8 Best ADN Programs in Tennessee – (2-Year RN Programs)

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

Want to enter Tennessee’s registered nursing workforce in the least amount of time? Consider enrolling in one of the ADN programs in Tennessee. In two years or less, you can graduate, take the NCLEX-RN exam, attain your RN license in the Volunteer State, and earn $72,480 annually. In the next decade, job opportunities for ADN-prepared RNs in Tennessee will increase by 17 percent. And if you want to go back and earn a four-year nursing degree, many of your ADN credits will transfer right over. What are you waiting for? Reading the guide below to the 8 best ADN programs in Tennessee can introduce you to some exciting possibilities.


Based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the 8 best nursing schools for ADN programs in Tennessee. You can complete most of these programs in 2 years.

1. Pellissippi State Community College - Knoxville

Program Details: Pellissippi State Community College offers two ADN pathways at its Blount County, Magnolia Avenue, and Strawberry Plains campuses. Its traditional ADN program in Tennessee accepts new students in the spring and fall, while its Bridge program accepts new students in the spring. The traditional pathway holds real-time classes, while the Bridge program delivers some lecture coursework through distance learning technology. All applicants must take the HESI exam before being considered for admission.

The traditional 66-credit curriculum includes foundational nursing courses like “Medical-Surgical Nursing I, II, & III,” “Mental Health Nursing,” and “Pediatric Nursing.” The Bridge program (open to licensed practical nurses and paramedics) uses the same basic curriculum but awards six credits of advanced placement upon completion of a “Transitions to Professional Practice” course.

Pellissippi State Community College provides its nursing students with more than 400 hours of hands-on experience via skills labs, simulation exercises, and clinical rotations. Clinical rotations take place at Methodist Medical Center in Knoxville, Blount Memorial in Maryville, and other regional healthcare facilities.

Why Choose This Program

• An NCLEX-RN pass rate of more than 98 percent puts this 2-year RN program in Tennessee at the forefront of the state’s associate nursing degree programs.
• Pellissippi State Community College’s articulation agreement with Herzing University allows ADN graduates to transfer seamlessly as juniors into the university’s BSN program.

2. Jackson State Community College - Jackson

Program Details: Jackson State Community College is another one of the ADN programs in Tennessee that offers an LPN-to-RN Bridge as well as a traditional associate nursing degree pathway. The 65-credit ADN curriculum includes prerequisites, corequisites, and core nursing courses such as “Foundations of Nursing I & II” and “Adult Health Nursing I & II.” The traditional program takes five semesters to complete. The LPN-RN career mobility track substitutes a two-part “Nursing Transitions” for “Foundations of Nursing” and takes three semesters to complete. The traditional track begins in the fall, while the LPN-to-RN track begins in the summer.

In a simulation suite equipped with high-tech manikins, you’ll learn essential nursing skills such as IV insertion, tracheostomy care, and medication administration. You’ll participate in clinical experiences at Jackson-Madison General Hospital and other medical sites throughout Jackson and other parts of Madison County.

Why Choose This Program

• Jackson State Community College’s ADN students have never had a pass rate below 91 percent on the NCLEX-RN exam.
• ADN students at Jackson State Community College can be admitted concurrently into Ferris State University’s RN-to-BSN completion program.

3. Chattanooga State Community College - Chattanooga

Program Details: Why is Chattanooga State Community College’s associate nursing pathway one of the best ADN programs in Tennessee for working students? Because it offers both daytime and night tracks! Both pathways use the same 66-credit curriculum developed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, but the daytime option includes four clinical courses and is designed to be completed in two years, while the night option includes five clinical courses and is intended to be completed in two and a half years. The college also offers a bridge program for licensed practical nurses and paramedics who want to become registered nurses.

