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FNP vs. PMHNP

Ready to Level Up In Your Healthcare Career?
Get started on an FNP or PMHNP from WGU.

Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?

 

A career as a nurse practitioner can be fulfilling and stimulating. Within the field of advanced practice nursing, there are several specialties,, two of which are family nurse practitioner (FNP) and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). 

 

How do these two roles differ? And which one is the right choice for you? Explore the common questions below and consider applying to WGU’s flexible FNP and PMHNP degree programs.

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing and master's degree program in nursing at WGU are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org).

The post-graduate APRN certificate program at WGU is pursuing initial accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org). Applying for accreditation does not guarantee that accreditation will be granted.

What Is a FNP Program?

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) program provides master’s-level training and preparation for advanced practice nurses wishing to specialize in total health care of an individual or family, regardless of age, gender, disease or part of the body. An FNP program is for those who hold at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. It gives students added expertise and greater depth of knowledge relating to more advanced care, specifically as it relates to families.  

What is a PMHNP Program? 

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program prepares nurses to become certified mental health professionals. A PMHNP program teaches you to assess and diagnose mental health conditions, create a care plan, and prescribe psychiatric medications. PMHNPs may also lead group therapy sessions, provide physical and psychosocial assessments, emergency psychiatric care and treatment effectiveness evaluations.

Program Similarities

The PMHNP and FNP programs are both for those wanting to become nurse practitioners. They each feature MSN core training, which can include courses related to professional presence, leadership, and management. Often, there are also nurse practitioner (NP) core courses that are similar between the two programs. Students must be registered nurses with a BSN to qualify for these nurse practitioner programs.

Program Differences

While these NP degrees share many commonalities, there are some key differences. These pertain to the specified focus area of each respective degree. For instance, PMHNP students gain deep knowledge pertaining to psychopharmacology, while prospective FNPs may take courses on adult and pediatric primary care. The biggest difference is that these programs lead to unique careers. While one will get you ready to treat patients with mental illness, the other will prepare you to provide care in family practice.

What Courses are in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program?

  • Adult Primary Care for the Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Pediatric Primary Care for the Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Special Populations Primary Care for the Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Health Promotion of Patients and Populations Across the Lifespan
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Clinical Internship I, II, and III 

 

What Courses are in the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program?

  • Advanced Psychological Care of Children and Adolescents Across Care Settings
  • Foundations of Advanced Psychiatric Mental Health Practice
  • The Assessment and Diagnostic Process of Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Practice
  • Psychopharmacology for Advanced Psychiatric Mental Health Practice
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Clinical Internship
  • Advanced Psychological Care of Adults and Older Adults Across Care Settings
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Clinical Internship I, II, and III 

FNP Career Options

Completing an FNP program will qualify you for patient-centered roles in settings such as:

  • Physician offices
  • Private practices
  • Emergency rooms
  • In-patient settings
  • Outpatient settings

PMHNP Career Options

Completing an PMHNP program will qualify you for patient-centered roles in settings such as:

  • Behavioral health clinics
  • Addiction clinics
  • Psychiatric mental health facilities
  • Private NP practices

Programs at a Glance

Health & Nursing
COMPARE

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: It takes 2.5 years to complete the coursework and clinical components of this degree program.
  • Tuition: $6,525 per six-month term.
  • Courses: 16 total courses in this program.

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Leadership and Management
  • Adult Primary Care
  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Special Populations Primary Care
  • Advanced Health Assessment

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.

Health & Nursing
COMPARE

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: It takes 2.5 years to complete the coursework and clinical components of this degree program.
  • 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.

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Advanced Pathophysiology 
  • Assessment and Diagnostics
  • Behavioral health
  • Advanced Pharmacology

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.

Health & Nursing
COMPARE

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: This program can be finished within 1.5 years, depending on transfer credit and how quickly you move through core coursework. Please note the clinical components of this program are set. 
  • Tuition: $6,252 per six-month term.
  • Courses: 10 total courses in this program.

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Adult Primary Care
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Special Populations Primary Care

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.

Health & Nursing
COMPARE

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: This program can be finished within 1.5 years, depending on transfer credit and how quickly you move through core coursework. Please note the clinical components of this program are set. 
  • 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.

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Advanced Pathophysiology 
  • Assessment and Diagnostics
  • Behavioral health
  • Advanced Pharmacology

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.

While the choice between getting your FNP or PMHNP degree can be a tough one, the good news is both will help you gain valuable experience that can be applied immediately in a healthcare environment.

Why WGU?

Earning Potential

A PMHNP or FNP degree from WGU can dramatically impact your earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners make an average salary of $111,680 annually. For PMHNPs working in a hospital, the average pay is around  $124,660 per year.* Keep in mind that other factors can also affect the salary you earn in these careers, such as geographical location, and years of experience.


*BLS data

On Your Schedule

Competency-based education means you can move as quickly through your degree as you can master the material. You don't have to log in to classes at a certain time—you are truly in the driver's seat of your education.

Flexible Online Programs

The Coursework for the FNP and PMHNP programs at WGU are completed online, but both programs include on-site clinicals. Complete your coursework at night, after work, on weekends, or even while traveling..

"Absolutely the best school I have ever attended. I love this school so much I decided to go back for a second Masters degree. All the online information is easy to access and the professors are readily available."

—Jennifer Michael
M.S. Nursing - Leadership and Management (BSN-MSN

COST & TIME

An Affordable Master's Degree

By charging per term rather than per credit—and empowering students to accelerate through material they know well or learn quickly—WGU helps students control the ultimate cost of their degrees. The faster you complete your program, the less you pay for your degree.

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"Working a full-time job and having an extremely busy home life, going back to school after a 20 year break wasn't something that I thought was actually achievable. However, the ability to do coursework when my schedule allowed due to the flexibility of online classes, the extremely helpful instructors and the wonderful mentors at WGU, I managed to achieve my goal of obtaining a Masters Degree in Nursing Informatics."

—Natalie Snow
M.S. Nursing - Informatics (BSN - MSN)

Prepared for Success on the Job

*From a 2023 Harris Poll of 300 employers of WGU graduates.

100% of employers said that WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs.*

97% of employers said that they would hire another WGU grad.*

98% of employers said WGU graduates met or exceeded expectations.*