Vanderbilt or UT? Public or Christian? Our Tennessee DNP guide & directory has the answers! It contains rankings of the best and most affordable DNP programs in Tennessee, details on online & hybrid TN doctorates, and tips on BSN to DNP options. Have a school in mind? Skip ahead to our listings.
Top Tennessee DNP Programs
To come up with this list of the best DNP programs in Tennessee, we considered a large number of quality factors. National rankings were important (e.g. U.S. News & World Report). But so too were certification pass rates, student reviews, research opportunities, and clinical connections.
1. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt’s DNP program is one of the best in the nation. It comes with a superb national ranking (e.g. top 5), strong APRN certification pass rates, and solid program outcomes. The Vanderbilt School of Nursing (VUSN) has instant name recognition in the medical world, and it’s well-known for its strengths in scores of NP specialties and signature areas of research (e.g. health technologies & data science). Check out the Vanderbilt Center for Gerontological Nursing Excellence (CGNE) and the Frist Nursing Informatics Center (FNIC).
Clinical work is a big deal at VUSN. The School has tight connections to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and an extensive faculty practice network of clinics, including the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwifery Faculty Practice. It even offers post-graduate fellowship opportunities to DNP alumni. However, VUSN points out that clinical placement is a shared responsibility between students, faculty, and the Clinical Placement Office. We did our due diligence and looked at independent reviews of VUSN. They were almost uniformly excellent, with praise for the skilled & supportive instructors, emphasis on clinical training, and access to a top-ranked teaching hospital. You get what you pay for at Vanderbilt.
2. The University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center
UTHSC’s DNP program is our top public pick. It comes from a College of Nursing that achieves excellent results in graduate programs. We’re talking about a top 25 national ranking for the doctorate, a top 40 placement for the nurse anesthesia program, and excellent initial board certification rates for DNP concentrations (e.g. combined 98%; 100% for nurse anesthesia). It’s conveniently located on an urban medical campus and garners plenty of NIH funding. Folks who are searching for capstone ideas might want to take a look at all the faculty research interests.
As you might expect, the College has a hands-on approach to education. It runs a Center for Community and Global Partnerships that supports local and international projects (e.g. Public Health Nurse Residency Program, school partnerships, St. Jude Global Partnership, etc.). It’s affiliated with many significant hospitals, including St. Jude’s, Regional Health, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Methodist University Hospital, and Memphis VA Medical Center. And instructors are active practitioners in the area. According to the College website, faculty make all clinical placements—in collaboration with the student and preceptor—but distance students may have more responsibility in this area. Check with the DNP program coordinator.
3. The University of Tennessee
Rounding out our Tennessee rankings is UT’s well-known—and well-regarded—DNP program. The College of Nursing (UT Nursing) at the state’s flagship campus is blessed with the resources of a public research university. It has a high-fidelity simulation center, a dedicated Center for Nursing Practice, and an active research department. Here you’ll find faculty with many areas of interest, including focus areas in family health, global health, psychiatric & mental health, aging, and healthcare technology. We also like the fact that average certification pass rates are excellent (e.g. 100% first-time for FNP and PNP) and reviews are strong.
Location is another bonus. CRNA students gain experience in the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC), a Level I Trauma Center, and other regional sites (e.g. Fort Sanders, Parkwest, etc.). And AC PNP students have the opportunity to complete clinical practicums at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. In addition, the College runs the Vine School Health Center and has academic clinical partnerships with two community clinical partners: Chota Community Health Services and Community Health of East Tennessee. Having said that, UT Nursing states that identification of clinical sites and preceptors involves a collaboration between the student and CON faculty & staff.
Most Affordable DNP Programs in Tennessee
This ranking of the cheapest DNP programs in Tennessee is based on one primary data point—the per credit tuition for the doctorate. At public universities, this is often the in-state rate. You’ll notice that ETSU and TTU aren’t on the list. That’s because we included any mandatory per credit program fees (e.g. DNP or graduate nursing) in the final tuition calculation.
1. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
UTC’s #1 ranking is based on the Graduate Online tuition rate, a number which includes all mandatory fees. UTC charges different in-state and out-of-state rates for the DNP, but both of them are fairly reasonable. In addition, residents of Catoosa, Dade, Fannin, Murray, Walker, and Whitfield counties in Georgia and Jackson county in Alabama may be eligible for a regional tuition credit on graduate courses. Check with the DNP program coordinator.
2. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
UTHSC is a little confusing. The College of Nursing says online DNP programs have the same in-state and out-of-state price, but the Bursar’s tuition & fees page shows a small, per credit out-of-state tuition differential. So we’re going to assume that Tennessee residents pay a bit less than non-residents. There’s a separate per credit tuition rate for Nurse Anesthesia.
3. Lincoln Memorial University
Lincoln Memorial is a private liberal arts university, so the per semester hour tuition rate for the post-master’s DNP is the same for all students, regardless of their state of residency. If you’re eyeing the Nurse Anesthesia program, ask the program coordinator for current prices.
Online DNP Programs in Tennessee
You’ll find a healthy selection of online & hybrid DNP programs in our Tennessee listings, including options from top-ranked schools. Bear in mind that a few universities (e.g. SAU and Union) have a mix of formats—some tracks are online and some are hybrid. Here are a few more trends we uncovered.
- Online BSN to DNP Programs in TN: UTHSC’s BSN to DNP pathway may be online, but on-campus activities (e.g. skills workshops) are still required for all concentrations. Even leadership tracks may have a few campus requirements. For examples, SAU’s online specialties include a face-to-face DNP seminar each fall and UTC’s administrative track has 3 campus elements—an orientation & stats camp, qualifying exam/DNP intensive, and final presentation.
- Hybrid BSN to DNP Programs in TN: This is the format of choice for Tennessee schools, especially in APRN specialty tracks. For instance, UT has two face-to-face course sessions per term in the early days; Vanderbilt has campus sessions at the MSN level & one-week intensives at the DNP level; and TTU and ETSU have intensive sessions throughout the year. Schools will sometimes arrange courses on Friday evenings or the weekends to accommodate working nurses (e.g. Belmont).
There’s a little more flexibility at the post-master’s level. Most MSN to DNP students already have their clinical certification sorted. That means Schools of Nursing are free to concentrate on leadership & administrative subjects—perfect for online learning.
- Online Post-Master’s DNP Programs in TN: If you’re looking for a 100% online program, check with the DNP program coordinators at UTHSC, Union, SAU, Lincoln Memorial, and the MT School of Anesthesia (for the DNAP Completion track). The language on their program websites isn’t clear. Schools like UTC and King have occasional on-campus components.
- Hybrid Post-Master’s DNP Programs in TN: Schools that favor the hybrid format in the BSN to DNP pathway tend to favor it at the MSN to DNP level as well. Examples include Vanderbilt, UT, ETSU, TTU, and Belmont. You should have plenty of chances to network with faculty & students and take advantage of the university’s resources.
Above all, make sure you’re eligible to apply. Because of distance learning restrictions and state authorization issues, many Tennessee Schools of Nursing cannot accept applicants from certain states (e.g. ETSU and TTU). If you’re interested in certification, you’ll also need to ensure that the program is approved by your State Board of Nursing.
Note: Want to explore nearby options? See our directory of Online DNP Programs. They are organized by state.
BSN to DNP Programs in Tennessee
To speed your search, we’ve listed individual BSN to DNP tracks in the listings. You can skim through the options for your preferred specialty. Generally speaking, Tennessee BSN to DNP programs fall into five broad categories.
- Multiple APRN Specialties: The big 3—UTHSC, UT, and Vanderbilt—also have the most choice for certification. Whether you’re looking for the NNP, nurse midwifery, pediatrics, or dual degrees, you’re covered. Bear in mind that Vanderbilt’s MSN Direct Entry program allows for an easy transition into the DNP.
- FNP, PMHNP & Adult Specialties: With these tracks, you can expand your shortlist to include Christian universities (e.g. Union, SAU, and Belmont), ETSU, and TTU. TTU is even willing to offer the WHNP.
- Leadership Specialties: Tennessee schools love their nurse leaders. We’ve rarely seen so many BSN to DNP offerings in executive leadership and administration. UTC and SAU allow students to earn an MBA as well.
- Unusual Tracks: SAU has a rare option for nurse educators and an even rarer track in lifestyle medicine. This includes courses in health coaching, nutrition, exercise, and the like.
- Nurse Anesthesia: As of 2020, there were six COA-accredited schools in Tennessee. Some were in the process of transitioning from the MSN, so check with the program coordinator to make sure all accreditations are up-to-date.
Tennessee Nursing Organizations
- Tennessee Board of Nursing
- Tennessee Nurse Practitioner Association (TNNPA)
- Tennessee Association of Nurse Anesthetists (TANA)
Below you'll find a list of all of the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs available in Tennessee.