Best Online PMHNP Programs

Top 5 best bargain PMHNP Post Masters Certificate Online Programs

In School by WPPMHNP25 Comments

Have you ever wondered how a university gets the title “Best post master’s certificate psychiatric nurse practitioner online program?” For starters, you should know that it is not determined through evidenced based research.  The fascinating world of ranking colleges and universities is murky at best.  To find the best way to narrow your list when it comes to selecting a psychiatric nurse practitioner program, sit back and buckle up, because we are going on a fast ride to help you get up to speed.

To start, we are going to prioritize the cost of programs, and then overlay traditional quasi ranking methodology to help provide you some options as you search for the university that best fits your needs.  So here you are.  You have decided to go back to school for your PMHNP. You already have a passion for psychiatric mental health and you are aware that the need for psychiatric NP’s is enormous.

Psychiatric NP

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

It has been reported that 44 million American adults have a mental illness, while over 20 million have a substance use disorder (NIMH, 2015; SAMSHA). In 2015, an astonishing 44,000 Americans committed suicide (NIMH,n.d.).  Most Americans are completely unaware of these statistics.  Theories pop up daily, attempting to explore the root of our national mental health crisis.  Why are we in such a crisis, you may ask?  Is it over-exposure to social media? Chronic Facebook use  has now been associated with reduced grey matter volume in the nucleus accumbens.  Maybe it’s the food we consume?  There is plenty of research citing the reduction in beneficial gut bacteria from our over-utilization of antibiotics.  Or maybe our gut microbiome has changed due to mineral depletion with a side of Monsanto’s herbicide?  How about over-exposure to blue light, thanks to our nifty new smartphones, tablets, and computer monitors?  Each of these devices are decimating our nightly sleep patterns.  The simple answer is, we just don’t know…. We label things “multifactorial,” which is a fancy way of saying we aren’t exactly sure what is going on.

My point, however, is simple.  Job security for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners will likely outpace other nursing fields for the foreseeable future given the societal need and current void of qualified behavioral health practitioners.  Your desire to help others starts with obtaining the required credentials.  In other words, get ready to go back to school (again)!

This article will provide you with information on which is the Best post master’s certificate psychiatric nurse practitioner online program, with an important sub-note of the best bargain, with particular emphasis on “bargain.”  Please note, I am not ranking the “best” universities in terms of prestige or overall quality.  Nor will I explore what university is the exact “best” fit for you.  This article is solely for the nurses out there who are looking for the best deal.  We will also compare programs against each other in terms of the existing traditional ranking.  Once you have found the program that seems like the best fit, it is up to you to take the next, and often most difficult step.  Apply!  Anyone who states, “maybe next year,” is not going next year.  Maybe = never.  “We all have the same 24 hours, no excuses” (@Diddy)

U.S. News and World Report Ranking

There are many ways to rank universities.  For example, the U.S. News and World Report has an interesting ranking system that takes into consideration just 5 criteria.  First, they look at student engagement, then faculty credentials and training, next student services and technology, followed by peer reputation and, finally, admission selectivity.  What does all that mean? Let us break this down a bit.  So, let me ask you, did you wake up this morning and say to yourself; “I wonder about student engagement at school X?”  The U.S. News and World Report weighs engagement at at whopping 30%!

Furthermore, how do you measure engagement?  Engagement is dynamic concept that is like a moving target.  Each year, universities have an inflow and outflow of hundreds of students and “engagement” is constantly changing.  Don’t forget about the professors within each of these institutions.  If the best professor associated with the program is on sabbatical or out on FMLA how does that affect engagement?

Next, we have faculty training and credentials.  Most programs require their facility to be certified in the discipline they teach.  This is a good question for you to ask once you have narrowed your search to 2-3 universities.  “Do all of the faculty within the department hold the necessary PMHNP certification?

I personally don’t care if a PMHNP is a PHD, a DNP or holds the prestigious title of FAAN.  But I do care if he/she has some real solid clinical expertise to offer.  If they happen to hold additional titles, I respect that immensely.  But, truth be told, we all know a few professors who teach each semester yet haven’t actually seen or examined a patient in nearly twenty or more years.  They have become so entrenched in nursing theory that they have lost touch with current day challenges, technology advancements, and practice.

