Online Nursing Programs
in Tennessee

Nursing is ideal for energetic individuals who enjoy helping others and thrive under pressure. The healthcare field is growing rapidly, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15% job growth for registered nurses between 2016 and 2026. Tennessee needs more nurses to help with an aging population, an increasing number of people living with chronic conditions, and soaring healthcare costs. Nurses also alleviate the stress on Tennessee's healthcare system caused by a shortage of primary care doctors.

Those looking for a nursing school online will find numerous nursing schools in Tennessee. Online RN-to-BSN programs in Tennessee are ideal for practicing nurses who want to grow their skillset and increase their earning potential. To earn a degree quickly, consider accelerated nursing programs in Tennessee. Regardless of the type of online nursing degree you pursue, Tennessee presents ample employment opportunities so you can quickly put your knowledge into practice.

How to Become a Nurse in Tennessee

After earning a degree from one of the 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. Unique aspects of earning a nursing license in Tennessee include licensing costs and procedures.

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 should consider online BSN programs in Tennessee. Most registered nurses earn at least a bachelor's in nursing, and many advanced nurses need a master's degree in nursing (MSN). To teach nursing to college students, you will 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 have prerequisites like undergraduate anatomy and medical terminology. Most Tennessee nursing schools require a clinical internship, fellowship, or practicum, which students typically complete at a local healthcare facility. Program completion time depends on the specific 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. You will have 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.

Nursing Licensure in Tennessee

To get your nursing license in Tennessee, you first need to earn a nursing degree. ADN and BSN programs in Tennessee are available online. These online nursing degrees qualify you to take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), after which you may practice as an RN.

To become an advanced practice nurse, you will need an advanced degree from one of the nursing schools in Tennessee. Advanced degree program options include doctor of nursing practice programs and online MSN programs in Tennessee. Advanced practice nurses must earn nursing licensure and national certification.

Tennessee is a Nursing Licensure Compact state, which allows nurses licensed in Tennessee to practice nursing in the 25 other Compact states. Licensure is granted by the Tennessee Board of Nursing. Many nurses continue pursing licensures and certifications throughout their career opting for diversity training and other certifications near them.

State Requirements by Nursing Type


The Tennessee Board of Nursing suggests that candidates pursuing a registered nurse (RN) license request a criminal background check as many as six weeks before graduating from a nursing program. This background check includes submitting electronic fingerprints to the Tennessee Health Related Boards, with a $32.65 fingerprinting fee. Applicants with a criminal history need to submit a letter detailing the criminal incident, along with related legal documents, such as a warrant.

License pursuants must also provide the Board with official school transcripts and fill out the Declaration of Citizenship form. Additional requirements may include proof of citizenship and a passport photo.

Candidates applying for the RN license by examination should register for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)-RN at least two weeks before graduation. Exam registration costs $200, and test-takers must complete this computerized assessment in six hours. Applicants by examination must pay a $100 fee for the first try and $110 for a second attempt.

RNs from non compact states may apply for Tennessee licensure by endorsement, but must provide proof of a current license and pay a $115 fee.

Tennessee RNs renew licenses every two years. This process costs $100. Possible continuing competence options for RNs include letters from patients or peers, contracts for continued nursing roles, national certifications, published articles, and descriptions of accomplished nursing goals. Candidates with lapsed licenses may apply for reinstatement with a $200 prorated fee.

Current RNs can obtain license verification through the Nursys website.


To become a certified nurse aide in Tennessee, applicants must complete a 75-hour training program. An RN with a minimum of two years of experience must oversee this training. Before interacting with residents, trainees must commit 16 hours to exploring communication and interpersonal skills, residents' rights, residents' independence, safety and emergency procedures, and infection control. Overall, this training involves theory and clinical practice that relates to the nursing aide experience.

Within two years of finishing this training, applicants must pass the state exam for CNAs by earning 75% on the written section of the assessment and 80% on every skills assessment portion. However, military-trained medics and candidates in RN and LPN programs can bypass this part of the process by challenging the examination and providing evidence of their nursing experiences.

Tennessee's reciprocity allows certified nursing assistants (CNAs) from all states, with the exceptions of Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina, to apply for state certification with little effort. However, Georgia candidates must challenge the examination and offer proof of certification to earn this credential. Applicants from Florida and North Carolina must undergo all training and take the competency exam within Tennessee.

