
The following information uses data from the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey to demonstrate how psychiatric nurse salaries compare to other popular nursing specialty areas. The psychiatric/mental health/substance abuse nurses surveyed reported a higher median salary than the national average reported by PayScale.
3 Ways to Increase Pay as a Psychiatric Nurse
Gaining experience in general and in certain specialty areas or workplaces can lead to higher salaries, along with earning certifications and pursuing additional education.
This section focuses on three ways psychiatric nurses can increase their compensation rates. The rise of telehealth services, particularly during the pandemic, has provided more options for psychiatric nurses, often resulting in increased pay.
- 1. Gain specialty skills.
- The demand for healthcare professionals specializing in mental health is rising. The BLS cites an aging national population with myriad health conditions, including mental health challenges, as a factor. The past year of lockdowns has resulted in more children seeking mental health assistance. Additionally, further subspecialties in case management, gerontology, and pediatrics can be promising as PayScale reports that psychiatric nurses in these areas earned strong average salaries.
- 2. Explore opportunities in telehealth.
- According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, approximately half of all RNs provide telehealth services, with additional opportunities for psychiatric nurses. Even before clients began turning to telehealth during the pandemic, virtual mental health services began to emerge as the future of mental health nursing.
- 3. Become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.
- RNs can see a significant jump in their salaries by becoming APRNs who specialize as PMHNPs. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners cites an average salary of $120,000 for PMHNPs. Becoming a psychiatric mental health NP requires a graduate nursing degree and national certification.
Frequently Asked Questions: Psychiatric Nurses
How much do psychiatric nurses make?
PayScale reports an average RN salary of $66,840, while the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey cites a median annual income of $71,000. Graduate nursing degree-holders licensed as APRNs and certified as PMHNPs average significantly more, at $120,000 per year.
How long does it take to be a psychiatric nurse?
At the RN level, psychiatric nurses spend 1-4 years in school, depending on whether they pursue a nursing diploma, associate degree in nursing, or bachelor of science in nursing, plus another two years logging work experience. APRNs can expect at least 2-3 more years of schooling to earn their graduate degrees.
Are psychiatric nurses in demand?
A report by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association states that only 44% of adults and 20% of children and adolescents received the mental health and substance abuse care they needed in 2019. The report also specifies that psychiatric mental health nurses comprise the fastest-growing nonphysician specialty and can improve access to mental health services.
Where do psychiatric nurses work?
The most common workplaces for psychiatric nurses include general and psychiatric hospitals, where they assess patients and manage medications; correctional facilities, to provide crisis intervention and cognitive-behavioral therapy; and assisted living facilities, where nurses work on teams of health and mental health professionals to treat resident patients.
Learn More About Psychiatric Nurses
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