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For our 2019 rankings, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac collected data on over 3,000 nursing schools and campuses throughout the United States. We evaluated each school on three dimensions:

  • The institution’s academic prestige and perceived value
  • The breadth and depth of nursing programs offered
  • Student success, particularly on the NCLEX licensure examination

We then combined these assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly. For a detailed description of our assessment methodology and dimension weights, please see here.

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#1: Vanderbilt University | Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing focuses solely on graduate nursing study. The university offers traditional and direct-entry MSN programs, eleven distinct post-master’s certificates for aspiring advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and two doctoral options (DNP and PhD). The direct-entry MSN program graduates approximately 150 new nurses annually who have passed the NCLEX exam at a 93% first-try rate over the past decade. Vanderbilt’s APRN specialties run the gamut from family nurse practitioner to nurse-midwifery to nursing informatics. The MSN program also partners with Vanderbilt Divinity School to offer two innovative dual degrees.


#2: Belmont University | Nashville, TN
Belmont University’s School of Nursing has program options for students new to nursing, RNs looking to complete their baccalaureate education, and seasoned nurses seeking career advancement. Undergraduate offerings include a traditional four-year BSN, an accelerated BSN, and an RN-to-BSN program. Belmont graduates 100-150 prelicensure BSN students each spring, who have posted an impressive first-time NCLEX pass rate of 91% over the past decade. Graduate options include MSN, post-bachelor’s DNP, and post-master’s DNP programs. The School of Nursing provides several innovative opportunities in its curriculum, include the Cambodia Study Abroad Program and the Nursing Christian Fellowship.


#3: Lincoln Memorial University | Harrogate, TN
LMU’s Caylor School of Nursing offers programs across seven physical sites and a robust online platform. The school’s main campus in Harrogate offers ASN, BSN, and MSN programs. Three satellite locations offer ASN programs only: Alcoa, TN; Corbin, KY; and Physicians Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, TN. The Cedar Bluff site in Knoxville offers LMU’s BSN and MSN programs, while the Kingsport Center for Higher Education offers just the MSN program. A partnership with Florida Hospital provides accelerated ASN and BSN programs in Tampa, while the online platform delivers the school’s RN-to-BSN and DNP programs. LMU students from all campuses perform well on their licensure exams. For example, Tennessee graduates from the ASN and BSN programs have scored a 94% first-time NCLEX pass rate over the past decade.


#4: Union University | Jackson, TN
The Union University School of Nursing offers well more than 15 different nursing programs. Undergraduates can pursue five pathways to a BSN degree: traditional, accelerated, LPN-to-BSN, RN-to-BSN, and a unique First Step to BSN program which helps adult students with few college credits earn their degree. The school graduates 130-170 prelicensure BSN students annually. These graduates have passed the NCLEX exam at a 93% rate over the past decade, well above the state and national averages. Union’s graduate nursing students can pursue one of six MSN tracks, six DNP tracks, or seven graduate certificates in nursing.


#5: University of Tennessee, Knoxville | Knoxville, TN
The UT College of Nursing enrolls approximately 750 students across its academic programs. Seventy percent of these students pursue a BSN degree through one of three pathways: a traditional four-year program, an accelerated 12-month option, or an RN-to-BSN completion program. UT’s prelicensure BSN graduates are well-prepared for the NCLEX exam, with a 94% first-time pass rate over the past decade and an exceptional 98% first-time pass rate in 2018. The remaining thirty percent of nursing students pursue an MSN, DNP, or PhD degree. UT’s graduate nursing department offers concentrations for aspiring nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, and nursing administrators. Students have the opportunity to participate in the school’s International Outreach Program, which includes an immersive service mission to Costa Rica.


#6: Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia | Madison, TN
Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia is the only independent and fully accredited anesthesia institution in the nation. The school recently phased out its master of science degree with a focus in anesthesia, enrolling all new students in the doctor of nurse anesthesia practice (DNAP) terminal degree program. MTSA offers two DNAP tracks: a three-year precertification program for baccalaureate-prepared nurses, and a two-year online completion program for existing certified registered nurse anesthetists. Since the school’s founding, greater than 99.75% of graduates have passed the National Certification Examination administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists. The school has achieved a 90% first-time pass rate over the past five years, which far exceeds the Council on Accreditation’s preferred pass rate of 81% during that time period.


