Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Tennessee

16 Min Read Published May 23, 2024
Nashville skyline from the river

Looking to become a nurse in Tennessee? Nurse.org put together a list of the top nursing schools in Tennessee to help you choose the right program for you.

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington’s online programs are designed to help you achieve more in your nursing practice with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They offer convenient, flexible options for completing your RN to BSN or BSN online, both designed to fit into your busy schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Top 10 Nursing Schools in Tennessee

This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors, including,

  • Reputation
  • NCLEX pass rate
  • Tuition
  • Acceptance rate, when available
  • Only ACEN or CCNE-accredited schools are eligible 

Our selection panel includes 4 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
  • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
  • Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC
  • Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN

Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Tennessee nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.

In-State Tuition
$7,992 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$24,110 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

Based in Chattanooga and just a short drive from Georgia is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. With nearly 10,000 full-time students, nursing students who choose UTC get to enjoy an urban campus and the benefits of a large school. While the School of Nursing isn't the largest in the state, students can complete nearly any degree through UTC.

Available programs include a traditional BSN, an online RN-BSN, two master's of science in nursing (MSN) programs, and a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). First-time NCLEX pass rates are impressive; every student who completed the BSN eventually passed the NCLEX. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 9%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $300
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $972
Contact Information:
  • Address: 615 McCallie Ave, Chattanooga, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 73%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $53,556

 

In-State Tuition
$8,520 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$18,552 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

Based in Cookeville, Tennessee, Technological University structures its curriculum and programs to maximize students' chances of finding a job after graduation. Students who earn a nursing degree through the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing graduate ready to enter a high-demand field. Recent NCLEX pass rates for the traditional BSN are impressive, and Tennessee Tech offers an affordable in-state tuition rate to Tennessee residents. Current RNs can take advantage of an RN-BSN or RN-MSN, both of which can boost your income. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 10%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $325
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $773
Contact Information:
  • Address: 1 William L. Jones Drive, Cookeville, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 78%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $51,907

 

In-State Tuition
$35,500 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$35,500 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
No

With just over 2,000 students, Union University offers a small, private university experience. Union's main campus is based in Jackson, though it has additional Hendersonville, Germantown, and Memphis campuses. While earning a BSN from Union, students will first complete 65 credit hours of core courses, followed by 64 nursing credit hours. This is generally split evenly over the four-year degree, so students take most of their nursing courses during their junior and senior years. Upon graduation, nurses either enter the workforce or continue their education and earn an MSN or DNP.

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 53%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 21%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $653
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $653
Contact Information:
  • Address: 1050 Union University Dr, Jackson, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $58,673

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington’s online programs are designed to help you achieve more in your nursing practice with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They offer convenient, flexible options for completing your RN to BSN or BSN online, both designed to fit into your busy schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

In-State Tuition
$11,332 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$29,522 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

The University of Tennessee Knoxville is one of the oldest universities in the nation, founded over 200 years ago. Since its establishment, UT Knoxville -- often referred to as "Tennessee" -- has grown into the flagship university in the University of Tennessee System and one of the top universities in the nation.

The College of Nursing matches the academic excellence of UT Knoxville, and undergraduate students can choose from the traditional BSN, an online RN-BSN, an accelerated BSN, or the Honors Program. UT Knoxville is highly competitive despite admitting 100 BSN students annually.

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 7%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $378
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,137
Contact Information:
  • Address: 527 Andy Holt Tower, Knoxville, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $52,584

 

In-State Tuition
$7,344 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$26,376 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
No

Middle Tennessee State University is a large, public research school based in Murfreesboro. MTSU has a reputation for being an affordable, quality school for Tennessee residents, though students from out-of-state can take advantage of its excellent programs. The School of Nursing offers two programs: a traditional, four-year BSN and an MSN with a concentration in family nurse practitioner (FNP). The MSN leads to a high-paying and high-demand field, so current or future nurses looking to specialize in their practice may be interested in the program. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 73%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 15%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $306
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,099
Contact Information:
  • Address: 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 76%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $55,061

 

In-State Tuition
$24,720 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$24,720 per year
Accreditation
ACEN
Online?
Yes

Founded based on President Abraham Lincoln's vision to create a great university in the Cumberland Gap, Lincoln Memorial University brings quality education to the region. Based in the Appalachian city of Harrogate, LMU students study at one of the most scenic campuses in the area and benefit from a tight-knit community.

Students of the Caylor School of Nursing can choose a traditional or accelerated 17-month BSN and have the option to study at LMU's extended campus in Tampa, Florida. Keep in mind that studying in Florida meets Florida's nursing requirements and may not meet Tennessee's. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 8%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,030
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,030
Contact Information:
  • Address: 6965 Cumberland Gap Parkway, Harrogate, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 77%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $47,863

 

In-State Tuition
$38,000 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$38,000 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
No

Belmont University is a private Christian school that prides itself on innovation. With over 8,400 students, Belmont is a decently sized private school, though students still enjoy a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio and the chance to study in Nashville.

Belmont's innovation extends to the BSN program, where students can choose a traditional four-year degree or one of two accelerated formats (a 16-month or 21-month BSN). Also offered are an MSN and a DNP with a focus on an FNP.  Belmont University's Partners in Nursing program provides a specialized transfer opportunity for students on track to complete an Associate of Science degree at several local community colleges. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 96%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 1%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,430
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,430
Contact Information:
  • Address: 1900 Belmont Blvd, Nashville, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $55,026

 

In-State Tuition
$31,480 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$31,480 per year
Accreditation
ACEN
Online?
No

Another private Christian school, Bethel University, is based in McKenzie. Bethel emphasizes community, and while the school is religious, students from all backgrounds enjoy their time at Bethel.

