The Best Nursing Schools in Tennessee

The rapidly expanding and continuously evolving nature of health care in Tennessee offers nursing students a variety of education opportunities. Nursing careers are expected to significantly grow in the coming years due to population growth and an increasing size of senior population in the state. Tennessee has different nursing programs to choose from, offered by both public and private universities and colleges.

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Tennessee has in its employ more 55,000 registered nurses.  The median salary of nurses in the state is $55,000. Nursing graduates in the state can easily find employment in the big hospitals and medical centers, as well as in district hospitals and clinics all over the state.

High school graduates and non-nursing degree holders can pursue their nursing careers in any of the nursing schools in Tennessee. Some of the best nursing schools in the state are:


1.  Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University is a private university named in honor of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the wealthiest American during his time. Vanderbilt provided the $1 million endowment that started the university in a desire to heal the wounds inflicted by the American Civil War.

The idea of establishing a “Central University” in Nashville was conceived by the leaders of the Methodist Episcopal Church as a training ground for ministers. Lack of funding, however, delayed the opening of the college. Nashville bishop Holland Nimmons McTyeire convinced Cornelius Vanderbilt to provide the endowment for the Central University that the church envisioned. Central University was formally established in1873, renaming it later as the Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt University has four undergraduate and six graduate schools with an enrollment of more than 12,000 students from the different states and other countries. Vanderbilt University is a research university with affiliations with different research institutes such as the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Dyer Observatory, and the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. The university is located close to downtown Nashville in a national arboretum campus with more than 300 tree and shrub species.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing

The Vanderbilt School of Nursing’s long history of excellence in nurse education, informatics and research, and nursing practice dates back to 1908. It is one of the first recipients of the Rockefeller funding for the implementation of the Goldmark Report of 1923, an effort to improve the quality of nursing programs in the country. Vanderbilt School of Nursing became a leader in drastically changing the nursing education and converting it into an institution of higher learning.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing launched in 1986 the Pre-Specialty program that allowed holders of non-nursing degrees to enter the Master of Science in Nursing program without having to repeat the nursing undergraduate classes. The program accelerated the path to master’s degree in nursing.

To provide a more positive impact on health care delivery in different areas, Vanderbilt School of Nursing established in 1993 a PhD in Nursing program, leading to scholarly activity and nursing research. In 2008, the school started a Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing became in 1989 an exclusive graduate school with the mission of providing education to advanced level nurses. It offers the following specialty programs:

  • Master of Science in Nursing with specialties on: Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Health Systems Management, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Nurse-Midwifery, Nurse-Midwifery/FNP Dual Focus, Nursing Informatics, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner/Adult Nurse Practitioner.
  • Advance degree programs: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Research, Post-Master’s Certificates, and Post-doctoral program.

Information about the School of Nursing may be obtained from:

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

461 21st Avenue South

Nashville, TN 37240

Telephone: 615-322-4400


Admissions: MSN and DNP Programs

Telephone: 615-322-3800


Admissions: PhD Program

Telephone: 615-322-7410


Dean’s Office

Telephone: 615-343-8876


2.  The University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee is a land-grant and sun-grant university in Knoxville, Tennessee established in 1794, two years before Tennessee became the 16th state of the Union. It is the leading institution of the University of Tennessee system. The University of Tennessee has nine undergraduate and eleven graduate colleges that enroll more than 28,000 students who came from the different states of the country and from other countries as well.

The University of Tennessee started as the Blount College in the Southwest Territory of Knoxville that was chartered on September 10, 1794. It was an all-male institution that struggled with a small enrollment for 13 years. It was re-chartered in 1807 as the East Tennessee College. It temporarily closed in 1809 and reopened in 1820, relocating to Barbara Hill, currently known as The Hill, in 1828. The college was converted to a university status in 1840, becoming known as the East Tennessee University. The state legislature renamed it the University of Tennessee in 1879.

The University of Tennessee has affiliations with the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy, the University of Tennessee Arboretum, and the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

College of Nursing

University of Tennessee’s College of Nursing was founded in July 1971 in response to the need for nurses to be trained at the collegiate level. Since its formation, the College of Nursing has been recognized as a national leader in educating visionary and highly-skilled nurses. The college offers the following nursing programs:

  • Undergraduate – The program aims to develop Registered Nurse competencies through the integration of classroom, laboratory, and clinical learning.
  • Graduate – The program prepares the nurses for advanced roles in the nursing profession through clinical experiences in various settings.
  • Doctoral – The program offers a combination of online learning and face-to-face meeting that aim to prepare the nurse professionals to be nurse scientists and clinical leaders through the PhD program and the DNP program respectively.

