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How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners can be found in all mental health facilities and settings. These advanced-trained nurses diagnose and treat mental health disorders. While the demand for mental health care is on the rise, there’s a shortage of psychiatrists in the U.S. that’s growing worse every year. To fill this void, more people are looking into mental health and addiction medicine nurse practitioner jobs. If you’re interested in helping people recover from addiction and mental illness, below is a guide on how to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner that can set you on the right path. 

What Is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner?

Before choosing to study to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner, it’s wise to understand what they do. A psychiatric NP provides both psychopharmaceutical and psychotherapeutic services, meaning they can both diagnose and treat mental health disorders by prescribing medication and providing therapy.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in different settings, including:

  • Addiction treatment centers, like Banyan Treatment Centers locations
  • Community mental health centers
  • Correctional facilities
  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Hospitals
  • Private practices
  • State psychiatric facilities

In some states, psychiatric nurse practitioners work under the supervision of a doctor. There are other states that allow psychiatric NPs to work with some independence. Doing the latter lowers not only healthcare costs but also improves the quality of care.1

Guide on How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Considering their responsibilities, obtaining mental health and addiction medicine nurse practitioner jobs takes work, but the job outlook is great. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for nurse practitioners will grow by 30 percent from now to 2026.2 This rate is much faster than the growth rate of most jobs in the medical field.3

How long it takes to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner varies depending on how much education a person starts with in the beginning. The education requirements for psychiatric nurse practitioners include a bachelor’s degree and an advanced degree. They must also fulfill clinical requirements, certifications, licenses, and training.

Educational Requirements

The education required to become a psychiatric NP can take eight years to complete. Education requirements for psychiatric nurse practitioners are as follows:

  • Any additional advanced certifications
  • Bachelor of Science or associate’s degree in nursing
  • Master’s degree or doctorate in nursing
  • Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner board certification
  • Registered nurse license
  • State Board certification

A psychiatric nurse practitioner will usually start by studying to be a registered nurse (RN) and may move on to become a psychiatric NP by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The training and classes required for a BSN degree also meet the prerequisites for earning an RN license. Another way to meet these requirements is to complete a two-year associate's degree in nursing.

Following a nursing degree, nurses must then pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) to earn their RN license. They must also obtain all required local state board licenses. Nurses can then apply for a graduate degree in psychiatric nursing.

However, many people complete one to two years of clinical experience in mental health treatment first. Mental health care experience is recommended and sometimes required for psychiatric NP programs.

Then comes a graduate degree in psychiatric nursing, which can be a master’s or doctorate. Master’s programs usually take two years, while doctorate programs may take an additional year. Once a nurse has completed their advanced degree, they must become board certified.

Training Experience and Hours

A psychiatric NP needs to gain experience through training in the field. All graduate programs in nursing include supervised clinical hours in psychology to meet these training requirements. For instance, the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner board certification exam requires 500 supervised clinic hours before the individual can test.

Required Certifications

Nurse practitioner certifications are available in different disciplines and serve to show the NP’s expertise. The main psychiatric NP certification is the ANCC Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Board Certification (PMHNP-BC). This certification allows the NP to practice for five years before they must be recertified.

After passing the PMHNP-BC, some psychiatric nurse practitioners specialize in treating specific mental health disorders. Specialization can require additional certifications, which can elongate the length of time it takes to become a psychiatric NP.

Average Salary

Currently, the average salary for a psychiatric nurse practitioner is $102,000. However, salaries are based on experience, location, and setting, so salaries for psychiatric NPS typically range from $80,000 to $137,000.

Join the Banyan Team

Banyan Treatment Centers offer various job positions depending on the location. Our facilities offer various levels of addiction treatment as well as mental health treatment, and you can be a part of it!

For more information about our services and how you can get a job at a Banyan rehab, call us today at 888-280-4763 or visit us online.



  1. ScienceDirect - Nurse practitioner independence, health care utilization, and health outcomes
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics - Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
  3. Nurse Journal - How Much Do Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners Make?


Related Reading:

How to Become an Addiction Psychiatrist

How to Become a Drug Abuse Counselor

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
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