How to Choose the Best Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Degree?

This article has information about psychiatric nurse practitioner degrees, and how you can choose the best one for you. We also provide helpful information about quality online psychiatric nurse practitioner degrees that are worth your consideration.

What Is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Degree?

A psychiatric nurse practitioner (NP) degree is a Master of Science in Nursing degree that results in your becoming a nurse practitioner in psychiatric nursing. This is a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who can carry out many of the same duties as a regular doctor or psychiatrist.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners work with individual clients, groups and families and assess and treat their mental health problems. This special type of graduate nursing degree with provide you with the skills to develop a nursing diagnosis for your patients, come up with a plan of care, implement it and then check for effectiveness.

Psychiatric NPs provide primary care services to all types of psychiatric and mental health patients. They develop skills in their MSN program so that they can assess, diagnose and treat people with various psychiatric disorders. Many psychiatric NPs often graduate with their MSN and eventually work in their own private practice in some states, or may work under the supervision of a psychiatrist.

All psychiatric NP degrees will provide you with the mental health promotion and mental health treatment skills to provide help to all populations of patients. But there are some degrees that will offer subspecialties, such as adolescent mental health nursing, gerontological-psychiatric nursing, forensics and substance abuse. Some NPs in this field will provide consultation services to patients and families who have several mental health problems.

Why Earn a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Degree?

The demand for health care services in the United States is rising very quickly as people are living longer. Also, technological advances in healthcare mean that there are more advanced healthcare treatments for many different medical conditions today that did not exist decades ago.

While there is much more demand for healthcare services, not all of these treatments necessarily need to be provided by doctors. Physicians are highly skilled but they are expensive to the healthcare system and to patients.

There are many health care treatments and consultations that can often be handled by well trained health care professionals such as nurse practitioners. These health care workers have generally been shown to provide the same level of service as doctors in most situations.

Overall, the higher demand for healthcare services is leading to a very rapid growth in demand for APRNs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for all nurse practitioners, including psychiatric NPs, will soar by 35% by 2024. This is a very rapid level of growth that is rarely seen outside of the healthcare field.

Psychiatric NPs will be needed to provide both preventative and primary care. They are especially needed in doctors’ offices, clinics and various other ambulatory care centers.

Elderly Americans also will likely be in need of added psychiatric care services over time, to help them to deal with the problems and challenges of aging.

The high level of demand for nurse practitioners means that most NPs will have their choice of positions, and they can opt for positions with the highest salaries. As of 2016, the median wage for all nurse practitioners according to BLS is $100,900. That source also states that the following workplaces have the highest median salaries:

  • Hospitals: $114,000
  • Outpatient care: $107,000
  • Doctors’ offices: $105,000
  • Health care practitioner offices: $102,000
  • Educational services: $98,000

Online Degree Options

Today you have the option of earning your Master of Science in Nursing online so that you can continue to work at least part time in some cases, and earn your degree from the comfort of your own home.

A quality and accredited option to consider is the Master of Science in Nursing in Psychiatric Mental Health at Drexel University. This two year program has been crafted to prepare RNs to offer a variety of mental health services and programs across the entire lifespan. The program includes the study and application of diagnostic and treatment modalities, theories and ways of practice.

Students learn collaborative skills so they can work effectively with other healthcare professionals to provide mental healthcare services in hospitals, doctors’ offices and more. The program also enables the student to provide direct and indirect advanced psychiatric care to those who are in most need of mental health services.

This program has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or CCNE. This means that the program has met the highest standards of quality in the nursing education profession. It also features live, synchronous online lectures that provide you with a very interactive learning format where you have the opportunity to directly interact with other students and your professors.

This program, like many online MSN degrees, will require you to visit the campus several times so that you can take your clinical courses. Each clinical course takes two or three days and they occur in the second and third year of the program.

After you have completed the degree program, you will be eligible to sit for the psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner certification examination that is offered by the ANCC.

Some of the courses that you will take include:

  • Confronting Issues in Contemporary Health Care Environments
  • Advanced Ethical Decision Making in Health Care
  • Research Methods and Biostatistics
  • Quality and Safety in Healthcare
  • Evaluation and Translation of Health Research
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Clinical Assessment & Diagnostic Reasoning Across the Lifespan
  • Psychopharmacology Across the Lifespan
  • Professional Issues for Nurse Practitioners
  • Advanced Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Theoretical Foundations and Psychopathology I

To be considered for admission, you are required to have a BSN degree from an accredited university, as well as a 3.0 GPA or higher in your undergraduate work.

Other requirements for admission include:

  • Official transcripts
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • At least one year of psychiatric nursing experience
  • Personal statement of up to 1000 words about why you want to work as a psychiatric NP
  • Resume that details your psychiatric nursing experience

Note that the above degree is for a current registered nurse who already has a bachelor of science in nursing. If you do not have a bachelor of science in nursing, you can opt to attend what is often called a ‘direct entry’ MSN program. This is typically a four year program that will lead to both a bachelor’s and master’s of nursing degree. A direct entry program can save you a lot of time over earning both degrees separately.


We recommend that the psychiatric NP degree that you are considering should be accredited by a respected institution in the nursing education field. At this time, the primary accrediting body in this field is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or CCNE.

A CCNE accreditation seal of approval on a nursing program means that it has met very high quality standards. You can be assured that the program will teach you everything that you need to be a successful nurse practitioner in the field of psychiatry.

As noted earlier, the recommended Drexel University program is accredited by the CCNE.


Nursing professionals who decide to earn their Master of Science in Nursing so they can become a psychiatric nurse practitioner are making a wise career choice. This is a rapidly growing profession with many jobs available, and the median salary for NPs today is $100,000 or more.

Being a psychiatric NP offers a superior combination of salary, interesting work, high job demand and the personal satisfaction that comes with helping others deal with their life challenges and mental health conditions.