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MSN Programs in Tennessee: Online & Campus Options

MSN programs in Tennessee are top-quality, specialized, and affordable. Dive into the ins and outs of Tennessee’s MSN programs and view highlights of some of the best programs in the state.

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If you’re thinking about pursuing an MSN degree, Tennessee is a great place to work and study. There are many excellent MSN programs in the state. Plus, strong advocacy groups, like the Tennessee Hospital Association, work tirelessly to ensure safe and positive environments for healthcare workers. The confluence of high rates of health insurance and considerable government support for healthcare workers make Tennessee an excellent place to be an MSN nurse.

Earning an MSN degree is one of the best ways for you to advance your career, too, since an advanced nursing degree opens doors to roles like nurse anesthetist and nurse practitioner that are in high demand, command high salaries, and offer excellent work-life balance. This guide details the best MSN programs in Tennessee to get you headed in the right direction.

Best Accredited MSN Programs in Tennessee

With so many MSN programs available in Tennessee, picking the best fit for you can be hard. The helpful tips in this guide can help you research quality programs and avoid scams. After an evaluation of every MSN program in the state for academic excellence, affordability, and student success, three excellent MSN programs rose to the top and are detailed below to kick-start your program search. Keep reading to see who stands out.

Middle Tennessee State University

Middle Tennessee State University developed its MSN program to meet the state’s demand for nurses with advanced degrees. Students at Middle Tennessee can specialize in advanced family practice or psychiatric mental health nursing. Coursework for both programs is entirely online. The school works with healthcare providers in your home area to arrange in-person clinical rotations. Since the curriculum emphasizes holistic care and emerging health practices, you can be sure you’ll graduate with a broad understanding of patient care.

Middle State University’s nursing program has a strong reputation statewide, and employers are eager to hire its graduates. The nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing (CCNE), and its degree paths are approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing. Programs can be completed full-time or part-time, and you can complete your degree in as little as 18 months.

Tennessee Tech University

The MSN program at Tennessee Tech University caters to a broad range of career goals. You can specialize in fields such as family nurse practitioner, nursing administration, and nursing education. All students complete a series of core courses covering the theoretical foundations of nursing, current healthcare policy, nursing research, role development, and scholarly synthesis. This core curriculum provides up-to-date policy and practice information and the tools needed to think critically in the field.

All the MSN options at Tennessee Tech are online, and the school partners with a student’s local healthcare providers to arrange for clinical practicums. The MSN in nursing administration is the school’s shortest program and can be completed in as little as three semesters. The longer programs, including the nurse practitioner and psychiatric/mental health MSN, can be completed in seven or eight semesters. In addition, the university offers some of the lowest tuition rates in the state, with costs for in-state students starting at $26,500.

Tennessee State University

At Tennessee State University, students can pursue their MSN or a post-graduate certificate with a specialization in holistic nursing, nursing education, or family nurse practitioner. All their programs emphasize decision-making skills, comprehensive assessment, and knowledge synthesis. In 2020, 100% of FNP graduates earned their certification and found employment within six months, reflecting the program’s well-deserved reputation for excellence.

You can attend courses online or in person, or you can mix and match your needs, but all students have three mandatory campus visits for presentations and comprehensive exams. Part-time and full-time study options are available, and you can earn your MSN in as little as five semesters when studying full-time.

Key Benefits of Earning an MSN Degree in Tennessee

MSN degrees offer an excellent opportunity for new and practicing nurses to advance their careers. Tennessee, like many states, has a nursing shortage at every level. There’s a particularly high demand for MSN-level positions like nurse educator and nurse family practitioner. Regardless of your nursing experience, even if you’re coming to nursing from another field, making the leap into an MSN program can open the door to a sustainable and satisfying career path.

You Can Follow Your Passion

One of the best aspects of studying for an MSN degree is the opportunity to specialize. During your program, you can follow your interests wherever they take you. Tennessee offers a wide range of specialty programs, ranging from Vanderbilt’s MSN in nurse-midwifery to Southern Adventist University’s Dual DNP/MBA and MSN/MBA program. The many types of opportunities mean you can set yourself up for a career centered around the aspects of nursing that interest you the most.

Your Bank Account Will Thank You

When you compare the wages of MSN nurses to other nurses or the general public, you’ll see that earning an MSN puts you at an economic advantage. The median household income for 2017-2021 was $58,516, while the average RN salary in Tennessee was $62,390. In contrast, MSN nurses in the state make an average of $99,630. So even when you factor in the time and cost of earning your MSN degree, the payoff is worth the time and effort in the long run.

You Can Learn and Work from Anywhere

Whether you’re drawn to the music scene in Nashville, the big city energy of Memphis, or the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, there are MSN nursing jobs available. MSN nurses are in demand in every corner of the state, from the busiest city to the most remote town. Since Tennessee has so many great options for online learning, you can even make a move to your dream town before receiving your diploma.