Nurse aides must renew these certifications every two years by delivering evidence of eight hours of related work experience since the last renewal period. Pay stubs, payroll documentation, and notarized forms all qualify for this proof. Candidates without these hours must repeat all training and exam requirements to reinstate this certification. Likewise, candidates whose certifications lapsed more than two years ago must repeat these application components.

Medication Aide Certification

Certified nurse aides may earn a medication aide certification (MAC), provided they boast at least one year of experience at no more than two assisted care living facilities and/or nursing homes. Candidates should be 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and must undergo a background check. The Tennessee Board of Nursing insists that no felonies appear on applicants' records. Application and certification by examination cost $150 in board fees.

Candidates must complete a MAC course from a Board-approved program. Acceptable MAC training programs may include directors and instructions who hold RN/LPN licenses and curriculum that provides clinical guidance.

MAC candidates have 30 days after finishing this training to apply for Board approval to pursue certification by examination. Applicants need to pass the Medication Aide Certification Exam (MACE) within 90 days after gaining that approval. This exam covers duties for MACs, such as dosage when administering medicine. Additional exam topics may involve ethics, legality, documentation, communication, and pharmacology as they relate to MAC practice. Test details may vary, but candidates may need to finish the exam within two hours and correctly answer 70% of 80 questions.

Test-takers who fail the MACE may retake it, but must pass within one year of first applying for the MAC. Candidates who fail the examination twice must repeat the application process.

Candidates renew the MAC every two years, with evidence of six contact hours and a $125 fee. Reinstatement costs $100.


Several types of nursing fall under the label of an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), including nurse practitioners (NPs), certified nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists. To earn an APRN license in Tennessee, candidates must hold and provide evidence of a current RN license and an advanced nursing degree, such as a master's or a Ph.D.

The Tennessee Board of Nursing also requires a national certification for APRN applicants. Acceptable organizations for obtaining these certifications include American Nurses Credentialing Center, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.

Candidates should submit an application with a $210 fee for initial licensure, along with a notarized Declaration of Citizenship and the Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire. APRN applicants with criminal history must also provide related legal documentation and a letter explaining the incident.

Individuals from other compact states may apply for a Tennessee APRN license, but must possess a multistate RN license. These candidates fill out a different application than in-state applicants.

Tennessee nurses must renew their credentials every two years. For APRNs, renewal costs $110, with possible continuing competence requirements that include a national certification, continuing education (CE) hours related to controlled substance prescriptions, and a collaborative request or APRN supervisory request.

Reinstating a lapsed APRN license costs $210, prorated, and requires an application. Candidates can obtain verification of APRN license for a $25 fee.

Career Outlook for Nurses in Tennessee

Tennessee offers a variety of nursing career options, but the most popular occupation is general registered nurse. Tennessee's high rates of chronic disease increase demand for registered nurses. Since Tennessee faces a major shortage of primary care doctors, advanced practice nurses, who take on some duties traditionally performed by doctors, are in high demand and earn high salaries.

Nurse practitioners have advanced clinical training and are authorized to perform many tasks traditionally allocated to primary care doctors. In Tennessee, nurse practitioners earn a mean wage of $45.54 per hour, and Tennessee's percentage of nurse practitioners is higher than most states. Nursing schools in Tennessee offer online nursing degrees for aspiring nurse practitioners.

Employment Data For RNs in Tennessee

On average, RNs earn $73,550 per year, or $35.36 per hour. The highest paid 10% of RNs average $104,100 per year, $50.05 per hour, while the lowest paid 10% experience a mean salary of $48,690 per year, $23.41 per hour. These numbers demonstrate significant variation since the highest paid RNs earn more than twice as much as the lowest paid workers.

In Tennessee, RNs earn an average of $58,410. While below the average RN income, Tennessee RNs typically earn more than respiratory therapists, cardiovascular technologists and technicians, surgical technologists, and health diagnosing and treating practitioners in the state.

RNs in California, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Oregon frequently earn more than candidates in other states and districts. Regarding industries, RNs in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing earn the highest reported average income at $90,510. Other profitable industries include account, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services, the federal executive branch, business schools and computer and management training, and wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers. Industries with high-paying median salaries include hospitals, residential care facilities, and ambulatory services.

The BLS projects 15% growth for RN employment by 2026, which should lead to over three million positions for candidates who are pursuing RN licensure.

