The Top Nursing Schools in Tennessee

February 21, 2022 , Updated on June 30, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Want to learn about nursing schools in Tennessee? Use this guide to explore state licensure and educational requirements for different nursing roles and find out about employment prospects.

mini logo
NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

The Top Nursing Schools in Tennessee

For nurses seeking a career in a place that offers an exceptional quality of life, Tennessee has a lot to offer. In addition to plenty of job opportunities and a low cost of living, the state is also known for its friendly people and for the amenities offered in Nashville, the "Music City."

This guide covers information you need to know about pursuing a nursing career, including information on the best nursing schools in Tennessee for registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), salary and job outlooks, and the process of becoming a nurse in the Volunteer State.

Keep reading to learn more about becoming a nurse in Tennessee, or go straight to our list of the best nursing schools in Tennessee or our list of the best nurse practitioner (NP) programs in Tennessee.

The Best Nursing Schools in Tennessee

Tennessee is home to a diverse array of colleges and universities, including the University of Tennessee system and many private institutions. Below, we highlight some of the best overall nursing programs in the state.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in Tennessee, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including: academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

#1

Vanderbilt University

School Information
Location Nashville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 9%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

Vanderbilt University houses one of the top nursing schools in Tennessee. The university's graduate-level nursing programs lead to a master of science in nursing, a doctor of nursing practice, a Ph.D. in nursing science, and a post-master's certificate.

Specialization options include midwifery, nursing and healthcare leadership, and nursing informatics. Learners can also study nurse practitioner areas including adult-gerontology, emergency, family, neonatal, and pediatrics.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN, DNP, Ph.D., post-master's certificate
  • Campus: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,793 per credit hour (MSN, DNP, post-master's certificate), $2,150 (Ph.D.)
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing, MSN, or RN license (depending on program); minimum 3.0-3.5 GPA; prerequisite coursework; advanced practice certification for DNP
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Visit Site
#2

Belmont University

School Information
Location Nashville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 72%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

Belmont University delivers some of the top nursing programs in Tennessee. Belmont's nursing school admits high school graduates, registered nurses, and nursing degree-holders.

The bachelor of science in nursing program offers traditional and accelerated tracks. Enrollees in the master of science in nursing program focus on a family nurse practice. The university provides DNP programs for BSN and MSN degree-holders.

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN, MSN, DNP
  • Campus: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,430 per credit hour (undergraduate), $1,500-$1,600 per credit hour (graduate)
  • Admission Requirements: High school diploma, nursing degree, RN license, or advanced practice certification (depending on program); ACT or SAT scores for BSN; minimum 3.0-3.5 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 16 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 76% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $55,026 for bachelor's graduates and $84,653 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Visit Site
#3

Freed-Hardeman University

School Information
Location Henderson, Tennessee
Admission Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 58%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

Freed-Hardeman University is a Christian institution offering a bachelor of science in nursing program. The 126-credit, two-part curriculum features coursework in the arts and sciences. Learners take Bible-based general education classes.

The BSN program features nursing coursework, clinical experiences, and simulation and skills labs. Enrollees participate in community and patient population practicums and complete a nursing capstone.

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN
  • Campus: Henderson, Tennessee
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $24,300 per year
  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 2.8 cumulative GPA, minimum 2.5 science GPA, at least a 52.1% TEAS score, fewer than 12 general education classes remaining
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 48 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $55,061 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Visit Site
#4

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville

School Information
Location Knoxville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 72%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

University of Tennessee, Knoxville delivers some of the best nursing programs in Tennessee. UT Knoxville's programs emphasize education, practice, research, and technology.

Recent high school graduates and registered nurses can pursue a bachelor of science in nursing. The university offers graduate programs conferring a DNP, a Ph.D, a nurse practitioner degree, and a nonclinical graduate certificate. 

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN, DNP, Ph.D., post-master's and postdoctoral certificates
  • Campus: Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $13,244 per year (in-state undergraduate), $31,664 per year (out-of-state undergraduate), $13,380 per year (in-state graduate), $31,798 per year (out-of-state graduate)
  • Admission Requirements: ACT or SAT for BSN program, prerequisite coursework, 2.7-3.3 GPA, BSN for graduate programs
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $52,584 for bachelor's graduates and $91,502 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Visit Site
#5

Tennessee Technological University

School Information
Location Cookeville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 54%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 71% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

Tennessee Technological University offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degrees. RNs and students earning a second bachelor's degree can pursue Tennessee Tech's BSN program.

The university offers an online MSN program and an RN-to-MSN track. Graduate specialization options include family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health, nursing administration, and nursing education.

