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Top Online CNA Classes in Tennessee (TN)

Launching a career as a CNA in Tennessee is easy, fast, and — believe it or not — could be free. Check out programs and the steps it takes to be a CNA.

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Author: Holly Riddle
Editor: Mark Earnest

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Aerial view of nashville at sunset showcasing the city skyline, the cumberland river, and several bridges, including the distinctive arched korean veterans bridge.

If you’re eager to begin a career helping people in healthcare and don’t want to undergo many years of education before you get started, then pursuing a role as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a great choice.

With minimal training and sometimes no tuition costs, you can pursue a fulfilling and in-demand career that takes you from the classroom to the workplace in a matter of months. Today, you’re shopping around for the best online CNA classes Tennessee (TN) colleges and universities offer; tomorrow, you’re making a difference in patients’ lives.

While becoming a CNA is certainly easier than pursuing a healthcare role that requires multiple advanced degrees, there are several steps you’ll still have to take to be qualified and obtain the necessary certifications for landing a CNA job.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about some of the highest-quality online CNA classes TN colleges and universities can tout, so you can pick the best fit for your needs.

Inside Tennessee’s Standout Online CNA Classes

In Tennessee, CNA training and testing are free for people who earn a certificate in a nursing-home-based program, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. However, these free programs aren’t always a good fit for everyone. They require you to be already employed by the nursing facility, and you’ll have to be physically present for training.

In contrast, online CNA classes from TN universities and colleges offer convenient and flexible options, even if they do have a minimal cost. To help you explore your options, here are a few of the high-quality online CNA classes TN private institutions offer.

South College

Logo of South College featuring a red circular seal with a tree in the center. The seal contains the words "South College" along with "Courage • Direction • Excellence" encircled around it. The text "South College" is written in black to the right of the seal.

The CNA program at South College can be completed in just three months. The program includes two classroom-based courses and a third one that offers practical experience in a healthcare setting. The program takes a hybrid approach, mixing online and in-person learning, for greater flexibility, and along the way you’ll learn the basics required for assisting more seasoned healthcare professionals, caring for patients’ day-to-day needs.

Tuition fees come in at about $4,000, but financial aid is available, via loans, scholarships, grants or awards. The only admission requirement for the program is proof of high school graduation or its equivalent. Once you finish the program, you can pursue further degrees or certificates at South College, including practical nursing or licensed practical nursing. Note that any in-person course requirements for South College’s CNA program are only offered at the college’s Knoxville campus.

Tennessee College of Applied Technology

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology offers a comprehensive certified nursing assistant program that qualifies you to take the state certification test. The 120-hour program mixes classroom and clinical work, with after-hours classes available at the college’s Harriman main campus. Curriculum covers healthcare basics such as human body health, disease, special care patients, patient safety, and other topics relevant to CNA work.

To participate in the program, you must be at least 16 years old and must pass a physical, background check, drug screen, and tuberculosis skin test. You must also meet certain vaccination requirements and have previously obtained CPR certification from the American Heart Association.

In total, the online CNA classes from this TN college require just two months to complete, and the classes cost about $1,000, including tuition, textbooks, and supplies.

The University of Tennessee Chattanooga

At The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, the 115-hour, in-person course takes five weeks, but classes are offered in the evenings and regularly throughout the year. If you miss a deadline to sign up for a course, just wait a few weeks and you’ll likely be able to catch the next one being offered. You can register for the course as late as a week before it begins.

The state-accredited course qualifies you to get your CNA license, and while tuition must be paid upfront when you register for the program, it is all-encompassing. For $1,500, the school covers all your program materials, textbooks, a pair of scrubs, your CPR certification (which reguarly can cost around $100), and the state CNA licensing exam fee (which normally costs at least $130).

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How to Become a CNA in TN Online

Becoming a certified nursing assistant in Tennessee is relatively easy, especially when you compare CNA requirements in some other states. As detailed by the Tennessee Health Care Association, training simply requires 40 hours of classroom instruction followed by 35-60 hours of clinical instruction and a competency exam. Here are the steps you’ll need to take.

Step 1: Meet Basic Background Requirements

Background requirements will depend on the CNA program in which you enroll. For example, The Tennessee College of Applied Technology program requires you to be 16 and undergo a physical examination. South College’s CNA program only requires you to meet the college’s overall general admission requirements, which is a high school diploma or equivalent. It’s important to note that individual institutions where you complete clinical work may have their own requirements (for example, background checks or immunization records).

Step 2: Graduate from an Approved CNA Program

There are two types of CNA programs in the state of Tennessee: nursing-home-based programs and private programs (the state considers all programs that do not take place in a skilled nursing facility to be “private”). Both options come with their perks (the former is free, the latter offers more flexibility), but graduating from either qualifies you to take the state’s CNA test.

