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Mental Health Nursing Certification

Read about the education and clinical experience that trains mental health nurses. Get an overview of specializations and additional professional certifications in psychiatric nursing.

What Mental Health Nursing Certifications are Available?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that registered nurses account for the majority of healthcare professionals, holding more than 2.9 million jobs in 2018 (www.bls.gov). Because these nurses work in various health specialties and services, you may find credentialing or certification available which denotes your area of nursing expertise and experience. As a mental health nurse, you would work with patients who have mental conditions such as behavioral and personality disorders, or who need professional therapy for stress, grief and coping skills.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), one of the primary nursing certification organizations, offers the following five certifications within the field of mental health nursing:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Psychiatric & Mental Health
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist in Child/Adolescent Psychiatric & Mental Health
  • Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing
  • Family Psychiatric & Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult Psychiatric & Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification

Specialization AreasAdult mental health, child/adolescent mental health, family mental health
PrerequisitesBachelor's or master's degree in mental health nursing, previous work experience, relevant classes
Additional CertificationBoard Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work
Job Outlook (2016-2026)15% growth (for registered nurses)*
Median Salary (2018)$71,730 (for registered nurses)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Education Requirements?

The amount of education necessary to take a qualifying examination is dependent upon the type of certification for which you are applying. Certification as a mental health nurse practitioner or clinical specialist may require at least a master's degree in mental health nursing and professional hours working as a mental health nurse. You may also be required to take classes in pharmacology, health assessment and pathophysiology. Basic certification in mental health nursing may require a bachelor's degree, experience as a registered nurse and continuing education in mental health nursing.

What Other Professional Certifications are Available?

You may also apply for certifications beyond mental health nursing credentialing. If you are interested in social work, you may apply for Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (BCD). You will need a master's degree in social work and at least five years in the field. Some registered nurses choose to add this credential to qualify them for advanced practice in social work.