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Nursing graduate students


Thank you for your interest in the graduate programs offered by the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee! We offer two degree programs-DNP and PhD and a variety of Graduate Certificates.

The interdisciplinary Health Policy graduate certificate program has special eligibility requirements and admission deadlines, which are noted below where appropriate.

Priority Application Deadline for Fall: December 15

Please note the priority deadline must be met in order to be eligible for scholarships and fellowships. Nurse Anesthesia concentration applicants must have all their application materials in by December 15 in order to be considered for enrollment in the next Fall’s enrollment cycle.

BSN Degree

DNP and PhD applicants must hold, at minimum, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or be near degree completion.  The BSN must be from a regionally accredited program that also holds nursing accreditation through either the National Accrediting Commission or the Collegiate Commission on Nursing Education.  Applicants who have not yet completed a BSN program should reference their expected date of graduation in their essay.

Graduate certificate programs are open to students who hold an MSN, DNP, or PhD.

Health Policy Graduate Certificate applicants:  BSN/MSN requirement waived.

Minimum GPA

The UT Graduate School outlines the GPA requirement to be eligible for admission to the university as a graduate student:

U.S. degree holders must have earned a 2.7 out of a possible 4.0 GPA or a minimum of 3.0 during the senior year of undergraduate study. Foreign degree holders must have earned a minimum of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or other equivalent to a B average. If you have completed previous graduate course work, you must have a grade point average of 3.0 on a 4-point scale or equivalent.

NOTE:  Admission to the College of Nursing is competitive and admission requirements exceed the Graduate School’s minimum requirements.

PhD Applicants (Only):

PhD applicants must have minimum cumulative graduate grade point average of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale for previous college work.

NOTE Nurse Anesthesia Applicants (ONLY) must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  1. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) from all degrees earned (including non-nursing degrees).
  2. Current ACLS & PALS certification
  3. ICU Experience

To be considered for admission, applicants must have completed at least one year of current, full-time adult critical care nursing experience prior to the start of the program.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate critical thinking skills and feel comfortable working with ventilators, numerous vasoactive drugs, such as nitroglycerin, nitroprusside, dopamine and amiodarone. In addition, applicants must possess a thorough understanding of EKG interpretation and be able to apply hemodynamic values to patient care.

Some examples of adult critical care areas that meet this requirement include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Surgical ICU
  • Trauma ICU
  • Cardiovascular ICU
  • Medical ICU
  • Coronary Care Unit

Please note: Nursing experience in the ER, ICN, Pediatric ICU, or PAR does not fulfill this requirement.

Experience in other intensive care units

While experience in adult critical care is required, employment time in neonatal and/or pediatric ICU is considered to be very advantageous and may count toward the minimum one-year critical care criterion. Other work history may be considered on a case-by-case basis, but must include experience in units where nurses care for high acuity, critically ill patients on a 1:1 ratio who require invasive monitoring and the administration of vasoactive drugs. For example, while it cannot supersede the critical care (ICU) requirement, Flight Nursing is considered highly complementary experience for applicants to the UT Knoxville program.

CCRN Certification

The Program does not require applicants to have CCRN certification prior to application, however admission will be contingent upon obtaining the CCRN prior to the program start date. Please note that while other certifications, such as Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR), Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), or other specialty certification, are advantageous, they do not supersede the CCRN requirement.

All prospective College of Nursing students must apply online through UT Graduate Admissions.  Application materials must be submitted directly to Graduate Admissions prior to the application deadline.

A complete application consists of:

  • Online application and fee
  • Official transcripts
  • Essay
  • Resume/CV
  • Recommendation forms
  • GRE scores, if required
  • TOEFL scores, if required
  • Writing sample – PhD applicants only
  • Nursing license – Waived for Health Policy Graduate Certificate applicants

Detailed information about specific application materials is included below in the Application Requirements section.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your application is complete. You are strongly encouraged to check first with Graduate Admissions to see if all your transcripts and materials have been submitted properly. You can check the status of your application via the UT Graduate School Status Checker.

The University’s Graduate Admissions office determines if the application meets the University’s minimum admission requirements. If deemed minimally admissible, the application will then be reviewed by the College of Nursing. Graduate Admissions processes applications in the order of submission; due to the application queue, prospective students are strongly encouraged to submit applications well in advance—typically four to five weeks—of the College of Nursing’s deadline.

Applicants are typically notified of their admission decision 5-6 weeks after the application deadline. Notifications are sent by email and mail. If you have any questions, contact the College of Nursing’s Graduate Programs Advisor at

The application requirements listed below apply to applicants to all College of Nursing graduate programs.  Exceptions are noted where appropriate:

Official Transcripts

Applicants will upload scanned transcripts to the online application.  Transcripts from all previous colleges and universities attended are required, except UT Knoxville.  At the time of application, unofficial transcripts are acceptable.

If officially admitted to the College of Nursing, official transcripts are required and should be sent directly to the UT Graduate Admissions office.

Current UT Law students applying for Add-On Health Policy Graduate Certificate: Students must be in good academic standing with a minimum 2.0 GPA as defined by the UT College of Law.


Applicants are required to submit an essay/personal statement as part of their application.