#7: Southern Adventist University | Collegedale, TN
Southern Adventist University’s School of Nursing is housed in Florida Hospital Hall, a state-of-the-art center for nursing education. The school offers several prelicensure pathways including a traditional ASN degree, an LPN-to-RN bridge program, and a recently launched four-year BSN degree. Over the past decade, graduates of the associate’s degree program have maintained an 88% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam. Registered nurses seeking further education can pursue an RN-to-BSN or RN-to-MSN completion program. The graduate nursing department leads MSN and DNP programs with numerous emphasis areas. Aspiring nurse practitioners can pursue primary care roles in adult-gerontology, family care, or psychiatric-mental health, as well as an acute care role in adult-gerontology.


#8: Tennessee Tech University | Cookeville, TN
Tennessee Tech University is home to the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing. Undergraduate offerings include a traditional four-year BSN, an accelerated second bachelor’s degree, and an RN-to-BSN degree completion pathway. TTU graduates approximately 100 prelicensure BSN students annually, and they have passed the NCLEX exam at a stellar rate of 95% or better for eight consecutive years. In fact, the 2018 graduating BSN class achieved a 99% NCLEX pass rate. TTU offers several MSN specializations online including family nurse practitioner, nursing administration, and nursing education. The school’s DNP program is conducted in consortium with East Tennessee State University. The two institutions jointly deliver concentrations in executive leadership and five nurse practitioner fields.


#9: University of Tennessee Health Science Center | Memphis, TN
The UTHSC College of Nursing offers students a breadth of options at both the baccalaureate and doctoral levels. Undergraduates can pursue either a 12-month accelerated second degree or an RN-to-BSN completion pathway. Over the past four years, the accelerated BSN program has scored a 99% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination. Doctoral candidates have several options. UTHSC’s DNP program has nurse practitioner concentrations in adult-gerontology acute care, family nursing, neonatal nursing, pediatric acute care, pediatric primary care, and psychiatric-mental health nursing. PhD and dual DNP/PhD programs are also available.


#10: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga | Chattanooga, TN
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offers several pathways through its School of Nursing. Undergraduates can pursue a traditional on-campus BSN or the RN-to-BSN gateway program. Traditional BSN students have a phenomenal track record of success on the NCLEX licensure examination, including a 95% first-time pass rate over the past decade and a 99% first-time pass rate in 2018. The gateway program offers a 16-month BSN completion curriculum in online cohorts so that registered nurses can balance their studies with their work and family responsibilities. Graduate students can pursue several MSN concentrations including adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and nurse anesthesia. The School of Nursing also offers a DNP program with both a post-MSN focus on advanced nursing practice and a post-BSN focus on nursing administration systems.


#11: Baptist College of Health Sciences | Memphis, TN
Baptist College of Health Sciences prepares students for careers of service and leadership by providing a comprehensive health sciences education in an environment of Christian principles. The college partners with Baptist Memorial Health Care to extend the learning environment far beyond the classroom, with clinical experiences in a broad range of common healthcare settings. Nursing students can pursue a traditional prelicensure BSN, an RN-to-BSN completion pathway, or a post-baccalaureate DNP designed for aspiring adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners. The DNP program enrolled its first cohort in January 2018. The traditional BSN program graduates approximately 150 students annually, with an impressive 90% first-time NCLEX pass rate over the past decade.


#12: King University | Bristol, TN
King University resides on 135 scenic acres nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. The School of Nursing offers a breadth of degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduates can pursue either a prelicensure BSN or an RN-to-BSN degree completion pathway. Prelicensure BSN students have scored an 84% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination over the past decade. Graduate nursing students can choose from four MSN specializations: family nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nursing administration, and pediatric nurse practitioner. The university also offers a post-master’s certificate in the first two areas, as well as a terminal DNP degree that prepares students for advanced nursing practice and leadership in the profession.


#13: East Tennessee State University | Johnson City, TN
East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing is one of the largest nursing schools in the state. The college operates nine nurse-led clinics in Northeast Tennessee to address the rural region’s underserved population. At the undergraduate level, ETSU offers four pathways to a BSN degree: traditional prelicensure, accelerated second degree, LPN-to-BSN bridge, and RN-to-BSN completion. Approximately 200 students graduate annually from the prelicensure BSN pathways, with an 89% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX exam over the past decade. Graduate nursing students can pursue an MSN, DNP, or PhD degree. ETSU offers six different nurse practitioner specialties across its master’s, graduate certificate, and doctoral programs. Last year’s family nurse practitioner students achieved a stellar 98% pass rate on the FNP certification exam, while psychiatric-mental health graduates achieved a perfect 100% pass rate on the PMHNP certification exam.


