Best Nursing Schools in Tennessee: Online + Campus

Discover the top online and campus nursing programs in Tennessee for current and aspiring RNs. Plus get key details on degree paths, earnings potential, licensure requirements, and financial aid.

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Timon Kaple

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Timon Kaple, Ph.D., is a full-time writer and researcher. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, small-group folklore, the anthropology of sound, higher education, and student support services. He has experience as an ethnographer and enjoys conducting fieldwork and archival research.

last updated

09/15/2022

Whether you’re an LPN looking to make the jump to the RN level, a licensed RN ready to earn your bachelor’s, or are just beginning your nursing career and education journey, Tennessee nursing schools have a program that meets your unique goals.

This guide highlights the best nursing schools in Tennessee and provides information on the various types of nursing degrees they offer, including convenient online program options. You’ll also find helpful information on where to get financial aid, the job market for nurses in Tennessee, and more. Keep reading to find the online or campus nursing program in Tennessee that’s right for you.

2023’s Best-in-Class Nursing Schools in Tennessee

The following best-in-class nursing schools in Tennessee will help you start your search for the right program for you. These accredited programs were chosen based on their affordability, robust student support services, and high quality of education. Let’s see who stands out in 2023.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

UTC offers several online and in-person nursing programs. The online RN to BSN program features two cohort starting dates per year. Full-time learners can complete the program in 16 months. Support for online students includes a dedicated academic advisor, a technology coordinator, and video conferencing with faculty as needed. Prospective RN to BSN students need current RN licenses and diplomas or associate degrees with 2.0 or higher GPAs.

UTC also offers a four-year, on-campus BSN degree. Students enter as pre-nursing majors and apply for full acceptance after completing prerequisite classes. The nursing program expects its students to maintain 3.0 or higher GPAs.

The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges while the nursing program is ACEN-accredited. UTC boasts a 100% NCLEX-RN overall pass rate.

Union University

Union is a private Evangelical Christian school that features three undergraduate nursing programs. The traditional BSN, accelerated BSN, and RN to BSN programs are all very affordable.

The RN to BSN program, offered to students with RN licensure and associate degrees, requires 128 credits. Students apply on a rolling basis and begin classes on one of two starting dates per year. Most courses can be completed online through the E-Campus.

The traditional BSN is a four-year, on-campus program with optional minor concentrations in nursing across culture and nursing and languages. This 129-credit program requires ACT or SAT scores and transcripts reflecting a 2.5 or higher high school GPA. BSN students at Union have a 98% NCLEX-RN pass rate.

University of Tennessee Knoxville

UT Knoxville has one of the best nursing programs in Tennessee with several undergraduate and graduate programs available. The school boasts a 98.5% first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate.

The RN to BSN program is affordable and features a 100% online didactic curriculum plus flexible options for completing clinical training. The program follows an eight-week course format, and full-time learners can complete it in as few as three semesters.

UT Knoxville also offers traditional and accelerated BSNs. The in-person, traditional BSN involves 123 credits and four years. Accelerated BSN students usually complete the program in 12-18 months.

Find Tennessee Nursing Programs in a City Near You

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Tennessee

Nursing schools in Tennessee offer a variety of programs at every degree level. Whether you’re just out of high school and entering the field for the first time or a seasoned professional looking to bolster your credentials, there’s a program for you. Here are some of the most common nursing programs available in Tennessee.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Tennessee

ADN Programs

ADN programs are for students without previous nursing training. These programs take about two years to complete and provide foundational skills and introductory knowledge in preparation for the NCLEX-RN. ADN-educated RNs work in clinics, home healthcare, outpatient facilities, and nursing homes.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

BSNs are four-year programs offering in-depth training in areas like patient care technology, health promotion, and research. Students with ADNs and RN licensure can finish in about two years.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated BSN programs are usually for students with bachelor’s degrees in outside fields and who want to change to nursing. Accelerated BSN programs help them earn nursing bachelor’s degrees without having to repeat general education classes and spend another four years in school. Accelerated BSNs take 12-24 months to complete.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Tennessee for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN programs build upon existing knowledge and skills and prepare students for the NCLEX-RN. LPN to RN programs take about two years to finish while LPN to BSN programs takes 2-3 years.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

