How much does a Psychiatric Nurse make in California?

Average Psychiatric Nurse Salary

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The average salary for a Psychiatric Nurse in California is $2,282 per week. This is 4% lower than the US average of $2,366.

Estimate based on 447 active jobs in the last 90 days.

What is a Psychiatric RN?

Psychiatric nursing is a versatile career choice that can include a variety of patients, skills, and work settings. Psychiatric nurses, also called mental health nurses, have advanced knowledge of behavioral sciences and mental illnesses and are experts in mental health assessments, crisis interventions, and medication effects and interactions. They work closely with patients to help them manage their mental illnesses and live fulfilling lives. Their versatility and expertise in the field greatly influence the salary of psychiatric RNs, but other factors also play a role.

Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses who specialize in caring for patients of all ages experiencing mental illness or distress. They assess patients’ mental health needs and provide education, support, and care based on treatment and nursing care plans, but they can’t provide counseling. Psychiatric RNs administer prescribed medications and assess their effectiveness and side effects, but they can’t prescribe any medications. They also provide crisis intervention while treating a variety of mental illnesses.

Psychiatric nurses must fulfill the education requirements to become a registered nurse, which includes earning an associate or a bachelor’s degree from a nursing program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). After graduation, they must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become an RN and complete training to earn Basic Life Support certification.

How a Psychiatric RN salary is based

Years of experience is a major component in how a psychiatric RN’s salary is based, but there are many others. Education level is one primary factor. Although psychiatric nurses only need an ADN to enter the field, many facilities lean towards BSN-educated nurses in specialty fields like this. Possessing a BSN may mean a larger beginning salary. An advanced degree will bump up this salary even further.

Psychiatric nurses must have specific knowledge and a set of skills relating to behavioral sciences, medication effects and interactions, mental health assessments, and crisis intervention. They must also be skilled at recognizing the signs of deteriorating or advancing mental illness. These additional skills can be a big basis for a psychiatric nurse’s salary.

Professional certification is usually another factor in how a psychiatric RN’s salary is based because it demonstrates that you’re an expert in the field and highly competent in caring for patients with mental health needs. Certification helps you stand out during a competitive interview process and command a higher salary than a non-certified nurse.

Psychiatric RNs work in a wide array of settings, including the mental health wards of community or general services hospitals or at psychiatric hospitals. They may also work at outpatient mental health clinics, substance abuse treatment centers, community mental health centers, schools for individuals with mental issues, and correctional facilities. Each of these facilities may base salaries differently. The geographical location of the facility also often makes a big impact on salary.

How to increase your Psychiatric RN salary

Getting board certified should be reflected in your salary because certified nurses usually earn more than those who aren’t certified. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers board certification through its Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification examination. You must have two years of full-time RN practice with a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice and 30 hours of continuing education in psychiatric nursing to sit for the exam.

Psychiatric RNs who earn a master’s or doctoral degree with a psychiatric and/or mental health track can pursue an advanced role as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) through board certification. The advanced degree and practice role and the certification can all increase your salary. Depending on the state of practice, a PMHNP may have a significantly expanded scope of practice, which may include providing counseling and prescribing medications. The more responsibilities a psychiatric RN has the greater the salary potential.

Once you’ve already earned your advanced degree and have been practicing as a PMHNP, the ANCC also offers board certification for this APRN role. To sit for the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC) exam, you must hold a master's, post-graduate certificate, or DNP from an accredited psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program that included at least 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours and specific content and courses. You must also have clinical training in two or more psychotherapeutic treatment modalities.

What cities in California pay the most for Psychiatric Nurse?

CityAverage Weekly SalaryMax Weekly Salary
Eureka, California$3,674$3,674
San Francisco, California$3,434$4,469
Los Gatos, California$3,156$3,156
San Leandro, California$3,106$4,329
Fresno, California$2,925$4,102
San Diego, California$2,772$3,500
Berkeley, California$2,743$4,512
Huntington Beach, California$2,687$3,808
Concord, California$2,559$3,035
Moreno Valley, California$2,498$2,816

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How does the pay for Psychiatric Nurses in California compare to nearby states?

Average Weekly SalaryMax Weekly Salary
New Mexico$2,281$3,844

Top Psychiatric Nurse Jobs

View job details for Travel Nurse RN - PsychiatricTotalMed Staffing
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Los Angeles, California
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What are the highest paying Agencies for Psychiatric Nurse jobs in California?

Average Weekly SalaryMax Weekly Salary
Nightingale Nurses$3,674$3,674
Sharp Nursing Medical Staffing$3,500$3,500
Gale Healthcare Solutions$3,492$4,579
Cross Country Nurses$3,035$3,035
Skyline Med Staff Nursing$2,889$4,158
Medical Solutions$2,758$4,337
IDR Healthcare$2,676$2,676
Aureus Medical Group - Nursing$2,626$4,342
Supplemental Health Care$2,393$2,496
TotalMed Staffing$2,369$4,469