Steps to PMHS Certification

Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist exam information
If you are testing, or have tested, within the PMHS 10/15/2021-11/15/2021 window, a reminder that scores will be released by email 6-8 weeks after the window closes on Nov 15. Learn more. In 2022 and beyond, more testing windows per year are available!

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.

Important Notice: Beginning with a special October 15 - November 15, 2021 testing window, the exam administered will align with the updated content outline (published July 2021), which was a result of a routine formal Job Task Analysis (JTA) process. See PMHS Exam Resources for more information.

You will need to meet the following 4 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. Clinical practice hours completed within the past 5 years: 

  • a minimum of 2,000 hours of pediatric developmental, behavioral, and mental health (DBMH) clinical practice experience (with or without preceptor) while holding an APRN license - consider using this tracking form to help you count hours

4. Education or CE completed within the past 5 years:

  • either 30 hours of DBMH CE or 1 graduate level DBMH course of at least 2 credits
  • 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 PMHS and complete the online portion of the  application. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 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.

Test within your assigned window. For in-person at a Prometric testing center, arrive 30 minutes early with required IDs that match your name on the exam application, and take your exam. Unofficial pass/fail status is provided before you leave the center.*

*For the October 15 – November 15, 2021 testing window, pass/fail status will be emailed 6-8 weeks after routine item analysis instead of immediate notification at testing centers. This process begins at the close of the testing window (November 15, 2021).

For the October 15 – November 15, 2021 testing window, official pass/fail status will be emailed 6-8 weeks after routine item analysis instead of immediate notification at testing centers. This process begins at the close of the testing window (November 15, 2021).

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

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

Log in to My Documents 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 by wearing your lapel pin and 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 every three years, so start planning how you will fulfill requirements now. You will recertify between November 1 and January 31 prior to the expiration date on your online wallet card. Use your 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!

Tyree Smith, CPNP-AC Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA
Ruchoma Domosh, CPN Hackensack Meridian Health Jersey Shore University Medical Center Neptune City, NJ
Susan Gardella, CPNP-PC Maryland Responds Baltimore, MD
View more Faces of Certification