Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Career Info and Education Requirements

Psychiatric nurse practitioners require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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Psychiatric nurse practitioners work with patients suffering from mental disorders, substance abuse problems, and other psychiatric ailments. To become credentialed,they need a bachelor's degree in nursing and a master's degree in psychiatric nursing. Like all practicing nurses, psychiatric nurse practitioners need to be licensed in the state they in which they plan to work.

Essential Information

Psychiatric nurse practitioners, also referred to as 'mental health nurse practitioners', provide patients with full psychiatric care in hospitals and healthcare clinics. Specific job responsibilities include assessing, diagnosing and managing treatment of psychiatric disorders, medical-mental conditions and substance abuse problems. These professionals usually first earn a bachelor's degree in nursing and then pursue a nurse practitioner master's degree that focuses on psychiatric nursing. Nursing program graduates must also obtain state licensure.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in nursing and a nurse practitioner master's degree with focus on psychiatric nursing
Other Requirements State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 31% for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners*
Median Salary (2015) $104,740 annually for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Info for a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners provide advanced treatment to patients with psychological disorders. They're advanced practice, registered nurses who offer both basic and detailed forms of care. They assess patients' needs and develop plans of treatment, as well as assist patients with everyday tasks, such as eating, bathing and getting dressed.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners must be prepared to work with patients who are uncooperative, disoriented or aggressive. They must also be able to meet the physical demands of the job; this includes spending significant periods of time on their feet, as well as being immersed in a potentially stressful environment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the demand for nurse practitioners in general is expected to rise by 31% between 2014 and 2024 as the baby boomer generation nears retirement age. The BLS reported that in 2015 the median annual salary for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners was $104,740.

Education Requirements

A psychiatric nurse practitioner must complete regular nurse practitioner education and training, which generally takes at least six years of college. Those six years are composed of a 4-year undergraduate nursing program followed by a 2-year nurse practitioner master's program that includes psychiatric nursing. Nursing students take courses in topics like physiology, health and community wellness in addition to general education courses in the humanities. Many of these programs also offer specialized training in the field of psychology. Additionally, psychiatric nurse practitioner programs are available nationwide for current registered nurses who are interested in pursuing psychiatric nursing.


In addition to graduating from an approved nursing program, all practicing nurses need to obtain licensing. This requires passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN. Various state boards of nursing may have additional requirements as well.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners must have state licensure and a master's degree in order to practice. This level of education generally takes about six years and includes courses in anatomy, physiology, psychopharmacology and psychiatric disorders. Once in the field, psychiatric nurse practitioners treat patients suffering from a variety of psychiatric and mental disorders.

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