Previous research examining the impact of education on nursing students' attitudes towards mental health nursing as a career has highlighted clinical experience as the primary influencing factor and generally has not considered the impact of theory. The current study compared a cohort of second-year and a cohort of third-year nursing students from the same university. Second-year students had received more theory and clinical experience than their counterparts. Questionnaires were distributed to the total population of students before commencement of, and after completion of clinical placement. This paper examines students' perceived preparedness for and satisfaction with clinical experience, attitudes towards people with mental illness, and attitudes towards mental health nursing as a career option following the completion of differing amounts of theory and clinical experience. The results demonstrate some statistically significant differences with increased amounts of theory and clinical experience in the second-year cohort being positively influential. The findings suggest that an increased component of theoretical and clinical experience in psychiatric/mental health nursing is likely to produce more positive attitudes towards people with mental illness and psychiatric/mental health nursing. However, little difference in perceived preparedness for and satisfaction with clinical experience was noted between the two cohorts.