Mental Health Nursing Careers

Working in the field of mental health is a challenging and exciting field of medicine that incorporates all aspects of health and wellness of a patient. The nurses in this field provide a wide range of services to patients and clients, helping to diagnose, treat and manage various mental and emotional disorders that can range from depression and bi-polar disorder to grief counseling, substance abuse treatment and even medically-based therapies. There are several options available to those interested in pursuing a nursing career in psychiatric-mental health nursing (PMHN), including as a Registered Nurse, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner or even as a Psychiatric Nurse.

A Registered Nurse can establish a career in mental health nursing after completing the NCLEX-RN examination process and gaining experience in a mental health environment. Outpatient clinics, hospitals and auxiliary treatment centers often need Registered Nurses to provide care to patients and families include investigating issues pertaining to diagnosis, provide case management services, develop care plans and facilitate the overall implementation of determined services and treatments.  These Registered Nurses typically hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a campus-based or online nursing school and can expect to earn an average annual salary of $40,000.

An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse working in the PMHN field can perform the role of Clinicial Nurse Specialist or work as a Nurse Practitioner. An APRN can have a more autonomous experience in psychiatric-mental health nursing, directly providing treatment to patients and clients, determining a diagnosis, counseling patients and families and even prescribing or diagnosing medication. The APRN in psychiatric-mental health nursing should hold a Master of Science in Nursing, be certified through the NCLEX-RN examination and have experience in a working mental health environment. The average salary for a Mental Health Nurse Practitioner can start at $60,000 annually.

Psychiatric Nurses typically hold a PhD, DNSc or EdD and focus more on the academic and research aspects of mental health concerns. Many times, a Psychiatric Nurse acts as a consultant within a hospital or mental health facility, often providing similar services as a physician in the same field of medicine. These doctoral-level mental health nurses are considered to be within the top-paying specialties of nursing, with many Psychiatric nurses earning an average of $95,000 annually.



Caring for the mental health of others requires a special level of dedication to the challenges that are faced daily when it comes to mental and emotional disorders. A career in psychiatric-mental health nursing can touch the lives of a wide range of people, regardless of age, gender or other demographic concerns. With a growing need for nurses, and a less stigmatic approach to mental health issues across the country, the field of psychiatric-mental health nursing continues to give back to the community, as well as the medical professionals working within its challenging environment.