Steps to Becoming an APN in Tennessee

tennessee nursing

Get your Graduate Degree in Tennessee
Earn your National Certification in Tennessee
Apply for your License in Tennessee
Renewing your License in Tennessee

The Tennessee Board of Nursing (1-800-778-4123), under the Department of Health, regulates and certifies qualified registered nurses as advanced practice nurses (APN) in the following four roles:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist

To work toward APN certification in Tennessee, you must first hold an active, unencumbered RN license. If you do not hold an active RN license in Tennessee (or Compact state*), you can obtain one by completing one of the following steps:

Tennessee Job Statistics

  • 2015 mean salary for NPs in TN: $93,520
  • 2013 NCLEX-RN pass rate for Tennessee: 86.6%
  • 2016 active RN licenses in TN: 94,791
  • 2016 active APN licenses in TN: 11,865
    • CNSs: 137
    • CRNAs: 2561
    • CNMs: 178
    • CNPs: 8989
  • If you are licensed in another jurisdiction, you may submit the Application for Licensure as a Registered Professional Nurse by Endorsement.
  • If you are a graduate of an approved RN school of nursing, you may apply for licensure by examination. These applications are made available to the Tennessee Schools of Nursing and are not available online.  You can request a packet by calling 1-800-778-4123.
  • If you are a professional nurse educated in a foreign country, your nursing education must be substantially the same as required by the Board for graduates of nursing in Tennessee. You must also hold a Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools certificate. The Board of Nursing will send a foreign nursing examination application packet after you complete and submit this questionnaire.

*Nurse Licensure Compact – Tennessee is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. The Compact offers practice privileges for registered nurses in all compact states (which includes: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin). If you reside in Tennessee and you hold a Tennessee multistate nursing license, you will have the “multistate privilege to practice” in any other Compact state.

Step 1. Get Your Graduate Degree

To work toward your APN certificate in Tennessee, you must graduate with a master’s degree or higher in a nursing specialty.

To work toward your APRN license in Tennessee, you must complete an advanced practice nursing education program (post baccalaureate) that is accredited by a national accrediting body. You can review institutional, programmatic, and specialized accrediting agencies listed in the United States Department of Education (USDE) database of recognized accrediting bodies to confirm that your master’s, post-baccalaureate certificate, or doctorate program meets accreditation standards.

Since national certification through a Board-recognized certifying body is a condition for APRN licensure, you may defer to your certifying body of choice to verify that your advanced practice nursing program of choice meets accreditation standards (see Step 2 for information on Board-recognized certifying bodies).

Course Requirements

In accordance with the national APRN Consensus Model, advanced practice nursing programs must include the following core courses:

  • Advanced pathophysiology/physiology (that includes general principles applicable across the human lifespan)
  • Advanced health assessment (that includes assessment of all systems of the body, advanced assessment methods, techniques, and concepts)
  • Advanced pharmacology (that includes pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and pharmacotherapeutics of broad categories of agents)

If you intend to become licensed as a CNM or CRNA, your population or specialty will be incorporated in your coursework. If you are pursuing NP or CNS licensure, you can expect coursework to cover the six main population foci:

  • Family/individual health across the lifespan
  • Adult health and gerontology
  • Neonatology
  • Pediatrics
  • Women’s health and gender-related health
  • Psychiatric mental health

A master’s degree is not required if:

  • You received your national certification in your advanced practice role and your Tennessee RN license before July 1, 2005


  • You received your national certification in your advanced practice role; your RN license with a multistate licensure privilege to practice in Tennessee before July 1, 2005 and you currently hold additional subspecialty certification.

You must also successfully complete the pharmacology requirements set forth by the Board, which includes three quarter hours or its equivalent.

Step 2. Earn Your National Certification

After the successful completion of an education program in your APN specialty, you must become certified through a national credentialing body in your advanced practice nursing specialty:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist

The following certifying bodies for APNs are recognized by the Tennessee Board of Nursing:

  • National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists
    • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center
    • Adult Nurse Practitioner
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
    • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
    • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Clinical Specialist in Medical-Surgical Nursing
    • Clinical Specialist in Gerontological Nursing
    • Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
    • Clinical Specialist in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
    • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Adult and Family)

Step 3. Apply for your License

To apply for APN certification in Tennessee, you must complete the Application for Advanced Practice Nurse Certificate.

