Mental Health Nursing Certification and Certificate Program Overviews

Nurses looking to expand their skills to include knowledge of mental health issues can enroll in a graduate certificate program. Many universities allow students to individualize their plans of study to incorporate prior education and training.

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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. Students who complete a mental health nursing certificate program should be prepared to sit for an adult Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) examination offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Specializations exist for these programs in the areas of adult psychiatric and mental health, as well as family psychiatric and mental health. To enroll in this program, students will need to have completed a graduate degree and provide transcripts from their graduate and undergraduate colleges. They will also need to supply a resume and letters of recommendation, and will likely need to pass a background test.

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  • Clinical Nursing
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Direct-Entry Midwifery - LM, CPM
  • Licensed Vocational Nurse Training
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Assistant or Patient Care Assistant
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner or Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Administration
  • Nursing for Adults and Seniors
  • Nursing Science
  • Occupational Health Nursing
  • Operating Room and Surgical Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Public Health Nurse or Community Nurse
  • Registered Nurse

Mental Health Nursing Certification and Certificate Programs

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

Some examples of specific courses include:

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

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of the more than 2.7 million nurses working in 2015, about 36,480 worked in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, and 110,580 worked in outpatient care centers ( According to, psychiatric nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $91,298 in January 2016.


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 in the field. They must also complete a minimum of 500 hours of clinical experience and pass a national competency examination.

A graduate certificate in mental health nursing builds upon a practicing nurse's prior experience to equip them with the skills needed to better care for mentally ill patients. Professional certification is available for those with this level of education.

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