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN, MSN, doctor of nursing practice (DNP)
  • Campus: Cookeville, Tennessee
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $325 per credit hour (in-state undergraduate), $573 per credit hour (out-of-state undergraduate), $524 per credit hour (in-state graduate), $772-$879 per credit hour (out-of-state graduate)
  • Admission Requirements: HESI A2 pre-nursing exam for traditional BSN; prerequisites in chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and microbiology for second bachelor's BSN; associate degree in nursing for RN-to-BSN; RN license, 3.0 GPA, and ADN, BSN, MSN, or advanced practice certification (depending on program) for MSN and DNP
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 3 semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes (some programs available fully online)
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $51,907 for bachelor's graduates and $84,284 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Visit Site
#6

Union University

School Information
Location Jackson, Tennessee
Admission Rate 53%
Graduation Rate 68%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

A Christian institution, Union University offers nursing programs in Tennessee for undergraduate and graduate learners. The university offers a BSN program in traditional and accelerated formats. Registered nurses can pursue the RN-to-BSN program.

Graduate-level options include an online master of science in nursing program and a doctor of nursing practice program. Learners can select postgraduate and endorsement specialty tracks.

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN, MSN, DNP, postgraduate certificate, nursing endorsement
  • Campus: Jackson, Tennessee
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,150 per credit hour (undergraduate), $660 per credit hour (accelerated BSN) $505 per credit hour (RN-to-BSN), $665 per credit hour (MSN), $995 per credit hour (DNP)
  • Admission Requirements: Two of the following for traditional BSN: 22 ACT, 1100 SAT, or 72 Classic Learning Test scores, minimum 2.5 GPA, or top 50% class rank; minimum 3.0 GPA and TEAS exam scores for accelerated BSN; RN license and nursing degree for RN-to-BSN and graduate programs
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 15 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes (some programs available fully online)
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,673 for bachelor's graduates and $90,412 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Visit Site
#7

Milligan University

School Information
Location Milligan, Tennessee
Admission Rate 99%
Graduation Rate 63%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

Christian-affiliated Milligan University awards a bachelor of science in nursing. The institution also offers an RN-to-BSN program.

BSN students take liberal arts courses before completing nursing classes and clinical experiences. Milligan offers the RN-to-BSN program online for working nurses.

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN
  • Campus: Elizabethton, Tennessee
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,123 per credit hour (full-time undergraduate), $335 per credit hour (RN-to-BSN)
  • Admission Requirements: Prerequisites; 2.0-2.5 GPA; Tennessee RN license, RN employment, and nursing diploma or associate degree for RN-to-BSN
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 5 semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Visit Site
#8

Lincoln Memorial University

School Information
Location Harrogate, Tennessee
Admission Rate 50%
Graduation Rate 55%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

Lincoln Memorial University confers associate, bachelor's, and doctoral nursing degrees. The university offers some of the best nursing programs in Tennessee for recent high school graduates, licensed practical nurses, and registered nurses.

Students pursuing a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice can specialize in family and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, nursing administration, or nurse anesthesia.

Details:

  • Program(s): ASN, BSN, MSN, DNP
  • Campus: Harrogate, Tennessee
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $1,030 per credit hour (undergraduate), $720 per credit hour (MSN in nurse practitioner), $10,950 per semester (MSN in nurse anesthesia), $550 per credit hour (MSN in nursing administration), $735 per credit hour (DNP)
  • Admission Requirements: LMU admission, official transcripts, prerequisite coursework, nursing degree or RN license (some tracks)
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 3 semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes (some programs available fully online)
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $51,077 for associate graduates, $47,863 for bachelor's graduates, and $98,403 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Visit Site
#9

Southern Adventist University

School Information
Location Collegedale, Tennessee
Graduation Rate 55%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

Southern Adventist University offers associate of science and bachelor of science in nursing degrees. The university's graduate programs include an MSN program, an RN-to-MSN program, and an MSN/MBA dual degree.

Graduate students can also pursue a post-master's certificate and a doctor of nursing practice with entry points for bachelor's and master's degree-holders.

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN, MSN, post-master's certificate, DNP
  • Campus: Collegedale, Tennessee
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $735-$960 per credit hour (undergraduate) $660 per credit hour (master's), $875 per credit hour (doctorate)
  • Admission Requirements: High school diploma or GED certificate and TEAS exam scores for AS and BSN; RN license for RN-to-BSN; minimum 3.0 GPA, college statistics, BSN, RN license for graduate study (plus two years of nursing with critical care experience for some tracks)
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Two semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes (some programs available fully online)
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 90% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $53,579 for bachelor's graduates and $92,277 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Visit Site
#10

Carson-Newman University

School Information
Location Jefferson City, Tennessee
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 57%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Description:

A Christian institution, Carson-Newman University delivers some of the best nursing programs in Tennessee. Learners can pursue a bachelor of science in nursing, a master of science in nursing, and a doctor of nursing practice.

The university also offers a post-master's family nurse practitioner certificate. Individuals earning an MSN or post-master's certificate can study on campus or online.

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN, MSN, DNP, post-master's certificate
  • Campus: Jefferson City, Tennessee
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $15,650 per semester (full-time undergraduate), $650 per credit hour (MSN and certificate), $850 per credit hour (DNP)
  • Admission Requirements: High school diploma, ACT or SAT scores, nursing degree or advanced practice certification (depending on degree level), 3.0 GPA, RN licenses for graduate study
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes (some programs available fully online)
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $50,499 for bachelor's graduates and $85,760 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Visit Site

Featured Online MSN Programs

How to Choose a Nursing Program in Tennessee

Earning a degree is the first step to becoming an RN, but the best program for you depends on your individual career goals, finances, and life situation. For example, you may need a program that offers online classes to accommodate your work or family responsibilities, as well as the opportunity to complete your clinical rotations in a local hospital.

