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.

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 Growth34% for all nurse practitioners from 2012-2022*
Median Salary (September 2014) $88,441 annually**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

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 34% between 2012 and 2022 as the baby boomer generation nears retirement age ( reported in September 2014 that psychiatric nurse practitioners earned a median wage of $88,441.

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.

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