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.

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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.

2022’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 2022.

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

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Tennessee

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 best online nursing programs highlighted below provide examples of what to expect in a quality program.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Tennessee

Tennessee Technological University

Tennessee Tech boasts a fully-online RN to BSN for individuals with RN licensure and associate degrees. Upon admission, administrators in the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing evaluate each student’s transcripts and create a tailored curriculum. Some incoming students, depending on their training, obtain more than half of the required upper-division credits for this 120-credit degree through the Tennessee Mobility Act.

Up to 32 credits may transfer from an ADN, so RN to BSN students can complete this online nursing program in as few as three semesters. At least 30 hours must be completed at Tennessee Tech, including the last 12 hours of nursing instruction. All clinicals are in-person at approved healthcare facilities near where students live.

East Tennessee State University

Remote learners at East Tennessee University can take advantage of its fully-online RN to BSN designed for RNs with ADNs or nursing diplomas. This program is open to full- and part-time learners and costs $493/credit for online courses. In 2020, the program had an 87% NCLEX-RN first-time pass rate.

In addition to general education requirements, students complete 32 credits and follow a two, three, or five-semester curriculum plan. Classes are asynchronous, and clinical requirements are completed at the RNs current workplace or another approved facility.

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
Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
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
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