Becoming a mental health nurse in Australia

The development of mental health nursing practice begins at an undergraduate level and requires a clear articulation through Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Level 8 (Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma), and AQF Level 9 (Masters) program.


Scholarships maybe obtainable through the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care and through each state and territory department of health.  Some universities also provide information regarding various scholarships available.  The College does not provide scholarships.


Step 1 - Graduate with an undergraduate degree in nursing

For you to work in Australia it is a requirement by law that you meet the registration standards of the Nursing and Midwifery Board. To register and apply please visit their website.

For overseas mental health nurses:

To work as a mental health nurse in Australia, you will first need to apply for and be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board. For further information please go to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) website.

You may also need to apply for a visa issued by the Australian Department of Home Affairs.


Step 2 - Commence working toward a specialist mental health nursing qualification at postgraduate certificate level

Hold or be working toward a specialist mental health nursing qualification at Post Graduate Certificate level as recognised by ACMHN.  The Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Nursing (however titled) must be inclusive of mental health nursing curricula, and not just nursing and /or mental health curricula. The Graduate Certificate level is about preparing a nurse for mental health nursing practice at the novice level. 


Step 3 - Become a Provisionally Credentialed Mental Health Nurse to show your commitment towards your career as a mental health nurse (optional)

By obtaining a Provisional Credential as a Mental Health Nurse, you demonstrate a commitment to specialising in mental health nursing and are on the path towards achieving full recognition as a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse. Find out more about becoming a PCMHN here.


Step 4 - Complete a postgraduate diploma or master in mental health nursing

The program must be a clearly defined mental health nursing / psychiatric nursing course. 

The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) has accredited a number of courses which you can find here. These courses have gone through the ACMHN's meticulous accreditation process to ensure that education providers meet the standards for the profession and the criteria set out by the National Framework for Postgraduate Mental Health Nursing Education.

What is the difference between a Mental Health qualification and a Mental Health Nursing qualification?

A qualification in Mental Health rather than Mental Health Nursing may not meet the requirement for Pathway 1 of the ACMHN Credential for Practice Program if the course:

  • is generic and covers wide ranging mental health theory and practice topics. 
  • does not contain the requisite minimum amount of mental health nursing theory and practice required for the Credential for Practice Program.
  • does not address specific mental health nursing skills knowledge or attributes. 
  • is interdisciplinary, not wholly nursing focused.
  • is marketed to non-nursing workforce members as well as mental health nurses, further removing the content away from a mental health nursing specific focus.


Step 5 - Undertake additional training


Many mental health nurses choose a specialty area and then provide services only to that client demographic. These may include a Master in Family Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Alcohol and Other Drugs, Eating Disorders, Psychotherapy, or Perinatal Mental Health. The choice is yours to choose whatever qualification you are interested in so you can provide specialist practice. 


Step 6 - Become credentialed

A Credentialed Mental Health Nurse is a specialist nurse who has demonstrated meeting the credentialing criteria. To obtain credentialing, an individual is required to complete under:

  • Pathway 1 - a postgraduate diploma OR a master in mental health nursing

  • Pathway 2 - a graduate certificate in mental health nursing including an additional complementary mental health practice and/or a specialised graduate certificate.

To find out more, head to our page.


If you are from the UK

If you are registered in the UK as a mental health nurse and you have evidence of being listed on the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) Mental Health Register you can apply for credentialing under Pathway 3.