As a student, I want to hear clinical pearls and real-life stories that take me back to that day, that really messy situation in which tough clinical decisions had to be made right then and there.  I want stories that are fascinating enough to keep me engaged and prevent my mind from wandering.  I crave stories that make me pause and reflect on what, exactly, I would do in that clinical situation.  I want to be assured that my professor has real-life experiences, has been in the trenches, and that he/she understands what I am likely to face in everyday practice.

Moving to the third ranking criteria, we have student services and technology.  I’m not sure about what services you expect from an online program?  I can tell you this, however, I enjoyed my university immensely and the technology was, to say the least, mediocre at best.  The US News ranked the program I personally graduated from as excellent in the technology sector.  Maybe US news didn’t upload any videos on the portal I struggled with.  Even so, I still loved my program and I was able to overcome the small technological nuances.  I met some great people and some outstanding professors along the way and learned a lot about our great profession.  Life is always about the people and the experience, not the stuff around us.PMHNP Online Programs

Next, we have peer reputation. Peer reputation? How do peers know what they missed?  What if your peers all believed the earth was flat?  Not to mention, it is often difficult to establish personal relationships, or truly get to know your peers when attending an online program where you have minimal interaction with your peers beyond the virtual classroom.  Finally, we have admission selectivity.  I am curious as to how many students are rejected at each university nowadays given the power to virtually seat any online student who applies and can pay their semester bill?  While it is true that each university has their specific criteria for admission, it is up to you to seek this information out and only apply to those institutions that match up best with your particular needs and skill set.

I wanted to know 3 basics things when I first considered searching for the Best post master’s certificate psychiatric nurse practitioner online program .

Was the program accredited?

Could I finish the program in less than 2 years?

How much was this going to cost me per credit?

My second-tier questions were as follows:

How much onsite training or travel was required?

How many credits were there in total?

How do I find my local preceptors?

Now let’s poke some holes in my ranking rationale here.  First, I haven’t addressed the quality of individual programs.  This is a valid argument.  Quality does matter. I have a blind spot here because of my upbringing.  As a student in elementary school, I was never one to be classified as advanced, nor did I have the privilege to leave the classroom to go to that mystical place where all the smart kids disappeared to for 1 period.  I imagined they were all absorbing Jedi mind tricks in order to help lead us poor souls out of future danger.

Like you, I was not privately tutored or taught concert piano like some of the talented physicians that I have worked alongside with.  I graduated from a public high school. I started my career as a part time certified nursing assistant, working in a nursing home from the hours of 3-11pm.  I considered that as my first internship.  In other words, I might not appreciate what the pricey schools had to offer.  Whether it be campus aesthetics or a low faculty to student ratio, these factors were not part of my life and thus be aware of my potential bias here.

Best post master’s certificate psychiatric nurse practitioner online program when cost is not a factor

If you are looking for a graduate school based on rank, look no further than Johns Hopkins Post Graduate Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certificate program.  Please recall that the purpose of this post is to find you a bargain, and this school is not at all cheap.  That said, Johns Hopkins world class ranking, speed of program, quality and disclosure simply crush most other institutions.  This university is completely transparent about total costs, length of the program, and the admission criteria.  To give you a frame of reference for our comparison and ranking, the cost of this prestigious program is approximately $1600 per credit hour.

In searching for the program that best fits your needs, you will find that many universities will simply stall when you ask the most crucial question.  They simply don’t want to answer. The dialogue goes something like this: “Hi, I was interested in your program could you please let me know what the exact cost is per credit?”  The reply is initially an autobot and then the school responds with a generic message such as “Thank you Mr/Ms/Mrs. Smith for your interest in our institution.  We have many pathway specialties and programs available, which program is right for you?”  You then re-email the contact because you already know which specialty is right for you.  An admissions advisor will then attempt to schedule a phone interview.  Many universities fear you will move on once you hear what the cost per credit is (and they are correct).  So, they attempt to build a relationship with you first, hoping you can overlook the additional Benjamin’s it will cost you because you feel safe with your newly found friend.

Anyway, back to Johns Hopkins.  The admission criteria do specify a minimum GPA of 3.0 from an accredited college or university.  In addition to current licensure and certification as a nurse practitioner, they also want to see that you have completed at least 500 clinical hours in the NP role.  Prerequisites include Advanced Lifespan Physical Health Assessment, Advanced Pharmacology, and Advanced Pathophysiology.  The site does mention that students cannot conduct clinical activities in Louisiana, Oregon, and Massachusetts.