Additionally, the undergraduate nursing program doesn't mix religious values and medicine, instead focusing on tried-and-true nursing practices. The result is one of the only nursing schools in the nation to achieve a 100% NCLEX pass rate for grads, and graduates over the past four years have averaged over a 95% pass rate.

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 99%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 19%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $795
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $795
Contact Information:
  • Address: 1001 Bethel Circle, Mishawaka, IN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 71%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $52,107

 

In-State Tuition
$34,304 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$34,304 per year
Accreditation
ACEN
Online?
No

Lipscomb University is a private school based in the bustling city of Nashville. Consistently ranked among the best Christian schools in the US, Lipscomb forgoes a large student body in favor of a lower student-to-faculty ratio. The benefits of a small school are clear to nursing students who receive a more personalized education when they have fewer students to compete with. In the past four years, Lipscomb has lowered its admitted students from roughly 65 per year to just 37. The result has been a jump in NCLEX pass rates, though this change might make admission into the program more difficult.

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 71%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 10%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,439
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,439
Contact Information:
  • Address: One University Park Drive, Nashville, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $53,080

 

In-State Tuition
$8,352 per year
Out-of-State Tuition
$12,576 per year
Accreditation
CCNE
Online?
Yes

Founded in 1912, the University of Memphis teaches over 20,000 students across its 1,600-acre campus in Memphis. Most nursing students will complete the traditional BSN, a five-semester program that begins after students complete three semesters of prerequisite courses. Perhaps the most impressive part of Memphis' nursing program is maintaining a good NCLEX pass rate despite increasing the number of admitted nursing students from 153 to 258 earlier in the decade. The dramatic increase in the number of nursing students makes the program at the University of Memphis easier to get into than other nursing programs in Tennessee. 

School Information:
  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 24%
Tuition:
  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $348
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $524
Contact Information:
  • Address: Alumni Avenue, Memphis, TN
  • Website
School Success:
  • Retention Rate: 75%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $58,968

Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

  • Tennessee RNs earn an annual mean wage of $66,880.

  • There are over 62,250 nurses employed in Tennessee, and that number is projected to increase. 

Tennessee isn't among the top-paying states for nurses, but the region in general is home to some of the lowest mean wages for nurses. So, nurses in Tennessee earn about the same (and sometimes more) than nurses in neighboring states. 

It's worth noting that mean wages don't determine the wage you could earn. RNs usually earn more if they earn a BSN, so the wages you earn could be higher than those reported by the BLS.

One great part about working as a nurse in Tennessee is that employment numbers meet the national average. Densely populated areas, like Nashville, have the highest concentration of nurses -- and higher mean wages.

Next Steps

The first step to picking a school is creating a list of a few schools you're interested in. While you may have one clear favorite, applying to multiple schools is always a smart choice. This increases your chances of getting into a nursing program, and a school might offer a nice financial aid package to get your attention!

Once you've narrowed your list down, here are the next steps:

Here are the next steps broken down:

Contact each school’s admissions offices. Each school has an admissions office, and this should be your first point of contact. Any questions you have about the admissions process can be answered by an admissions counselor. 

Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. Yes, nursing schools often have additional (and stricter) admission requirements on top of those for the university. Make sure you're on track to be eligible for the nursing program. If you aren't, ask the admissions office how you can improve your application. 

Submit your application(s). After you've gathered everything you need and prepared your application, the final step is to apply to each school! Schools and nursing programs usually have deadlines, so make sure your application is in before the deadline.

Common application requirements include:

  • High school transcript (GPA)

  • ACT and/or SAT scores

  • College entrance essay(s)

  • Letter(s) of recommendation

Important Considerations When Comparing Schools 

If everything goes well, you should be receiving acceptance letters from some -- or all -- of the schools you applied to. Next comes the hard part: picking where you're going to earn your degree. You might not have a clear-cut favorite, and that's ok. Spend some time weighing the pros and cons of each school you've been accepted to. 

When comparing schools, consider the following:

  • Annual tuition and total nursing program cost
  • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
  • Cost of living on-campus or in the area
  • Distance from hospitals
  • School and nursing program acceptance rate
  • NCLEX pass rate
  • Type of program (BSN or associate degree)
  • Program outcomes
  • School’s accreditation (regional and national)

You should also check to see that schools are offering exactly what you’re looking for. Remember, the program you choose could alter the trajectory of your future nursing career. 

Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation  

Accreditation is a school's way of verifying its academic quality. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regionally accrediting body in Tennessee. Along with regional accreditation, make sure the nursing program has programmatic accreditation. 

The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are

If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation. 

Getting a License in Tennessee

Tennessee is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), a compact that standardizes nursing licensure across 37 other states. If you become licensed in Tennessee, your license will also work in most other US states, and more states are continually being added to the compact. 

To get a license in Tennessee, you'll need to:

Tennessee is home to many nationally renowned universities and nursing programs, and in-state students have plenty of affordable options. While a nursing career in Tennessee may not be the highest-paying, nurses enjoy high employment rates within the state, particularly in busy urban areas. Thanks to the eNLC, becoming a licensed nurse in Tennessee means you've met the minimum requirements to begin nursing in most other states.

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington’s online programs are designed to help you achieve more in your nursing practice with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They offer convenient, flexible options for completing your RN to BSN or BSN online, both designed to fit into your busy schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Walden University
Walden’s online programs for nursing meet rigorous standards for academic quality and integrity, and the School of Nursing teaching faculty all hold doctorates. With three degree completion options, you can choose a bachelor’s in nursing path that makes sense for your busy, unpredictable schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY, RI and CT. Certain programs have additional state restrictions. Check with Walden for details.

References:

BLS

Tennessee Board of Nursing

Go to the top of page