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Top Tennessee Nursing Schools and Programs

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Advertisement 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.

Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Nursing is a noble career path that requires a significant amount of education. This resource can help you make sense of Tennessee’s educational requirements for nurses. We look at four types of online nursing programs in Tennessee: certified nurse assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and nurse practitioner (NP) programs. This guide also provides information about how to obtain Tennessee nursing licensure, along with employment and salary figures for nursing professionals in the state. Finally, at the bottom of the page, you can also find a list of accredited online nursing programs in Tennessee.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Tennessee?

Prospective nurses in Tennessee can save a great deal of time and money by attending an in-state nursing program. The state maintains a list of approved educational programs, including online nursing schools in Tennessee. Individuals applying for Tennessee nursing licensure who attend a school not on the list may need to prove that their education meets state standards, even if it holds accreditation.

In addition, the state sponsors the Graduate Nursing Loan Forgiveness program for Tennessee RNs. RNs who work for four years as a faculty member or administrator in an in-state nursing education program qualify for student loan forgiveness.

Advertisement 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.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in Tennessee

After earning a degree from one of many nursing schools in Tennessee, the process for becoming a nurse is similar to that in other states. Nurses in all states must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to receive their license.

  • 1. Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    The minimum degree required to become a nurse is an associate degree in nursing (ADN). ADN-holders are qualified to take the licensing test required to become a registered nurse. Those interested in earning a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) should consider online BSN programs in Tennessee. Most RNs hold at least a bachelor’s in nursing, and many advanced practice nurses need a master’s degree in nursing (MSN). Those who wish to teach nursing to college students need the highest degree in nursing, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).

  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Students interested in earning an online nursing degree should research online RN programs in Tennessee. Most nursing schools in Tennessee maintain course prerequisites like undergraduate anatomy and medical terminology. In addition, Tennessee nursing schools often require students to complete a clinical internship, fellowship, or practicum at a local healthcare facility. Program completion time varies by degree. Most students require four years to earn a BSN, but some programs offer an accelerated path that takes 12 to 20 months.

  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    The amount of time needed to study for the NCLEX varies by individual. The NCLEX costs $200. Candidates are given six hours to complete the RN exam or five hours to complete the PN exam. Online nursing degree programs prepare students for the exam, but practice tests and exam-specific studies are recommended. Earning a nursing license does not guarantee a job, but it does qualify graduates for positions.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Tennessee

Tennessee law requires all types of nursing professionals to pursue some level of nursing education. Individuals who want to become RNs or NPs must enroll in a degree program. Online nursing programs in Tennessee can help students accomplish their educational goals with some flexibility and independence.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Tennessee?

Online nursing programs in Tennessee vary considerably in terms of course offerings. However, most curricula cover some similar foundational concepts in order to meet state requirements. Many online RN programs in Tennessee offer one or more of the classes described below.

Foundations of Nursing Practice

Nursing programs usually begin with an introductory course that acquaints students with nursing theories and processes. Learners study foundational health assessment and therapeutic intervention methods.

Healthcare Informatics

Nurses often need to handle patient data. This course teaches candidates about information and technology in hospitals and other facilities, including how to collect and store patients’ biometric data.

Nursing Leadership

This course examines team management through decision making, problem solving and critical thinking. Students learn to manage time, motivate others, delegate tasks, diffuse conflict, and communicate effectively in healthcare settings.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Online nursing programs offer certain advantages that traditional on-campus programs do not. Distance learners may study at their own convenience, watch video lectures online, participate in class discussions through online forums, and turn in assignments through a web-based system. This can provide significant advantages for individuals who work full time or care for families. Luckily, there are many available online nursing programs in Tennessee.

However, all online nursing programs include onsite clinical requirements. Distance learners should expect to spend at least some time fulfilling in-person requirements at a hospital or other healthcare facility. In addition, some online nursing schools in Tennessee offer hybrid programs. Learners enrolled in hybrid programs complete some coursework online and travel to campus to fulfill other program components.

Learners enrolled in hybrid programs complete some coursework online and travel to campus to fulfill other program components.

In many ways, online programs hold similarities to their on-campus counterparts. Courses cover the same material, and admissions requirements remain the same. However, distance learning degrees usually provide more scheduling flexibility, and some schools offer accelerated options.

Nursing Licensure in Tennessee

The Tennessee Board of Nursing issues and renews state licensure. The Board also approves nursing education programs and determines disciplinary measures for nurses who violate the law.

In addition, the Board ensures that nursing candidates meet all license application and renewal requirements, which differ according to license type. For example, CNAs need to complete a short training program, while an NP must earn a graduate degree. Different licenses also require different continuing competency standards. The next section explores these variations in further depth.