The curriculum is posted on a beautifully designed website in which other universities should really consider copying.  I was unable to locate a policy and role development course in the curriculum, but I wonder if the content is already built into the overall curriculum?  This would be a good question to ask if you were fortunate enough to be accepted into the Johns Hopkins Post Graduate Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certificate program.The World ranking according to webometrics at the time of this writing comes in at #4.  The U.S. News & World report Ranking for Best Online Programs comes in at #5.  The total length of the program is 3 semesters.

Cybermetrics Lab Ranking Web of Universities

So, let’s peek at a more robust ranking system.  The Ranking Web of Universities is produced by Cybermetrics Lab.  This research group fully discloses that they are not linked to any company. Furthermore, they state that they are a non-profit which uses quantitative methods to determine university rank.  Cybermetrics Lab ranks of all the universities in the world.

The webometrics rank methodology includes the visibility of external links, size of web pages, rich content (academic publications), and scholarly data from Google scholar, with respect to global output.  As we move along, I will occasionally mention “World rank.”  When you see this, note that I am simply referring to the webometrics ranking from the publication dated July 2017.2.1

As you can imagine, most folks will never take the time to glance at the ranking system criteria.  As I have mentioned previously, the methodology is completely different from one “ranking” system to another. That said, Cybermetrics ranks Harvard, Stanford and MIT in positions 1,2, and 3, respectively.  Although these universities are not ones that likely offer a post masters online PMHNP programs, I will refer to this exhaustive rank to provide you with another feasible benchmark of ranking.

Before we get to that, however, are you curious about the cost of the schools listed in the top 10 that Cybermetrics compiled?  Meet Jen, my friend from high school who went to a college that was named after a piece of cheese.  She borrowed over $60,000 dollars per year for a degree that she could have obtained at a local state university for less than 1/3 of that.  Interestingly, this college has a world ranking of 1441 in 2018.  Not terrible, but not impressive considering the price tag.

Don’t get me wrong, Jen’s college was beautiful.  Come to think of it, there is a ranking of the “10 most beautiful universities in the US” with Berry College in Georgia besting the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.  Oddly enough, recall that online teaching takes place in your apartment, house, living room, or office, and aesthetics are not a value proposition, given the virtual nature of the product. BTW…Berry College had a world rank of 3091 as of this writing.

From Jen’s perspective, she felt she got a great education at a beautiful school.  Wonderful for Jen, but make no mistake, Jen now has “significant” debt.  Sure, at some point, we must make a personal financial decision, but you should always ask yourself “Is the Honda good enough?”  Will this vehicle get you from point A to point B?  What is the crash rating of the Honda sedan versus the Mercedes sedan?  How many years does it take to pay off the Honda?  If I show up to the interview and they find out I drove a Honda will they care?

The second argument is how do you measure the value of your school in terms of how it affects your future employment.  Imagine if the final interview came down to you and another applicant.  Are they going to choose the other candidate simply because of prestigious schooling?  It’s very doubtful.  True, this could happen in Engineering, certain high-tech fields, or perhaps when weighing applicants at a law firm.  I have heard Yale grads are highly coveted, but I challenge you to find me one nurse who has been rejected from a position simply because her school was too ugly, poorly ranked, not fancy enough, or bargain priced?  BTW, I own a Honda and love it.

The best bargain for an online post master’s certificate psychiatric nurse practitioner program

*Please note that the actual costs of online PMHNP graduate programs will vary. Additionally, the rank provided below may also have changed from the date of the web retrieval. You should click on each university to verify cost and rank

#5 University of Cincinnati

PMHNP Online Programs

The University of Cincinnati has a reputation that is well known for consistently offering outstanding nursing programs.  The World ranking according to webometrics at the time of this writing came in #152.  The U.S. News & World report Ranking for Best Online Programs came in at #5.  The University of Cincinnati offers an online Post-Masters Certificate program which does require you to attend a 2-day orientation event located at their Ohio campus.  The total length of the program is equal to 4 semesters and the cost per credit is approximately $680*.  Important to note, the program does have a policy and health promotion course which may come in handy for the certification examination.

