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Master of Science

Nursing –Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN to MSN)


Help Fill the Critical Need for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners


A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) is an advanced practice nurse qualified to diagnose and treat patients experiencing mental health challenges. The PMHNP program at WGU is an MSN program specifically designed to prepare BSN-holding nurses to become mental health practitioners. To qualify for this competitive program certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), you must have a BSN degree from an accredited university and meet additional admission requirements. Those wishing to pursue this degree should have at least one year of clinical experience and be actively working. View Program Snapshot.

NOTE: Due to the clinical requirements of this degree program, the PMHNP 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.

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.

Is the PMHNP program not the right fit? Compare our health leadership degrees here or explore these programs:

Students will earn this degree in 

2½ years*

It takes two-and-a-half years to complete the coursework and clinical components of this degree program.

*WGU Internal Data

Tuition per six-month term is


This includes tuition and all associated program fee costs. Tuition and fees are charged per six-month term.  

This is a highly competitive program.

Currently, WGU's psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner degree program is accepting applications from a limited number of students. The program includes consolidated internships, making it a highly hands-on and demanding program of study.

Next Start Date:

We have limited space. If admitted, WGU will grant a start date based on a variety of factors.


Psychiatric Mental Health Courses

The WGU MSN PMHNP curriculum is evidence-based, designed to help you become a compassionate, effective, and dedicated psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Credentialing from the ANCC helps ensure that the program is rigorous and will prepare students for real-world situations as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Courses in this program prepare students to assess individuals across the lifespan for mental health conditions, provide mental health care plans for individuals, families, and populations with mental health conditions, and to safely prescribe psychiatric medications. Graduates of the PMHNP program are qualified to provide mental health care in the role of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, to lead mental health and other healthcare organizations, and to serve on organizational boards in a leadership and advisory role.

This program consists of the following courses, which you will typically complete one at a time as you make your way through your program, working with your Program Mentor each term to build your personalized Degree Plan. As soon as you’re ready, you’ll pass the assessment, complete the course, and move on. 

You will complete your MSN PMHNP degree mostly online. Your program will consist of six online core courses that are part of all WGU MSN programs. We call this our “MSN Core”.

The curriculum includes nurse practitioner core and psychiatric nurse practitioner specialty online courses. Finally, your program will culminate with the clinical internship courses involving 650 direct patient care clinical hours in your home community, as available. 

MSN Core
Nurse Practitioner Core
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Specialty

17 Courses

Program consists of 17 courses

At WGU, we design our curriculum to be timely, relevant, and practical—all to help you show that you know your stuff. 

Field Experiences

Special requirements for this program

While most of your coursework will be completed online, your nurse practitioner program includes some requirements—including clinical internships—that must be completed in a facility near you, and the university will work with you through the approval process. 

“Our partnership with WGU enables our employees to advance their education affordably without interrupting their careers.”

—John Steele, Senior Vice President of Human Resources
HCA Healthcare

Why WGU?


Top accreditations mean that your nurse practitioner degree is respected by employers and peers. You will get a quality education that is valuable in the industry.


You can continue working at your full-time job or maintaining your responsibilities while pursuing your PMHNP degree. You don't have to log-in to classes and there aren't due dates. You are in charge of your degree.

Alumni Network

When you enroll in this nursing master's program at WGU, you join an impressive network of healthcare professionals. Over 18,000 students earned healthcare degrees from WGU in 2020 alone, and are hard at work, changing the lives of patients and impacting communities.

Accredited, Respected,

One important measure of a degree’s value is the reputation of the university where it was earned. When employers, industry leaders, and academic experts hold your alma mater in high esteem, you reap the benefits of that respect. WGU is a pioneer in reinventing higher education for the 21st century, and our quality has been recognized. 



An Affordable Nurse Practitioner Program

Low tuition makes WGU a more affordable option for your master's degree than most other schools. When you compare us with other nurse practitioner programs, WGU’s MSN-PMHNP program offers rigorous curriculum with competitive post-graduation results, but at as little as half the cost.

Note: The MSN PMHNP program may not be completed in fewer than 2.5 years.

Tuition Calculator
Pay less by completing your program faster

A Nursing Master's Degree Is Within Reach

There is help available to make paying for school possible for you:

The average student loan debt of WGU graduates in 2022 (among those who borrowed) was less than half* the national average.

*WGU undergraduate students have approximately half the debt at graduation compared to the national average, according to the Institute for College Access and Success (2022).