#14: Lee University | Cleveland, TN
Serving more than 5,000 students, Lee University is one of the largest Christ-centered institutions in Tennessee and the largest member of the Appalachian College Association. The university’s School of Nursing opened its doors in 2014 with the launch of a traditional four-year bachelor of science degree in nursing. BSN students are admitted from three groups: first-time freshmen, transfer students, and existing students who wish to change their major. Prelicensure BSN students have enjoyed a perfect 100% NCLEX pass rate since the program’s launch. More recently, the School of Nursing initiated Lee University’s first doctoral program, a doctor of nursing practice degree. This program offers two pathways (post-BSN and post-MSN) for aspiring family nurse practitioners, as well as a traditional post-master’s doctorate for APRNs. The DNP program began teaching its first class of admitted students in January 2019.


#15: Marian University | Nashville, TN
Marian University’s Leighton School of Nursing offers an accelerated second degree BSN in partnership with Tennessee’s leading faith-based healthcare system, Saint Thomas Health. Incoming students must possess a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, enabling them to complete the program in as little as 16 months of fulltime study. The curriculum includes a rigorous mix of online classes, on-site labs, and clinical rotations at Saint Thomas. A new BSN cohort begins each January, May, and August. Graduates have performed strongly on the NCLEX licensure examination, with a 91% first-time pass rate since the program’s inception.


#16: Milligan College | Milligan College, TN
Milligan College is a Christian liberal arts institution that serves 1,200 students hailing from thirty-five states and twenty-five countries. Among the school’s more than 100 programs of study is a nursing curriculum that offers both prelicensure and RN-to-BSN tracks. Students have the opportunity to work in numerous healthcare settings including major medical centers, smaller urban hospitals, community health centers, rural hospitals, primary care clinics, home health programs, and parish nursing programs. Graduates of the traditional BSN program have enjoyed an 85% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam over the past decade. The class of 2018 scored a perfect 100% (13 out of 13) NCLEX pass rate. Nearly every prelicensure student is employed or accepted to graduate school at the time of graduation. Milligan’s RN-to-BSN program began offering coursework entirely online in January 2019. A new cohort begins each January, and students may complete their studies in as few as five semesters.


#17: Lipscomb University | Nashville, TN
Lipscomb University is one of the top Christian universities in the United States. The School of Nursing offers two pathways to a bachelor of science degree: a traditional prelicensure track and an RN-to-BSN degree completion track. Prelicensure students learn in the school’s spacious nursing building that includes the region’s best-equipped health simulation laboratory. The BSN curriculum includes 32 credit hours of clinical placements. It also provides hands-on training in five foundational nursing fields: critical care, medical/surgical care, mental health, obstetrics, and pediatrics. Graduates of the traditional BSN track have performed exceptionally well on the NCLEX licensure examination, with a 95% first-time pass rate over the past three years. Lipscomb’s RN-to-BSN program is conducted entirely online, and it provides up to 27 college credit hours for work experience. Students can complete the program in as little as 18 months.


#18: University of Memphis | Memphis, TN
The University of Memphis’s Loewenberg College of Nursing is home to more than 1,000 students enrolled on two physical campuses – the flagship Memphis campus and the Lambuth campus in Jackson, TN – as well as online. At the undergraduate level, the college offers three pathways to a BSN degree. Traditional undergraduates can complete the nursing curriculum in five semesters, while students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree can prepare for licensure in just four semesters. Finally, existing nurses can complete a flexible online 31-credit RN-to-BSN curriculum. The prelicensure pathways graduate approximately 250 students annually, with an excellent 91% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. At the graduate level, UofM offers an MSN degree, post-master’s certificates, and a post-master’s PhD in nursing. MSN students can select from concentrations in executive leadership, family nurse practitioner, and nursing education. The nursing PhD program just enrolled its first cohort. The curriculum is conducted fully online with a primary focus on health equity research in education, practice, and policy.


#19: Carson-Newman University | Jefferson City, TN
Carson-Newman University is a Christian institution that serves approximately 2,400 students across fifty undergraduate majors and eleven graduate degrees. The university offers several nursing pathways. The Department of Undergraduate Studies in Nursing conducts a BSN program with both traditional and accelerated formats. The traditional track takes four years to complete, while the accelerated program condenses the curriculum into eight continuous semesters. Across both tracks, the university graduates approximately forty students annually. Over the past decade, these BSN graduates have scored a 92% NCLEX pass rate, including a perfect 100% pass rate for the past two graduating classes. Carson-Newman also conducts an online RN-to-BSN pathway that working professionals can complete in as little as 14 months. Finally, the Department of Graduate Studies in Nursing offers an MSN degree with tracks for aspiring family nurse practitioners and nurse educators.


