Clinical Nurse Specialist: Psychiatric Or Mental Health – Best Mental Health Program And Career Opportunities

Advance Practice Nurse or APNs are becoming more in demand these days especially with the rapid increase of population all over the world and the vast increase of aging population. More skilled and experienced nurses are now preferred by health care institutions and organizations like APNs. Clinical Nurse Specialist or CNS is an advanced practice nurse specializing in specific area of nursing like psychiatry or mental health.

What Is Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Before we discuss the best education programs available for aspiring clinical nurse specialists in psychiatry, it is important to understand first what this job is, and the scope of job for CNS specializing in psychiatry or mental health.

These are some of the basic roles of Clinical Nurse Specialists:

  • Nurse SpecialistsClinical Practice – One of the great benefits of becoming a clinical nurse specialist is the chance to specialize in a specific field. Clinical nurse specialists are known to be experts in their chosen field. If they are specializing in psychiatry or mental health, this means they are highly skilled, well knowledgeable and experienced in psychiatry and mental health nursing.
  • Research – Because of their deep knowledge and skills in their chosen areas, clinical nurse specialists can be requested to do case researches either as individual or as part of a team of clinical experts.
  • Consulting – They are also qualified to do consulting for various cases about or related to their specialty.
  • Management – Since clinical nurse specialists are known to have achieved higher education and training – mostly master is while some even doctorate degrees, they are usually given higher roles in the institutions or companies they work for. CNS can easily qualify for managerial roles like Nurse Manager. They make the schedules of nurses and other non-nursing staffs as well as task delegations. They supervise and handle registered nurses and other non-nursing staffs in departments or facilities related to their specializations.
  • Educator – Because of their higher educational background, training, and experience, clinical nurse specialists are qualified to become nurse educators. They can be invited as guest lecturers or regular instructors in nursing schools and other academic institutions. They are also qualified to conduct training to improve performance of registered nurses and staffs in hospitals and other health care facilities.

The Best Psychiatric Or Mental Health Degree Programs For Aspiring Psychiatric CNS

The minimum education level to qualify for clinical nurse specialist jobs is a master’s degree in nursing with concentration on the specific field you want to specialize. To become a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, you need to finish a bachelor’s degree in nursing, pass the national licensure exam and become a registered nurse, then earn at least a year of work experience as an RN.

If you have earned the necessary experience, you can now apply in various nursing schools for your master’s degree. Although any accredited master’s degree in nursing can qualify you for CNS certifications and jobs, getting your education and training from the best school can provide a lot of benefits and advantages in terms of hiring opportunities.

US News and World Report ranked schools offering the best nursing education programs for aspiring clinical nurse specialists who want to specialize in psychiatric/mental health. These are the top schools ranked in 2011.

  • University of California – San Francisco

University of California – San Francisco topped the ranking for Clinical Nurse Specialist: Psychiatric/Mental Health programs. Aside from this specialty, the school also topped the ranking for Adult or Medical-Surgical and Family Nurse Practitioner nursing specialties.

Their psychiatric nursing coursework includes courses on psychiatric assessment and management, psychopharmacology, human development, and therapies for groups, families, and individuals. Graduates from their program can qualify to take certifications from the American Nurses Credentialing Center or ANCC.

  • Yale University in New Haven

Yale University’s School of Nursing, Graduate Nursing Programs was also ranked 1st for their Clinical Nurse Specialist: Psychiatric Or Mental Health program which tied with the University of California – San Francisco’s CNS: Psychiatric Or Mental Health advanced nursing program. Other nursing specialities offered by the school are Nurse Practitioner on pediatric, family, and adult which is ranked 2nd in the whole country.

Students who are interested to apply in the program can request information from the school’s official website and also apply directly online.

  • University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing was ranked 2nd for their Psychiatric/Mental Health Advanced Nursing program. The school also topped the list for other advanced nursing specialties such as Adult Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and Nursing Service Administration.

  • Rush University in Chicago, Illinois

Rush University was ranked 3rd in 2011. The university’s College of Nursing offers two different types of master’s program for aspiring clinical nurse specialists. You can check the university’s official website and get guidance from the college’s Virtual Advisor. The Virtual Advisor is designed to help students who are not yet decided on what degree programs will best match their needs and qualifications.

  • University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, School of Nursing’s CNS: Psychiatric or Mental Health program was tied in the 4th spot with Rush University. The school also offers a wide range of APN or advanced nursing practice degree programs both for aspiring nurse practitioners and for clinical nurse specialists.

Job Outlook And Career Opportunities

It is a known fact that nurses are very in demand all over the world with employment growth expected to increase 22% from year 2008 to 2018 – an increase higher than average compared to other professions. Clinical nurse specialists in particular will be highly in demand especially in their chosen field because of the increasing nursing shortage and the decreasing number of qualified health care professionals that are well knowledgeable and skilled both in clinical and managerial jobs.

According to, clinical nurse specialists employed in the country earn median salary of $81,600 as of 2010. reported that psychiatric/mental health clinical nurse specialists earn average salary of $103,000 in 2012. If you are a registered nurse and thinking of advancing your career in the nursing field, becoming a clinical nurse specialist specializing in psychiatric/mental health can be a lucrative and rewarding option.

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