Psychiatric Nurse Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in psychiatric nursing. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Jobs are Available for Psychiatric Nurses?

Psychiatric nurses work with patients who have mental health issues. They may be a registered nurse, an advanced practice nurse or a nurse practitioner. Their exact duties may vary depending on their education level and specific title. Registered nurses may be involved in diagnosing patients and initiating a treatment plan. They update patient records and work to help the patient find strategies to manage their mental illness. They may also work with the families of their patients so that they can help their family member with their therapy. Nurse practitioners evaluate patients before treatment and then monitor their progress during treatment. Psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioners may be involved in diagnosing patients and may also prescribe medications as part of the patient's treatment.

Registered NursePsychiatric Nurse Practitioner (NP)Psychiatric Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP)
Degree Required Diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree Master's degree or doctoral degree Master's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing Nurse practitioner Psychiatric nursing
Key Responsibilities Administer medication; assist with therapeutic treatment; monitor patient status; maintain patient records Assess patient mental health and make diagnoses; prescribe medication and treatment; participate in individual and group therapy sessions; assist physician with treatment procedures Prescribe medication, participate in therapy sessions; assess patient status and recommend treatment
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as RN is required; board certification is available Licensure as RN is required; board certification may be required Licensure as RN is required; board certification as Psychiatric ARNP is required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses* 35% for all nurse practitioners* 16% for all registered nurses*
Median Salary (2016) $58,204** $97,697** $98,856**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Is a Psychiatric Nurse?

According to the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), basic psychiatric mental health nurses are registered nurses (RNs), while advanced psychiatric mental health nurses are advanced practice nurses (APNs) who are certified clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners (www.apna.org). RNs assess the mental health needs of a patients and then develop and carry out a nursing care program.

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) receive a higher level of education and training than RNs, so they assume more clinical responsibilities. NPs can prescribe psychotropic medications, while CNSs can prescribe psychotropic medications in only 36 U.S. states. APNs who hold doctoral degrees can teach at a university, perform research or work as a hospital administrator.

What Education Should I Obtain?

You can work toward becoming an RN by attending a diploma program, associate's degree program or bachelor's degree program in nursing. Nursing diploma programs are offered at community colleges and hospitals. You'll take basic to advanced nursing courses, depending on the degree level, and receive hands-on training through a nursing practicum. After you complete your program, you'll be eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

You'll need at least a master's degree in mental health nursing to become a CNS or NP. A Master of Science in Nursing generally takes 2-3 years to complete, includes a clinical practicum and provides a direct path to certification as a psychiatric NP or CNS. If you're interested in working in psychiatric hospital administration, you'll need a doctoral degree in nursing.

After you earn your master's degree, you can pursue certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which offers the Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health NP and CNS Board Certified credentials. Eligibility requirements include an RN license, a master's degree and 500 hours of supervised clinical experience in mental health nursing (www.nursecredentialing.org).

What Duties Might I Perform?

As an RN, you would be qualified to administer medications and provide basic care to mentally ill patients. You would judge what type of care your patients need by taking a medical history and observing the patient. You would also keep a medical log to document your patient's behavior.

As an NP or CNS, you would diagnose mental illnesses and provide psychotherapy to patients. You would keep track of your patients' medication dosages and determine the efficiency of those medications. You would also observe your patients' behavior to gauge the effectiveness of treatments.

What Salary Could I Earn?

According to PayScale.com, most psychiatric registered nurses earned between $46,013 and $80,941 annually as of January 2017. Most psychiatric nurse practitioners earned between $77,033 and $139,220 and psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioners earned $76,888 to $139,499.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Physician assistants and occupational therapists are medical professionals who perform tasks that are similar to those of a psychiatric nurse. They assess a patient's condition and develop treatment plans. They oversee the treatment plan and monitor their patient's progress. Physician assistants need a master's degree, and they may work in all medical fields. Occupational therapists need a master's degree and they focus on patients who may have a disability, illness or injury that is impeding their ability to perform routine functions. They help these patients gain or regain the ability to perform tasks such as buttoning their clothes or tying shoes.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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