#4 Eastern Kentucky University

PMHNP Online Programs

Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) does offer some flexibility with their unique program.  Their website highlights “Multiple start dates, no on campus visit required and 8-week terms.” The website is confusing, however, in the sense that they mention “EKU’s post-masters family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certificate is ideal for those with current certification as an adult psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialist, adult psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, child/adolescent psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialist, or child/adolescent psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.” Many reading their site are likely FNP’s or Adult NP’s and EKU did not do themselves any favors by excluding most APRN’s here.  However, after contacting the university this statement is not completely accurate, as they also accept FNP’s.  The website has multiple programs and I was focused on the wrong subset.The World ranking for EKU according to webometrics at the time of this writing came in at 1549. The U.S. News & World report Ranking for Best Online Program came in at 39.  The total program is 4 semesters with a cost per credit of approximately $662*.

#3 Washburn University

PMHNP Online Programs

Washburn University has a program which admits student each fall semester and runs for a total of 4 semesters.  However, that includes 2 fall semesters and 2 spring semesters (as opposed to Fall/Spring/Summer/Fall.  Washburn boldly states that “Our graduates have achieved 100% pass rate on the Board certification.”However, the reader is not given total class size or how many years they have been up and running.  Like Johns Hopkins, there is no mention of a separate Policy and Role development course.  I would inquire if the Policy content is built within other course such as NU 858 which is titled Advanced Practice Specialty Focus Practicum.  The site does mention that out of state (Washburn is in Kansas) students are responsible for contacting their state nursing board to verify any requirements that are necessary to conduct clinicals.  The course work is described as “self-paced” with some classes meeting within a virtual format at specific times.  This likely supplants the in-person orientation event that many schools mandate during the first semester.  There needs to be an avenue for students to connect with their peers for future group projects and presentations, and this is likely how Washburn addresses this need.

The World ranking according to webometrics at the time of this writing comes in at #3564. The U.S. News & World report Ranking for Best Online Programs is not available.  Again, the program runs for 4 semesters with cost per credit of approximately $590*.  There are no travel fees or in person orientation stated on the Washburn website.

#2 Frontier Nursing University

PMHNP Online Programs

Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is a large, nonprofit university that offers an online post graduate certificate for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners.  FNU offers distance learning opportunities for nurses who desire to remain in their home state for advanced education.

To complete the PMHNP program at FNU, one needs 32 credits over the course of approximately 18 months.  The Curriculum consists of a “Clinical Bound” portion which is an intensive, skills-based experience at FNU’s campus location in Kentucky.  The purpose of this time is to further prepare the PMHNP student for upcoming clinical experiences.  FNU reports they have “10,000” preceptors throughout all 50 states.  The cost per credit hour is approximately $566*.  FNU has a course which addresses Psych Mental Health Roles and Modalities of care in addition to 17 other didactic and 12 clinical credits.

#1 University of South Alabama

PMHNP Online Programs

The University of South Alabama (USA) offers a “pathway” within the online MSN program for Family Psychiatric NP.  The University of South Alabama does require a 3-day clinical orientation on campus during the fall term.  They offer 3 or 4 different dates in September to accommodate students.  As with most completely online programs, you need to have completed a previous graduate level pathophysiology, pharmacology and advanced assessment course. The post Graduate Certificate is “designed to follow national certification requirements.”  Admission requirements include a GPA of 3.0 on all graduate work. Submission of a resume which shows 2 years of experience in an area related to the specialty track. This could potentially be a challenge for students looking to cross over into psychiatry with limited previous experience.  Applications intended for post graduate certificates are accepted in the spring, summer and fall, however, the curriculum officially begins each fall.  USA College of Nursing has been offering online programs for years and the faculty are well versed in this mode of teaching.  The World ranking according to webometrics at the time of this writing comes in at #1160. The U.S. News & World report Ranking for Best Online Programs = N/A. The total program is 4 semesters with a cost of approximately $566* for Web Course credit hours


What other Universities would you rate as the Best post master’s certificate psychiatric nurse practitioner online program?



    1. Author

      Hi Ann!

      Regis College has a webometric rank of 3610. I could not locate Regis College on the US news report. Do you have any information regarding the tuition?

  1. What post master’s certificate online FAMILY PMHNP program is best value, most inexpensive, with the lowest # of clinical hour requirements, and good professors? I’ve come to realize Regis may not be the best choice.
    Please email me your thoughts. Comparing Number of hours required (I have an FNP/MSN).

