Best Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs in 2023 (Online & On-Campus)

Best Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs in 2023 (Online & On-Campus)

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Few problems are as difficult to diagnose and to treat as mental health issues, and more people around the world suffer from one than we likely know. It takes knowledge, patience, and time to help patients make progress, and the gains may come slowly. The difficulty of the journey makes the effort all the more rewarding for those who dedicate their careers to helping them. If you are curious about the inner workings of the mind and want to help people navigate the difficult, then consider adding training as a psychiatric nurse to your curriculum vitae.

Becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) requires post-graduate study to at least the Master’s level with some schools only offering the training at the Doctorate level. Once the coursework is completed, students take the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCCPMHNP exam to receive a certification that carries weight at mental health offices around the nation. In addition to the intrinsic value of helping patients or pursuing research, PMHNPs are highly sought after at hospitals and specialty clinics throughout the country. Psychiatric nurse salaries vary between states. The median annual wage for a psychiatric nurse practitioner is $52.98, making as much as the median worker in the nation would earn in a week of work in just 16 hours. PMHNPs may work in mental health clinics, inpatient centers, psychiatric wards, nursing homes, or research facilities.

If the idea of becoming a PMHNP sounds intriguing to you, the next step is to find a school that can give you the training you need to become certified and get hired. The following list compiles the best psychiatric nurse practitioner programs available so you can skip ahead from hunting for schools to picking the ones that you like the most.

The Best Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs in the Country

1. Union University

Union University is a private Christian university that has been providing nourishment to the mind and the soul for almost two centuries to students in Jackson, Germantown, and Hendersonville in Tennessee. The US News & World Report ranked Union University at #152 amongst all universities without regard for program or specialty and #201 amongst nursing schools for Masters. Union offers two paths for those looking to become a PMHNPa 16-month MSN track with a specialty in psychiatry, and a post-graduate certificate track for those who already hold an MSN and want to expand their credentials. At such an advanced level of learning and with  9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, your dollars get a respectable return on instructor time when needed.

  • Program Length: 16-months, 46 credits hours (MSN track), 29 credit hours (Certificate track)
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): MSN: $27,600 Certificate: $17,400 ($600 per credit hour)
  • Admission Requirements: MSN track – BSN, current RN license, 3.0 GPA over the last 60 credit hours, prerequisite courses: anatomy and physiology 1 and 2, microbiology, pathophysiology, and undergraduate statistics. Certificate track – MSN, 3.0+ GPA for last 60 hours, RN license, three professional recommendation letters, transcripts
  • Accreditation: CCNE

2. Shenandoah University

A private liberal arts school in Virginia, Shenandoah University is a smaller school with a total enrollment of just 3,844 for 2019. The school is affiliated with the United Methodists and is one of five such schools within Virginia. Although it hasn’t increased much in size since its founding in 1875, it has still made a name for itself as a school with accolades like a national ranking of #215 on the US News & World Report’s list of top schools in the nation. Shenandoah offers a BSN-to-MSN track with a focus on psychiatric mental health that can be completed in just a couple years with diligence. Students can take their clinical hours in typical clinical inpatient facilities or in ambulatory care settings for a variety of experiences.

  • Program Length: 51 credit hours
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): $44,625 ($875 per credit hour) plus $330 per term/per course clinical fee and $160-$160 per-term student services fee.
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with 3.0+ GPA, 3 letters of recommendation, current RN license, documentation of clinical hours totaling 2,080 prior to specialty courses, transcripts, criminal background check, drug screening,
  • Accreditation: CCNE

3. South Dakota State University

SDSU is the largest university in the state of South Dakota. The serene beauty of the rural location and the smaller state haven’t stopped the university from being ranked #129 in public schools and #226 against all other universities by the US World & News Report. Those looking to become a psychiatric nurse have a dilemma with SDSU since the only PMHNP program is intended for DNP students, resulting in a much longer program and overall higher costs in exchange for an even better degree. As a public state university, in-state residents receive a discounted tuition rate that greatly increases the value of the education to expenditure ratio. For the purposes of the rankings, the out-of-state tuition costs are used. Residents of South Dakota should adjust their rankings accordingly.