In addition to a completed application, you must:

  • Attach one recent passport-type (2”x 2”) color photograph to the application, which must include your legal signature on the front of the photograph (your signature should not conceal your face).
  • Sign the affidavit found at the bottom of page 3 in the presence of a Notary Public.
  • Contact the college or university where you obtained your advanced nursing degree and request that they forward an official transcript directly to the Board of Nursing.
  • Contact the national certifying body and request that they forward verification of your national certification directly to the Board of Nursing.
  • Complete the Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire found at the end of the application.
  • Attach a check or money order in the amount of $210 ($200 certificate fee and $10 state regulatory fee) made payable to the “Tennessee Board of Nursing.”
  • Attach a copy of your RN license.

Mail the completed application and the above documents to the: Tennessee Board of Nursing, 227 French Landing, Suite 300, Heritage Place, Metro Center, Nashville, TN 37243.

Prescriptive Privileges

All APNs in Tennessee are granted a certificate of fitness to prescribe and/or issue legend drugs. Prescriptive authority is part of the APN application, and there is no separate certificate number for prescribing privileges.

A nurse may be granted an APN certificate without prescriptive authority only in certain situations where the nurse does not meet the pharmacology qualification.

If you are a nurse anesthetist, you need only apply for APN practice, unless you plan to write and sign prescriptions, then you must hold an APN certificate with a certificate of fitness.

If you plan to prescribe or order controlled substances as an APN in Tennessee, you must first obtain a DEA number by contacting the Drug Enforcement Agency at 1-800-882-9539.

Step 4. Renewing Your License

Your APN certificate renewal is separate from your RN license renewal. You may apply for your APN renewal up to 120 days prior to the expiration date of your certificate. The fee for biennial APN renewal is $100. You must show evidence of your national certification upon renewal.

You can renew both your RN license and your APN license on the Tennessee Department of Health’s Online License Renewal & Information Update page. You may also make changes to your address here, as well.

Lapsed License

In order to reinstate your lapsed APN certificate in Tennessee, you must contact the Board of Nursing at 1-800-778-4123 for a reinstatement application and pay the APN reinstatement fee of $100 (in addition to the renewal fee of $100).

Retirement Status

If you want to retire from your APN role in Tennessee, you must complete the Affidavit of Retirement from Practice in Tennessee and have the form notarized in the presence of a Notary Public. There is no fee for this service.

Advanced Practice Nurse Associations in Tennessee

There are a number of professional organizations that support APNs in Tennessee:

Tennessee Nurse Practitioner Salary

The 2011 National NP Compensation Survey conducted by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners shows that NPs in the southeastern United States, including Tennessee, earned an average base salary of $87,653 and an average total income of $96,916. According to a salary survey conducted by Advance for NPs & PAs in 2011, nurse practitioners in Memphis and Knoxville earned average base salaries of $82,127 and $83,642 respectively. Some of the best compensated NPs in Tennessee practice in Nashville, where the average salary was $83,939 in 2011.

Registered Nurse Salary

Area name
Annual mean wage
Chattanooga TN-GA
Clarksville TN-KY
Jackson TN
Johnson City TN
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol TN-VA
Knoxville TN
Memphis TN-MS-AR
Morristown TN
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN
Western Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Tennessee nonmetropolitan area

Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners Salary

Area name
Annual mean wage
Memphis TN-MS-AR
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN

Nursing Instructors and Teachers Salary

Area name
Annual median wage
Chattanooga TN-GA
Jackson TN
Memphis TN-MS-AR
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN
Western Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area

Nurse Administrator Salary
(Includes Nurse Managers, Directors, and Chief Nursing Officers)

Area name
Annual mean wage
Chattanooga TN-GA
Clarksville TN-KY
Cleveland TN
Jackson TN
Johnson City TN
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol TN-VA
Knoxville TN
Memphis TN-MS-AR
Morristown TN
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN
Western Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
South Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
North Central Tennessee nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Tennessee nonmetropolitan area

These tables provide salary and employment information compiled by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2011. The data contained herein does not include self-employed nurses in independent practice.

When responding to the salary survey, some advanced practice registered nurses identified themselves as RNs while others identified themselves as health diagnosing and treating practitioners. When available, both sets of data were included for comparative purposes.

* These figures represent earnings that are at or above $90.00 per hour or $187,199 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish earnings beyond $90.00 hourly or $187,199 yearly.

Back to Top

Search & Compare Nursing Programs