Most WGU students qualify for financial aid, and WGU is approved for federal financial aid and U.S. veterans benefits. 

Many scholarship opportunities are available. Find out what you might be eligible for.


An Online Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree Program Built for a Busy Nurse’s Schedule

Competency-based education puts working nurses in the driver’s seat of their education. As a busy nurse, you need a degree program that's more than simply online—you need a nursing program that truly reflects the realities of your work life and experience. At WGU, your progress is driven by your ability to prove what you’ve learned. And how quickly you do that is largely up to you.

Once you’ve mastered the defined competencies (knowledge and skills), you prove what you know through tests, papers, projects, or other assessments. Demonstrating mastery is how you pass a course, so learning what it takes to be outstanding in your career as an effective nurse practitioner is at the heart of WGU’s M.S. Nursing–Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner curriculum. Other universities' online M.S. programs may give you the convenience of distance learning; WGU's competency-based online programs take that flexibility further—many steps further!

"I learned a lot about doing research, which has helped me tremendously in my new position. You learn so much with this degree.”

—Jennifer Granger Brown
M.S. Nursing

The program will take 2.5 years to complete. Students who successfully complete the standard 5-term pace are committing an average of 30 hours per week to their studies. You can choose to complete the clinical hours part time, finishing the program in 6 terms or a total of 3 years.

Students must complete 650 direct patient care clinical hours. The standard pace of the program is to spend 3 to 4 days a week in clinical hours, until you total 650 hours. If you choose to complete the clinical hours on a part-time basis, then you will spend 1 to 2 days a week in clinicals, until you total 650 hours.


A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner MSN Prepares You to Treat Mental Health Conditions and Promote Healing and Improvement

Once you’ve completed the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner MSN degree program, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to be an outstanding mental health nurse practitioner in an in-demand field. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, nearly 120 million Americans live in areas where there are mental health care provider shortages. More than 6,500 mental health providers are needed to meet the current demand as distressing world events and a global pandemic have caused many to turn to mental health professionals for aid.

Working as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is a rewarding career focused on helping others. Through our PMHNP program, you'll be prepared to take your extensive nursing experience and transform it into patient care as a psychiatric health care provider. You’ll work with patients experiencing mental illness, substance abuse, and other mental health challenges. You’ll give care by conducting mental health assessments, by providing diagnoses, and by prescribing medication or psychotherapy. Graduates of this program will be qualified to practice in a wide variety of care settings as psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners.

Return on Your Investment


Projections indicate that employment of nurse practitioners will grow 45% by 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

—U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

WGU's MSN–Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Grads Can Expect Rewarding Careers

When you become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, you can work in a variety of settings helping individuals and families. This program can prepare you to sit on organizational boards or serve as a PMHNP in settings including:

  • Private mental health practices
  • Behavioral health and recovery facilities
  • Community clinics
  • Substance abuse and rehabilitation centers
  • Prisons and correctional facilities

WGU Grads Hold Positions With Top Employers

Hospitals and clinics around the country know the benefit of a master's degree from WGU, so your nursing degree is valuable.


Admissions Requirements Unique  to our M.S. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree Program

To be considered for this program, you must:

  • Possess a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN) from an accredited institution. NOTE: Students that hold an MSN will not be eligible to apply for the BSN-PMHNP pathway.
  • Possess a current, active, unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license from AND a permanent residence in an approved state. Students must complete the internships in their state of residence/license and intend to obtain initial APRN licensure in that state. Compact licenses must be endorsed by your state of residence. (The PMHNP is currently not available for students in Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.)
  • Submit a criminal background check through American Databank. Additional fees may apply.
  • Submit a professional resume or CV outlining your academic, professional, and service history.  
  • Submit an application essay. You must submit a 3- to 4-page student statement detailing your experience in nursing and explaining why you want to become a PMHNP. This document helps us understand your unique situation and personal goals.
  • Provide three letters of recommendation from: 

1. A supervisor or manager who directly supervised you in a clinical setting.
2. A professor, faculty member, or academic advisor who can provide meaningful input regarding your academic record.
3. A Board Certified practicing healthcare provider (APRN, NP, PA, MD, DO) who has served as a mentor or whom you have shadowed, preferably in the specialty to which you are applying. Note: A registered nurse cannot serve as the practicing provider for this recommendation source.