  • Program Length: 79.5 credit hours, 5 years
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): In-state – $46,893 ($589.85 per credit hour). Out-of-state – $70,806 ($890 per credit hour)
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with 3.0+ GPA, 1500 hours of clinical nursing practice, current RN license, insurance coverage, background check, interview, immunizations.
  • Accreditation: CCNE

4. George Mason University

GMU is one of the younger institutes of learning on the list, but it is a sizable school with a 677-acre main campus, three satellite campuses, 31,000 students attending, and ranking at #67 in the top public schools in the nation according to the US News & World Report. GMU’s mental health nurse practitioner program is a certificate for those who already hold an MSN, keeping the time and cost lower but requiring more education to qualify for the program. For in-state MSN holders, adding the certificate will cost just $12,972 for the entire program.

  • Program Length: 23 credit hours
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): In-state – $12,972 ($564 per credit). Out-of-state – $32,000.75 ($1,421.75 per credit)
  • Admission Requirements: MSN, transcript, letters of recommendation
  • Accreditation: CCNE

5. University of Wisconsin (Madison)

The history of Wisconsin and its university goes hand-in-hand with the school receiving its charter in 1848, the same year Wisconsin earned statehood. The public land-grant university has a massive 933-acre campus in the Madison location. The University is in the top 50 in the nation, #15 in public schools, and #106 in best value schools according to the US News & World Report. In addition to big rankings, you get to participate in the Big Ten Conference of Division I college athletics. The PMHNP program provides a certificate of training in 18 credit hours over 18 months with a blended online and physical curriculum intended for licensed RNs with an MSN.

  • Program Length: 18 credits, 18 months
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): In-state – $14,329 ($796.10 per credit hour +$641.04 in fees per semester). Out-of-state – $43,652 ($1,629.03 per credit hour plus $651.04 in fees per semester)
  • Admission Requirements: MSN from accredited program, RN license, a certification for an advanced practice nursing position or eligibility to apply, prerequisite courses such as pathophysiology and pharmacotherapeutics.
  • Accreditation: CCNE

6. Rush University

If you are a current BSN looking to go beyond a Master’s and get a Doctorate but don’t want to relocate or spend your time in the classroom when you could do it faster yourself, then Rush University’s DNP for PMHNP program is the perfect option for you. The online course will transition you from a BSN to a DNP while you enjoy the comfort of your own home or your favorite spot to enjoy a meal with free Wi-Fi.

  • Program Length: 68 credit hours
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): $72,488 ($1,066 per credit hour)
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with a 3.0+ cumulative GPA, 3 professional letters of recommendation, GRE scores, TOEFL if not a native English speaker, resume, interview with faculty. Preference given to nurses working or slated to work in clinical psychiatry setting
  • Accreditation: CCNE

7. Pacific Lutheran University

Despite its location in the thriving city of Tacoma, Washington in the last regions of the continental United States to be settled, PLU has been in existence since it was founded in 1890 by Norweigan Lutherans. Now, the school teaches 3,100 students in business, education, finance, marketing, fine arts, and nursing. The available tracks for PMHNP are the BSN-to-DNP, MSN-to-DNP, and post-graduate certification programs. Since other universities are ranked primarily by their BSN-to-MSN programs, PLU was ranked according to the BSN-to-DNP costs. The other two PMHNP programs are affordable options that are well-suited for MSN holders who might want to look for more information. If you want to see the world while you learn, PLU students are eligible for Study Away courses that provide credit towards your PLU degree while at one of the sister schools.