In Tennessee, What Should You Look for in a Quality MSN Program?

As you’ve seen, there are numerous high-quality MSN programs in Tennessee. As with all things, though, there are some bad apples, so it’s important to vet a potential program before you commit. Sometimes that’s easier said than done since college websites can be complicated, and determining a school’s level of excellence can be difficult. To streamline the process, look for these three qualities:

State Approved and Nationally Accredited

A program’s single most important feature is its credentials. Whatever school you select, it is essential that it is accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the CCNE and approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing. Without these two certifications, you may not be able to receive your nursing license.

A Track Record of Success

Investigate the school’s NCLEX pass rates. These numbers are publicly available and can give you an idea of how prepared graduates are for the certification process. Employment rates for graduates are another way to gauge student outcomes. If employment rates aren’t available on a school’s website, request that information from the program director.

Strong Student Support

A good nursing program offers more than a strong curriculum. You also want a school where you feel supported and have the tools you need for success. Consider the school’s advising program, class sizes, and opportunities for one-on-one interaction with your professors. This is a great topic to bring up on a campus tour or during an admission interview.

Types of MSN Programs in Tennessee

Traditional MSN

Traditional MSN programs are for licensed nurses who already have a BSN. These programs build upon existing knowledge and work experience and have ample opportunity to transfer credits. In addition, since traditional MSN programs are designed for students to further along in their educational journey, they tend to take less time than some other program formats.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with This Program

Tennessee Wesleyan University

University of Memphis

Direct Entry MSN

If you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing subject but want to pursue an MSN, direct entry programs are the way to go. These programs cover all the information you need for nursing certification at the MSN level without requiring a second undergraduate degree. These programs are less common, but Tennessee has two excellent direct-entry MSN programs.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with This Program

Austin Peay State University

Vanderbilt University

Accelerated MSN

As you can guess by the name, these programs are for students who want to get their degrees in a hurry. MSN programs often operate on a shorter and more intense timeline. Depending on the school, accelerated options may also be available for an RN to MSN track. These programs work best for students who can devote their full attention to school by taking a break from work or by working part-time.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with This Program

Herzing University

Cumberland University

RN to MSN

These programs are designed for RNs who want to pursue MSN degrees. Usually, RN to MSN programs take less time than first completing a BSN program before going into a traditional MSN program. Since RN to MSN programs are typically organized with working nurses in mind, you can expect a lot of flexibility when it comes to course loads and scheduling.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with This Program

East Tennessee State University

South College

Dual Master’s

If you have very specific goals, a dual master’s program might help you get there. Many dual master’s students pursue an MBA alongside their MSN. This track sets you up for a career in high-level management of a hospital or network. Alternatively, you might pursue two nursing specialties for a broader skill set.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with This Program

Union University

Southern Adventist University

Online MSN Programs in Tennessee

Online MSN programs are extremely common in Tennessee, and for a good reason. Many MSN-degree seekers study for their advanced degrees while working full-time or part-time as nurses. Online programs offer more flexibility for managing school, work, and other responsibilities. Tennessee offers plenty of 100% online programs, but those living near campus could opt for a hybrid (i.e., a mix of online and in-person learning) program instead of a program tailored to your learning style and needs.

FAQs: MSN Programs in Tennessee

What Can You Do with an MSN in Tennessee?

An MSN degree opens doors to many different careers in Tennessee. If you’re interested in transitioning to leadership, you can choose a nursing administration program like the one at Tennessee Wesleyan University. For those looking to teach, nurse educator programs like the one at Austin Peay State University prepare them to train the next generation of nurses. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to get an MSN if you plan to stick with patient care as well. In this case, your MSN prepares you for exciting specialties like nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, nursing clinical specialization, forensic nursing, and nursing informatics. If your career ambitions include a DNP, earning your MSN is an essential step along the way.

In Tennessee, How Long Does It Take to Complete an MSN Program?

The amount of time it takes to earn an MSN degree depends on a slew of factors. Major considerations include whether you attend full-time or part-time, your current level of education, the program, and your chosen specialty. For example, the traditional MSN at South University takes 18 months of full-time study in comparison to the 30-month RN-MSN track.

How Affordable are MSN Programs in Tennessee?

Costs vary widely among schools in Tennessee. Many of the schools featured in this guide offer considerable discounts for in-state students. Course format plays a huge role as well. In-person learning often involves more additional fees and a higher cost per credit, while online learning can come with a significantly lower tuition bill and avoids the incidental costs of commuting, meal plans, etc. To give you an idea of tuition costs for MSN programs in Tennessee, a few programs and their price tags are highlighted below.

What are the Admissions Requirements for MSN Nursing Programs in Tennessee?

