Background: There has been much debate by both academics and clinical agencies about the motivations and abilities of nurse graduates to work in mental health nursing. The aim of this study was to recruit student nurses from a dedicated mental health nursing program in the United Kingdom (UK) and a comprehensive nursing program in Australia and illuminate their motivations towards considering mental health nursing as a career choice. Methods: This study comprised of two UK and four Australian Schools of Nursing within Universities. A 12 item survey was developed for the purpose of this study and was checked for face validity by experienced mental health nurses. Convenience sampling was used and 395 responses were received. Results: The comprehensive program represented by the Australian sample, revealed a third of respondents indicated that mental health nursing was definitely not a career option, while only 8 % of the UK specialised program reported mental health nursing was not seven for them. In both groups a higher level of motivation to work in mental health emanated from personal experience and/or work experience/exposure to mental health care. Conclusions: A greater focus on clinical exposure in comprehensive programs could enhance professional experience needed to increase student motivations for mental health nursing.