Steps to PMHS Certification

Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist exam information
Additional PMHS Eligibility Pathways Available!
PNCB now offers more options to meet PMHS exam eligibility, including an option for faculty and those completing certain specialty programs. The traditional eligibility pathway is still available. Explore the 3 exam pathways. 

Steps to PMHS Certification

About this exam

The Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS) exam validates the added knowledge, skills, and expertise of eligible Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) in the early identification, intervention, and collaboration of care for children and adolescents with mental and behavioral health concerns.

PMHS certification does not replace primary APRN certification required for licensure.

Learn about the role and use the steps below to understand requirements, prepare, and apply.

Nurses have a choice of where and how to test when they seek their Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS) credential from PNCB. Learn about the live remote proctoring option.

Tip: Clinical Practice Hours: All clinical practice hours to meet exam eligibility must be completed while holding an APRN license and one of the listed foundational certifications. 

Tip: Academic Credit and CE/CME: Academic credit and CE/CME used to meet exam eligibility requirements must be completed within the previous five years before submission of your exam application. These activities can be completed before or after earning your APRN license and foundational certification.

You will need to meet the following criteria to apply:

1. APRN license that is current, valid, unrestricted, and unencumbered

2. Certification in one of the following roles and population foci:

  • Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Child/Adolescent Psychiatric & Mental Health CNS (PMHCNS-BC) 
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health NP [formerly Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC)]

3. Meet Eligibility Criteria for one of the below Pathways: [NEW!]

  • Traditional – Document 30 hours of pediatric DBMH CE or 1 Graduate Course of at least two Credits.
  • Faculty – Document 10 points of accepted, alternative activities which can come from teaching, precepting, scholarly projects, CE/CME, and/or academic credit.
  • Specialty Program – Completion of an approved program: Duke PBMH, KySS, or Almost Home Kids
  • Exam cost: $300 - Includes $130 nonrefundable registration fee.
  • Re-exam cost: Free if you re-apply to take the exam in the next testing window. $225 (nonrefundable) if you test in a later window. Current PNCB eligibility criteria must be met when re-applying. See free retest details.
  • Extension: $150 - Nonrefundable. See extension details.

After review of your complete application, PNCB will send you an Approval & Scheduling Notice. Depending on when your completed application is approved, it will include a May or November testing window in which to schedule your exam.

Payment accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and ACH electronic check.

You must complete your exam application with all supporting materials within 12 months of initial receipt of payment, or your application will be cancelled and all fees forfeited. All fees are subject to change without notice.

After review of your complete application in Step 5, PNCB sends you an Approval & Scheduling Notice and a testing window in which to schedule and take your exam. Use this timeline to understand the process.

The exam is 2.5 hours and asks 150 multiple-choice questions based on categories in the content outline, an essential study reference. We offer these resources to help you prepare.


To apply for your exam:

  1. Log in or create a PNCB account here. In your portal under Navigation, select the Exam Applications link to find your exam type.

    Now nurses have a choice of where and how to test when they seek their Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS) credential from PNCB. Learn about the live remote proctoring option.
  2. Complete the online portion of the application. 
  3. Request supporting documents. Your application is not complete until your transcript(s) or any other needed documents (e.g., proof of certification) are received by PNCB. See transcript requirements and address. 
  4. Submit eligibility documentation of an unofficial transcript of 1 graduate level DBMH course or CE certificates for 30 hours of DBMH CE.

Requesting ADA Act Special Accommodations? Note this on your application and promptly submit a completed Special Accommodations Form.

Track your application status in real time to ensure that all necessary documents have been received and that your application is complete.

Need an Extension? To request an extension to move to the next testing window, contact PNCB at 1-888-641-2767 or

Don't forfeit fees! It's your responsibility to understand all exam policies, procedures, and requirements before you arrive to test. Download your PNCB Exam Candidate Handbook now.

PNCB does not schedule your exam for you. Once your application is complete, PNCB emails and mails your Approval & Scheduling Notice with a testing window. 

  • For Testing Centers - You will schedule with Prometric, a licensed testing center with over 300 locations. Once your application is complete, PNCB emails and mails your Approval & Scheduling Notice with a testing window. Promptly download your Eligibility Letter with instructions on how to schedule your exam, then set a date and time with Prometric. Learn how to schedule your exam plus tips on what to expect at the testing center.
  • For Live Remote Proctoring - You will schedule with Examity, PNCB’s secure, online proctoring partner. Promptly download your Eligibility Letter with instructions, then set a date with Examity. Learn about system requirements and other FAQs here.

Test within your assigned window. Arrive 30 minutes early (in person at a Testing Center, or online with your Live Remote Proctor) with required IDs that match your name on the exam application, and take your exam. In most cases, unofficial pass/fail status is provided on-screen before your exam attempt concludes.

For testing windows in 2022 and beyond, candidates will receive official results by email 2-3 weeks after testing. Candidates also receive unofficial, preliminary notification of pass/fail status immediately after completing the computer-based exam.

If you pass, you'll receive a wall certificate to promote your PMHS credential.

Log in to your portal for your wallet card.

Our suggestion is to always list your degree first, then licensure followed by certification. Should you have any awards or honors, these come last. Listing your highest degree first is fairly standard. If you have a non-nursing degree, this would come next then licensure. If you have multiple certifications, often people list the one earned first in the first position, and the one earned most recently in the final position.

       Terry Moore, DNP, MPA, RN, CPNP-PC, PMHS

Let others know the value of your PNCB certification introducing yourself as a PMHS to patients, their families, and peers. Mention your credential in your employer website's staff biography. If you want to use your PMHS credential when charting, be sure to check your employer's policy on doing so. The PMHS credential is federally trademarked and may only be used by those who earn and actively maintain their certification.

Recertification is annual for the PMHS earning certification starting with those recertifying this year (currently showing a 2/28/2023 expiration date). You will need to recertify between November 1 and January 31 prior to the expiration date noted on your online wallet card. 

Starting with those earning their certification in September 2022, and those recertifying this year, you will enter a 7-year ReCErt program, and document 15 contact hours of activity annually. You are also required to document 30 psychopharmacology contact hours during the 7-year ReCErt program.

Those earning the PMHS in the September or November 2022 testing windows will recertify for the first time starting in November 2023 (expiration date upon earning the certification will be 2/28/2024). 

Use your My ReCErt Tracker any time of the year to archive contact hours and other activities. When you recertify, you can refer to your Tracker when filling out the application.

See your PMHS Corner for resources, discounts, awards, and more.

Faces of Certification

PNCB-certified nursing professionals work in a variety of roles and settings throughout the US and beyond. Share your photo today!

Tyneisha Orr, CPNP-PC Children's Hospital & Medical Center Omaha, NE
Amairani Jimenez, CPN Tripler Army Medical Center Honolulu, Hawaii
Gia Nguyen, CPNP-AC St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Arlington, VA
View more Faces of Certification