Employment Data For CNAs in Tennessee

According to the BLS, the highest paid 10% of nursing assistants average $38,630 per year and $18.57 per hour, while the lowest paid 10% average $20,680 per year and $9.94 per hour. Overall, however, nursing assistants earn an average of $28,540 per year and $13.72 per hour.

In Tennessee, nursing assistants average $23,850 per year and $11.46 per hour. The yearly salary reflects earnings below national averages, but exceeds mean incomes for home health aides and psychiatric aides in Tennessee.

Industries that offer high average pay include the federal executive branch; facilities support services; scientific research and development services; educational support services; and colleges, universities, and professional schools. Nursing assistants also obtain high median earnings from hospitals, retirement communities, and nursing care facilities.

On average, Alaska, New York, Nevada, the District of Columbia, and California offer higher pay than other states and districts, with each area providing more than $33,000 per year and $16 per hour.

The BLS projects an 11% increase for nursing assistant employment by 2026, leading to approximately 1,683,700 positions for qualified candidates.

Employment Data For NPs in Tennessee

On average, NPs earn $107,480 each year and $51.68 per hour. The highest paid 10% of NPs average $145,630 per year and $70.01 per hour, and the lowest paid 10% average $74,840 per year and $35.98 per hour.

Tennessee NPs average $93,790. This amount exists below the general average for RNs, but allows candidates to earn more, on average, than occupational therapists; medical and clinical laboratory technologists; and dental hygienists in Tennessee.

NPs in California, Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Connecticut typically earn more than candidates in other states, with NPs in personal care services earning higher average wages than workers in other industries. Other lucrative industries for NPs include management, scientific, and technical consulting services; religious organizations; dentists' offices; and office administrative services. All of these industries provide average earnings of more than $115,000. Outpatient care centers, physicians' offices, and hospitals additionally offer high median wages for the industry.

According to the BLS, NP positions should increase by 36% by 2026 for a projected total of 211,600 positions for candidates with necessary NP credentials.

Biggest Hospitals in Tennessee

The type, number, and quality of hospitals impacts job prospects for recent graduates of online nursing degree programs. States with more large hospitals tend to have more job openings for nurses. Additionally, hospitals provide opportunities for fellowships and internships for nursing students. Two of Tennessee's largest hospital systems are detailed below.

  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center : VUMC serves more than 1.6 million patients each year and employs 19,600 workers. Consistently ranked as one of the top hospitals in the country, VUMC is among the top ten grant awardees for medical research from the National Institutes of Health. Vanderbilt offers many opportunities to students and trainees, with 2,555 students pursuing health sciences degrees in the hospital system.
  • The University of Tennessee Medical Center : UT's 609-bed hospital in Knoxville serves as the region's academic medical center. The hospital has a level-one trauma center and the area's only heart hospital and transplant center. Annually, the medical center serves more than 27,734 admissions and more than 82,000 emergency room visits.

Additional Nursing Resources in Tennessee

  • Tennessee Nurses Association: TNA has been a voice for professional nursing in Tennessee since 1905. The association advances the nursing profession, encourages future nursing leaders, and improves healthcare in the state. TNA's website offers RNs continuing education resources, event information, details about healthcare-related legislation, and a career center.

  • Tennessee Action Coalition: TAC advances nurse leadership in Tennessee through initiatives such as regional nurse leadership programs, student engagement, legislative bootcamps, and a nursing workforce symposium. The organization's website offers resources for nurses and student nurses, including webinars and coalition reports.

  • Tennessee Student Nurses Association: TSNA offers resources for students at nursing schools in Tennessee. Membership is open to students preparing for initial licensure and to RNs enrolled in bachelor's completion programs. The group organizes an annual conference, has student committees, and offers educational resources on its website.

  • Tennessee Nurse Practitioner Association: This organization increases the visibility and credibility of nurse practitioners within the Tennessee healthcare community. Its website offers a directory of nurse practitioners in the state, a career center, and recent news. Membership includes networking opportunities and workshop discounts.

  • Tennessee State Council Emergency Nurses Association: Tennessee ENA represents nurses in Tennessee, provides leadership in the field, and is committed to the advancement of emergency nursing. Its website offers resources for emergency nurses, including links, news, and information from meetings.

Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Tennessee

The following database is a great resource for those researching nursing schools in Tennessee. The searchable database includes all accredited ADN, BSN, RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP nursing programs in Tennessee. Compare nursing colleges in Tennessee to find the best online nursing degree for you.

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