  • Program Length: 90 credit hours, 36 months
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): $101,250 ($1,125 per credit hour)
  • Admission Requirements: Current WA state RN license, BSN with 3.0+ GPA, experience in direct care as an RN
  • Accreditation: CCNE

8. University of Virginia

The namesake school for Virginia is an ancient institution nearing 200 years old with recognition as a World Heritage site. The institution of higher learning also has a heritage of delivering stellar education, earning it a #25 spot in the US News & World Report’s rankings. The downside is a low acceptance rate of 27% that may be a generous estimate when looking at a more advanced program in the nursing school. The PMHNP tracks are open to both BSN and MSN holders, and the out-of-state rates are competitive with many private university’s normal costs.

  • Program Length: 42 credit hours, 2-3 years
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): In-state – $29,680.14 ($706.67 per credit) plus $2,854 in fees. Out-of-state – $48,230.28 ($1,148.34 per credit) plus $3,536 in fees.
  • Admission Requirements: BSN or MSN with 3.0+ GPA, 3 letters of recommendation
  • Accreditation:  CCNE

9. East Tennessee State University

Nestled on a 366-acre campus in the forests of Johnson City, Tennessee, ETSU provides a public state university education to a body of roughly 12,000 students. The smaller school is on the list of the Best Southeastern schools for the Princeton Review with students appreciating the school’s effective education methods alongside the low cost for in-state students that comes in under $25,000 for PMHNP students. The school manages and operates seven clinics in the rural areas of northeastern Tennessee, providing valuable and affordable medical services to patients in an underserved area while helping nurses to gain real-world experience. While not directly related to the MSN program, ETSU holds a commendable 95% pass rate for first-time takers of the NCLEX-RN in 2016-2017.

  • Program Length: 41 credit hours
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): In-state – $24,067 ($587 per credit hour) Out-of-state – $58,548($1,428 per credit hour)
  • Admission Requirements: Current RN license, BSN or license plus non-nursing Bachelor’s and bridge courses, 3.0+ GPA, prerequisite statistics course, TOEFL for non-native English speakers.
  • Accreditation: CCNEACEN

10. University of Washington

Seattle is one of the cities paving the way forward in technology and culture, and the University of Washington has been molding minds as a public research university in the city of coffee and flannel since 1861. In addition to the main Seattle campus, two satellites can be found in Tacoma and Bothell if the bustle of Seattle becomes too much. The school is an R1 research institution that received over a billion – with a “b” – dollars in grants for research in 2016. The PMHNP training is restricted to a DNP program which you can enroll in as either a current DNP or if you are accepted into a graduate nursing program at UW.

  • Program Length: 93 quarter hours, 9 quarters
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): In-state – $81,918 ($9,102 per quarter, $880 per quarter hour). Out-of-state – $120,042 ($13,338 per quarter, $1,290 per quarter hour)
  • Admission Requirements: Current DNP or enrollment in UW graduate nursing program, 3.0+ GPA on last 90 credit hours, active WA RN license, three letters of recommendation.
  • Accreditation: CCNE

11. Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University takes its name from a Jesuit saint named Aloysius Gonzaga who gave his life treating victims of a plague in Rome of 1591. That spirit of selflessness and caring continues through the online University’s School of Nursing and Human Physiology. The school has earned numerous high rankings from the US News & World Report, including the #1 spot for undergraduate teaching and the #4 spot for regional western universitiesFully online curriculums add versatility to your scheduling as you tackle the coursework and clinical hours. If an MSN is not enough for you, there is also a DNP PMHNP program track available.

  • Program Length: 47 credit hours, 9 semesters
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): $63,450  ($1,350 per credit hour) plus $393 in fees
  • Admission Requirements: Contact the School
  • Accreditation: CCNE

12. Yale University

Yale University existed before the United States of America, and its educational quality has earned it the prestige of becoming a household name in any list of exceptional schools, regardless of field of study. The New Haven, Connecticut private school is a member of the Ivy League, and having its name on your resume can surge you ahead of your competition – as 5 US Presidents, 19 supreme court justices, and numerous other high ranking officials have had the pleasure of knowing. The nursing school offers many programs including an MSN for PMHNPs path for normal students and post-graduate students. The per credit hour cost is less than you might expect from an Ivy League school when compared to some of the other nursing programs.