Much like time and cost, admission requirements for MSN programs in Tennessee vary from school to school and by program type. Generally, regardless of program type, schools consider a few primary factors:

  • GPA: Most schools specify a minimum GPA for potential applicants, typically above 2.75 or 3.0.
  • Application Essay: Different schools have different essay formats and prompts, but most have some written components to their application. Essays can be the most challenging part of applying to school, but they are a great chance to wow the admissions committee.
  • Transcripts: You’ll generally have to submit official copies of transcripts from any previous schools.
  • Application Fee: Most schools require an application fee. Some apply this fee towards the cost of your first semester if you end up attending.
  • RN License: Unless you’re applying for a direct entry program, most schools require an active, unencumbered nursing license.

Can I Get Financial Aid in Tennessee to Help Pay for My MSN Program?

Most schools in Tennessee offer financial aid and scholarships, but there are fewer statewide grants available than in other states. However, the state government does offer some grants and scholarships that apply to nursing students. You can also look into scholarships for minorities, veterans, first-generation students, or other groups. Don’t be afraid to expand your search, either. There are plenty of scholarships and financial aid options available on the national level. To get started, visit this nursing scholarship guide and financial aid guide to learn about your options.

Inside Look at Online MSN Degrees in Tennessee

Online learning programs are an excellent option for students in rural areas or those trying to earn their degrees while balancing other demands on their time. Not all online MSN programs in Tennessee operate the same way, though, so it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for.

The first significant distinction is 100% online versus hybrid learning. In fully online programs, you’ll never have to set foot on campus. All your courses and tests are completed through an online learning platform. If you are far from campus or need to study at odd hours, 100% online MSN programs may be your best option. Hybrid programs, on the other hand, have some courses on-campus and some online, or individual courses may include elements of online and in-person learning. Hybrid programs are great for students who like to have a bit more structure.

Within fully online courses or programs, there is variability as well. Most online courses are asynchronous, so you don’t have to log in on certain days or times to participate in class. Instead, you participate in courses through readings, video lectures, discussion posts, and other assignments. Synchronous courses, on the other hand, require that you join an online classroom on a set schedule to allow for interaction with instructors and classmates and to ask questions in real-time.

Lastly, you need to consider your clinicals. Many online programs work with providers in your area, so you can earn your practicum hours close to home. Some programs require you to work within specific health systems on or near campus, though, so consider this before committing to a program.

Standout Online MSN Programs in Tennessee

King University

King University prides itself on its small class sizes and excellent student support network. Online MSN students benefit from the program’s cohort model, which allows students to build a community by studying alongside the same group of peers throughout the program. Notably, King University offers one of the few pediatric nurse practitioner programs in the state. Regardless of your specialty, all King’s programs incorporate elements of high-demand knowledge, including health informatics, global health awareness, and research design.

King University’s MSN programs offer flexibility for working nurses, and programs can be completed in as few as 35 credit hours. The school is veteran friendly and offers additional financial and academic support for service members. Additionally, its flexible outcomes-based funding program connects MSN students with opportunities to help them avoid taking on student loans.

Tennessee Wesleyan University

Online MSN students at Tennessee Wesleyan University benefit from the school’s emphasis on leadership and patient care. Students can examine healthcare from medical and social perspectives and investigate how those factors interact in real-world situations. The nursing department believes that learning is a constant process and strives to incorporate the most up-to-date research and methods into its curriculum.

All of Tennessee Wesleyan’s MSN programs are 100% online. You complete coursework asynchronously by viewing lectures and studying whenever works best for your schedule. The MSN program at Tennessee Wesleyan can be completed in as few as five semesters and is very affordable, with full-time students paying, on average, $23,100 for the entire program, including fees.

Do Employers in Tennessee Accept Graduates from Online MSN Programs?

Tennessee employers are happy to hire nurses with online MSN degrees because the accreditation system guarantees that online MSN programs in Tennessee offer an equivalent education to in-person ones. Plus, most MSN programs are designed for working nurses or require in-person clinical practice hours. Either way, you have real-world work experience to back up your diploma.

Job Outlook & Salary Details for MSN Nurses in Tennessee

With an aging population and longer lifespans, the needs of the healthcare industry are expected to grow over the next decade. In addition to job growth, MSN nurses can look forward to increased earnings and higher salary potential.

Are MSN Nurses in High Demand in Tennessee?

MSN nurses are sought after in Tennessee. The state’s healthcare system is growing rapidly, and Tennessee has high rates of insured patients seeking regular medical care. These factors contribute to an overall nurse shortage in the state, particularly at the MSN level. The demand for nurse practitioners is so high, for example, that the number of available positions is expected to grow by 57.2% over the next decade. This means you’ll have plenty of job options once you graduate.

How Much More Does an MSN Nurse Make in Tennessee?

Although it’s hard to track every MSN specialization, the Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down the difference between some MSN tracks for helpful comparisons. For example, nurse practitioners in Tennessee earned an average of $103,720, nurse midwives averaged $103,430, and nurse anesthetists topped the charts with an average salary of $194,790. Although salaries vary based on employer and the cost of living in an area, earning an MSN is an excellent opportunity to increase the size of your paycheck.