#20: Trevecca Nazarene University | Nashville, TN
Trevecca Nazarene University conducts a four-year prelicensure BSN program through a unique partnership with nearby Belmont University. The two universities recently refined their consortium agreement to offer a streamlined “2-2” format. Students complete their first two years of pre-nursing and general education coursework at Trevecca. During the spring semester of year two, they apply to Belmont’s School of Nursing. If accepted, students then complete two years of nursing coursework and practicums at Belmont. The program offers enhanced learning through state-of-the-art simulation facilities, as well as hands-on practice through extensive clinical experiences in local hospitals and community clinics. At the completion of the program, graduates are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN national licensure examination.


#21: Cumberland University | Lebanon, TN
The Jeanette C. Rudy School of Nursing and Health Professions is one of three major academic schools at Cumberland University. The school offers both baccalaureate and master’s degree programs in nursing. Undergraduates can pursue three BSN pathways: a traditional program with fulltime and part-time enrollment options, an accelerated second degree, and an RN-to-BSN completion track. Collectively, the prelicensure pathways graduate 90-120 students annually. Over the past decade, these prelicensure BSN graduates have averaged an 84% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination. At the graduate level, Cumberland University conducts an online MSN degree program with specialization tracks in both nursing education and nurse executive leadership / administration.


#22: Middle Tennessee State University | Murfreesboro, TN
Middle Tennessee State University has one of the most extensive study abroad programs, with ties to universities in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and numerous other countries. The university is also among 108 institutions recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education for its high production of Fulbright scholars. MTSU’s School of Nursing offers two programs: a traditional four-year baccalaureate degree and a master’s degree for aspiring family nurse practitioners. BSN candidates are accepted into the upper division after three semesters of pre-nursing studies. The university graduates approximately 100 students annually from the BSN program. These graduates have an excellent track record on the NCLEX licensure exam, with a 91% pass rate over the past decade and a 93% pass rate last year alone. The School of Nursing’s MSN program is limited to in-state applicants, with convenient start dates each spring, summer, and fall term. During the 2020-2021 academic year, MTSU will add a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner concentration to complement the existing family nurse practitioner option.


#23: Austin Peay State University | Clarksville, TN
Austin Peay State University is a public, doctoral-level institution that serves approximately 11,000 students. Austin Peay is Tennessee’s fastest-growing state university, with enrollment expected to reach 15,000 students by 2025. The School of Nursing offers two pathways to a bachelor of science in nursing, an MSN degree with two concentrations, and a post-master’s certificate option. Baccalaureate students can pursue either the traditional prelicensure track or the RN-to-BSN completion track. The traditional pathway graduates approximately 85-100 students annually. These BSN graduates have achieved a phenomenal 96% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade. At the graduate level, MSN students can pursue specialization as either a family nurse practitioner or a nurse educator, with post-master’s certificates also available in both fields. Classes for both the RN-to-BSN and graduate programs are primarily delivered in an online format, with both fulltime and extended plans of study. Students have opportunities for enhanced learning and networking through occasional campus visits.


#24: Freed-Hardeman University | Henderson, TN
Freed-Hardeman University is a Christian liberal arts institution currently celebrating its 150th anniversary. The school serves nearly 2,000 students through twelve academic departments organized into six schools. Housed within the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Nursing offers a traditional prelicensure BSN program. Nursing students first complete general education coursework on the natural sciences, behavioral sciences, liberal arts, humanities, and Bible. They then complete nursing coursework on a range of critical topics, including healthcare for adults, children, maternity patients, the mentally ill, and the physically ill. The curriculum includes 650 hours of clinical experience, with an 8:1 student-to-clinical-instructor ratio. Since the inception of the program, BSN students have scored an 87% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. The class of 2018 scored an impressive 97.5% NCLEX pass rate. FHU nursing graduates are currently employed in a variety of healthcare settings including neonatal intensive care units, mental health facilities, and physicians’ clinics.