For students who already have ADNs and RN licensure, the RN to BSN allows them to expand their nursing skill set, increase their earning potential, and have more job opportunities. RN to BSN programs usually take 1-2 years.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

RNs with either associate or bachelor’s degrees in nursing can take an RN to MSN program, some of which include completing both a BSN and MSN simultaneously. Depending on your education, you can complete RN to MSN programs in 2-3 years.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Tennessee

MSN Programs

MSNs come in both standard and direct-entry tracks. The standard track is for students with BSNs and RN licensure. The direct-entry programs are for non-nurses with bachelor’s degrees in outside fields. MSN programs offer advanced training in specialty areas like family nurse practitioner or nursing education.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with This Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

Doctoral degrees in nursing are available for MSN degree holders planning to pursue nursing leadership or research-focused careers. BSN to DNP programs are also available. DNPs help students take the latest research and skills in the field and put them into practice in healthcare settings. A PhD prepares nurses for research or teaching positions at colleges, universities, research institutions, and private companies. These programs take 3-5 years to complete.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with This Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

Nurses with graduate degrees can sharpen their skills in a particular area of the nursing field with post-graduate certificates. Popular certificates include executive nursing leadership, acute care nurse practitioner, mental health nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner. These programs take 1-2 years.

Examples of Tennessee Nursing Schools with This Program

Top Online Nursing Programs in Tennessee for 2023

If you want the flexibility of a remote program but also some in-person interaction, look for a hybrid nursing program. If you’re interested in working through coursework at your own pace, a program with asynchronous course delivery is a good choice. Whether fully-online or hybrid, most programs still require you to complete clinical training in person.

Online nursing programs in Tennessee work well for students who are motivated, organized self-starters. Students preferring a lot of structure may find asynchronous programs challenging and may find that synchronous course delivery with live instruction, scheduled meeting times, and interactive opportunities with peers and teachers more helpful.

Whatever your preference, there’s an online nursing program in Tennessee for you. The accredited online nursing programs showcased below represent those that offer the best combination of affordability, instruction quality, and study flexibility. See which one best meets your goals.

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About the ranking

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Base Methodology for EduMed’s 2023 Online College Rankings

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2022

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 University of MemphisMemphis, TN Public $$ 3

The RN to BSN program from the University of Memphis is offered through UofM Global, one of the ways the school offers affordable and flexible online degrees. The courses in this program last seven weeks and are all online except for one in-person practicum. Students may be eligible for program credit for prior experience through the credit by examination process.

The Master of Science in nursing program at the University of Memphis offers three specialization options – education, executive leadership, and family nurse practitioner. Classes are available online, but on-site practicums are usually required. An online nursing PhD is also offered, which prepares nurses for future jobs in research and academics.

Program Highlights:

RN to BSN

  • Credits: 31
  • Cost: $419.00/credit
  • Length: 1-2 years
  • Mode: partially online

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 31 to 46
  • Cost: $606.00/credit
  • Length: 2-3 years
  • Mode: partially online

Doctor of Philosophy

  • Credits: 48
  • Cost: $606.00/credit
  • Length:42 months
  • Mode: partially online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
16/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
2 East Tennessee State UniversityJohnson City, TN Public $$ 3

East Tennessee State University offers online nursing programs for all levels. At the undergraduate level, students can attend the RN to BSN program. The classwork for the RN to BSN degree is fully online and has minimal in-person clinical requirements because it’s only open to current registered nurses.

At the master’s-degree level, East Tennessee State University offers a Master of Science in nursing program with several concentrations available including nurse administration and nursing education. At the doctoral level, one type of degree offered is a Doctor of Nursing (DNP). Like the MSN program, there are several concentrations to choose from, and most courses are available online along with in-person clinical or practicum mandates.

