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Top 10 Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certifications

This article provides an overview of the top psychiatric nurse practitioner certifications available and their associated requirements.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 19 min read

Certifications are important for psychiatric nurse practitioners in the job market because they demonstrate a certain level of competency and knowledge in the field. Employers look to certifications as proof that an individual has the necessary skills and qualifications to perform well in a position. Additionally, certifications can help increase job security as they may be required by employers or organizations to maintain employment. Certifications also show dedication to the profession and provide an individual with credibility within their field.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the top certifications for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners and explain how they can contribute to a psychiatric nurse practitioner's career growth and success.

What are Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certifications?

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certification is a credential earned by nurses who specialize in the care of patients with mental health issues. A PMHNP is an advanced practice nurse who is trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse disorders and other psychiatric disorders. PMHNPs are qualified to provide psychotherapy, prescribe medications, order lab tests and other diagnostic procedures related to mental health care.

PMHNP certification can help nurses advance their career prospects and open up new opportunities for advancement. It can also allow them to expand their scope of practice as well as command higher salaries than those without the certification. Additionally, it may provide nurses with the opportunity to work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, physician practices, community clinics or private practice offices.

Having PMHNP certification also indicates that nurses have met specific educational requirements and have demonstrated competence in the area of mental health care. It demonstrates that they have acquired knowledge beyond basic nursing education and have attained the necessary experience to competently evaluate and treat patients with mental health issues. As such, this certification provides employers with assurance that nurses have sufficient expertise in this field to provide quality patient care.

Pro Tip: Make sure to research and understand all of the requirements for psychiatric nurse practitioner certification in your state, as they can vary significantly. Some states require additional coursework or examinations beyond a master's degree in nursing. Additionally, be aware of any licensure or professional organization requirements that may need to be met prior to certification.

Related: What does a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner do?

Top 10 Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners today.

1. American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) Board Certification in Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) Board Certification in Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing is a professional certification program that recognizes the knowledge, skills, and experience of psychiatric-mental health nurses. It is designed to demonstrate excellence in the practice of psychiatric-mental health nursing.

The certification process typically takes about six months to complete. To be eligible for board certification, applicants must have a current RN license and at least two years of clinical experience as an RN in psychiatric-mental health nursing. Eligible applicants must also pass an exam administered by the APNA Board of Certification.

To get started on the path to board certification, applicants should first review the eligibility requirements and application instructions on the APNA website. After submitting their application materials and passing the exam, candidates will receive their certificate from the APNA Board of Certification.

The cost of board certification varies depending on whether or not an applicant is already a member of APNA. The cost for members is $350, while non-members pay $450. Additional fees may apply if an applicant needs to retake the exam or if they need to submit additional documentation for their application materials.

2. American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Board Certification

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Board Certification is a voluntary certification that recognizes the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has met rigorous standards of excellence in psychiatric-mental health nursing. It is a credential that demonstrates an APRN's commitment to providing quality care and improving patient outcomes.

To become board certified, an APRN must have a current, unrestricted RN license and have completed an accredited graduate program in psychiatric-mental health nursing. The applicant must also have at least two years of clinical experience as a PMHNP and hold national certification as a PMHNP from either the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

The process of obtaining ANCC Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Board Certification typically takes six to nine months. During this time, applicants must complete an online application, submit documentation of their qualifications and experience, pass a written exam, and submit to a criminal background check.

The cost for ANCC Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Board Certification varies depending on the type of certification sought. For initial certification, the fee is $395 for members of the American Nurses Association or $495 for nonmembers. The fee for recertification is $295 for members or $395 for nonmembers.

3. American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification is a certification program designed to recognize the advanced practice nurse who has achieved a high level of competency in the field of psychiatric mental health nursing. This certification is offered by the AANP and is recognized as an important credential for those seeking to provide quality care to individuals with mental health needs.

The certification process typically takes about six months to complete, depending on the individual's experience and availability. It involves completing an application, taking an exam, and submitting clinical documentation that demonstrates mastery of psychiatric mental health nursing knowledge and skills. After successful completion of all requirements, the candidate will receive their certificate from the AANP.

To get certified as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, one must first hold a valid license as a Registered Nurse (RN). The applicant must also have completed at least 500 hours of supervised clinical practice in psychiatric mental health nursing within three years prior to applying for certification. Additionally, applicants must complete 30 contact hours of continuing education related to psychiatric mental health nursing within two years prior to applying for certification.

The cost for taking the exam varies depending on when it is taken; however, it typically ranges from $250-$400 USD. There may also be additional fees associated with submitting applications and documents required for certification.