  • Program Length: 50.5-53.5 credit hours
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): $83,640 ($1,576-$1,656 per credit hour) /$1,650 per credit hour for non-matriculated students
  • Admission Requirements: Resume, essay and two short-answer essays, transcripts from each college attended, three letters of recommendation, GRE test scores, TOEFL/IELTS for non-native English speakers
  • Accreditation: CCNE

13. Duke University

Duke is a private university in Durham, North Carolina who deserves as much praise for its nursing program as it gets for its basketball team. The school was ranked #1 by US News & World Report’s on their list of Best Nursing Schools and was their 2nd best graduate school for nursing. The PMHNP program within the nursing school brings those tools to bare on behalf of nurses who want to delve into the mind. Students receive training on the newest and best techniques at the Duke Health Innovation Lab and the clinical partners in the Duke Health network. Nurses at Duke, including psychiatric nurses, can contribute to research that advances our understanding of the body and how to help it succeed as we age and grow.

  • Program Length: 49 credit hours
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): $86,681 ($1,769 per credit hour)
  • Admission Requirements: GRE (waived with masters or GPA higher than 3.4), transcripts, 3 letters of recommendation, resume, personal statement.
  • Accreditation: CCNE

14. University of South Carolina

For many young students in South Carolina, becoming a Gamecock when they go to college has been a lifelong dream. In 2015, the College of Nursing at USC reopened its psychiatric nurse practitioner program, opening the possibility of fulfilling that dream to nurses seeking to help patients with mental health issues. USC is a particularly attractive option for those looking for the full college experience with dozens of sports to play, Greek organizations, and a vibrant cultural environment on campus and the city of Columbia.

  • Program Length: 45-48 credit hours
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): $91,287 ($2,028 per credit hour)
  • Admission Requirements: BSN, transcripts, RN license in South Carolina or intended working state, 3 references from MSN/DNP nurses or physicians, resume with personal goal statement.
  • Accreditation: CCNE

15. Vanderbilt University

A private research university located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt’s scoring on the US News & World Report should be particularly exciting to those aspiring to become a psychiatric nurse with a rank of 14 in graduate nursing schools and second place in the selection of Psychiatric-Mental Health nursing programs. Nurses who already have an RN license, a BSN, or an MSN can take distance learning classes from anywhere in the world, while those just getting started will need to relocate to Nashville to take courses and gain clinical experience.

  • Program Length: 36 credit hours
  • Total Program Cost (Tuition and Fees): $102,220 ($2,839 per credit hour)
  • Admission Requirements: 3.0+ undergraduate GPA, three reference letters from colleagues or supervisors, (for RN applicants) an AND from an ACEN or CCNE-accredited school and current valid RN license, and various prerequisite courses depending on education level.
  • Accreditation: CCNE


As there are no available pass rates for the certification exams to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, schools were ranked primarily by pricing. Each of these schools has received some form of recognition for its nursing programs and psychiatric nursing program in particular, so you can count on each to provide a quality educational experience that prepares you for a career as a psychiatric nurse. Both per credit hour costs and the total program costs were considered. Because the specifics of who is eligible for the program varies between the colleges, the ranking should be taken as a light suggestion of preference to help students research potential schools in an efficient manner, not a concrete tier list.

Help Refine the List

If you have attended or taught at one of the schools on this list, especially if that took place within their college of nursing’s PMHNP programs, contact us if you have additional information or feedback regarding the school. Your information may help illuminate the experience at that college or correct errors that help navigate future nursing students to the right school for their needs.


  • PMHNP Wages and Growth – Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • School Rankings – The Princeton Review, The US News & World Report
  • Student Opinions – Unigo
  • All other information was taken from the school websites.

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