Tennessee Nursing Schools and Programs

by NurseJournal Staff

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.

Tennessee Nursing Schools and Programs
RN employment
RN Job Growth
Annual Salary for Tennessee Nurses
Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact State?

Tennessee offers an array of nursing career opportunities. Prospective nurses can use this guide to explore educational and licensure requirements for various nursing roles, salary and employment prospects, and what to expect from nursing programs in Tennessee.

Why Attend a Nursing Program in Tennessee

Tennessee hosts many top-rated colleges and universities that offer high-quality and affordable nursing programs. As the demand for healthcare increases, especially among the state's aging population, nursing students in Tennessee can expect expanding career opportunities, competitive salaries, and a relatively low cost of living.

Urban areas, such as Memphis and Nashville, have emerged as major healthcare hubs, employing nurses in a variety of roles. Projections Central projects higher than the national average job growth for Tennessee's registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and certified nurse assistants (CNAs) through the end of the decade. Growth for nurse practitioners (NPs), though below the national average, is still strong at 34.7%.

Nursing Program Requirements in Tennessee

NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92.4%
State Nursing Board: Tennessee Department of Health Board of Nursing

Nurses who want to practice in Tennessee must apply for licensure through the Tennessee Board of Nursing. The state nursing board administers the licensing process for LPNs and RNs who must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). NPs are advanced practice RNs, or APRNs, who have completed a master of science in nursing (MSN) and have earned credentials in a speciality such as adult-gerontology or mental health.

Tennessee's status as one of the 34 state members of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) appeals to nursing students seeking to expand their employment prospects. State members of the eNLC may issue multistate licenses that allow RNs, LPNs, and APRNs to practice in other member states without obtaining additional licenses.

Certified Nurse Assistant

CNAs work under RN or LPN supervision in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home healthcare, and hospitals. Their duties typically include taking vital signs and helping patients with hygiene and personal care. Tennessee requires prospective CNAs to complete a state-approved training program and pass the state certification exam.

CNA Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: 18 years old minimum; drug and tuberculosis screening; criminal background check
  • How Long to Complete: Four weeks minimum; 75 hours (including 16 hours of clinical experience)
  • Accrediting Bodies: Tennessee Department of Health; National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation

Tennessee Licensure Requirements:

Licensed Practical Nurse

An LPN program provides one of the quickest pathways to a nursing career in Tennessee. The majority of LPNs find employment in nursing homes, home healthcare, clinics, and doctors' offices. These nurses provide routine care to the sick or injured. Depending on the workplace setting, their duties include taking patient histories, recording vital signs, and administering certain medications.

LPN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school graduate or GED certificate; immunization records
  • How Long to Complete: One year
  • Accrediting Bodies: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

Tennessee Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: Completion of a board-approved LPN program
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: Five hours
Registered Nurse

While the majority of RNs work in hospitals, they also find employment in settings such as doctors' offices, long-term care facilities, schools, and community agencies. Depending on the workplace and specialty, RNs conduct physical exams and diagnostic tests, administer medication, and offer wound care and other treatments. RNs in administrative roles supervise patient care provided by LPNs, CNAs, and other nurse aides.

RN Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: High school graduate or GED certificate; minimum GPA; personal essay; transcripts
  • How Long to Complete: 2-4 years
  • Accrediting Bodies: ACEN; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

Tennessee Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: Completion of a board-approved nursing diploma program, an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: Five hours
Nurse Practitioner

NPs are APRNs; other APRN tracks include certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, or certified registered nurse anesthetist. NPs provide healthcare services to patients across the lifespan, performing many of the same functions as medical doctors. NPs hold prescriptive authority and may diagnose illnesses, develop treatment plans, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals. In Tennessee, however, NPs work under restricted scope of practice.

NP Program Requirements:

  • Application Requirements: RN license; ADN or BSN; 3.0 GPA; personal essay; transcripts
  • How Long to Complete: Two years
  • Accrediting Bodies: ACEN; CCNE

Tennessee Licensure Requirements:

  • Education: MSN or higher
  • Exams: Varies depending on speciality
  • Renewal Frequency: Two years
  • Continued Education: 75 hours or more depending on specialty

Featured Online Programs

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Tennessee

Tennessee's nurses can expect a promising job outlook through the next decade. Although salaries tend to fall below the national average, the state offers one of the lowest costs of living in the U.S. and does not impose a state income tax. The demand for CNAs, LPNs, and RNs continues to grow rapidly, as the healthcare needs of the state's aging population expands. NPs trained in primary care will find the highest salaries and job opportunities, especially in rural areas and working with underserved populations.

Nursing Level Salary Projected Job Growth
Certified Nurse Assistant $27,940 11.6%
Licensed Vocational Nurse $42,330 14.2%
Registered Nurse $64,120 12.3%
Nurse Practitioner $99,370 34.7%
Source: BLS

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses in Tennessee

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Registered Nurses

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

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurse Practitioners

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for NPs
Memphis $109,090
Kingsport - Bristol $104,870
Cleveland $101,290
Chattanooga $101,130
Clarksville $98,390
Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become an RN in Tennessee?

The length of time needed to become an RN in Tennessee depends on the type of nursing program. Eligibility for state licensure requires an ADN degree, which typically takes two years to complete, or a BSN requiring four years if attending full time. Students who enroll in accelerated programs may complete their degree in 12-20 months.

How do I become an RN in Tennessee?

While the quickest pathway to RN licensure is an associate degree, most RNs pursue a BSN. Most bachelor's programs require applicants to complete prerequisites in math, biology, chemistry, and statistics. After completing their nursing training, RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN to receive state board approval to practice in the state.

What is the best nursing college in Tennessee?

The state boasts several top-quality and affordable nursing programs. Students looking for the best nursing schools in Tennessee can choose from traditional, online, and accelerated programs with ACEN or CCNE accreditation. Prospective nurses should research tuition rates, NCLEX pass rates, financial aid availability, and other factors to find the school that best fits their personal needs and career goals. See some of the best nursing programs in Tennessee here.

How much is nursing school in Tennessee?

Nursing school tuition rates vary considerably depending on degree level and type of institution, from less than $3,000 for an associate degree at a community college to over $100,000 for a four-year degree at a private school. Online programs help students save on some expenses, such as transportation and housing costs.

Resources for Nurses in Tennessee

  • Established in 1905, TNA represents the interests of registered nurses and supports the nursing profession and quality healthcare throughout the state. TNA offers members free webinars, certification information, continuing education opportunities, scholarships, and access to a career center. Through its association with the American Nurses Association, TNA members qualify for insurance benefits, travel discounts, and financial services.
  • Since it began in 2014, the TNNPA has worked to increase the acceptance and visibility of nurse practitioners within the Tennessee healthcare community, lobbying to extend their scope of practice. The association sponsors an annual conference and networking events, offers continuing education opportunities, and administers an employment center.
  • National Nurses United, the largest professional association of registered nurses in the United States, represents over 170,000 members, including Tennessee RNs. The organization advocates on behalf of RNs in the national healthcare debate and sponsors legislation to promote healthcare reform affecting patient safety and professional nursing practice. Members benefit from continuing education, workshops, and scholarship opportunities.
  • TASN advances the professional practice of school nurses who work in primary and secondary schools to promote, improve, and maintain quality comprehensive health services for all students. As an affiliate of the National Association of School Nurses, members receive benefits from both associations, including continuing education opportunities, annual conferences, legislative updates, and information about immunization requirements.

Nursing in Surrounding States

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