The Tennessee Board of Nursing expects all NPs to obtain a certificate of fitness before they can prescribe medication. They must fulfill additional qualifications, like taking extra pharmacology courses during school and through continuing education.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Each type of nursing license includes different education and experience requirements. The table below compares and contrasts licensing requirements for each nursing type.

  • CERTIFIED NURSE ASSISTANT

    Tennessee considers nurse aides certified if they appear on the Tennessee Nurse Aide Registry. To apply for certification, prospective CNAs must complete a state-approved training program. While training program curricula vary, federal law requires all programs to consist of 75 hours or more, including at least 16 supervised clinical hours. After graduation, candidates must pass a state competency exam. Individuals who enroll in a nursing home-based program do not need to pay for training or testing.

    CNAs must renew their certification every two years. While they do not need to complete any continuing education requirements, they must provide documented proof that they worked at least eight hours during that 24-month period. Out-of-state CNAs with no history of abuse or other derogatory actions may apply for certification by reciprocity.

    Tennessee Licensure Requirements

    • Education: State-approved training program
    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in training program
    • Exams: State competency exam
    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
    • Continuing Education: N/A

  • LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSE

    All LPNs must complete a state-approved practical nursing training program. While these programs are often available at community colleges or technology schools, the Board publishes a full list online. These year-long programs include basic science and nursing courses. After completing a training program, candidates should pass the national NCLEX-PN exam. The Board publishes a list of NCLEX-PN results by school here. Candidates must undergo a criminal background check when they submit an application.

    Once licensed, LPNs must renew their certification every two years by meeting two of 15 possible continuing competency requirements. Options for continuing competency requirements include a copy of satisfactory employer evaluation, five contact hours of continuing education, copy of a contract renewal, a letter from a peer vouching for the LPNs’ work, and a written self-evaluation. LPNs can find a full list of possible requirements online.

    Tennessee Licensure Requirements

    • Education: State-approved practical nursing education program
    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in educational program
    • Exams: NCLEX-PN
    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
    • Continuing Education: Continued competence documentation, which could include optional 5 continuing education hours

  • REGISTERED NURSE

    Aspiring RNs can earn either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor’s of science in nursing. The state board’s website features a full list of qualifying educational programs. An associate degree traditionally requires two years of study, while a bachelor’s degree takes around four years to complete. Both curriculum types include theory and clinical courses, but a bachelor’s curriculum delves into more advanced topics. After graduating, candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and a criminal background check to qualify for licensure.

    RNs should meet the same continuing competency requirements as LPNs. The Board gives RNs a list of 15 possible methods to prove competency, and candidates must complete two of them to renew their license. Some methods include submitting a satisfactory employer evaluation, a letter of approval from colleagues or patients, a contract showing renewal of a nursing position, or a written self-evaluation. RNs can also complete five continuing education hours as part of their competency requirements. Professionals must renew their licenses every two years.

    Tennessee Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Associate or bachelor of science in nursing
    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program
    • Exams: NCLEX-RN
    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
    • Continuing Education: Continued competence requirements; RNs may fulfill one requirement with 5 hours of continuing education

  • NURSE PRACTITIONER

    NPs in Tennessee must earn an RN license before applying for APRN licensure. After they obtain a bachelor’s degree and become licensed RNs, aspiring nurse practitioners must pursue a graduate degree. Candidates may pursue either a master’s degree, which lasts about two years, or a doctoral degree. The Tennessee Board of Nursing website includes a list of universities in the state that offer approved nursing programs. During their graduate studies, candidates typically choose a professional specialization, such as neonatal care or family practice.

    After earning a graduate degree, prospective NP candidates must earn a national certification in their specialty area. National certification agencies require candidates to pass an exam, and sometimes expect applicants to complete an additional period of supervised clinical work.

    Like other Tennessee nursing professionals, NPs renew their licenses every two years. They must complete one of 15 possible continued competency requirements from the Tennessee Board. NPs with a certificate of fitness must also complete two continuing education hours covering substance prescription practices, and fulfill any continuing education requirements to keep their national certification.

    Tennessee Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Master of science in nursing or doctorate of nursing practice
    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program; certifying agency may require additional clinical hours
    • Exams: Certification exam from the national certifying agency
    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years; plus,certification as often as required by national certifying agencies
    • Continuing Education: Continued competence requirements, plus any additional requirements to keep national certification

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Tennessee FAQ

  • HOW SHOULD I CHOOSE WHAT NURSING FIELD TO GO INTO?

    That depends on your interests and preferences. How long do you want to stay in school? Do you know your salary goals? Consider which populations you enjoy working with. Do you like taking care of infants, or would you rather help the elderly?

  • DOES AN ONLINE NURSING DEGREE HAVE THE SAME VALUE AS AN ON-CAMPUS DEGREE?

