Is A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner as Good as a Psychiatrist

­Is A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner as Good as a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatric nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist are two of the numerous health practitioners that offer healthcare services. Typically, these two health professionals have similar responsibilities in their day-to-day activities. However, there are some notable differences between them.

In this article, we will compare these two health professionals to know whether a psychiatric nurse practitioner is as good as a psychiatrist.

Are these two careers at the same level?


If you are looking for a reputable health-based career, a psychiatric nurse practitioner is relatively as good as a psychiatrist. Both careers often get amazing, well-paying jobs in the US and other countries around the world. As a psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatrist, you can have a fulfilling and respected career among health workers. Since their roles are almost the same, they both work with patients and usually in health facilities.

Both careers require soft skills such as great communication, professionalism, problem-solving, etc. Also, the scopes of the two practices include psychotherapy, education, assessment of the psychological state of a patient, and a lot more.

However, when it comes to salary, cost, duration and scope of education, level of responsibility, specialization, and certification, these two careers differ.

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Educational requirements

There is a sharp difference in the educational requirements for a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist.

To be a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you are expected to do the following:

  • Be a registered nurse after completing a bachelor’s (BSN) nursing degree or an associated degree in nursing (ADN).
  • Complete a master’s nursing program (MSN) or a doctorate in nursing program (DNP) with specialization in the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program (PMHNP). This program has core areas such as advanced assessment of psychiatric mental health conditions, psychopharmacology, individual and family psychotherapy, advanced pathophysiology, lifespan psychiatric mental health nursing, advanced health assessments, etc.

On the other hand, a psychiatrist must:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree.
  • Complete 4-year medical school training. Therefore, the person must have earned a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) or Medicine (M.D.) degree.
  • Take the Medical Licensing Exam.
  • Complete a residency program in the psychiatric department.

Duration of education


The duration of education is another area where there is a difference between being a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist. Typically, a psychiatric nurse practitioner has to spend around 6 to 8 years before completing all educational requirements.

Completing a nursing degree will take about 2 to 4 years, depending on the route taken. A master’s degree in nursing requires about two to three years. Lastly, about one year will be spent on taking and passing the Advanced-Practice Registered Nurse exam.

Otherwise, you should look forward to spending about 12 to 14 years before becoming a psychiatrist. Foremost, you will spend about 4 years to complete an undergraduate program. Afterward, you will proceed to spend another 4 years at a medical school to obtain a Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathic Medicine degree. Lastly, you have to complete a 4-year psychiatric residency program. This may differ slightly based on the school or state involved.

However, if you wish to focus on a subspecialty (such as geriatrics, children and adolescents, addiction disorders, or forensics) as a psychiatrist, it may be necessary to undergo extra training called fellowship. This training can last for about 1 to 2 years.

This shows you that you will spend almost double of the time required to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner before becoming a psychiatrist.

Cost of education

Due to the lengthy and more demanding educational requirements for a psychiatrist, it is costlier to become a psychiatrist. With around $140,000 or more, you can become a psychiatric nurse practitioner in the United States of America. However, you will have to spend in the excess of $200,000 before becoming a psychiatrist.

It is important to note that these are just approximate values. As such, the exact costs of becoming a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner may vary greatly depending on the state and school you are attending.


If you want to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you should note that there is no specific subspecialty that you can focus on. Nevertheless, you can be based in facilities that work mainly with children and adolescents, people with addiction issues, forensics, geriatrics, and pain management.

A psychiatrist, on the other hand, can specialize in substance abuse, emergency, children and adolescents, forensics, geriatrics, consultation-liaison, and so on. You should understand that the area of subspecialty may affect the year of education, work hours, salary, and lots more.


Job duties

Nurse Practitioner vs. Registered Nurse

The roles of a psychiatric nurse practitioner usually include the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health or substance abuse issues. The professional may have to prescribe medications and manage the conditions of the patients.

In most places, a psychiatrist can perform the job duties of a psychiatric nurse practitioner. However, they may also need to supervise the works of psychiatric nurse practitioners by reviewing and co-signing the documents they completed. This shows that a psychiatrist is believed to be more skilled than a psychiatric nurse practitioner in dealing with mental health issues.

Starting salary

The salary is one of the most vital factors for determining whether a career is good or not. In general, the salaries of both professions are good, but being a psychiatrist is way better. Comparatively, an entry-level psychiatrist makes about $60 per hour more than a psychiatric nursing practitioner. This can amount to over $100,000 in a year.

On average, the entry-level salaries of these two professionals are:

  • Psychiatric nursing practitioner: $35 per hour – about $6,000 per month – around $72,000.
  • Psychiatrist: $93 per hour – about $16,000 per month – around $194,000.

However, the work experience of the professionals may play a significant difference in their salaries. Other factors that can affect starting salaries include work shift, state of residence, and type of healthcare setting. Nevertheless, PayScale states that a psychiatrist earns an average of $206,479 per year whereas a psychiatric nurse practitioner only makes around $100,000 annually. Even regardless of their years of experience, a psychiatrist will still likely earn more than a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Job satisfaction and outlook

When choosing a career, it is important to consider job satisfaction and outlook. This is because these seemingly simple factors can play an essential role in determining whether you will enjoy the career or not.

According to some surveys, both psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychiatrists have exceptional job satisfaction. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both professions have a great outlook as the professionals can expect their careers to grow significantly over time.

However, they are not exempted from the stress that many health professionals pass through from time to time. Many of them take care of patients with suicidal tendencies and other debilitating health conditions.

Therefore, long-term exposure can have various impacts on these professionals. It is not strange for a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner to experience compassion fatigue, which is a result of long-term exposure to the trauma of their patients.

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Worksite and hour

In many cases, both psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners work in the same settings. These work settings can include:

  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Homeless shelters
  • Clinics
  • Emergency rooms
  • Offices of private physicians
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Military and government centers
  • Prisons
  • General hospitals
  • Hospice

In addition to the above, psychiatric nurse practitioner may also work in correctional facilities, in-patient psychiatric facilities, in-patient psychiatric schools, and residential treatment units.

No specific rule for determining the working hours of a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Depending on the work setting, they may do various shifts while they may only work at a particular period of the day. In addition, the type of healthcare services they are providing can also affect their work hours. For instance, if you work in a clinic, it may be necessary for you to do shifts during the weekday without working on weekends. However, someone who works in a nursing home, correctional facility, or emergency department will need to work shifts during the weekend.

Verdict: Is a psychiatric nurse practitioner as good as a psychiatrist?


While both psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychiatrists are great careers, being a psychiatrist tends to be better than being a psychiatric nurse practitioner. As explained in some of the points above, a psychiatrist tends to have more responsibilities than a psychiatric nurse practitioner. In fact, a psychiatrist may need to manage the works of the other professional. Hence, a psychiatrist may be seemingly more respected and important to patients than the other one.

Also, being a psychiatrist pays significantly more than being a psychiatric nurse practitioner. If the salary of your career is a major concern, being a psychiatrist is a better choice.

Nonetheless, you must also note the difference in what it takes to become these professionals. When compared to a psychiatrist, you will spend less time and money to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

In conclusion, a psychiatrist is quite better than a psychiatric nurse practitioner. However, this doesn’t undermine the fact that being a psychiatric nurse practitioner is an excellent career choice for anyone.

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