Masters in Psychiatric Nursing: Degree Program Overview

Prospective advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who want to work with psychiatric patients can consider a master's degree in psychiatric nursing. Learn more about prerequisites, program specifics, and career opportunities for graduates.

Essential Information

Master's degree programs in psychiatric nursing prepare students for careers as psychiatric mental health nurses (PMHNs) who work to diagnose and treat patients with psychiatric disorders. Specialization options within these programs include forensics, substance abuse, and geropsychiatric nursing. In total, students can expect to spend three to seven years completing required coursework and clinical rotations, depending on their previous training.

Most programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in nursing and a registered nurse (RN) license. However, some schools offer special programs for students who lack one of these prerequisites. Students who have an undergraduate degree in a field other than nursing may spend their first year taking RN classes alongside their required master's degree coursework. They will also need to pass nursing exams. Students who have RN licenses but no bachelor's degree may begin the master's degree program by passing baccalaureate equivalent courses.


Master in Psychiatric Nursing

Psychiatric nursing programs train students to diagnose, treat, and provide preventative mental health services. Common courses include:

  • Nursing concepts and ethics
  • Nursing and health care strategy
  • Data analysis for advanced practice in nursing
  • Nursing theory in psychiatric-mental health
  • Theoretical foundations of nursing
  • Advanced practice of psychiatric nursing

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for advanced practice nurses was $98,190 in May 2015, and employment was expected to grow by 31% between 2014 and 2024.

Continuing Education Information

After obtaining a master's degree in psychiatric nursing, students are prepared to take certification exams offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Alternatively, they can pursue doctoral studies in nursing or a related field.

Current advanced practice nurses who want to specialize in psychiatric nursing without pursuing a second master's degree can enroll in a post-master's certificate program for psychiatric or mental health nursing. This program provides nurse practitioners with the skills and knowledge needed to care for patients with psychiatric and mental health issues. Upon completion, students can sit for state or national certification exams.

Master's degree programs in psychiatric nursing provide current and aspiring nurses with the training needed to earn certification as advanced practice registered nurses and specialize in the treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders.


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