You must complete all general education requirements before you can be admitted into the nursing program. Core nursing coursework entails classes such as “Medical-Surgical Nursing I, 2, & 3,” “Women’s Health and the Childbearing Family,” and “Professional Practice in Nursing.” Every student must do at least one eight-hour day per semester in Chattanooga State Community College’s simulation lab, which replicates a hospital practice setting, allowing students to learn new bedside skills safely. Clinical rotations are scheduled at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities throughout Chattanooga and neighboring communities.

Why Choose This Program

• Students enrolled in this 2-year nursing program in Tennessee may qualify for free tuition through the Tennessee Promise scholarship or the Tennessee Reconnect grant!
• Chattanooga State Community College has an impressive average first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate of 96 percent.

4. Columbia State Community College - Columbia

Program Details: You must apply separately to Columbia State Community College and its nursing program if you want to enroll in this ADN program in Tennessee. The program accepts 64 new students in the spring and fall terms, 32 apiece to its campuses in Columbia and Franklin (Williamson County.) Like many other 2-year RN programs in Tennessee, the college also offers a shorter, three-semester track for qualified LPNs interested in upgrading their nursing skills; these students must take an examination to challenge out of the two-part “Foundations of Nursing” course that is part of the traditional ADN curriculum.

Before applying to this program, you must complete all prerequisites, though you’ll take some corequisite courses along with your foundational nursing classes. The foundational nursing curriculum includes “Nursing Fundamentals,” “Pharmacology,” and “Mental Health.” Each course is made up of lecture and skills lab components. State-of-the-art simulation labs provide you with a safe environment to learn and practice clinical skills. You’ll also participate in clinical experiences at Southern Tennessee Regional Health System, Maury Regional Medical Center, Williamson Medical Center, and other medical facilities throughout Columbia, Franklin, and other parts of Central Tennessee.

Why Choose This Program

• Within six to 12 months of graduation and RN licensure, 99 percent of Columbia State Community College’s ADN graduates are employed as registered nurses.
• Columbia State Community College’s three-year NCLEX-RN pass rate exceeds 94 percent.

5. Cleveland State Community College - Cleveland

Program Details: Cleveland State Community College accepts a new cohort into its traditional daytime associate nursing degree program every fall but only accepts new students into its alternative evening program in the spring term every other year. The college also offers an LPN-to-RN bridge that admits students in the spring. Before applying to any nursing program, though, you must first be accepted into the college as a student majoring in Allied Health Science.

The 69-credit curriculum includes corequisites and core nursing classes such as “Pharmacology I, II, & III,” “Pediatric Nursing,” and “Medical Surgical Nursing I, II, & III.” Cleveland State Community College’s new Health and Science Center contains a state-of-the-art simulation lab equipped with a simulated hospital unit and lifelike manikins for nursing students to practice hands-on skills. Students also participate in clinical rotations at healthcare sites throughout Cleveland and the northeastern parts of the Chattanooga metro area.

Why Choose This Program

• Cleveland State Community College, through its partnership with Tennessee Wesleyan University, offers ADN students dual enrollment toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
• NCLEX-RN pass rates for this 2-year RN program in Tennessee consistently top 94 percent.

6. Dyersburg State Community College - Dyersburg

Program Details: Dyersburg State Community College’s 2-year RN program in Tennessee was designed to train registered nurses quickly in an effort to help rectify the Volunteer State’s acute shortage of qualified RNs. Associate nursing degree courses begin in August at the Dyersburg campus and in January at the Jimmy Naifeh Center (JNC) in Tipton County.

If you enroll in the traditional ADN pathway, you’ll attend courses two evenings a week and do clinical rotations on weekends. This track admits 24 students a year and alternates between Dyersburg (even years) and JNC (odd years.) If you enroll in the Advanced Standing ADN program, designed for licensed practical nurses and paramedics, you’ll receive seven credits toward the completion of your associate nursing degree once you complete the “Transition to Professional Practice” course.