    Yes — as long as the online nursing degree is accredited and holds board approval. Look for programs accredited by the Commission on the Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

  • HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN RN LICENSE IN TENNESSEE?

    It generally takes 2-4 years to earn an RN license. Associate degrees traditionally last two years, while bachelor’s degrees last four years. Students in accelerated programs may graduate more quickly, while part-time learners may take longer to complete their degree.

  • IS TENNESSEE A GOOD STATE FOR NURSES?

    In terms of employment numbers and job growth, Tennessee ranks as a good state for nurses. The projected job growth rate for every type of nurse outpaces national projections.

  • HOW HARD IS IT TO GET INTO NURSING SCHOOL IN TENNESSEE?

    That depends on the nursing school. While CNA and LPN programs accept applicants with high school diplomas, bachelor’s programs may require applicants to possess a certain high school GPA.

Tennessee Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

As the following table demonstrates, mean annual salaries for Tennessee nursing professionals tend to fall below national averages. However, the state job growth rate for each type of nurse far outpaces the national projected job growth rate for its respective profession. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the demand for LPNs is likely to outpace the supply in the coming decade. These projections indicate that employers will be actively looking for job candidates to fill roles.

In addition, Tennessee ranks as one of the states with the highest numbers of licensed practical nurses and nurse practitioners. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Johnson City is one of the nation’s top three hiring cities for employment of both licensed practical nurses and nurse practitioners.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Tennessee, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $26,400 20.5%
Licensed Practical Nurse $40,120 17.8%
Registered Nurse $61,320 18.9%
Nurse Practitioner $95,990 40.2%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

  Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Alabama $24,110 $38,230 $59,470 $95,970
Mississippi $23,100 $37,930 $58,490 $109,700
Arkansas $25,770 $39,570 $60,780 $104,300
Missouri $25,930 $42,580 $65,130 $102,470
Kentucky $26,800 $41,920 $63,100 $99,790
Virginia $28,770 $44,850 $69,790 $105,170
North Carolina $25,570 $44,610 $64,850 $104,100
Georgia $25,870 $41,690 $68,950 $106,750

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


The annual mean wage for CNAs in Tennessee approaches $26,400, while CNAs nationwide enjoy an annual mean wage of $29,580. BLS data indicates that nursing assistants in Tennessee’s neighboring states make even lower wages, with the average Mississippi CNA earning $23,100 annually and those in Alabama bringing in only $24,110 a year. According to Projections Central, the number of CNAs in Tennessee should grow by 20.5% — nearly double the national projected growth rate of 11.5%.

Licensed Practical Nurse


Tennessee LPNs collect an annual mean wage of $40,120, earning significantly less than the $47,050 national mean. Compared to LPNs in surrounding states, earnings for Tennessee LPNs fall somewhere in the middle. Mississippi LPNs earn about $37,930 a year, while Missouri LPNs bring in around $42,580 annually.According to the BLS, Tennessee employed over 24,000 LPNs in 2018, making it the state with the fifth-highest concentration of LPNs.

Registered Nurse


While the national annual mean wage for RNs approaches $75,510, the figure for Tennessee RNs falls closer to $61,320. Wages for RNs in most neighboring states fall between these two figures, although Tennessee nurses out-earn RNs in Mississippi and those in Alabama. However, the job growth rate for Tennessee RNs outpaces national projections. According to Projections Central, the number of RNs could increase nationally by 14.8%, compared to nearly 19% in Tennessee.

Nurse Practitioner


Tennessee is home to the nation’s second-highest concentration of NPs, and four Tennessee cities rank among the 10 best cities for NPs in the country: Johnson City, Cleveland, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. The number of Tennessee NPs is projected to increase by 40%, compared to a 36% national projected growth rate. Despite these figures, salaries for Tennessee NPs fall below the national average. While Tennessee NPs earn a mean wage of $95,990, the national mean is $110,030.

Nursing Resources for Tennessee


  • Tennessee Nurses Association Founded in 1905, TNA has connected nurses for over a century. TNA awards scholarships and grants, hosts events, and offers continuing education opportunities.

  • Tennessee Nurse Practitioner Association This nonprofit association caters specifically to NPs in the state. Members receive discounted admission to the TNNPA annual conference and attend exclusive meetings and networking events.

  • Tennessee Board of Nursing The board is the state government's regulatory arm for nursing professionals. Aspiring nurses can find information about obtaining licensure on the board's website, while licensed nursing professionals can read about renewal.

  • Tennessee Student Nurses Association TSNA offers helpful resources for nursing students who are trying to build their careers. Members can attend conventions and get involved in legislative efforts.

  • Tennessee Association of School Nurses This organization serves nurses who work in primary and secondary schools. The association organizes continuing education opportunities and provides links to resources like immunization requirements.

Jump to Another State

Advertisement 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.