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Mental health nursing master’s degree guide

Become a mental health nurse, and you’ll help people with many kinds of issues live happier lives. This guide tells you what it’s like to study mental health nursing as a postgraduate.

What is a mental health nursing master’s degree?

Mental health nursing is a branch of the nursing profession that focuses on mental wellbeing. Mental health nurses support people with mental illnesses or issues like:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Trauma-related disorders

They help patients recover from conditions or provide help so that they can live a better quality of life, such as through:

  • Acute care
  • Diagnostics
  • Treatment
  • Long-term care
  • Recovery support

With a postgraduate degree in this subject, you’ll gain the specialist skills and knowledge needed to practice as a professional nurse. Alternatively, you could undertake an original research project that contributes to the field of nursing.

Why do a master’s degree in mental health nursing?

Many master’s nursing courses are accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This means that after you successfully complete your course, you can practice as a registered mental health nurse.

During your course, you’ll learn in multidisciplinary clinical environments. This could be in modern facilities such as simulated wards or clinical placements, which are essential for the course. You’ll spend over 2,000 hours practising in real nursing settings, such as hospitals, specialist units and community care centres.

As well as the many healthcare skills you’ll develop, you’ll also gain transferable qualities like:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Project management
  • Reasoning
  • Resilience
  • Sensitivity and empathy
  • Teamwork

Choose a research degree, and you’ll work with academics and mental health experts. They'll support you in completing an original piece of work that could make a difference to the world of mental health nursing.

What qualifications can you get?

Qualification options include masters, doctorates, certificates and diplomas in nursing. Each will have a slightly different focus and style of teaching.

Taught masters in mental health nursing

Mental health nursing masters are usually Master of Science (MSc) courses. They involve a lot of teaching and practical work, preparing you for a career as a nurse. Many offer professional registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Research in mental health nursing

Research degrees are usually Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. They allow you to conduct extensive research work that contributes to the field of health and social care. Your work is largely independent though you’ll receive support from supervisors, specialists and other researchers.

Certificates and diplomas in mental health nursing

Postgraduate certificates (PGCert) and postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) are shorter versions of the master’s qualification. These are useful if you’re looking to enhance your knowledge without committing to a full degree.

Go to: Read more about What are postgraduate degrees

What jobs can you do with a master’s degree in mental health nursing?

Most graduates become nurses and specialists in mental health care, working in the UK or overseas. Graduates also work as:

  • Academic researchers
  • Advanced nurse practitioners
  • Clinical managers
  • Clinical specialists
  • Community nurses
  • Teachers and lecturers

What are the mental health nursing master’s degree requirements?

To qualify for a master’s course, you’ll usually need:

  • MSc – bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) with upper second-class honours (2:1) in a related subject like a life or social science, and GCSEs (or equivalent) in grade C in English and mathematics

Depending on the course and university, you might need relevant work experience and to demonstrate a strong interest in the area. Health and background checks will probably be required, such as a DBS.

For other postgraduate courses, you’ll usually need:

  • PGCert/PGDip – same as for a masters
  • MPhil/PHD – same as for a masters along with a good master’s degree (or equivalent) in a relevant area, or enough relevant professional experience. You may need to submit a research proposal

What mental health nursing master’s courses are there?

Examples of postgraduate mental health nursing courses in the UK:

  • Adult and Mental Health Nursing MSc
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health MSc
  • Mental Health PhD/MPhil
  • Mental Health and Substance Use (Dual Diagnosis) MSc
  • Mental Health Nursing (Pre-registration) MSc
  • Nursing (Mental Health) (Pre-registration programme) PGDip
  • Nursing Mental Health MA

What do you learn in a mental health nursing master’s degree?

Typical module topics or areas you could focus your research on include:

  • Addictions and substance misuse
  • Care across the life course
  • Community care and leadership
  • Foundations for nursing care
  • Patient safety and quality issues
  • Principles of prescribing
  • Public health

How will you be taught and assessed?

On a taught nursing course (MA/MSc/PGCert/PGDip), teaching could be through lectures, practical sessions, seminars, simulated experiences, online activities and clinical placements. You could be assessed through exams, coursework, essays, presentations, clinical assessments, case studies, critical reflections and a dissertation.

If you pursue a research degree (MPhil/PhD), you’ll be guided by a supervisor but receive less support than on a taught course. You’ll be assessed on your independent research project (thesis) and accompanying oral exam (viva).

How long is a master’s degree in mental health nursing?

It depends on the course. If you’re studying for a degree that leads to NMC registration, courses can be fast-track programmes that last two years.

Otherwise, courses are generally:

  • Master’s – one to two years
  • PhD – three to four years
  • PGCert – around 15 weeks or one term
  • PGDip – around 30 weeks or two terms

Part-time courses can last twice as long.

Go to: Read more about How to fund your postgraduate degree

Similar subjects to mental health nursing

Other subjects like mental health nursing that you could study include:

  • Adult nursing
  • Child nursing
  • Counselling
  • Learning disability nursing
  • Medicine
  • Midwifery
  • Psychology
  • Psychother apy

Next: Search for postgraduate Mental Health Nursing courses

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