Top 8 Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

The job market for psychiatric nurse practitioners is hot, hot, hot right now making it the perfect time to consider attending a psychiatric NP program. Thanks to changes in mental health coverage under healthcare reform there are now more opportunities for psychiatric nurse practitioners than ever before. In keeping with the demand for NPs, many schools offer excellent psychiatric nurse practitioner programs preparing students well for practice. 

In the search for the nation’s best psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner programs, we at ThriveAP took a practical approach to the process. We asked programs what percentage of their graduates pass the national nurse practitioner certification to gauge program quality. To assess how well schools prepare students for the real-world, we asked what percentage of graduates find jobs within a few months of graduation. And, finally, as a measure of the ease of student’s experience we asked psych NP programs how they approach the clinical experience. Choosing a program that places students in clinical sites rather than leaving students to find clinical preceptors on their own is usually your best option as a student. Finding your own clinical placement can be stressful not to mention delay graduation.

We gathered this information for the nation’s top schools narrowing our list down to just a few of the best programs. Here are our picks for the top psychiatric nurse practitioner programs.

1. Vanderbilt University

Certification Pass Rate: 100%  Job Placement Rate: 100%

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The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing houses one of the few online psychiatric nurse practitioner programs in the country. The program is offered in what the school terms a “modified block learning format” so students can maintain employment while obtaining a nurse practitioner degree. Not only is the school innovative in the delivery of its psych NP program, students enjoy a 100 percent pass rate on the nurse practitioner certification exam and a 100 percent job placement rate within a few months of graduation from the program.

2. Oregon Health and Science University

Certification Pass Rate: 100%  Job Placement Rate: 100%

Oregon Health and Science University’s psychiatric nurse practitioner program offers flexibility when it comes to becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Students may complete the program full-time with the accelerated bachelor to master’s program, or may complete the program in a more traditional timeframe. Aspiring nurse practitioners have the option to complete either an MSN or DNP degree. The program is not offered online. When it comes to OHSU’s psychiatric NP program, statistics stand out. Graduates of OHSU’s psychiatric nurse practitioner program have enjoyed a 100 percent job placement rate upon graduation since 2006.

3. University of Virginia

Certification Pass Rate: 100%  Job Placement Rate: 100%

The overall quality of the University of Virginia’s nurse practitioner programs is not compromised when it comes to educating psychiatric NPs. Graduates of UVA’s psychiatric nurse practitioner program boast a 100 percent pass rate on the national certification exam. Not only do graduates fare well, the student experience is a focus at the University of Virginia. Admissions staff say that with new certification requirements for psychiatric NPs locating clinical placements has become tricky. Psych NP programs now cover the whole lifespan necessitating multiple clinical sites throughout the program. So, University of Virginia faculty locate clinical sites for students ensuring a streamlined clinical experience.

4. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Certification Pass Rate: 100%  Job Placement Rate: 100%

Success of students is the obvious focus of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s psychiatric nurse practitioner program. Courses are offered exclusively on campus so that faculty can closely assess students guaranteeing they understand presented material and are able to incorporate their learning into practice. Faculty believe this interpersonal interaction helps students better apply complex concepts to practice preparing them for their careers. This focus on students pays off big as evidenced by a 100 percent pass rate on the national certification exam among psychiatric nurse practitioner program grads as well as a 100 percent job placement rate upon graduation.

5. Yale University

Certification Pass Rate: 100%  Job Placement Rate: 100%

True to its reputation of prestige, Yale University offers a strong program for aspiring psychiatric nurse practitioners. Students complete clinical experiences in a variety of settings giving them a well rounded foundation for their future careers. This wealth of experience prepares graduates well for the real world. Yale’s psychiatric NP program grads have a 100 percent pass rate on the national NP certification exam as well as a near 100 percent job placement rate upon graduation.

6. University of Colorado Denver

Certification Pass Rate: 100%  Job Placement Rate: 100%

The University of Colorado Denver offers a family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program giving students an even broader approach to the NP education. Not only does the program include a family nurse practitioner component, faculty assist students by locating clinical sites for students residing in the Denver metro area. Although the program is not completely online, core courses can be completed at a distance. Specialty courses are offered several days a month so students living further from campus may still successfully complete the program.

7. University of California San Francisco

Certification Pass Rate: 100%  Job Placement Rate: Not Tracked

The offering of an MEPN program for prospective psychiatric nurse practitioners makes the University of California San Francisco stand out among other universities. With this program, students without a healthcare background can become psychiatric nurse practitioners in just three years. Both the University of California San Francisco’s MEPN and traditional psychiatric NP program offerings offer a quality education as evidenced by a 100 percent pass rate on the national certification exam.

8. Boston College

Certification Pass Rate: 100%  Job Placement Rate: 100% (based on student report)

Like our prior pick, Boston College offers both an MEPN program for non-nurses and a traditional path to a psychiatric nurse practitioner degree. Courses for all pathways are completed on campus. Faculty at Boston College facilitate a quality student experience by locating clinical placements for psychiatric NP students. This helps minimize stress and assure an on-time graduation.

Where will you go for your psychiatric nurse practitioner degree?


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