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HEALTHCARE CAREER GUIDES

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Career

OVERVIEW

What is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?


 

A psychiatric nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who is trained to provide care to patients struggling with mental health problems. These nurses are different from RNs in that they have the education and experience to tend to the mental health needs of patients of all ages. They are also qualified to diagnose patients with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorders and prescribe treatment.

RESPONSIBILITIES

What Does a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Do?

The day-to-day responsibilities of a psychiatric nurse practitioner range from educating other nurses to working directly with patients in the field:

  • Creating treatment plans and collaborating with teams.
  • Diagnosing patients and communicating condition information.
  • Educating their communities on mental health concerns.
  • Conducting and interpreting mental health assessments.
  • Performing and giving psychotherapy for the treatment of conditions.
  • Performing exams and checkups for physical and mental health.
  • Prescribing medications and consulting with doctors.
  • Adjusting medication and treatment plans for patients.
  • Maintaining patient records and making referrals.
  • Continually learning about new medicines and treatments.

EDUCATION & BEST DEGREES

How Do I Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

There are specific educational and certification steps to becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner and completing all of them can take six years or more. It’s important to note the specialized academic track so you understand how to be prepared for this type of nursing profession.

Here is a simple step-by-step guide to becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner:

  • Earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited school.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN certification test for licensure.
  • Obtain your RN license.
  • Earn an MSN with a specialization in psychiatric mental health care .
  • Pursue the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner board certification exam.
  • Become licensed as a nurse practitioner.
  • Participate in continued education throughout your career.

Do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Need Licenses?

After obtaining the advanced degrees, the final step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to get licensed. Candidates need to earn a national NP certification from a specialty nursing board, like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB), American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and National Certification Corporation (NCC). 

These certifications will often require clinical hours and experience, application fees, and a comprehensive test to make sure you are prepared. 

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Licensing

Different states will have different requirements for nurse practitioners. Wherever you hope to practice as a nurse practitioner, you’ll likely need your RN license in that state. You’ll need to ensure the nurse practitioner certification you pursue licenses you in your state, and work with your state agency to ensure you have met all clinical or other requirements. 

Best Degree for a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S. Nursing

This program for BSNs who have an active, unencumbered RN license prepares...

This program for BSNs who have an active, unencumbered RN license prepares you to become a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner.

  • Locations: Due to the clinical requirements of this degree program, the FNP is currently NOT available to students who have a permanent residence in the following states: California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington.
  • Time: 2½ years.
  • Tuition: $6,525 per six-month term.
  • Courses: 16 total courses in this program.

Students must have a permanent and active license from a state that is not listed above, must complete the internships in that state, and intend to obtain initial APRN licensure in that state. See more state-specific information related to nursing licensure. Compact licenses must be endorsed by your state of residence. More about compact licenses.

Family Nurse Practitioner – Post-Master's Certificate

This is a program for individuals who already have an MSN and are looking...

This is a program for individuals who already have an MSN and are looking to now become a family nurse practitioner with a post-master's certificate program.

  • Locations: Due to the clinical requirements of this degree program, the FNP is currently NOT available to students who have a permanent residence in the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington.
  • Time: 2 years or less
  • Tuition: $6,252 per six-month term.
  • Courses: 10 total courses in this program.

Students must have a permanent and active license from a state that is not listed above, must complete the internships in that state, and intend to obtain initial APRN licensure in that state. See more state-specific information related to nursing licensure. Compact licenses must be endorsed by your state of residence. More about compact licenses.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – Post-Master's Certificate

This program is for current RNs who already have earned an MSN and are...

This program is for current RNs who already have earned an MSN and are wanting to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner through a post-master's certificate program.

  • Locations: Due to the clinical requirements of this degree program, the PMHNP post-master's certificate program at WGU is currently NOT open to students who have a permanent residence in the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • Time: 2 years or less
  • Tuition and fees: $6,625 per six-month term.
  • Courses: 11 total courses in this program.

This program is for current RNs who have earned their MSN but are wanting to add a specilization to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. This post-master's certificate program is only available in select states.

Students must have a permanent and active license from a state that is not listed above, must complete the internships in that state, and intend to obtain initial APRN licensure in that state. See more state-specific information related to nursing licensure. Compact licenses must be endorsed by your state of residence. More about compact licenses.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S. Nursing

This program for BSNs who have an active, unencumbered RN license prepares...

This program for BSNs who have an active, unencumbered RN license prepares you to become a board-certified Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

  • Locations: Due to the clinical requirements of this degree program, the PMHNP program at WGU is currently NOT open to students who have a permanent residence in the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • Time: 2½ years.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,625 per six-month term.
  • Courses: 17 total courses in this program.

This program is for current RNs who have earned their BSN and are ready to move forward in their career. This MSN program prepares students to become licensed as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in select states. 

Students must have a permanent and active license from a state that is not listed above, must complete the internships in that state, and intend to obtain initial APRN licensure in that state. See more state-specific information related to nursing licensure. Compact licenses must be endorsed by your state of residence. More about compact licenses.

How Much Does a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Make?

$114,510

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says psychiatric nurse practitioners make $ 114,510 on average. Psychiatric nurse practitioner salaries can range between $82,960 and $156,160, according to BLS. What income you earn as a psychiatric nurse practitioner is dependent on your years of experience and where you work. For example, a PMHNP who works in a major city stands to earn a greater salary than one that works in a rural town.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

31%

As the American population continues to increase, so does the demand for healthcare workers, which makes the job outlook for psychiatric nurse practitioners bright. The impact of the pandemic has left many with mental health issues, for which more and more people are seeking treatment. Specifically, careers of nurse practitioners with a psychiatric specialty are expected to grow 31% by 2024.

SKILLS

What Skills Does a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Need?

Psychiatric nurse practitioners need a range of skills in order to meet the needs of their mental health patients. As essential members of the healthcare community, nurse practitioners with a psychiatric specialty have skills that help patients and communities thrive. Some of these include:

  • Strong organization
  • Compassionate communication
  • Ethical decision-making
  • High range for empathy
  • Understanding of medication
  • Dedication to learning
  • Integrity and ethics
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Ability to work with all ages
  • Calm demeanor under pressure
  • Skill with diagnostics and tests
  • Attention to detail

Our Online University Degree Programs Start on the First of Every Month, All Year Long

No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

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Interested in Becoming a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.