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Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing

Upgrade your nurse skills online and become a qualified MHN with Australia's popular Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing. Learn more here.

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If you are a registered nurse, the fastest and most cost-effective path to become a mental health nurse (MHN) is with a Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing. Students learn about evidence-based practice and promoting behaviour change.

In just 16 months of part-time study online, you could qualify to be a Credentialed MHN (CMHN). With this, you will gain access to better-paying jobs and career opportunities in Australia. CMHNs earn higher salaries and generally have brighter job prospects than regular RNs.

Why This Qualification Is Worth It

Mental health nursing is a highly sought-after specialisation for registered nurses in Australia. While it's possible for an RN to work as an MHN without any special qualifications, earning a graduate diploma in the field has advantages.

With an accredited GDMHN, you become eligible to apply for a Credentialed MHN (CMHN) designation, indicating that you're a fully qualified mental health nurse with the skills and knowledge to treat mentally ill patients effectively.

The grad dip path to becoming a CMHN is the shortest, requiring just eight subjects. The other option is to complete a Master's in Mental Health Nursing, which requires 12 subjects.

Graduates of the program are also eligible to later enter a Nurse Practitioner master's program. Entry to Nurse Practitioner courses is restricted to experienced RNs with a postgraduate qualification in their specialist field.

Related: Top 5 Nursing Mental Health Courses in Australia

A Flexible Online Course

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A Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing online is perfect if you are a busy person, including if you want to continue working as a nurse full-time. Online courses are designed for working professionals, allowing participants to study flexibly when convenient.

SCU Online - Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing

The Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing from Southern Cross University (SCU) is accredited by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN). Completing this 100% online course allows registered nurses to apply to be a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse (CMHN). Students learn to appreciate psychological challenges and respond effectively to patient needs. Subjects include creating a healthcare professional portfolio, wellness across the lifespan, physical healthcare, and supporting behaviour change. SCU Online takes a student-first approach to e-learning and offers this course at an affordable price. FEE-HELP government loans are available.

Mental Health Nursing Courses Australia

If you are a registered nurse (RN) in Australia, these are the four main courses to enhance your credentials as a mental health nurse (MHN). There is a Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Nursing "pathway" course, a grad dip or masters to qualify as a credentialed MHN, and a nurse practitioner masters.

Table 1. Postgraduate MHN courses for RNs

Qualification Study load (subjects) Outcomes
Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Nursing 4 Enhanced nursing practice as an MHN. Along with experience, qualifies you to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist. Pathway to all forms of further postgraduate MHN study.
Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing 8 Enhanced practice as an MHN. Pathway to a masters. Graduates meet academic requirements to both be a credentialed MHN and enter a Nurse Practitioner program.
Master of Mental Health Nursing 12 AQF Level 9 qualification. Graduates exceed academic requirements to be a credentialed MHN.
Master of Nurse Practitioner (Mental Health) 12 Graduates meet academic requirements to become a Nurse Practitioner with a Mental Health specialty.

Note: "Mental Health Nursing" courses may all be contained within the same master's program, sharing common subjects.

The Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing is worthwhile because it is shorter than a master's degree and still makes you eligible to become a credentialed MHN.

Furthermore, graduates of the grad dip course have the options to: (a) complete another four subjects and earn a MMHN; and (b) start a Nurse Practitioner master's degree subject to meeting experience and other entry requirements.

How to Become an MHN in Australia

Medical manager wearing a white jacket containing the nurse's symbol

The pathway to become a credentialed mental health nurse (CMHN) is to obtain a Bachelor of Nursing, apply to be a registered nurse (RN), gain relevant experience, complete a graduate diploma, and apply for professional accreditation.

  1. Complete a Bachelor of Nursing. The first step is to earn a three-year undergraduate nurse degree, building a foundation in nursing theory, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and patient care.
  2. Register as an RN. With your bachelor degree, you may register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) to obtain a license to practice nursing in Australia.
  3. Gain relevant experience. The third step is to gain experience by working in a psychiatric unit or other settings where you can support professional therapists.
  4. Complete a Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing. The fourth step is to complete an accredited, specialised graduate diploma. Students should have access to mental health practice during the course of their studies.
  5. Apply for accreditation. Graduates may apply to be a CMHN through the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN). Applicants must have worked in mental health for at least 12 months since gaining their postgraduate qualification or have 3+ years of prior experience.

Source: How to Become a Mental Health Nurse in Australia

Salary Advantages

Earning a Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing can lead to a higher salary as it makes you eligible to be a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse. On average, MHNs earn $8,255 more per year than other registered nurses.

A registered nurse in Australia who works in mental health earns an average $90,566 per year, which is approximately 10% higher than RNs generally. These figures may actually understate the advantage from becoming a credentialed MHN as they may earn more on average than others in the field.

The demand for MHNs in Australia is on the rise, with the number of RNs working in this field expanding from 16,474 to 20,565 between 2013 and 2021. This growth rate of 25% over eight years is slightly higher than the overall growth rate of RNs. The job outlook is expected to remain strong, with job opportunities increasing alongside rising demand for psychological support services.

Source: Are Mental Health Nurses in Demand in Australia?

† Online courses are available in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Gold Coast, Newcastle. Australia-wide.