Psychiatric Nurse Salary Guide

A psychiatric nurse is an RN who cares for patients with mental health conditions. These are some of the most common psychiatric nursing duties:

  • Administering psychotropic medications

  • Monitoring patients for signs of physical or behavioral changes

  • Updating treatment staff on each patient's progress

  • Creating treatment plans or providing input to help colleagues create treatment plans

  • Educating patients and their family members

  • Evaluating patients to determine if their needs have changed

Psychiatric nurses are an essential part of the behavioral health team. As a psychiatric nurse, you must collaborate with therapists, physicians, advanced practice RNs and other professionals to maintain a safe treatment environment. You may also need to arrange medical treatment for patients with diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems.

How do you become a psychiatric nurse?

To become a psychiatric nurse, you must complete an associate or a bachelor's degree in nursing. Both education programs include coursework in anatomy and physiology, patient assessment, nursing pharmacology and other relevant topics. Each nursing program also has clinical coursework to help you develop hands-on nursing skills.

Once you complete the program requirements, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses or the NCLEX-RN. Finally, you must obtain a license to practice in your state. Every state has its own set of nurse licensure requirements, so check with your board of nursing to determine if you're eligible.

What credentials/licensing does a psychiatric nurse require?

All registered nurses must earn Basic Life Support (BLS) certification. Besides BLS certification and your RN license, you don’t need any other credentials to work as a psychiatric nurse. However, obtaining the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing - Board Certified (PMH-BC) credential offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center may be helpful to your career. To sit for the exam, you must meet these criteria:

  • Active, unrestricted RN license

  • 30-plus hours of continuing education in psychiatric-mental health nursing within the last 36 months

  • At least 2 years of full-time nursing experience

  • 2,000-plus hours of clinical practice in the psychiatric-mental health specialty within the last 36 months

Average Psychiatric Nurse Salary


The average salary for a Psychiatric Nurse is $43.71 per hour. This is 1% higher than the nursing US average of $43.10.

Last updated on October 2, 2023. Based on active jobs on

Salaries for Psychiatric Nurse compared to Registered Nurse National Averages


1% higher than the nursing US average.


United States

Where do Psychiatric Nurses get paid the most?
StateAverage Hourly SalaryMax Hourly Salary
New Jersey$42$45
New York$41$54
South Carolina$39$44
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How can you increase your pay as a psychiatric nurse?

To earn more as a psychiatric nurse, consider returning to school for a bachelor's or master's degree. According to a 2021 BLS report, the median weekly salary for an employee in any field with a master's degree is 63.4% higher than the median for an employee with an associate degree. The difference between a bachelor's and a master's is 38.5%.

If you earn the PMH-BC credential, you may qualify for a broader range of psychiatric nursing jobs, as some employers prefer to hire certified employees.

How much does a staff psychiatric nurse make?

Staff psychiatric nurses had an average hourly rate of $42.57, according to Vivian Health's salary data for the week ending April 29, 2023. This rate was 6% higher than the average for all registered nurses (RNs). If you multiply $42.57 by 40 hours in a workweek, you get a weekly salary of $1,702.80.

Is psychiatric nursing a growing career?

Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from May 2021, the number of jobs available to RNs should increase by 6% between 2021 and 2031. The demand for psychiatric nurses may be even higher, as mental health practitioners report an increased prevalence of anxiety, depression and other behavioral disorders. For example, a 2022 American Psychological Association survey showed that 79% of psychologists had seen an increase in patients with anxiety disorders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This increased demand for care may lead to more job opportunities for psychiatric RNs.

What types of employers/facilities have the most psychiatric nurses employed?

Based on May 2022 data for RNs in every field, including hospice, BLS analysts report that hospitals account for nearly 31% of all RN employment. Another 7.5% of RNs work in doctor’s offices, with about 11% working for home health services and nearly 15% in ambulatory healthcare settings. Nursing homes and residential care facilities account for a little over 9% of RN employment.

Which employers/facilities have the highest pay?

According to May 2022 BLS data, top-paying industries for RNs in all fields included numerous nontraditional settings. Pharmaceutical manufacturing paid $53.02 per hour, nonscheduled air transportation paid $52.48 and employment services paid $52.43 hourly.

Despite employing the highest percentage of RNs, hospitals paid a mean hourly wage of $43.56, much lower than many other industries. Outpatient care centers paid slightly more at $46.73 hourly. Nursing homes and residential facilities had the lowest wages at $37.11 per hour.

How does psychiatric nurse pay compare to similar healthcare jobs?

Psychiatric nurse pay tends to be higher than similar healthcare jobs. For example, staff rehabilitation nurses earned an average of $38.85 per hour, according to Vivian Health’s salary data from April 29, 2023, about $3.72 less than psychiatric nurses.

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Psychiatric Nurse FAQs

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 professional certifications can potentially increase my salary as a Psychiatric RN?

Earning your Verbal Intervention (CPI-VI), Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (CPI-NCI) or Nonviolent Crisis Intervention with Advanced Physical Skills Training (CPI-NCI Advanced) often increases your salary potential as a psychiatric nurse or makes you eligible for another position with greater responsibilities, which also might include a bump in wages.

Can having a Verbal Intervention (CPI-VI) boost my salary as a Psychiatric RN?

Yes, having a Verbal Intervention (CPI-VI) or any relevant professional certification has the potential to boost your salary as a psychiatric nurse.

Can having a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (CPI-NCI) boost my salary as a Psychiatric RN?

Yes, having a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (CPI-NCI) or any relevant professional certification has the potential to boost your salary as a psychiatric nurse.

Can having a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention with Advanced Physical Skills Training (CPI-NCI Advanced) boost my salary as a Psychiatric RN?

Yes, having a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention with Advanced Physical Skills Training (CPI-NCI Advanced) or any relevant professional certification has the potential to boost your salary as a psychiatric nurse.

Where can I learn more about working as a Psychiatric Nurse?

Take a look at Vivian's Psychiatric Nurse Career Guide for more information, including required education, responsibilities, pros and cons and more.