4. National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) Psychiatry-Mental Health Certificate

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) Psychiatry-Mental Health Certificate is a certification program designed to recognize physician assistants who have demonstrated the knowledge and skills necessary to practice psychiatry-mental health. The certification is valid for five years and requires recertification every five years.

To become certified, applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:

* Be a graduate of an accredited Physician Assistant Program

* Have a current, unrestricted license to practice as a Physician Assistant in at least one U.S. jurisdiction

* Have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in psychiatry-mental health within the last five years

* Pass the NCCPA Psychiatry-Mental Health Certification Exam

The cost of the NCCPA Psychiatry-Mental Health Certificate is $500 for the initial application fee and $450 for each recertification cycle. The exam fee is $475 per attempt. Applicants must also pay any applicable state or local taxes, if required.

The entire process usually takes about six months from start to finish, including completing all paperwork and taking the exam.

5. International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN) Certified Clinical Mental Health Nurse

The International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN) Certified Clinical Mental Health Nurse is a certification that recognizes the advanced knowledge and expertise of mental health nurses in providing comprehensive care to individuals with mental health disorders. This certification is awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which is part of the American Nurses Association (ANA).

To be eligible for this certification, applicants must have an active RN license and at least two years of full-time experience as a psychiatric-mental health nurse within the last five years. In addition, applicants must also possess a minimum of 2,000 hours of direct clinical practice in psychiatric-mental health nursing within the past three years.

The application process involves submitting an application packet to ANCC along with required documentation such as transcripts and verification of licensure. Once approved, applicants will be required to take and pass an exam administered by ANCC. The exam consists of 175 multiple choice questions covering topics such as assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning and implementation, evaluation, collaboration and consultation, ethical decision making, professional practice issues, research utilization and quality improvement activities.

The cost for this certification is $395 USD for members of ISPN or $495 USD for non-members. It typically takes 4-6 weeks to receive your results after taking the exam.

6. American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification is a voluntary certification that recognizes nurse practitioners who have achieved a high level of expertise in delivering primary care to adult and elderly patients. This certification is designed to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to provide comprehensive patient-centered care to adults and geriatric patients.

To earn this certification, nurse practitioners must complete an accredited graduate program in advanced practice nursing, hold an active license as a registered nurse or advanced practice nurse in their state of practice, and be certified in basic life support. Additionally, applicants must have completed at least 500 hours of supervised clinical experience in adult/gerontology primary care within the past three years.

Once these requirements are met, nurse practitioners can apply for the AANP Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification exam. The exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as pharmacology; physical assessment; health promotion; disease prevention; diagnosis and management of acute and chronic conditions; professional issues; and ethical considerations related to adult/gerontological primary care. Applicants must pass the exam with a score of at least 500 out of 800 points.

The cost for the AANP Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification exam is $395 for AANP members or $495 for non-members. The exam typically takes about four hours to complete, but this may vary depending on individual test takers’ ability levels and preparation.

7. American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) Certified Clinical Specialist in Mental Health Nursing

The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) Certified Clinical Specialist in Mental Health Nursing (CCSMHN) is a specialty certification that recognizes nurses who have achieved advanced knowledge and expertise in the field of mental health nursing. This certification is designed to recognize nurses who provide evidence-based care to patients with mental health needs, including those with depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and other psychiatric conditions.

This certification requires a minimum of two years of experience as a registered nurse in the area of mental health nursing. In order to be eligible for the CCSMHN exam, nurses must have completed an accredited graduate program in mental health nursing or hold an AACN Certification Corporation approved specialty certificate in mental health nursing.

The CCSMHN exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately four hours to complete. The exam covers topics such as pharmacology, assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning and interventions, legal/ethical considerations, research/evidence-based practice, and professional development.

To obtain the CCSMHN certification, nurses must pass the exam with a score of at least 70%. After passing the exam, nurses will receive their CCSMHN certification from AACN Certification Corporation.

The cost for taking the CCSMHN exam is $395 for AACN members and $495 for non-members.

8. National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Licensed Professional Counselor - Mental Health

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Licensed Professional Counselor - Mental Health credential is a professional certification that demonstrates a counselor’s commitment to providing quality mental health services. It is designed to recognize counselors who have met the highest standards of practice and have demonstrated their knowledge, skills, and abilities in the field of mental health counseling.

In order to become an NBCC Licensed Professional Counselor - Mental Health, individuals must first complete a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited program. They must then pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) administered by the NBCC. This exam tests an individual’s knowledge of professional counseling principles and practices as well as their ability to apply those principles in clinical settings.

