How to Become an RN in Tennessee – A Simple Guide

How to Become an RN in Tennessee - A Simple Guide

We all know that becoming an RN is a very rewarding job, and having a license can open a lot of opportunities for you. 

However, you might be a little confused about how to become one.

There are many terms and processes that you may not fully understand… and you might be feeling overwhelmed. 

Not to mention that each state has its own process!

But if you’re looking to embark on a career as a registered nurse in Tennessee, you’re in the right place! 

Our simple guide will help you become an RN in Tennessee using 5 easy steps.

We’ll also answer some FAQs. 

But before anything else… Do you know that there are other sorts of nurses aside from RNs? You can check this article to see if a registered nurse is the type of nursing job you’re interested in.

So without further ado, let’s talk about how to become an RN in Tennessee. 

How to Become a Registered Nurse in Tennessee: 5 Simple Steps

Here are the five simple steps to becoming a registered nurse in Tennessee! 

    1. Plan the career path you want to take

    1. Enroll in the best nursing education program

    1. Finish nursing school and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN)

    1. Obtain your nursing license

    1. Look for a job as an RN

Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps! 

Step #1 – Plan the Career Path You Want to Take

First things first, you need to envision your career path as an RN.

How do you see yourself as a nurse in the future?

Would you want to work in hospitals, healthcare facilities, or doctors’ offices?

Do you see yourself teaching in a nursing school after obtaining your license?

Do you want to specialize in a certain field of nursing? 

There are a LOT of possible career paths for you.

You don’t need to have a final decision. Things can still change as you go along… 

But setting a goal is a great start since it will help you plot out your direction and take more intentional steps in each process of your nursing journey. 

Step #2 – Enroll in the Best Nursing Education Program

Now, it’s time to choose and enroll in the best nursing education program for you.

There are many nursing schools in Tennessee, so how do you decide which RN program to enroll in? 

What are ADN and BSN programs?

There are two options on what kind of RN degree you want to finish.

You can get an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

If you want to pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can become an RN and work on basic nursing care and clinical tasks. This route is easy, fast, and only takes two years to complete.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), on the other hand, takes four years to complete. If you become a BSN-RN, you will be given more complex responsibilities and you’ll also have more job opportunities. 

Some hospitals only hire BSN-RNs. 

Here is a general comparison of ADN vs. BSN.

Time to complete 2 years 4 years
Enrollment fees Cheaper More expensive 
Course work Core nursing subjects:

Foundations in Nursing
Behavioral Health

Core nursing subjects and more:

Anatomy and Physiology
Emergency Care
Health Assessment
Family, Community, and Population-Based Care
Public and Global Health
Nursing Theory, Research, and Ethics

Job Responsibilities Basic nursing care and clinical tasks More complex roles and responsibilities in direct-care and managerial
Job Opportunities Less More
Salary An average of $51,949 a year An average of $77,307 a year
Fees No initial application fee for the licensure exam$115 Licensure by Endorsement$200 Examination

Should I get an ADN or BSN degree?

Finishing with an ADN is much easier and less time-consuming. You can still become a healthcare professional.

But if you’re thinking long-term, getting a BSN will open more opportunities and a broader scope of responsibilities.

Some nurses get the ADN first before getting the BSN later.

After earning your BSN, you can pursue a master’s or Ph.D. degree.

There is more than just one option for you, and the choice depends on your future goals. 

How to Choose a Good Nursing School in Tennessee

Finding the best nursing school is entirely up to you.

But there are a few important things to consider before you enroll in one. 

Make sure the school is state-approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing

Also, check the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)-RN passing rate of the school. 

This will also help in your training to become the best nurse you can be.

Lastly, do in-depth research on the school’s curriculum and course programs. Knowing this will assist you in determining which is a good match for you.

It’s good to enroll in a school near your location, that has great teachers who will guide you, and has a flexible course schedule for their programs.

Step #3 – Finish Nursing School and Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)

Once you’ve been accepted to your chosen nursing school, this is the time to focus on your training.

Getting hands-on experience and in-depth learning will guide you in your career.

Make connections with instructors and fellow students. You can get recommendations and endorsements if you build more connections with people in the field.

