Home » Healthcare » Nursing » Top 5 Nursing Mental Health Courses in Australia

Top 5 Nursing Mental Health Courses in Australia

Become a mental health nurse, eligible for advanced roles, with a specialist program.

Medical professional with disconsolate patient


Nurses seeking specialist skills in mental health can choose from five main types of postgraduate courses. Any one of these will qualify you to be a registered mental health nurse. Additionally, you can become credentialed with one of the accredited graduate diplomas or master's degrees.

Among the many benefits from gaining these qualifications are greater job opportunities, higher pay, and qualification allowances. Postgraduate education opens doors to specialist and senior roles in this high-demand field, significantly boosting career prospects and your expected earnings.

Best Mental Health Nurse Courses

Let's explore the best programs and qualifications for mental health nursing practice in Australia. We'll outline the pros and cons of each, and explain the pathway options that allow you to start with shorter courses and low study commitment. Each program is available online for part-time study.

To qualify to be a specialist mental health nurse in the quickest and least costly way, consider the Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Nursing.

Despite containing just four subjects and requiring only 8 months of part-time study, this course is an AQF Level 8 qualification.

It opens up opportunities for qualification allowances and advanced positions, such as Clinical Nurse Specialist. With continued study, it also leads to graduate diplomas and master's degrees.

SCU Online - Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Nursing

Southern Cross University's Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Nursing allows nurses to acquire advanced skills for treating patients with psychological issues. This 8-month, part-time online course is guided by experienced academics and focuses on contemporary care techniques. Consisting of four units, it also serves as a pathway to master's level studies. Available to Registered Nurses (Division 1), this program requires access to relevant nursing practice. It offers interactive, evidence-based learning opportunities.

An alternative to nursing-specific courses is the Graduate Certificate in Mental Health. This is open to nurses as well as graduates from non-nursing backgrounds such as counselling, therapy, social work, and human resources.

We examined several of these courses and found minimal differences compared to nursing-specific ones. The content is identical or nearly so, underscoring that mental health skills are not exclusive to nursing.

This course serves as a pathway to master's degrees in nursing and broader healthcare fields.

SCU Online - Graduate Certificate in Mental Health

The Graduate Certificate in Mental Health from Southern Cross University is a versatile, 100% online 8-month course. Open to health, psychology, or social science graduates, you choose 4 subjects from areas like acute conditions and behavioural change support. This course allows full-time work while studying and can lead to further graduate or master's studies. It's ideal for enhancing specialist knowledge and skills, taught by experienced academics in a flexible online learning environment.

UTS Online - Graduate Certificate in Mental Health

The UTS Online Graduate Certificate in Mental Health is designed for professionals in health and social care, focusing on psychological care and leadership in clinical practice. This part-time, fully online course enhances understanding of trauma-informed and recovery-focused care, preparing you for roles in mental health, a national priority in Australia. It also provides a pathway to master's degrees in Health Services Management, Public Health, and Advanced Nursing. The 8-month course covers four subjects, offering industry-recognised skills for advanced practice.

For more in-depth training than the four-subject graduate certificate courses, consider an eight-subject Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing.

This program, completed online over 16 months of part-time study, provides well-rounded training in managing patients with psychological conditions.

Holding a graduate diploma enables you to apply to become a credentialed mental health nurse and attracts qualification allowances averaging $4,312 per year.

SCU Online - Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing

The Southern Cross University Graduate Diploma of Mental Health Nursing, accredited by the ACMHN, is an online course for Registered Nurses. It provides qualifications for becoming a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse, covering key areas like lifespan wellness and behavioural change. The 16-month, part-time program is competitively priced with FEE-HELP available. It offers a pathway to a Master of Mental Health Nursing, enhancing skills in varied settings through current, clinically relevant coursework.

For maximum career benefits from your education, a Master of Mental Health Nursing is the most comprehensive course.

It's designed for working professionals, allowing registered nurses to study online part-time. The program is suitable for both new graduates and experienced nurses.

The course covers key mental health issues in Australia, evidence-based treatments, and client care in different settings. This prepares nurses for credentialing and diverse roles in healthcare.

SCU Online - Master of Mental Health Nursing

The SCU Online Master of Mental Health Nursing, accredited by the ACMHN, is a flexible online course designed for working nurses. This part-time program, comprising 12 subjects, can be completed in under 2 years. It focuses on key areas like evidence appraisal and behavioural change support, preparing graduates for accreditation as mental health nurses. The course is affordable and allows nurses to build a professional portfolio while balancing their work commitments, leading to specialised roles in patient care.

The Master of Advanced Nursing (Mental Health) positions itself as a general nursing program with an emphasis on mental health.

Beyond the title, the degree may fundamentally be similar to other masters in this field. However, depending on the role you apply for, it could be more advantageous on your CV and offers other specialisation options as well.

As with other mental health nursing master's programs, participants learn general nursing methods in addition to psychiatric nurse skills.

Benefits of these Programs

Two young nurse students chatting while walking

Mental health is an in-demand field due to the prevalence of unwellness in the Australian community and the growing recognition of the need for services and treatment. Nurses who gain formal qualifications in this area have greater job opportunities, including specialist roles with higher pay rates.

(a) Specialise in mental health

The minimum requirements for mental health nurse positions typically include one year of clinical experience and a postgraduate qualification – at least a Graduate Certificate in Mental Health. Completing any of the courses would enable you to become a registered mental health nurse. You could also consider roles beyond nursing such as mental health clinician or educator, community support worker, case manager, or liaison officer in mental health services.

Related: Mental Health Postgraduate Courses Online

(b) Be more useful and productive

A registered nurse with knowledge and skills in mental health is better equipped to support patients with conditions such as depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Working as part of a team – including doctors, psychologists, case workers, other nurses, and allied health professionals – MHNs address patient needs, offering physical and emotional support.

Related: Are Mental Health Nurses in Demand in Australia?

(c) Qualify for senior roles

Postgraduate qualifications in mental health enable consideration for Clinical Nurse Specialist positions, which attract an annual salary of up to $108,560. With experience, you can also compete for lucrative roles such as Clinical Nurse Consultant, Nurse Educator, or Nurse Unit Manager.

Related: Highest Paid Nurses in Australia (Ranked)

(d) Grow as a credentialed nurse

You can further your career by becoming a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse (CMHN). This involves completing a graduate diploma or master's degree and applying to the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN). To be eligible, you must have worked in mental health for a minimum of 12 months post-qualification or have over three years of relevant experience.

Related: How to Become a Mental Health Nurse in Australia

(e) Receive a qualification allowance

Nurses with postgraduate qualifications often receive qualification allowances. The average annual payments for public sector employees are $3,253 for a Graduate Certificate, $4,312 for a Graduate Diploma, and $5,331 for a Master of Nursing.

Related: Nurse Qualification Allowance Rates in Australia