Once they have passed the NCMHCE, applicants must then submit an application for licensure with the NBCC and provide proof of their master’s degree, transcripts, and other required documents. The application process can take up to several months depending on the state where they are applying.

The cost of obtaining an NBCC Licensed Professional Counselor - Mental Health credential varies depending on the state where you are applying. In general, it can range from $200-$500 for the initial application fee plus additional fees for any required exams or continuing education courses that may be necessary for renewal.

9. American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) Advanced Practice Registered Nurse in Women's Mental Health

The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) Advanced Practice Registered Nurse in Women's Mental Health is a certification program designed to equip nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to provide comprehensive mental health care for women. This certification is open to registered nurses who are certified as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

To obtain this certification, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have an active APRN license
  • Have at least two years of experience in providing mental health services to women
  • Hold a master’s degree or higher in nursing or a related field
  • Successfully complete an ACNM-approved course of study in women’s mental health
  • Pass the ACNM Women’s Mental Health Certification Exam

The course of study typically takes between one and two years to complete, depending on your current level of education and experience. The cost of the program will vary depending on the institution offering it, but generally ranges from $2,000-$4,000.

10. Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) Certified Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) Certified Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certification is a voluntary credential for nurse practitioners who specialize in family psychiatric and mental health care. This certification is designed to ensure that PMHNPs have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to provide safe and effective care to individuals with mental health issues. The certification requires that the practitioner has completed an accredited graduate program in nursing, passed the national PMHNP certification examination, and met additional requirements as set forth by CCNE.

In order to become CCNE certified, a nurse practitioner must first complete an accredited graduate program in nursing. Once this requirement is met, the individual must pass the national PMHNP certification exam administered by either American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). After passing the exam, applicants must submit proof of their educational background as well as evidence of at least 500 hours of supervised clinical practice in family psychiatric and mental health care within the past three years.

The cost of becoming CCNE certified varies depending on the provider chosen for testing and other related costs such as application fees and study materials. Generally speaking, it can range from $400-$800. Additionally, there is a fee associated with renewing one’s certification every five years which typically runs around $200-$300.

Overall, becoming CCNE certified can take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year depending on how quickly an individual completes their requirements.

Do You Really Need a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certificate?

Whether or not you need a psychiatric nurse practitioner certificate depends on what your professional goals are. If you want to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, then the answer is yes, you do need a certificate. However, if you plan to pursue another type of career in the mental health field, such as counseling or social work, then the answer is no.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners have specialized training and education that allows them to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. In order to become certified as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, one must complete an accredited master’s degree program in nursing and pass a national certification exam. This certification is necessary for providing care in many states.

A psychiatric nurse practitioner certificate can open up many doors for those looking to make a career out of caring for people with mental health issues. With this certification, you can provide direct patient care, prescribe medications, and help patients manage their symptoms through therapy and other interventions. You may also be able to specialize in certain areas such as child and adolescent psychiatry or geriatric psychiatry.

In conclusion, whether or not you need a psychiatric nurse practitioner certificate depends on your professional goals. If you are interested in becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner then the answer is yes; however, if your goal is something else within the mental health field then it may not be necessary.

Related: Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Resume Examples

FAQs About Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certifications

1. What qualifications are needed to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner?

A: To become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you must hold a master's degree in nursing and be certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Additionally, some states may require additional certifications or licensing.

2. How long does it take to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner?

A: The time it takes to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner depends on the individual's educational background and current credentials. Generally, it takes approximately two to three years of full-time study after obtaining an RN license to complete the necessary coursework and clinical experience required for certification.

3. What is the difference between a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a psychologist?

A: While both professions provide mental health care services, there are key differences between them. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are registered nurses with advanced training in psychopharmacology and mental health assessment who can diagnose and treat mental illness with medication as well as provide counseling services. Psychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology and focus on psychological assessment, diagnosis, and therapy through talk therapy.

4. Is continuing education required for psychiatric nurse practitioners?

A: Yes, continuing education is required for all licensed healthcare professionals including psychiatric nurse practitioners. Depending on state regulations, this may include courses on topics such as evidence-based practice, ethics, pharmacology updates, etc., which must be completed every two years in order to maintain certification status.

5. Are there any online programs available for becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner?

A: Yes, there are several accredited online programs available that offer graduate-level coursework necessary for becoming certified as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. These programs typically include courses such as evidence-based practice, pharmacology updates, therapeutic interventions, etc., which must be completed in order to meet certification requirements.