After finishing nursing school, you must now take the NCLEX-RN. 

Tennessee has a high overall 91.7% pass rate, with ADN students at 91.6% and BSN students at 91.7%.

These numbers show that Tennessee has good nursing education programs that genuinely help students learn.

If you fail the NCLEX-RN the first time, Tennessee allows you to retake it. You need to pass the exam within three years.

Step #4 – Obtain Your Nursing License

Once you’ve passed the NCLEX-RN exam, you can now get your license. 

Obtaining a Tennessee RN License by Examination

This is the option you should take if you just graduated from your nursing school and have never had an RN license in any other state before. 

All RNs need to take the NCLEX-RN.

For a license by exam, there is no application fee in Tennessee. But you will need to pay $200 for the examination itself.

The Tennessee Board of Nursing will issue and verify your license once you have passed the exam. 

Obtaining a Tennessee RN License by Endorsement

If you already took the NCLEX-RN before and have an active RN license in another state, you can obtain your RN license by endorsement.

There is a $115 application fee for those who want to apply by endorsement.

You need to provide information about your work experience during the last five years and submit a transcript or a copy of your diploma. 

Moreover, your application must include a 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 photo. Also, the application includes an affidavit that should be notarized.

Step # 5 – Look for a Job as an RN

You’re now a registered nurse!

It’s now time to begin your professional career as a registered nurse.

Tennessee has a lot of career opportunities to offer nurses. You can work at some of the best hospitals in the US, such as Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Also, the state has a low cost of living and is known to have very friendly people. 

This can get you started in your career as an RN.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an RN in Tennessee

Now that we’ve talked about the five steps to becoming an RN, let’s discuss some FAQs.

What are the Job Opportunities for an RN in Tennessee?

Tennessee isn’t a high-paying state for RNs. However, the cost of living there is also low.

Here is a list of high-paying cities in Tennessee for nurses:

    • Memphis – $66,660

    • Nashville-Davidson—Murfreesboro—Franklin – $65,300

    • Clarksville – $65,200

    • Johnson City – $61,710

    • Chattanooga – $59,680

What is the Average Salary of an RN in Tennessee?

The average salary of an RN in Tennessee is $66,680, which is 19% lower than the national average of $82,750.

But despite this, there is a high demand for nurses in Tennessee. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there is a projected growth rate of 12.3% between 2018 and 2028. 

How can I upgrade my license?

ADN nurses can also upgrade their licenses and get a BSN degree. 

On the other hand, BSN nurses can become advanced practice nurses (APN), pursue higher education studies, and even specialized training.

You have different options if you plan to upgrade your license.

When can I renew my license?

You need to renew your license every two years.

You can start the process of renewing your nursing license in Tennessee 60 days before the expiration date.

You will need to pay a $60 renewal fee.

How do I Apply for a Nursing License in Tennessee if I am a Nurse from Another Country? 

If you’re an RN from another country and plan on transferring your license to Tennessee, you may call 1-800-778-4123 or email the Tennessee Board for further instructions.

Aquinas College
4210 Harding Pike
Nashville TN 37205

Chattanooga State Community College  
4501 Amnicola Hwy Chattanooga, Cleveland TN 37406

Cleveland State
Community College
3535 Adkisson Drive Cleveland TN 37311

Columbia State
Community College
665 Hampshire Pike Columbia TN 38401

Concorde Career College
5100 Poplar Ave Suite 132 Memphis TN 38137

Dyersburg State
Community College
1510 Lake Rd
Dyersburg TN 38024

Fortis Institute
3354 Perimeter Drive Suite 105 Nashville TN 37211 615-320-5917

Jackson State
Community College
2046 North Parkway
Jackson TN 38301

Lincoln Memorial University 6965 Cumberland
Gap Parkway Harrogate
TN 37752
800-325-0900 ext. 6319

Motlow State
Community College
6015 Ledford Mills Rd Tullahoma 37388, P.O.
BOX 8500 TN 37352

Nashville State
Community College
120 White Bridge Rd Nashville TN 37209

Northeast State
Community College
2425 Highway 75, P.O. BOX 246 Blountville TN 37617 423-354-5108

Pellissippi State
Community College
7201 Strawberry Plains Pike Knoxville TN 37914

Roane State
Community College
276 Patton Lane
Harriman TN 37748

Southern Adventist University 5010 University Dr, P.O. BOX 370 Collegedale TN 37315

Southwest Tennessee Community
737 Union Ave
Memphis TN 38103

Tennessee State University
3500 John A. Merritt Blvd 330 10th Avenue North Campus Box 144
Nashville TN 37209

Walters State
Community College
500 S. Davy Crockett Parkway Morristown
TN 37813

Visit the Tennessee BON website for updates.

