Psychiatric nurses have a very challenging career. They must be prepared to manage patients with both mild and complex mental health disorders, and be alert to any deviations from their baseline. Because of the wide variety of mental health disorders and complex ways they can present, psychiatric nurses must be thoroughly trained and familiar with the care of this patient population to ensure treatment is leading to the best possible outcomes.

Psychiatric & Mental Health Nurse Practitioners are also highly specialized. They frequently serve as a patient's primary mental health provider, developing treatment plans and monitoring outcomes. Psychiatric/Mental Health NPs complete a specialty track while in school, but must still become certified upon graduating.

Why Do I Need a Psychiatric Mental Health Certification?

For nurses, obtaining certification may be required for a position in a mental health facility or department. Certification in this specialty demonstrates that the nurse is highly competent in caring for patients needing mental health services, and are experts in the field. Certification also serves as a professional accomplishment for nurses.

For nurse practitioners, certification is usually required for licensure as an APRN. Completing a specialty track in mental health is one thing, but NP graduates must still complete the exam for certification. It is also required for a position as a mental health provider.

Where Can I Get a Psychiatric Mental Health Certification?

There are a couple of options for nurses and NPs seeking certification in the psychiatric/mental health specialty. Certification agencies are as follows:

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) – For RNs

Certificate Name: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification

Credential Awarded: Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC)


  • Non-Member: $395
  • American Nurses Association members: $270
  • American Psychiatric Nurses Association: $282
  • International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses members: $340

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

Requirements for certification include:

  • Current RN license (or international equivalent)
  • Have practiced the equivalent of two years as a full-time RN
  • Have completed a minimum 2,000 hours of clinical practice in mental health nursing within the last 3 years
  • Have completed 30 continuing education hours in mental health nursing in the last 3 years

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) – For NPs

Certificate Name: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification

Credential Awarded: PMHNP-BC


  • Non-member: $395
  • American Nurses Association member: $295
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners member: $340
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners student member: $290
  • American Psychiatric Nurses Association member: $220
  • International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses member: $340

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

Certification requirements for Psychiatric-Mental Health NPs are as follows:

  • Current, active RN license or international equivalent
  • Have a master's postgraduate, or doctoral degree from an accredited psychiatric-mental health NP program
  • Have completed a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours in a psychiatric-mental health NP program
  • Have completed a graduate-level advanced physiology/pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology course. Courses must have included health promotion/ maintenance, differential diagnosis and disease management, and the use of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions
  • Have completed clinical training in at least two psychotherapeutic treatment modalities

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

Certificate Name: Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist

Credential Awarded: PMHS

Cost: $300

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

Eligibility requirements for this certification include:

  • Hold a current, unrestricted APRN license
  • Have current certification in one of the following APRN roles:
    • Pediatric NP-Primary Care
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Child/Adolescent Psychiatric & Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Psychiatric/Mental Health NP
  • Have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of pediatric developmental, behavioral, and mental health practice experience while holding an APRN license.
  • Have completed either 30 hours of developmental, behavioral, and mental health continuing education, or have taken one graduate-level course of a minimum of two credits.

*Note: this certification does not replace the certification needed for APRN licensure

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