Online Psychiatry Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online psychiatry school. Keep reading to get an overview of the program options, clinical requirements, and common topics offered for the field of study.

There are many important considerations for students hoping to pursue an online psychiatry education including the school's accreditation, available programs, the delivery format, and how it prepares you for certification.

How to Select an Online Psychiatry School

There are no online degree programs for psychiatrists, who are medical doctors. However, prospective psychiatric nurses can pursue an advanced degree to qualify for positions in education and healthcare through a partially online format. Online/hybrid programs in psychiatric nursing are offered at some universities and online colleges. These programs are aimed at registered nurses (RNs) and provide medical training that includes clinical hours in a hospital or health clinic.

Accreditation and Certification Prep

Students should find accredited programs that prepare them for professional certification, such as the Adult Psychiatric & Mental Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC) credential offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Award Level

Programs are available at the master's and doctoral levels. Deciding upon one or the other is a personal choice that is impacted by prior education and the regulations of the state in which individuals wish to work. Master's degree programs can generally be completed in about two years. Doctoral programs take around 4-5 years to complete and include a dissertation and a research component.

Program Delivery

Students looking for a master's or doctoral online nursing psychiatry program can expect to enroll in a hybrid program. These programs require students to spend at least part of the time on campus. This could be as little as a weekend or as long as a few weeks.

Online Programs for Psychiatric Nurses

Master's Degree in Nursing with a Mental Health Specialization

This degree program is rare and designed for licensed RNs who have completed a diploma, certificate, or degree program in nursing. The course of study covers the standard of practice for psychiatric and mental health nurses. The master's degree program includes a requirement of clinical hours that can be fulfilled in a healthcare facility or hospital close to the student's place of residence. The curriculum includes:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Ethical, legal, and health policy issues
  • Psych diagnostic reasoning
  • Psychopharmacology

Doctor of Nursing Practice in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing

This degree is a practice doctorate intended for advanced nurses who hold a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. Students focus on a variety of different approaches and applications in their field. They study advanced psychiatric nursing practices by examining practical applications of theoretical concepts within psychiatry.

Students may be expected to complete a research-based scholarly capstone project. The program also requires clinical hours, which students can apply to the requirements for one of the ANCC's psychiatric nursing certifications. Students participate in courses in:

  • Healthcare economics policy and finance
  • Biostatistics
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Neuropathophysiology

Schools with Online Programs in Psychiatry

Capella University is one option for students looking to find online education in a mental health field. Capella offers both master's and doctorate degrees in psychology in online formats, along with graduate certificates in applied behavior analysis and play therapy The doctoral program requires a brief residency period during which the student gets started on their dissertation. A bachelor's degree is also available for students hoping to take the majority of their education online.

The University of North Dakota offers a master's degree in psychiatric and mental health nursing. This program is fully online, but requires two one-week campus visits over the entirety of the two years it takes to complete the program. Some courses may be provided in a live format.

While no psychiatry programs are available in an online format, related degrees for psychiatric nurses can be pursued in a hybrid format. Students should consider a school's available programs, accreditation, and format before selecting a school to attend.

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