Information about the different nursing programs may be obtained from:

College of Nursing

1200 Volunteer Blvd.

Knoxville, TN 37996

Telephone: 865-974-4151


3.  East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University, an accredited American university in Johnson City, Tennessee, is a part of the Tennessee Board of Regents System. ETSU is the fourth largest university in Tennessee with off-campus centers in Elizabethton and Kingsport.

East Tennessee State University started as the East Tennessee Normal School, established in 1911 for teacher education. The school changed its status into a college in 1925 and changed its name to East Tennessee State Teachers College, gaining an accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1927. The school’s name was again changed in 1930 to East Tennessee State Teacher’s College, Johnson City. The teacher’s college added a range of liberal arts courses in 1943 and was renamed East Tennessee State College. It acquired university status in 1963, adopting the current name East Tennessee State University.

East Tennessee State University opened a College of Pharmacy in 2005. The College of Public Health and Allied Health was split into two colleges in December 2007, creating the College of Public Health and the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Science.  The university’s Health Sciences Division included also the James H.Quillen College of Medicine, the Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, and the College of Nursing.

College of Nursing

East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing is a national leader in nursing education and is recognized for maintaining nurse-managed health centers, interdisciplinary programs, rural focus, and partnership with the community. The college’s nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The College of Nursing offers the following programs:

  • Traditional 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Licensed Practical Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Accelerated program (non-nursing degree to BSN)
  • Associate of Arts in Nursing/Bachelor of  Science in Nursing Dual Degree
  • Certificate Programs
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • PhD in Nursing

Information about the nursing programs of the College of Nursing may be obtained from:

College of Nursing Administrative Offices

Dr.Wendy Nehring, Dean

P.O. Box 70617

Johnson City, TN 37614

Telephone: 423-439-7051

Fax: 423-439-4522

Graduate Programs

Dr. Kathleen Rayman, Director

PO Box 70629

Johnson City, TN 37614

Phone: 423-439-5626

Fax: 423-439-4100

Undergraduate Programs

Ellen Drummond, Interim Director

PO Box 70676

Johnson City, TN 37614

Phone: 423-439-4056

Fax: 423-439-4050
Center for Nursing Research

Dr. Joellen Edwards, Associate Dean

PO Box 70551

Johnson City, TN 37614

Phone: 423-439-4082

Fax: 423-439-5780


4.  Union University

Union University is a private, evangelical Christian university in Jackson, Tennessee with other campuses in Hendersonville and Germantown. It is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and related to the Southern Baptist Convention. Union University is ranked 14th among the best regional universities in the south. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is also a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Union University is a union of different schools: West Tennessee College (formerly Jackson Male Academy), Union University of Murfreesboro, Southwestern Baptist University, and Hall-Moody Junior College of Martin, Tennessee.

School of Nursing

The Union University School of Nursing provides excellent academic preparation for undergraduate and graduate students in nursing.  The nursing programs of the school are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. It also has a specialty accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education Program. The school offers the following nursing programs:

  • Traditional BSN program – includes traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the Licensed Practical Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program
  • Adult BSN program – includes an accelerated BSN program and Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program
  • Adult Studies Non-Degree program
  • RN – MSN Program with specialties in Education, Administration, and Nurse Practitioner
  • MSN Program with specialties in Education, Administration, and Nurse Practitioner
  • Post-Master’s Certificates on Education, Administration, and Nurse Practitioner
  • RN- DNP Program with specialties on Executive Leadership and Nurse Practitioner
  • BSN-DNP Program with specialties on Executive Leadership, Nurse Anesthesia, and Nurse Practitioner
  • Post-Master’s DNP Program with specialties on Nurse Anesthesia, Nurse Practitioner, Executive Leadership, and MBA option with DNP Track

Information about the nursing programs may be obtained from:

School of Nursing at Union University

Jackson Campus:

1050 Union University Drive

Jackson, TN 38305

Germantown Campus:

2745 Hacks Cross Road

Germantown, TN 38138

Hendersonville Campus:

205 Indian Lake Blvd.

Hendersonville, TN 37075


Nursing Admissions:


Fax: 731-661-5504


5.  University of Memphis

The University of Memphis is a public research university established in 1912 in the Normal Station area of Memphis, Tennessee. The university is home to more than 21,000 students enrolled in 13 colleges and schools as follows:

The Loewenberg School of Nursing

The Loewenberg School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school is committed to provide innovative and accessible higher education to prepare leaders in promoting health of the community through rigorous research, excellent teaching, and collaborative service.

The school offers the following nursing programs:

  • Traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Registered Nurse to BSN program
  • Master of Science in Nursing

Information about the nursing program may be obtained from:

Lin Zhan, Ph.D., RN, Dean

Billy Mac Jones Building; (901) 678-2020



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