How to become a registered nurse in Tennessee – RN in Tennessee

The Board of Nursing was created in 1911 by an act of the State Legislature and signed into law by former Governor Ben W. Hooper. The board’s mission is to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of Tennesseans by requiring that all who practice nursing within this state are qualified and licensed to practice.

Board responsibilities center around three broad functions—licensure, education and practice. The board grants licenses to licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and advanced practice nurses (certificate) who meet the requirements of the statutes and rules. Only graduates of approved schools of nursing are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is required for licensure.

Official website:

Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Tennessee

1. Take college prep classes in high school:

In addition to a U.S. high school education or the equivalent, to become a registered nurse (RN) in Tennessee you should take the following classes in high school and you will have a head start on your nursing class prerequisites at college:
– English – 4 years
– Math – 3-4 years (including algebra and geometry)
– Science – 2-4 years (including biology and chemistry; physics and computer science are recommended)
– Social Studies – 3-4 years
– Foreign Language – 2 years

Check out nursing prerequisites at colleges you are considering. Individual nursing schools vary in their nursing course prerequisites. Talk to your high school guidance counselor and check out the nursing schools you are considering.

2. Choose the type of nursing school you want to attend

Usually there are three types of pre-licensure nursing programs:

– Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) – Takes 2-3 years. Offered at many community colleges. Prepares you to provide registered nursing care in numerous settings.
– Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – Takes 4 years. Also referred to as Baccalaureate degree. Offered at many State Universities and some private colleges. Prepares you to provide registered nursing care in numerous settings and to move to administrative and leadership positions.
– Entry Level Masters Program in Nursing (ELM) – Designed for adults who have a baccalaureate degree in another field and wish to become registered nurses. Takes 1-2 years depending on how many nursing course prerequisites you have already completed. Graduate receives a masters degree.

3. Select a college and apply for admission

Visit the website’s and campuses of the colleges in the geographic areas of interest to you. Find out which entry exams are required at the colleges you are considering. Apply at more than one college to give yourself options. Many colleges have limited space for nursing students.

Approved RN Programs list in Tennessee: CLICK HERE

4. Apply for financial aid

Opportunities abound for scholarships, loans and loan forgiveness programs.

5. Obtain an RN license

To practice as an RN in Tennessee, you must be licensed by the Tennessee Board of Nursing. You must meet educational requirements, pass a criminal background check and pass the national licensing examination.

To apply for licensure: CLICK HERE

To register for the NCLEX exam please visit: