Graduate Schools and Programs in Tennessee

Graduate Schools in Tennessee may offer laidback Southern charm combined with the rigor of cutting-edge education. Tennessee is home to two public university systems, as well as a number of private colleges and universities. The state is also home to vibrant and history-rich cities, including the musical capitals of Nashville and Memphis. Let’s dive into more reasons why TN might be the perfect state for grad students!

Top Reasons For Grad Students To Love Tennessee

written by Shannon Fandler

From preparing for a new career goal to cutting loose and enjoying southern specialties like country music and barbeque, Tennessee may be a grad student’s dream. Here’s why this state is so great:

Diverse Graduate Education Paths. Tennessee has its share of highly-regarded private colleges, like Vanderbilt University and Fisk University, one of the nation’s most well-known historically black universities. However, TN is also a leader in public education. The University of Tennessee features campuses throughout the state, in Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Martin. Regional public universities include East Tennessee State University, University of Memphis, and Tennessee State.

Exciting Places to Live and Learn. Tennessee’s top college towns are cities with character. You could potentially study in Nashville, headquarters to the country music industry, or Memphis, home of Graceland. Chattanooga blends nature and historical heritage on the banks of the Tennessee River. And TN is also home to myriad small towns ideal for living, learning, and exploring.

Opportunities to Be a Tourist. Who said grad students can’t take a break sometimes? Tennessee offers plenty of options for weekend jaunts. Popular tourist attractions include the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, the American Museum of Atomic Energy, the Hermitage (the home of Andrew Jackson, near

Nashville), Rock City Gardens, and three National Military Parks.

Nature at its Finest. Love the outdoors? Tennessee may be the perfect place for you to blend studying with adventure. The Great Smoky Mountains offer numerous hiking and camping opportunities. (Consider climbing Clingman’s Dome, the highest peak.) The state’s 8,500 caves may tempt spelunkers. And the Ocoee River has ten miles of Class III and IV rapids, for expert whitewater rafters only. Whether you prefer a scenic stroll or an adrenaline rush, Tennessee has an experience for you.

The Answer to Food Cravings. Hungry students be warned: Tennessee has so much diverse cuisine, it can be hard to choose what to eat next. Each region has its own delicacies, but some top Tennessee specialties include fried catfish, fluffy biscuits, MoonPies (invented in Chattanooga), and fall-off-the-bone barbecue. Want to spice up your life? Cayenne pepper-coated “hot chicken” is a must have, if you can take the heat.

Fun Fact: Dolly Parton keeps Appalachian traditions alive at her Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Brush Up on Tennessee’s History

Whether you plan to be a graduate student of history or you’re just interested in connecting the past with the present, there’s lots to learn about Tennessee. Many Native Americans, including Cherokee and Chickasaw tribes, occupied the region before white settlers appeared in the 1770s. In 1796, TN became the became the 16th state of the Union.

One of Tennessee’s darkest historical periods was the forcible removal of indigenous people, particularly the Cherokee. This event, which took place in 1838-9, is known as the Trail of Tears. A few decades later, Tennessee became a key battleground in the Civil War.

On a lighter note, Tennessee has played a critical role in the development of many forms of American popular music, including rock and roll, blues, country, and rockabilly. Tennessee has also been an important center for civil right activism, including the Nashville sit-ins in 1959–61.

Did You Know? The 1925 Scopes Trial took place in the Tennessee town of Dayton in East Tennessee, when a local biology teacher was convicted for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Tennessee Today [i]

Tennessee has a population of 6,715,984 via a 2017 estimate, which is a 5.8% increase from 2010. 25.4% of the state’s residents have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, and the annual median household income is $46,574.

The majority of Tennessee’s population lives in urban areas, and most work in predominantly industrial fields. Some of the largest cities in Tennessee include Memphis, Nashville-Davidson, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Clarksville.

Top 7 Occupations in Tennessee

Requiring a Post-Secondary Degree

Professions with the highest employment in Tennessee

Whether you need help deciding what degree to pursue, or just want to get a feel for
professions with the highest employment in Tennessee , the table below should be helpful.

  • Registered Nurses
  • General and Operations Managers
  • Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education
  • Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education
  • Accountants and Auditors
  • Business Operations Specialists, All Other
  • Financial Managers

These results were reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information see the OES May 2017 State Data Report.

Tennessee’s Climate and Landscape

Adjusting to a new climate can be tough, but Tennessee makes it easy. The state boasts a moderate climate, which means winters are cool but not freezing. And while parts of the state can get hot in the summer, milder weather is more common.

In terms of geographic setting, Tennessee is gifted with diverse terrain. Depending on where you are in this (very green) state, you could enjoy mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, and caves. Since approximately one half of Tennessee is forested, many species of trees, plants, and animals are found here.

Tennessee Towns That May Be Perfect for Grad Students

Searching for the best graduate schools in Tennessee is only step one. You’ll also need to consider where you’ll live while you pursue your degree. Here are some of the major colleges towns and cities throughout TN:

Nashville – This capital city is also Tennessee’s most populous. Nicknamed “the Athens of the South” because of its commitment to learning, Nashville is also a major higher education hub. Tennessee colleges and universities offering graduate programs in Nashville include Vanderbilt University, Trevecca Nazarene University, Lipscomb University, and many others. This city is also a popular spot for tourism, home to many important sites of country music history. Check out the Grand Ol’ Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Memphis – Located alongside the Mississippi River in Southwestern Tennessee, Memphis has long been an important economic center for this state. The city is also no slouch in the higher education department. Graduate schools in Memphis include Memphis College Of Art, Memphis Theological Seminary, Rhodes College, University of Memphis, and many others. This city offers diverse neighborhoods that may be perfect for graduate students looking for places to live or hang out. And, those interested in art, music, and literature should be able to satisfying their cravings in this creative city.

