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How to Become a Nurse With a Psychology Degree

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Knowledge of psychology is not only a useful skill for a nurse, it is often one of the basic prerequisites or mandated courses in nursing school. Having a bachelor's degree in psychology can help short-cut the process of becoming a registered nurse and lead to a career in mental health care.

Basic Nursing Education

Registered nurses qualify for the national nursing exam called the NCLEX-RN by completing one of three programs. A nursing diploma is offered by a hospital-based school of nursing, although diploma programs may also be affiliated with a college or university school of nursing. Associate degrees in nursing are offered by some technical-vocational schools, community colleges and some universities. Universities also offer the Bachelor of Science in nursing, or BSN. Program length varies from two to three years in diploma and associate programs to four years in a BSN program.

Prerequisites and Electives

Most nursing programs have both prerequisites and required courses. A psychology degree, whether at the associate or bachelor’s level, generally includes courses that will meet some of these requirements. Psychology, liberal arts, behavioral and social sciences, for instance, are required in a nursing program. A recent graduate of a psychology program can often meet the nursing program requirements in that fashion, shortening the time it takes to complete a nursing degree. After graduation, she can take the NCLEX-RN.

Accelerated Programs

Some colleges and universities offer what is called an accelerated program. Designed for an individual who already has a bachelor’s degree in another discipline to become an RN, these programs provide a BSN or a master’s degree in nursing and will meet the requirements for licensure in all states. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports accelerated BSN programs take about 11 to 18 months and accelerated MSN programs take about 3 years. Both programs qualify the graduate to take the NCLEX-RN.

Taking the Mental Health Track

If you want to stay in the field of mental health, consider becoming a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. In addition to the general accelerated nursing programs, some schools offer an accelerated program for nurse practitioners that include a mental health track. At the University of Rochester, for example, a psychology graduate could earn a BSN in one year and a master’s degree within two more years. The University of Rochester also offers NP specialty tracks that include acute care, family care, adult-geriatric care, pediatrics and two psychiatric-mental health tracks, one in adult and one in child-adolescent advanced practice.


Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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