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How to become a mental health nurse practitioner

Updated February 21, 2019

A mental health nurse practitioner, also called a psychiatric nurse practitioner, is responsible for patient assessment, diagnoses and prescribing medications. These professionals work with individuals who suffer from a variety of illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. However, before launching this career, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing, pass the NCLEX-RN test and complete a master's degree in nursing.

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  1. Earn a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). A bachelor's degree in nursing takes four years of full-time study to complete. Earning this degree will make you eligible to become a registered nurse. Contact your state board of nursing to find accredited nursing programs in your area.

  2. Register to take the NCLEX-RN. This is a national exam that nurses must take to become registered. As of 2010, the fee to take this test was £130. To register for the exam, contact your state department of nursing. Also, ask about additional requirements (each state has different licensing requirements, in addition to the NCLEX-RN).

  3. Apply for nursing jobs in the mental health sector. After graduating from nursing school, apply to mental health nursing positions. To find jobs, check with local community hospitals, universities and your state's health department.

  4. Enrol in a master's of nursing program. Mental health nurse practitioners are required to have a master's in nursing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Find programs in your area by contacting the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

  5. Apply to become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) in mental health with your state department of nursing. Each state has different requirements, but most will require an examination to test competency.

  6. Apply for nurse practitioner certification. In addition to becoming an advanced practice nurse, nurses interested in specialising in mental health should consider earning a nurse practitioner certification. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioner (AANP) offers certification to those with a master's level education. The fee to take the test is £204 as of 2010.

  7. Tip

    Consider becoming a member of the AANP. The cost for membership is £74; however, you get a discount on exam and recertification fees.


    During your undergraduate study, consider interning in a mental health environment to make sure this career is right for you. Working in this setting can be stressful and emotionally draining, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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About the Author

Nicki Howell started her professional writing career in 2002, specializing in areas such as health, fitness and personal finance. She has been published at health care websites, such as HealthTree, and is a ghostwriter for a variety of small health care organizations. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Portland State University.

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