To earn your associate nursing degree, you must complete 66 credits. In addition to general education requirements, prerequisites, and corequisites, your essential nursing curriculum will include courses like “Women’s Health and Childbearing Family,” “Mental Health Nursing,” and “Pediatric Nursing.” Dyersburg State Community College uses healthcare simulation software to provide students with virtual experiences meant to teach them the basics of patient care. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in real-time clinical experiences at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare agencies throughout Dyer and Tipton County.

Why Choose This Program

• Why stop here? Graduates of Dyersburg State Community College’s ADN program with a GPA of 3.0 or higher are guaranteed admission into the prestigious University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing’s BSN program.
• Dyersburg State Community College’s ADN graduates boast NCLEX-RN pass rates that regularly top 93 percent.

7. Nashville State Community College - Nashville

Program Details: Nashville State Community College’s ADN program in Tennessee consists of 39 hours of core nursing courses and 540 clinical hours. (Note that you must take an additional 27 general education credits to earn the 66 credits required for an NSCC associate degree.) You’ll take three semesters of “Medical Surgical Nursing” and three semesters of “Pharmacology,” among other nursing courses. Lecture courses are paired with clinical courses that provide patient care training in the area covered by the lecture course; thus, you’ll take “Pediatric Nursing” and “Pediatric Nursing Clinical” in the same semester.

NSCC admits two classes a year into this traditional 2-year nursing program in Tennessee: one in the spring and one in the fall. The college also offers an LPN-to-RN bridge program: Qualified licensed practical nurses will receive seven credits of advanced placement standing upon completion of the Kaplan Practical Nursing exam, a dosage calculation test, a head-to-toe assessment checkoff, and five nursing care plans.

Simulation plays an important role in preparing Nashville State Community College’s nursing students for direct patient care, and the college’s simulation lab has three mock eight-bed suites as well as manikins designed to mimic med-surg, pediatric, and obstetric patients. You’ll participate in clinical rotations at hospitals, ambulatory care clinics, and other healthcare practice settings throughout the Greater Metropolitan Nashville Area.

Why Choose This Program

• Eager to continue your nursing education? Nashville State Community College’s transfer agreement with Herzig University may enable you to enter the university’s BSN program as a junior if you meet eligibility requirements. You may also be able to transfer your NSCC ADN credits seamlessly to the online RN-to-BSN pathway offered by Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
• 100 percent of Nashville State Community College’s ADN graduates land registered nursing jobs within one year of matriculating from the college.

8. Roane State Community College - Harriman

Program Details: Roane State Community College offers its traditional associate nursing degree program at its Harriman, Oak Ridge, and Knoxville Health Sciences Center campuses. This ADN program in Tennessee requires one year of general education coursework and two years of intensive study in patient-centered care for a total of 66 credits. You’ll have to be admitted to Roane State Community College before applying to this nursing program, and all applicants must take the HESI nursing pre-admission exam.

The college also has a 67-credit LPN Mobility option, although this pathway isn’t offered yearly. Students enrolling in the LPN Mobility program are awarded seven advanced placement credits if they’ve graduated from an accredited LPN program within the past three years or can pass a challenge exam.

The curriculum adheres to the core nursing standard approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents. It involves courses like “Pharmacology in Nursing,” “Medical Surgical Nursing I, II, & III,” and “Professional Practice in Nursing.” Before you can graduate, you’ll have to prove you know your stuff by passing a comprehensive examination modeled after the NCLEX-RN.

Roane State Community College's new Knox Regional Health Science Education and Simulation Center is a state-of-the-art facility that contains replicas of med-surg, ICU, and Labor & Delivery units stocked with manikins that can be programmed to mimic various illnesses and injuries. Clinical experiences take place at healthcare facilities, such as Roane Medical Center and Parkwest Medical Center, throughout Roane, Cumberland, Anderson, Blount, and Knox Counties.

Why Choose This Program

• Roane State Community College’s average 90 percent NCLEX-RN pass rate beats the average state and national NCLEX-RN pass rate.
• 94 percent of Roane State Community College’s nursing graduates find jobs as registered nurses within one year of graduating and attaining their RN licenses.


Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

ADN Programs in Other States