Step 3: Take the Tennessee Competency Exam for CNAs

After you complete an approved nurse aide training program, you must take the state’s competency exam within 24 months. After you pass the exam, you’ll receive certification and be listed on the Tennessee Nurse Aide Registry, which qualifies you to work as a certified nursing assistant within the state.

You are able to challenge the exam, or essentially request to take the exam without completing a Tennessee-approved nurse aide training program, if you can provide educational transcripts or similar documents to show you’ve completed comparable nursing training. This can include being enrolled in a registered nurse’s program or if you are a military-trained medic.

Step 4: Start Working as a CNA

After receiving certification, you can begin looking for jobs as a CNA throughout Tennessee at nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, and hospitals, where you’ll assist healthcare professionals and provide basic patient care, including day-to-day duties such as grooming or assistance with meals.

One benefit of completing your CNA training within a skilled nursing facility is that the training comes with a built-in job. Even if you don’t go this route, you won’t need to worry too much about finding a role somewhere else. Projections Central estimatesthat average demand for CNAs in Tennessee in the next decade will be about double the demand elsewhere in the country.

Step 5: Renew Your CNA License Periodically

Certification must be renewed every two years. All you have to do to renew your certification is show proof that you worked a minimum of eight hours as a certified nursing assistant during the last 24 months. Accepted forms of proof include a pay stub or notarized attestation form. Certain forms of CNA employment do not count toward your eight hours of required work, such as work as a sitter or in a private doctor’s office.

Salary and Career Prospects for CNAs in Tennessee

The median projected salary for CNAs in Tennessee is about $5,000 lower than the median salary for CNAs across the United States. However, the demand for CNAs in the state is projected to grow at about double the rate that it grows overall in the country. So, while you might not be able to find the highest-paying CNA jobs, you can still find a job as a CNA in Tennessee pretty easily.

As is the case in any state, certain areas of Tennessee will have better-paying jobs than others. The highest average CNA salaries in Tennessee can be found around Nashville and its surrounding metro area, as well as around Johnson City where CNAs can expect to make about $32,000 per year. The lowest average salaries can be found in Cleveland, where the median CNA salary is around $24,000.

Area10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
US$28,030$35,760$45,940
Tennessee$25,580$30,540$36,810
Chattanooga, TN-GA$26,830$29,400$36,210
Clarksville, TN-KY$24,170$29,640$36,110
Cleveland, TN$24,250$24,320$33,500
Jackson, TN$24,680$30,100$34,830
Johnson City, TN$26,590$32,560$37,320
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA$25,800$30,530$35,570
Knoxville, TN$25,460$29,450$36,390
Memphis, TN-MS-AR$27,940$31,510$37,020
Morristown, TN$26,340$30,120$35,980
Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN$28,710$32,080$39,590

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

AreaNew Jobs (2020-2030)Growth RateAvg. Annual Openings
United States115,3008.3%187,000
Tennessee4,52015.3%4,290

Source: Projections Central

Answering Your Questions About Online CNA Classes in TN

If you’re excited about getting started as a CNA but still have questions and concerns, you aren’t alone. Here are the answers to potential students’ most pressing questions.

Are there free online CNA classes in TN?

While it’s possible to get free CNA training in Tennessee through programs offered via skilled nursing facilities, it’s a little more difficult to find free CNA classes that are available exclusively online rather than in-person. You can find some hybrid options, including Ballad Health which offers free, online-hybrid CNA training in northeast Tennessee. Its program takes place in roughly two to four months, depending on your chosen schedule.

Can I take the CNA test without classes in Tennessee?

Sort of. If you can prove that you’ve completed education similar to what’s covered in the state’s approved nurse aide training programs, then you can request to take the exam without taking any other classes. You must submit a formal challenge application in order to do so.

Do free online CNA courses offer certificates of completion?

Free online CNA courses may offer certificates showing that you completed the course in question. However, this type of certification is not the same as a state-mandated one for CNAs. The only way to receive that certification is to go through the state’s examination process or have a valid certification in another state transferred to Tennessee.

How long does it take to become a CNA in Tennessee?

Tennessee requires 40 hours of classroom education and 35-60 hours of clinical education prior to taking the state’s CNA competency exam. This process can usually be completed in just a few months, but the exact length of time will depend on your chosen program and how much time you have to dedicate to it.

How much do CNA classes cost in Tennessee?

It’s possible to receive free CNA training in Tennessee, if you pursue it through a nursing home or similar institution where you work. Tuition varies if you decide to take CNA classes through private colleges and universities, but you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars.

What’s the fastest you can become a CNA in Tennessee?

The fastest you can become a CNA in Tennessee is about a month. You achieve this by taking an intensive training program that packs all of your classroom and clinical education into a shorter time period. After that, you can schedule and then pass your state competency test to receive your CNA certification.