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Mental Health Nursing Certification and Certificate Program Overviews

Explore the curriculum of graduate certificate programs in mental health nursing, which provide the training necessary to become a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. Find out about program prerequisites, certification and salary information.

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Essential Information

Graduate certificate programs in psychiatric mental health nursing are designed to provide practicing nurses with an advanced understanding of mental health conditions and psychiatric care. Many universities offering these programs provide students with the opportunity to develop individualized plans of study to incorporate their prior education and training. Students who complete such a program should ideally be prepared to sit for an adult Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) examination offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

In addition to completing classroom courses relating to mental health treatment concepts and practices, students enrolled in a graduate certificate in mental health nursing must also complete clinical rotations at a mental health facility.

Education Prerequisites

In order to be considered for a graduate certificate program in mental health nursing, applicants must submit transcripts from completed bachelor's and graduate degree programs, as well as a resume and letters of recommendation. Most candidates must also submit to a background check before gaining acceptance.

Program Coursework

Aside from the required clinical experience, much of the coursework included within a graduate certificate program for aspiring mental health nurses covers theories and practices in mental health treatment. Some examples of specific courses include:

  • Management of patients with mental illness
  • Psychiatric conditions
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Theories of psychiatric mental health nursing
  • Special populations and mental illness care
  • Advanced physiology
  • Psychiatric diagnostic reasoning
  • Individual and group therapies
  • Advanced health assessment

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of the more than 2.7 million nurses working in 2012, about 34,670 worked in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, and 92,350 worked in outpatient care centers ( According to, psychiatric nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $92,043 in November 2013.


The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certification for Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PHMNP-BC) as well as Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioners. In order to earn the certification, individuals must hold a current RN license as well as either a master's degree or post-master's certificate program in the field. They must also complete a minimum of 500 hours of clinical experience and pass a national competency examination.

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