Compare program graduation and NCLEX pass rates. Higher rates indicate that the school provides adequate support to help students complete their program and a quality education that prepares them for nursing practice.

Because paying for nursing school is also a concern, compare program tuition rates with an eye toward financial aid options. Many schools offer assistance to qualified students, with multiple Tennessee state financial aid programs available. For example, the Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program benefits RNs who choose to teach at Tennessee nursing programs.

Accreditation is also crucial. Applicants for a nursing license must have a degree from a nursing program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing. Accreditation indicates that the nursing program prepares graduates for nursing practice. Without a degree from an accredited program, you may struggle to get financial aid, qualify for a license or find employment, or be accepted into a graduate nursing education program.

Why Become a Nurse in Tennessee

Nurses in Tennessee can work at some of the best hospitals in the country, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

The state is a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state, meaning that when you earn a license to practice in Tennessee, that license is valid in the 33 other NLC states. Tennessee is also a right-to-work state, meaning that you are not required to join a union as a condition of employment. However, many nurses belong to the Tennessee Nurses Association, an affiliate of the American Nurses Association.

Although Tennessee isn't the highest paying state for nurses, the low cost of living and favorable tax laws mean nurses earn the same—or more—than those in other states. The Volunteer State consistently ranks among the best places to live, thanks to the relatively mild climate, excellent educational system, and a wealth of outdoor and cultural activities, including the thriving Nashville music scene.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Tennessee

Overall, nurses in Tennessee earn significantly less than those in other states; the median salary for nurses in Tennessee is $62,220, compared to $75,330 nationwide. This makes the state 47th in terms of earnings, but note that residents here do not pay state income tax on their earnings. This puts more money in nurses' pockets and partially closes the earnings gap. The cost of living in Tennessee is also among the lowest in the country, with prices for housing, groceries, transportation, and utilities lower than almost every state.

Despite the below average earning potential, nursing jobs are in demand in Tennessee. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a higher-than-average growth rate of 12.3% between 2018 and 2028 for RNs. Demand for NPs in Tennessee is slightly lower than the national average of 34.7% but still ranks among the top ten states in terms of demand.

The following table highlights the five highest-paying metropolitan areas in Tennessee. Memphis tops the list, thanks in large part to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, which calls the city home.

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses in Tennessee
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for RNs
Memphis $66,660
Nashville-Davidson—Murfreesboro—Franklin $65,300
Clarksville $65,200
Johnson City $61,710
Chattanooga $59,680
Source: BLS

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Tennessee

The process of becoming a nurse in Tennessee is similar to other states and requires earning a degree and passing an exam to qualify for licensure. Licenses are issued by the Tennessee Board of Nursing, which (unlike other states) does not charge a fee for the initial license.

RN Requirements

Tennessee's process for becoming a nurse is the same as in most states. Candidates must complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program and pass the NCLEX exam to earn a license. The Tennessee Board of Nursing requires applicants to submit applications and undergo a criminal background check before registering for the NCLEX. You must also have transcripts sent directly to the board from your school. Application reviews can take up to six weeks to complete.

APRN Requirements

To become an APRN in Tennessee, you need a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), as well as a valid nursing license and proof of certification in your practice area. Applicants must also complete the mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire. The application can be completed entirely online. Application reviews can take up to six weeks.

The Best Nurse Practitioner Programs in Tennessee

If you are interested in becoming an NP in Tennessee, check out the best NP programs in the state below.

Other Top Nursing Programs in Tennessee

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Tennessee


Is Tennessee good for nurses?

Tennessee offers nurses no income tax, a low cost of living, and the chance to work in some of the best hospitals in the nation. Demand for nurses is projected to remain high, making this a good place to start or continue a nursing career.

Is there a nursing shortage in Tennessee?

Many states are experiencing a shortage of nurses, Tennessee included. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated staffing shortages, meaning that there are currently plenty of opportunities for nurses. Many hospitals offer sign-on bonuses, financial aid for education, and other perks to attract nurses, making now a great time to explore your options.

What is a nurse's starting salary in Tennessee?

PayScale reports that the median starting annual salary for RNs in Nashville is $64,430. NPs earn a median starting salary of about $91,690.

How do I transfer my nursing license to Tennessee?

If you are moving from another NLC state, your existing license is valid in Tennessee. You can practice using your current credentials but must apply for a license by endorsement to acquire a new multistate license with Tennessee as your state of residence. If you move to Tennessee from a non-NLC state, you must apply for a license by endorsement, which authorizes you to practice in the state.

Find Nursing Programs in Other States

State

NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.

Popular Resources

Resources and articles written by professionals and other nurses like you.