Program Highlights:

RN to BSN

  • Credits: 32
  • Cost: $4,837.00/semester (in-state); $6,742.00/semester (out-of-state)
  • Length: 1-2 years
  • Mode: partially online

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 42 to 51
  • Cost: $601/credit (in-state); $1,442.00/credit (out-of-state)
  • Length: 2-3 years
  • Mode: partially online

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 77 to 85
  • Cost: $601/credit (in-state); $1,442.00/credit (out-of-state)
  • Length: 4 years
  • Mode: partially online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
16/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
3 Middle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboro, TN Public $$ 2

There are two online nursing programs at Middle Tennessee State University. Both programs are available at the graduate level and combine online coursework with in-person clinical experiences. One of the most popular programs is the Master of Science in nursing. There are two concentrations to choose from: family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Full-time and part-time study paths are available, which makes it possible for students to continue working while in school. If a student already has a master’s degree in nursing, they can enroll in the post-master’s certificate program, which focuses on the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner specialty.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 42
  • Cost: $783.00/credit
  • Length: 2-3 years
  • Mode: partially online

Post-Master’s Certificate – Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

  • Credits: 20
  • Cost: $783.00/credit
  • Length: 1-2 years
  • Mode: partially online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
17/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
4 The University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleKnoxville, TN Public $$$ 4

As one of the major institutions of higher learning in Tennessee, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville offers many nursing programs. There are two online nursing programs at the doctoral level: the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Doctor of Philosophy. These are open to registered nurses from all levels, whether they have a BSN or MSN degree. As a result, the curriculum requirements can vary widely for both programs. The coursework is offered in a hybrid format, with online and on-campus classes as well as in-person practicums or preceptorships.

At the undergraduate level, the University of Tennessee Knoxville has the RN to BSN program, which offers mostly online classes, along with an in-person clinical that students can complete close to their home or place of work.

Program Highlights:

RN to BSN

  • Credits: 34
  • Cost: $429.00/credit (in-state); $514.00/credit (out-of-state)
  • Length: 1-2 years
  • Mode: partially online

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: varies
  • Cost: $700.00/credit (in-state); $775.00/credit (out-of-state)
  • Length: varies
  • Mode: partially online

Doctor of Philosophy

  • Credits: varies
  • Cost: $700.00/credit (in-state); $775.00/credit (out-of-state)
  • Length: varies
  • Mode: partially online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
17/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
5 The University of Tennessee-ChattanoogaChattanooga, TN Public $$ 2

Currently practicing nurses looking for an online nursing degree from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga have two programs to choose from. For those who want a bachelor’s degree, there’s the RN to BSN program where students attend class online, although there is an in-person requirement for the culminating senior experience class.

Current nurses who want to pursue a doctor of nursing practice degree have several specialization tracks to consider. One is the nursing track designed for MSN-prepared nurses who are already advanced practice registered nurses. Another track is for students with BSN degrees who want to focus on nursing administration systems. Finally, there are the nurse practitioner and nurse anesthesia tracks, both of which focus on the development of clinical skills and knowledge. These DNP programs have curriculums that combine online classwork with in-person experiential learning.

Program Highlights:

RN to BSN

  • Credits: 27
  • Cost: $2,197.00 (six-credit semester, in-state); $2,353.00 (six-credit semester, out-of-state);
  • Length: 16 months
  • Mode: partially online

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: varies
  • Cost: $4,884.00/semester (in-state); $5,307.00/semester (out-of-state)
  • Length: varies
  • Mode: partially online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
18/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
6 The University of Tennessee-MartinMartin, TN Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
16/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
7 Tennessee Technological UniversityCookeville, TN Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
18/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
8 Bethel UniversityMcKenzie, TN Private not-for-profit $$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
15/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
9 South CollegeKnoxville, TN Private for-profit $$$$ 3 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
18/1
AccreditationSACSCOC

Tennessee Wesleyan University

TWU offers an online RN to BSN that costs about $325/credit. The school also offers all first-time freshmen financial aid or a scholarship to offset the cost of their nursing degrees. In 2020, TWU reported a 94% NCLEX-RN pass rate.

Students at TWU complete didactic courses entirely online and clinical training at healthcare facilities nearby. Incoming RN to BSN students can take proficiency tests to demonstrate sufficient knowledge covered in TWU’s health assessment, pharmacology, and advanced nursing classes and receive up to 12 credits toward their degrees. Students can complete the program in as few as 12 months.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Tennessee

You can offset the cost of your degree by securing financial aid such as scholarships, grants, or loans. Scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid, while loans must be repaid with interest.