Chattanooga – This city in Southeastern Tennessee city is on the Georgia border and transitions from the Appalachian Mountains to the Cumberland Plateau. Surrounded by scenic beauty, it may be ideal for outdoors enthusiasts. But Chattanooga is also an important site for higher learning. The city is home to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the second-largest campus of the University of Tennessee System. And, it houses a branch of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.

Knoxville – Though it’s Tennessee’s third-largest city, Knoxville manages to retain a small-town feel. It’s full of historic homes, surrounded by nature, and packed with cultural activities that draw the community in. (Don’t miss the International Biscuit Festival!) The city is also home to The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the main campus of this public university. Other institutions of higher education in Knoxville include Johnson University, South College, Tennessee Wesleyan University, and others.

Clarksville – The fifth-largest metropolis in Tennessee, Clarksville is a city with a rich history. It was named after the Revolutionary War hero General George Rogers Clark and is home to The Leaf-Chronicle, the oldest newspaper in Tennessee. Clarksville is also known for its institutions of higher education, such as Austin Peay State University and the North Tennessee Bible Institute.

Cookeville – This small city in Putnam County is known as a micropolitan area, due to its role as a key economic center. Cookeville is known for its natural beauty, such as the stunning Cummins Falls State Park. However, one of its most important identities is as a college town. Tennessee Technological University, a well-regarded public university, is based here.

Other cities and towns worth considering may include Bristol (home to King University), Murfreesboro (home to Middle Tennessee State University), Collegedale (home to Southern Adventist University), Franklin (home to Belmont and Lipscomb Universities) and elsewhere. Each college town has its own unique history and personality.

Tennessee Colleges and Universities Offering Graduate Programs

Tennessee takes higher education seriously! The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is split into the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents of the State University and Community College System of Tennessee. These boards govern Tennessee colleges and universities, which include the public university system, University of Tennessee, and other regional public universities. There are also a number of private colleges and universities throughout the state.

Whether you’re interested in professional, doctoral, or masters programs in Tennessee, you may have a variety of paths to choose from – including online graduate programs based out of TN. Here are five grad schools in Tennessee that should be on your radar:

1. Tennessee State University

2. Vanderbilt University

3. Cumberland University

4. Tennessee Technological University

5. University of Tennessee

Pursuing Graduate Business Programs in Tennessee

Some of Tennessee’s most laidback cities are actually key centers of commerce, potentially making this state the ideal place to study business. FedEx, AutoZone and International Paper are all headquartered in Memphis. Pilot Corporation and Regal Entertainment Group call Knoxville home. And Nashville has Hospital Corporation of America and Caterpillar Financial.

Textiles, cotton, cattle, and electrical power are some of the state’s most important outputs. Automobile manufacturing is also key to the economy. And many jobs are in the service sector, which includes shipping, tourism, and health care.

If you’re hoping to earn a graduate degree in business, such as an MBA, look more closely at Tennessee graduate schools. Potential programs include:

  • Southern Adventist University Master of Business Administration
  • Middle Tennessee State University Master of Science in Accounting
  • Trevecca Nazarene University Master of Organizational Leadership
  • Lipscomb University Masters of Arts in Conflict Management

Earn a Graduate Education Degree in Tennessee

Because it’s a state that prioritizes learning, Tennessee may be a great place to pursue a graduate education in…education! In the 1980s, the state led education reform through its Better Schools program, which rewarded teachers for their excellence in public school classrooms. The state has worked hard to emphasize art, music, and physical education in elementary school, and to meet math and science requirements at the secondary level. However, Tennessee’s schools do struggle for funding.

Colleges for teaching in Tennessee may offer graduate programs in education that could help you make a difference. Here are just a few of the programs you might find:

  • Cumberland University MA in Teaching
  • Vanderbilt University Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.)
  • Temple Baptist Seminary Graduate Program in Christian Education
  • East Tennessee State University Master of Education in Elementary Education

Health and Medicine Graduate Programs in TN

Whether you’re interested in graduate nursing, healthcare administration, or something else entirely, Tennessee grad schools may have the program you’re looking for. Healthcare is a key area of the state’s service industry. And, all of the state’s major cities are home to top healthcare centers.

Pursue health and medicine graduate programs like:

  • Tennessee Technological University Masters of Professional Studies: Healthcare Administration
  • Cumberland University MS in Nursing
  • Belmont University Graduate Program in Occupational Therapy
  • Tennessee Board of Regents Master of Science in Nursing Regents Online Degree Program

Tennessee Social Sciences and Public Affairs Graduate Programs

Population growth, urban and rural poverty, and community planning are just a few of the factors that make Tennessee such an interesting state to examine from a sociological perspective. Why not study social sciences and public affairs in TN? Check out graduate programs such as:

  • Milligan College MS in Counseling
  • Oxford Graduate School Doctor of Philosophy in Social Research
  • Tennessee State University Graduate Program in Public Administration
  • Austin Peay State University Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Tennessee Graduate Programs

  Population Median Household Income Median Gross Rent % of person having a bachelor's degree or higher


$36,975 $842 25.1%%
Nashville-Davidsoniii 660,388 $49,891 $902 37.6%
Knoxvilleiv 186,239 $34,556 $766 30.5%
Chattanoogav 177,571 $41,278 $765 27.8%

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