List of Baccalaureate Degree Programs (BSNs) in Tennessee

Here’s a list of BSN programs approved by the Tennessee BON:

American Sentinel University
2260 South Xanadu Way Suite 310 Aurora CO 80014 866-922-5690

Arkansas State University
04 North Caraway Road mailing PO Box 910 State University 72467 State University AR 72467

Aspen University
1660 S. Albion Street
Suite 525 Denver CO 80222

Austin Peay State University
601 College Street
Clarksville TN 37040

Baptist Memorial College
of Health Sciences
003 Monroe Ave
Memphis TN 38104

Belmont University
1900 Belmont Blvd
Nashville TN 37212

Bethel University
325 Cherry Ave
McKenzie TN 38201

Carson Newman University
1646 Russell Ave
Jefferson City TN 37760

Chamberlain College
3005 Highland Parkway Downers Grove IL 60515 877-751-5783

Christian Brothers University
650 East Parkway South Memphis TN 38104

Cumberland University
1 Cumberland Square Lebanon TN 37087

Drexel University
1505 Race Street, 2nd floor Philadelphia PA 19102

East Tennessee
State University
365 Stout Dr. physical
P.O Box 70617 Johnson
City TN 37614

Excelsior College TN
7 Columbia Circle
Albany NY 12203
888-647-2388 ext. 21

Freed-Hardeman University
158 East Main Street Henderson TN 38340

Herzing University
W140 N8917 Lilly Road Menomonee Falls WI 53051 414-271-8103

King University
1350 King College Rd
Bristol TN 37620

Lee University
1120 N Ocoee St.
Cleveland TN 37311

Lincoln Memorial University
6965 Cumberland Gap Parkway Harrogate
TN 37752
800-325-0900 ext. 6319

Lipscomb University
1 University Park Drive Nashville TN 37204

Loyola University
New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Ave Campus Box 45 New Orleans LA 70118

Marian University
4220 Harding Rd Suite
500 Nashville TN 37205

Martin Methodist College
433 West Madison Street Pulaski TN 38478

Middle Tennessee
State University
1301 East Main Street
P.O. BOX 81 Murfreesboro
TN 37132

Milligan College
Wilson Way, Suite 302 Milligan College TN 37682 423-461-8655

Regis University
3333 Regis Blvd.
Denver CO 80221

Saint Joseph's College
of Maine
278 Whites Bridge Road Standish ME 04084

South College
400 Goody's Lane
Knoxville TN 37922

Southern Adventist University
5010 University Dr, P.O. BOX 370 Collegedale TN 37315 423-236-2940

Southern New
Hampshire University
33 South Commercial St. Manchester NH 3101
1-800-668- 1249

Tennessee State University
3500 John A. Merritt Blvd 330 10th Avenue North Campus Box 144
Nashville TN 37209

Tennessee Technological University
10 W 7th Street, P.O. BOX 5001 Cookeville TN 38505 931-372-3203

Tennessee Wesleyan University
9845 Cogdill Rd
Knoxville TN 37932
865-777-5100 h

Trevecca Nazarene University
333 Murfreesboro Rd Nashville TN 37210

Tusculum College
60 Shiloh Rd Greeneville
TN 37745

Union University
1050 Union University Drive Jackson TN 38305

Visit the Tennessee BON website for updates.


We hope this simple guide can help you kick-start your nursing career and guide you on the path to becoming a registered nurse in Tennessee.

Whether you plan on getting an ADN or BSN degree, you already have an idea of the steps to take.

Do you have any questions?

Let us know in the comments below!

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