    1. Author

      Hi Ann,

      I have not heard anything about Regis. Regis might very well have a solid program. In this article, I wanted to drill down on cost and speed of the online PMHNP programs. For some students who are new to nursing, they would likely benefit from a traditional classroom setting. For experienced nurses or FNP’s, the online option is an affordable option that can accommodate one’s busy life.

  2. Does anyone have other suggestions on how to break into psych as an FNP? Are there any shorter programs that aren’t pmhnp certification, but would help you transition that way? I would love to be able to work in the field with a lower level certification as an FNP, before going for the PMHNP. I have 12 yrs nursing experience, (ICU, trauma, stroke, neuro IR), and now working on holistic cert & whole health education but I want to add a psych component. Ideally some certification would be great that pertains to mental health. Just wondering if there are any other avenues that are less than a year and more affordable to get me started? Thanks in advance!

    1. Author

      Hi Adrienne,
      I too, was hoping just to test out for certification purposes. There are no such options. You must go back to school if you desire the PMHNP board certification. Some states allow an FNP to practice under a collaborating psychiatrist without the PMHNP certification. I did this for 10 years prior to going back to school. The PMHNP online option works well for those who are employed.

  3. Are there any sites that give comparisons, reviews, and rankings for PMHNP PMC programs? I am currently trying to decide between: George Washington, U Connecticut, and Drexel. Any thoughts or feedback would be extremely helpful.

  4. University of Texas Rio Grande and University of New Hampshire. Cheap and Fast. I looked at nearly 50 programs and have narrowed it down to these two. I was accepted to JHU but have decided to go the budget route. I already have the big name degree for my MSN and really only need the hours to sit for the PMHNP exam.

    1. I also have a big name degree for my MSN and am wondering if it will really matter where I go for the certificate program. Thoughts?

      1. Author

        Hi Cindy,

        That depends on many factors including your personal finances, speed in which you need this by, current understanding of mental health and belief in the program you select.

    2. Hi there, wondering if you have decided between these two and any feedback on your experience.
      Thanks in advance!

    3. I believe UTRG only allows you to practice in some states (like not in CA). Is this correct?

    4. Wow thanks for mentioning those. Have you started the at UTRG or UNH? How do you like it?

  5. Hi..this is a great article, Thanks for posting it. Do you have any info on the UCSF Post masters psych program?


  6. Hi! Thankful to find this site. I’m a Masters Prepared Nurse Anesthetist in Michigan. Looking at a Post Masters Certification online program – time & price are important factors for me. I’ve been a nurse for 30 years & CRNA for 12. Wondering how my “lack of direct psych” experience (which I daily deal with these issues) and perform Ketamine infusions for treatment resistant depression will affect acceptance. Thoughts? Best program for time & money.

  7. Pingback: 5 Grads are certified as psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners 13 months after beginning the program - Johns Hopkins Nursing Magazine

  8. Can you go through bsn to pmhnp? Is Walden university a good school for time and money? I don’t have msn, but I was wondering if I can get my msn as a pmhnp. Would I still be required to get post certification? I like schools that are accredited, not required to come to campus, good school for time, and reasonable tuition.

  9. I’m a certified pediatric nurse practitioner in a very rural area. With limited referral options I find myself treating almost all my psych patients and want more education. Any idea if any online programs are geared toward pediatrics? I’ve looked and not been able to find any. Thanks! Love the article.

  10. I too, am looking for an option geared toward pediatrics as a PNP.
    Thanks, Andrea

  11. It is interesting that some post-masters PMHNP programs require applicants to be nurse practitioners whereas others only require that you have a masters in nursing — that masters could be in education or administration.

  12. Looking for reccomendations…Fastest online program for post-masters PMHNP certificate program for those of us with an MSN, but are not APRN certified? Thank you!

  13. Any thoughts on a WHNP going forward with a post-master’s in psych? I see so much postpartum depression and anxiety as well as in my GYN practice. Psych is a large part and I am wanting to expand my knowledge base.

  14. Hi, everyone. I am a new DNP-FNP graduate ; but I am so interested now in psych-mental health. I would like to start a program now (meaning Spring or Summer 2021). Any suggestions for programs? I am currently looking. Thank you so much.

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