In Tennessee, students have several state programs to help make college more affordable. The Tennessee Student Assistance Award is for undergraduate residents in financial need and is worth up to $4,000 per year. The Tennessee Promise Scholarship also gives awards to graduates of eligible high schools. Additionally, nursing graduate students planning careers in nursing education may qualify for the state’s Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program.

For more Tennessee-based awards, check out the state’s Money for College resources. For information on scholarships and aid in general, read through our nursing scholarship guide, guide to graduating from nursing school debt-free, and main financial aid guide.

How to Become an RN in Tennessee: Licensing Information and Requirements

To become an RN in Tennessee, you’ll need to apply for licensure through the Tennessee Board of Nursing. Make sure you understand all the steps for licensure in Tennessee and remember that each state has slightly different requirements. This step-by-step guide is for RN’s looking to obtain licensure by exam.

Step 1

Complete a State-Approved RN Degree

Begin by completing a nursing degree program approved by the state and that prepares you for the NCLEX-RN. Prospective RNs must choose between an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Step 2

Apply for Licensure to the State

To receive permission to sit for the exam, you need to apply for licensure by exam. The state must then verify and approve your application, which can take six weeks or more. Applications must include a photo with signature and date, proof of citizenship, and official transcripts.

Step 3

Submit an NCLEX-RN Application

Next, complete the NCLEX candidate bulletin through NCSBN. Test-takers in Tennessee pay $200 every time they sit for the exam. You’ll know you’re eligible for the exam when you receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) from Pearson VUE. You can then schedule your exam at a local testing center in Tennessee.

Step 4

Pass the NCLEX-RN

The NCLEX-RN exam covers foundational topics like health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, reduction of risk potential, and safety and infection control. It’s a pass-fail computer-administered exam and consists of 75-265 questions that you have up to six hours to finish.

Step 5

Keep Your License Current

You’ll need to renew your license every two years in Tennessee. The state accepts several forms of evidence that prove satisfactory performance in nursing roles. Examples include documentation from a nursing school, copy of a satisfactory employer letter, and proof of completing a nursing refresher course. See the Tennessee Board of Nursing for a full list of acceptable documents.

Job Outlook for RNs in Tennessee

Registered nurses in Tennessee will see slightly above average job growth through 2028. According to Projections Central, that means a 12.3% growth or about 730 job openings per year, which is slightly faster than the national average.

Metro areas in Tennessee offer great employment opportunities for RNs in the state. Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, for example, employs more than 4,800 nurses and holds Magnet Designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Another example, Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital in Memphis, employs more than 3,000 nurses.

Employment Projections for RNs in Tennessee

New Jobs
(2018-2028)
Job Growth Rate
(2018-2028)
Average Annual Openings
(2018-2028)
Tennessee7,64012.3%4,290
United States371,50012.1%210,400

Source: Projections Central

How Much You Could Make as an RN in Tennessee

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs in Tennessee earn a good living with a median annual salary of $62,220. While that is lower than national median earnings for RNs, Tennessee RNs still make more than the national median annual wage for all other occupations. Moreover, the top 10% of earners make a healthy $86,170 median annual income. The top-paying RN jobs in Tennessee are located in Memphis and have a $66,600 median annual salary.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Tennessee

10th PercentileMedian Earnings90th Percentile
Tennessee$44,640$62,220$86,170
United States$53,410$75,330$116,230
Chattanooga, TN-GA$44,380$59,680$79,820
Clarksville, TN-KY$45,740$65,200$82,050
Cleveland, TN$42,600$54,480$63,920
Jackson, TN$42,580$56,390$76,140
Johnson City, TN$44,580$61,710$89,450
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA$42,480$56,180$76,840
Knoxville, TN$42,610$58,490$78,400
Memphis, TN-MS-AR$48,060$66,660$93,070
Morristown, TN$41,760$57,160$74,510
Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN$47,760$65,300$95,140

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020