Nursing Salaries: How Much Does a Mental Health Nurse Make?

Looking to go into mental health nursing? Find out which jobs and what parts of the country offer the best salary.

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by Blake Weil

Published September 8, 2022

Reviewed by Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

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Nursing Salaries: How Much Does a Mental Health Nurse Make?
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Mental health nursing is a specialized nursing career that focuses on behavioral and mental health conditions. A mental health nurse is trained to evaluate, monitor, and treat a variety of behavioral and psychological problems. They also often provide detailed information on a patient's day-to-day condition to a full medical team.

After college and licensure, students can become registered nurses and earn higher-than-average median salaries. Positions with advanced educational requirements, such as nurse practitioner, command higher salaries. Mental health nursing is a good career for those looking to help others while earning a solid paycheck and land job security after college.

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Ready to start your journey?

What Is the Average Mental Health Nurse Salary?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies nurses by their educational level. While these are national level statistics, nursing salaries vary by region and specialization. Below are the national median salaries for the three most common levels of nursing.

What Are the Highest-Paying Mental Health Nurse Jobs?

While all mental health nursing careers require a license, more advanced mental health nursing roles require either a master's or a doctorate.

Highest-Paying Mental Health Nurse Jobs
Mental Health Nurse Job Average or Median Annual Salary
Nurse Practitioner $120,680 as of May 2021
Psychiatric Registered Nurse Practitioner $113,580 as of July 2022
Psychiatric Mental Health Registered Nurse $77,600 as of May 2021
Licensed Vocational Nurse $51,550 as of July 2022

Data from the BLS and Payscale

How Much Do Mental Health Nurses Make in Your State?

Generally, mental health nursing salaries are higher in Alaska, Hawaii, the West Coast, and the Northeast, with slightly lower but still above average salaries in the Southwest. Nursing salaries tend to be lower in the American South and the Great Plains.

Median Salary for Mental Health Nurses by State

The Highest-Paying States for Mental Health Nurses (by Median Salary, 2021)
Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
1. California
2. Alaska
3. Washington
1. California
2. Hawaii
3. Oregon
1. California
2. New Jersey
3. New York

Data sourced from the BLS

Job Growth for Mental Health Nurses

The BLS projects jobs for practical and vocational nurses and registered nurses to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030. This is about as fast as the national average of 8%.

However, the BLS projects nurse practitioners to grow by 45% between 2020 and 2030, far greater than the national average. With the U.S. healthcare demand increasing, nurse practitioners can provide independent care to patients. This makes nurse practitioner a great job to pursue for both current students and career changers.

What Field of Nursing Pays the Most?

Generally, nurse practitioners earn the highest mental health nursing salaries. Nurse practitioners are licensed to provide independent healthcare to patients. These workers earned a median salary of $120,680 in May 2021. Many other well-paying careers are available to master's level graduates, including:

More Education Leads to a Higher Mental Health Nurse Salary?

BSN Salary

A bachelor's degree, along with licensing exams, prepares students for a career as a registered mental health nurse. While only an associate degree is needed to become a registered nurse (RN), most nurses have a bachelor's degree. Many nurses work on earning a higher degree, such as a master's, while working.

Psychiatric Nurse

A psychiatric nurse supports mental healthcare for patients, including aiding with diagnosis, record keeping, and daily disease maintenance. Some psychiatric RNs specialize in a specific condition or population of interest. Their work could be either in a hospital or a home-based setting.

Salary (July 2022)
$68,180


Charge Nurse

A charge nurse works in a healthcare facility as a shift-based supervisor. They monitor the movement of patients, such as admissions and discharge. In addition, they monitor the movement of nurses, making sure that all patients have the attention they need.

Salary (July 2022)
$76,750


Registered Nurse, Emergency Room

An emergency room nurse performs all of the duties of a nurse but in triage. This means assessing and providing treatment in a timely manner, addressing trauma, and interviewing patients. These nurses also collect information to inform a treatment plan.

Salary (July 2022)
$73,540


MSN Salary

An MSN prepares students for more specialized and independent work as a nurse. The degree trains learners in deeper medical knowledge, allowing them to treat patients on their own or pursue leadership and educational roles. Additionally, they can manage and assist in more complicated procedures, such as delivering children.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is a nurse who specializes in treatment of psychiatric disorders. While they may also work with a doctor, they have additional responsibilities and deal with more complex cases with more independence.

Salary (July 2022)
$113,580


Nurse Midwife

A nurse midwife is responsible for both pregnancy care and the delivery of babies. This varies from helping mothers with prenatal health all the way to aiding mothers through labor. This also includes aiding mothers with their mental and emotional health.

Salary (May 2021)
$112,830


Nurse Educator

A nurse educator trains the next generation of nurses. Working with both a hospital and with a nursing educational program, they teach the clinical and organizational skills they've developed through their work and education.

Salary (July 2022)
$78,940


DNP Salary

A DNP is the highest-level nursing degree. It prepares students for complex cases, independent practice, and for leadership roles within the nursing industry. While earning a DNP is not the most common, the degree prepares students for the best-paying nursing jobs.

Chief Nursing Officer

A chief nursing officer is the director of all nursing activities in a hospital. They manage the entire nursing program, overseeing staff, budgets, and supply ordering. They also work to make sure nursing programs adhere to all hospital policies.

Salary (July 2022)
$134,210


Clinical Research Nurse

A research nurse is responsible for helping to run clinical research trials. This means they provide patient care under the research plan and organize and analyze data. While you can be a research nurse with just a bachelor's degree, more complex trials may require higher education.

Salary (July 2022)
$72,900


Nurse Anesthetist

A nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia to a patient. They can work in a larger hospital with an anesthesiologist, or in a smaller community, managing anesthetics on their own. They need extra licensure and intensive training.

Salary (May 2021)
$195,610


Frequently Asked Questions About Mental Health Nurse Salary

What do nurses do in mental health?

Mental health nurses provide both medical and emotional support to psychiatric patients. They are responsible for talking to a patient and collecting information to aid with a diagnosis. They also are responsible for being part of the team to help develop and execute a treatment plan. This can include administering prescribed treatments and monitoring patients' daily conditions.

Typically, they work with a team including psychiatrists and social workers. This team addresses all aspects of the patient's health and often communicates with other teams at a healthcare facility. Skills required include communication, empathy, and organization.

Is psychiatric nursing hard?

Psychiatric nursing can be hard. With long hours, potentially aggressive patients, and a feeling of personal responsibility for a patient's well-being, it can be a draining profession. This makes it important to have a strong support system in place to make sure you are taking care of yourself. It also means people considering a career in mental health nursing should consider potential difficulties they may face.

It is also worth noting how being a mental health nurse can be a rewarding career path. The positive feelings of helping others and forming a community to help patients can counterbalance difficult elements of the job.

Do mental health nurses get paid more?

Generally speaking, mental health nurses aren't paid more than other nurses. Nursing salaries are mostly determined by experience, level of education, and level of independence. While there are higher-salary mental health nursing positions, they are similar in salary to other nursing jobs at the same level of education.

Those looking for higher-paying jobs can consider additional education. Nurse practitioners make significantly more money than registered nurses. Certain complex and specialized nursing roles, such as nurse anesthetist, also pay higher but require further education and licensure.

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