How to Become a Licensed Nurse in Tennessee

Updated November 1, 2022

Explore nursing schools and licensing requirements in Tennessee and learn what it takes to earn a license to practice in the state. 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.

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Nearly 91,000 registered nurses currently practice in Tennessee, including approximately 8,200 working in advanced nursing roles. Although that figure may seem high, it is projected to reach even greater heights between 2012 and 2022. Tennessee's health care industry is under pressure to provide adequate nursing care due to increasing population demands and an aging population and nurse workforce. Learn more about the occupational outlook for nurses in Tennessee and what it takes to earn a license to practice in the state. 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.

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To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria: Accredited at the institutional level Private nonprofit or public school Minimum of 1 bachelor's or master's degree in subject area for 4-year schools Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools Schools were then scored on factors such as: Cost & Financial Aid Number and variety of program offerings Student-teacher ratios Graduation rates (4-year schools only) Placement and support services offered Academic/Career counseling services Employment services Loan default rates These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or "bang for your buck" of a college or degree program.

Top Nursing Schools in Tennessee

4 - Year Colleges

  1. Union University

    Jackson, TN

  2. Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, TN

  3. Southern Adventist University

    Collegedale, TN

  4. Lincoln Memorial University

    Harrogate, TN

  5. Belmont University

    Nashville, TN

  6. Carson-Newman University

    Jefferson City, TN

  7. Lipscomb University

    Nashville, TN

  8. East Tennessee State University

    Johnson City, TN

  9. Baptist College of Health Sciences

    Memphis, TN

  10. University of Memphis

    Memphis, TN

2 - Year Colleges

  1. Walters State Community College

    Morristown, TN

  2. Columbia State Community College

    Columbia, TN

  3. Motlow State Community College

    Smyrna, TN

  4. Roane State Community College

    Harriman, TN

  5. Nashville State Community College

    Nashville, TN

  6. Dyersburg State Community College

    Dyersburg, TN

  7. Cleveland State Community College

    Cleveland, TN

  8. Northeast State Community College

    Blountville, TN

  9. Chattanooga State Community College

    Chattanooga, TN

  10. Jackson State Community College

    Jackson, TN

Tennessee Requirements for RN Licensure

The Tennessee Board of Nursing is an office working under the state's Department of Health and issues licenses to registered and advanced practice nurses. All nurses who want to practice legally in the state must hold a valid and active license. Take a look at the process for licensure by examination in Tennessee.


To be eligible for a license, candidates must meet the following requirements. Candidates should also note that the Tennessee Board of Nursing accepts scores from both the State Board Test Pool Examination and the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

  • Graduate from a Board-approved school of nursing
  • Complete and pass a criminal background check
  • Submit an application for licensure by examination alongside a passport-sized photo and a $115 application fee
  • Have the application signed and notarized in front of a Notary Public
  • Out-of-state students must formally request an application packet and submit an education verification form from their nursing school
  • Register for the National Council Licensure Examination with Pearson VUE and pay a $200 testing fee
  • After the Board of Nursing approves the application, an Authorization to Test (ATT) will be sent and the applicant can set a testing date

License Renewal in Tennessee

Tennessee registered nurses must renew their licenses every two years. The Board of Nursing sends out renewal notices at least 45 days before the nursing license expires, but it is the responsibility of nurses to ensure their license is renewed on time, even if notification is not received. Nurses are able to renew their license up to 60 days before they expire. The fee for renewal is $100.

Licensure for Tennessee APRNs

The Board of Nursing issues licenses to advanced practice nurses in four specialty roles: nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. The basic qualifications include at least a master's degree in the specialized area, a national certification, demonstration of skills in the specialization, and three-quarter hours of study in pharmacology. Advanced practice nurses must apply for and obtain a DEA number and register with the Controlled Substance Monitoring Data website in order to prescribe medications. All applications must be notarized by a Notary Public. Additional application requirements include:

  • Complete and submit application along with a $100 advanced practice certification fee and a $10 state regulatory fee
  • Download and submit practitioner profile questionnaire along with application
  • Complete and submit notice of formulary form
  • Provide a passport-sized photograph with a signature on the front
  • Submit an official nursing transcript that confers graduate nursing practice directly to the Board of Nursing
  • Submit advanced practice certificate specialty program information, which must be completed by the Dean or Director of the student's graduate program of study
  • Submit notarized Declaration of Citizenship

Visit the Tennessee Board of Nursing for more information regarding advance practice registered nurses.

Career Outlook for Nurses in Tennessee

Nursing dominates the healthcare industry in Tennessee and is expected to account for 33 percent of the state's healthcare job openings between 2010 and 2020. These figures, compiled in a report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, also project that Tennessee will have the fifth highest national concentration of nurses by 2020. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, demand for skilled nursing professionals is only expected to increase as the state works to serve numerous regions that are underserved and understaffed. Learn more about these occupational projections and the overall outlook for the nursing industry in Tennessee below.

Top-Paying Areas for RNs in Tennessee

AreaHourly Median WageAnnual Median Wage
Memphis TN-MS-AR$28.32$58,900
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN$28.30$58,870
Chattanooga TN-GA$27.72$57,670
Clarksville TN-KY$27.69$57,600
North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area$27.07$56,300
Johnson City$26.43$54,980
South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area$25.32$52,670
Western Tennessee nonmetropolitan area$25.09$52,190

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Tennessee vs. National Numbers


YearAnnual salary(25th percentile)Annual salary(median)Annual salary(75th percentile)Annual salary(25th percentile)Annual salary(median)Annual salary(75th percentile)
Registered Nurse$47,970$56,370$65,830$0$54,620$66,640$81,080
Certified Nurse Midwife$60,490$68,980$76,400$0$82,580$96,970$114,090
Nurse Anesthetist$125,660$142,180$163,190$0$132,380$153,780$181,860
Nurse Practitioner$78,640$90,040$103,800$0$82,720$95,350$113,470
Registered Nurse55,5602,687,310
Certified Nurse Midwife405,110
Nurse Anesthetist1,96036,590
Nurse Practitioner4,350122,050
Registered Nurse64,2903,238,400
Certified Nurse Midwife1007,700
Nurse Anesthetist2,77043,900
Nurse Practitioner5,560147,300
Registered Nurse1,880105,260
Certified Nurse Midwife0290
Nurse Anesthetist1101,560
Nurse Practitioner2305,850

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 and Projections Central

Registered Nursing Resources

Nursing in Tennessee

Nursing in Tennessee is comprised of the Deans and Directors from nursing schools and programs in the state. They provide guidance to current and prospective students, highlight information about different nursing specializations, and offer advice on choosing the right type of training.

Tennessee Association of Student Nurses

TASN is a membership-based organization that supports nursing students preparing for initial licensure as a registered nurse. From NCLEX preparation to legislative action, the association offers a variety of resources to students entering the profession.

Tennessee Board of Nursing

The Tennessee Board of Nursing is a regulatory government body responsible for overseeing the practice of nursing in the state. The Board of Nursing sets licensing standards, manages the licensing and renewal process, and deals with complaints against practicing nurses.

Tennessee Nurses Association

This association is a constituent member of the American Nurses Association and serves as the primary professional organization for registered nurses in Tennessee. The TNA offers support through public policy lobbying, scholarships, career resources, networking events, and conferences.

Tennessee Action Coalition

TAC is an advocacy group comprised of the AARP and University of Tennessee College of Nursing. Founded in 2010, the coalition advocates for improvements in health care and is primarily focused on the practice of nursing. It has relationships with multiple colleges of nursing and supports students through scholarship programs.

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