- Anatomy / Physiology I  w/lab (equivalent to 4 semester hours)
- Anatomy / Physiology II  w/lab (equivalent to 4 semester hours)
- Statistics (equivalent to 3 semester hours)
- Human Growth and Development Across the Lifespan (equivalent to 3 semester hours)
- Pharmacology (equivalent to 2 semester hours) 
Note: All courses must be awarded a C- or above to meet this requirement. At this time, WGU is not accepting transfer credit for the Master of Science in Nursing–Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program.

  • Have one year of clinical experience and be actively working as an RN at the time of application. *This requirement is strongly preferred, as these will be competitive factors in the admission decision-making process.

View the Program Snapshot

Download a detailed guide for the nurse practitioner program.

Get Your Questions Answered

Talk to an WGU Enrollment Counselor.

Safety Notice

WGU and the Leavitt School of Health are committed to the health, safety, and well-being of all patients, community members, and key stakeholders that interact with WGU students at various clinical/host sites. Interactions might include direct patient interaction, observation experiences, laboratory experiences, project development, or conducting research.  Standard compliance verification for students in applicable LSH programs is required to protect the public, meet LSH program expectations, reasonably assure compliance with state regulatory board requirements, meet WGU’s contractual and legal obligations with clinical partners, and support WGU’s mission to prepare students who will be qualified to enter their desired field. Compliance items may include, but are not limited to, background checks, immunizations, and drug screens as needed.

Due to the clinical requirements of this degree program, the PMHNP 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.

More About the Mental Health Practitioner Program

Most often, to apply for a psychiatric nursing program, you must be a registered nurse and hold a BSN degree. Those wishing to apply to the WGU PMHNP program must hold a BSN, reside in an eligible state, preferably have at least one year of clinical experience, and be actively working in the nursing field.

A psychiatric nurse practitioner’s duties may include:

  • Holding appointments with those experiencing mental health challenges
  • Keeping a detailed record of a patient’s mental health history and journey
  • Administering mental health assessments 
  • Diagnosing mental illnesses
  • Providing therapy
  • Prescribing medications

Yes. Much like psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners can prescribe medications. 

Generally, to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you must:

  • Be a licensed registered nurse 
  • Hold a BSN degree
  • Complete an accredited PMHNP program
  • Fulfill the necessary clinical hours requirement
  • Pass the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner exam 
  • Apply for and gain state-specific certification

The roles of psychiatrists and PMHNPs are similar in many ways, though the qualifications and pay scales are very different. While both can typically practice independently (with there being some exceptions and nuances for PMHNPs, varying by state), diagnose mental illnesses, provide therapy, and prescribe medications, the level of required schooling and expertise differs dramatically. Psychiatrists must have an M.D. or D.O. degree in addition to four years of psychiatric residency, while PMHNPs must hold the appropriate master’s degree and complete clinical hours and certifications. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for psychiatrists in 2020 was $217,100, compared to $117,670 for nurse practitioners. A PMHNP degree is a great option for those who wish to work with mental health patients but don’t want to earn an M.D. degree and complete many years of residency. While the pay reflects the experience level and is, therefore, lower than that of a psychiatrist, many enjoy a fulfilling career as a PMHNP.

A PMHNP is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner specifically trained and authorized to help patients facing mental health challenges. An FNP is a family nurse practitioner trained to attend to the basic health needs of individuals and families. What differentiates PMHNPs is that they’re authorized to provide formal mental health diagnoses and administer psychotherapy. 

No. While a psychology degree may be beneficial to your overall education and understanding of mental health conditions, the degree does not qualify you to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner. To become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, you must be a certified PMHNP. This typically requires first gaining RN licensure and earning a BSN degree. Then you must complete a master’s-level PMHNP degree program, finish clinical hours, and gain your PMHNP certification.

WGU is approved to offer federal student aid. You will need to apply using the FAFSA, which is used to determine your eligibility for aid. WGU’s FAFSA school code is 033394.

Scholarships are available for new WGU students and returning graduates. This video shows more about scholarship opportunities and how they can help you pay for school. Get information on:

  • How to apply
  • Eligibility requirements
  • Examples of scholarships
  • What happens after you apply
  • FAQs
  • Other financial aid options

WGU's tuition is a flat rate that is charged every six months. You can take as many courses as you are able in that six-month term—with no extra cost. You simply pay for the term and do as much work as you can or want to during that time. This means that finishing faster helps you save money—a major benefit you won't find at most other schools.