#25: Tennessee Wesleyan University | Knoxville, TN
Tennessee Wesleyan University’s Fort Sanders Nursing Department offers two pathways to a bachelor of science degree. Traditional undergraduates can pursue a prelicensure BSN that features a clinical partnership with Covenant Health’s Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. Students participate in four semesters of clinical experiences, gaining exposure to critical healthcare fields like acute care, intensive care, and mental health. They also complete coursework in adult health, community health, maternal care, and pediatrics. The prelicensure program graduates 40-60 students annually. These BSN candidates have scored a 91% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade, including a stellar 97% pass rate last year. The Fort Sanders Nursing Department also offers an online RN-to-BSN completion program that accepts both associate’s degree- and diploma-prepared nurses. Students meet face-to-face one day per semester for orientation and advisement, and they participate in extensive student-driven clinical projects. The entire curriculum may be completed in as few as three semesters.


#26: University of Tennessee at Martin | Martin, TN
The University of Tennessee at Martin is one of three primary campuses in the University of Tennessee System. The university’s Department of Nursing is part of the broader College of Education, Health, and Behavioral Sciences. UT Martin offers two baccalaureate nursing programs: a traditional four-year BSN and an RN-to-BSN completion option. The traditional BSN program graduates 30-40 students annually. These graduates perform exceedingly well on the NCLEX licensure exam, with a 96% pass rate over the past decade and a 100% pass rate in each of the past three years. For four consecutive years, every BSN student has either secured employment or earned acceptance to a graduate nursing program within six months of licensure. UT Martin’s RN-to-BSN program is conducted in a convenient online format. Students may challenge many of the upper-level nursing course requirements by either passing a proficiency test or submitting a portfolio of work experiences.


#27: Christian Brothers University | Memphis, TN
Christian Brothers University is the oldest collegiate degree-granting institution in the city of Memphis. The university has one of the most diverse student bodies in the South: half of all students are Caucasian, one-third are African-American, and roughly 5% are Asian-American. Christian Brothers University currently offers an RN-to-BSN degree completion pathway for ADN- or diploma-prepared registered nurses. Established in 2011, the program blends face-to-face classroom instruction with online coursework along a convenient schedule. Students participate in the Memphis Immersion Experience, a four-day session of active learning about the city’s most vulnerable populations. They also have the opportunity to explore global community healthcare through an international mission trip. In the fall of 2020, Christian Brothers University will launch a traditional BSN program that prepares undergraduate students for initial registered nursing licensure.


#28: Tennessee State University | Nashville, TN
Tennessee State University’s School of Nursing offers several programs approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing and fully accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Education in Nursing. Pathways are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. Entry-level candidates can pursue an associate of applied science in nursing (AASN) in preparation for the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. The AASN graduating class of 2018 scored an impressive 92% first-time NCLEX pass rate. Bachelor’s degree candidates can enroll in the school’s career mobility program, which conducts a fully online RN-to-BSN curriculum. A new cohort is admitted each summer, and the program takes no more than one calendar year to complete. At the graduate level, TSU offers concentrations for aspiring family nurse practitioners, holistic nurses, and nurse educators. Students may pursue any of these concentrations as either an MSN degree or a post-graduate certificate.


#29: Bethel University | McKenzie, TN
Bethel University consists of three academic divisions focused respectively on arts and sciences, professional studies, and health sciences. The College of Health Sciences offers two baccalaureate nursing pathways: a traditional prelicensure program and an RN-to-BSN completion program. The traditional pathway graduates a small cohort of just 15-30 students each year. These students enjoy exceptional outcomes, including a 95% NCLEX pass rate over the past decade and a 100% job placement rate among those seeking employment. The RN-to-BSN pathway conducts all coursework online, with clinical requirements completed in the student’s local area. Fulltime students can complete the program’s curriculum in less than a year. Online tutoring services are even included in the RN-to-BSN tuition cost.


#30: Tusculum University | Greeneville, TN
Tusculum University is the oldest institution of higher education in Tennessee, the twenty-eighth oldest in the nation, and the oldest coeducational institution affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Indeed, the school’s campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The university’s School of Nursing offers a BSN program with two pathways (traditional undergraduate, RN-to-BSN completion) and an MSN program for aspiring family nurse practitioners. The traditional BSN program is noted for its small classes and clinical groups, with typically just 15-25 students in each graduating cohort. The BSN class of 2018 scored a strong 85% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure examination. Tusculum University’s RN-to-BSN pathway is open to all registered nurses who hold a current, unencumbered license and an associate’s degree in nursing from a state-approved prelicensure program. The MSN curriculum offers several tracks including traditional (for BSN-prepared nurses), RN-to-MSN (for ADN-prepared nurses), and a streamlined FNP post-master’s certificate.