  • Length: 4-5 pages (1000-1250 words), double spaced
  • Prompt: Describe your professional goals.  Address the following:
    • Why are you pursuing the advanced practice area in your chosen concentration?
    • How will the degree program and chosen concentration will enhance your future professional roles and activities?
    • Describe the ways that graduate education will help you achieve your career goals.
    • DNP and PhD Applicants: Also include a brief description of the proposed area of study for the final project.  We understand that areas of interest may change as you progress through the program, but this will enable us to evaluate your preliminary interests.

Current UT Law students applying to the Add-On Health Policy Graduate Certificate program:  In place of an essay, upload a document with the following text: “Essay requirement for UT Law students is waived.  Authorized by College of Nursing Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.”


Submit a copy of your resume or CV.  You may combine your resume/CV with your essay and upload as a single PDF document.

Recommendation Forms

Recommendations are considered a critical component of your application to the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.

  • DNP and PhD applicants must submit three recommendation forms.
  • Graduate Certificate applicants must submit two recommendation forms.

Recommendation forms must satisfy the categories listed below:

  1. Academic Reference, who can evaluate your academic performance and capabilities
  2. Supervisor Reference, who can evaluate your nursing skills and professional abilities
  3. A professional recommender of your choosing, i.e. an additional academic reference, preceptor, physician, past supervisor, etc.  This should be someone familiar with your academic and/or professional abilities.

When choosing your recommenders, please consider individuals who may speak to the following: academic ability and readiness, quality of work, integrity, leadership and preparedness for the profession, and communication skills.

Nurse Anesthesia Applicants: Three reference forms are required from the following:

  • A former nursing professor who is familiar with the applicant’s academic work
  • An immediate work superior (that is, nurse manager)
  • A physician who works directly with the applicant

NOTE: Reference forms will not be accepted from medical residents, fellows, clinical preceptors, team leaders, or clinical nursing/unit educators.

Current UT Law Students applying for Add-On Health Policy Graduate Certificate: Applicants are not required to submit recommendation forms.

Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Scores

DNP Applicants: 

  • Applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.30+: GRE scores are not required
  • Applicants with an undergraduate GPA lower than 3.30: GRE scores are required

PhD Applicants:

  • Applicants with a GPA of 3.50+: GRE scores are not required
  • Applicants with a GPA lower than 3.50: GRE scores are required

Graduate Certificate Applicants:  GRE scores are not required.

TOEFL or IELTS scores – Required for non-native English speakers

Applicants must achieve a TOEFL score of at least 550 on the paper test or 80 on the Internet-based test if their native language is not English. A 6.5 is required on the IELTS. Official scores are required prior to admission.

Without acceptable scores, an English language conditional admit is available only for the Health Policy Certificate program. This conditional admit is for exceptional students and requires formal petition to the College of Nursing Graduate Program Chair after the applicant has submitted a completed application.

Writing Sample – Required for PhD Applicants Only

Submit a sample of scholarly writing, such as a thesis, research paper, or published paper.  Memoranda, email messages, and personal communications do not satisfy this requirement.

Combine your writing sample with your essay and upload to the online application as a single PDF document.  If the file is too large to upload to the online application, please send an email with PDF attachment directly to the College of Nursing Student Services Office (

Nursing License(s)

Applicants must hold a license or be eligible for licensure as a registered nurse.  Students must be licensed in Tennessee, one of the interstate compact states, or in rare circumstances, within a different state of residence.  A copy of all nursing licenses is required.  Upload multiple licenses as a single PDF document. 

Health Policy Graduate Certificate applicants: A nursing license is not required.

The priority deadline to apply to the DNP and PhD Programs for Fall is December 15. Nurse Anesthesia concentration applicants must have all their application materials in by December 15 in order to be considered for enrollment in the next Fall’s enrollment cycle.

*Please note the priority deadline must be met in order to be eligible for scholarships and fellowships. Nurse Anesthesia concentration applicants must have all their application materials in by December 15 in order to be considered for enrollment in the next Fall’s enrollment cycle.

Graduate Certificates– The application deadline is December 15 for a Summer enrollment.
Please note that applicants that have outstanding prerequisites to meet must have those completed by May 15 to enroll for summer. This applies to students applying for PNP-Acute and Primary, FNP and PMH Graduate Certificate Programs.

Note: The Health Policy and Nurse Education Graduate Certificates accept applications on a rolling basis throughout the academic year.

The College of Nursing Graduate Admissions Committee requires an interview of selected applicants.  If you are selected for an interview, you will be emailed instructions on how to record and submit your video responses.

DNP applicants must complete 3 hours of graduate-level statistics prior to enrollment. This requirement may be met after a student has been accepted or through a previously approved course at another institution.

All DNP-Nurse Anesthesia students must complete 3 credit hours of graduate level Advanced Clinical Pharmacology. This requirement may be met after a student has been accepted or through a previously approved course at another institution.

Accepted students often complete the requirement during the summer immediately preceding the first term of graduate study, i.e. in Summer 2019 before enrolling as a graduate student in Fall 2019.

If you have already completed a graduate-level statistics course or an advanced clinical pharmacology course (Nurse Anesthesia Applicants ONLY) or plan to complete these requirements at another institution, please submit a course description and syllabus to the Graduate Programs Office for approval prior as soon as possible. Previously completed courses must be recent, i.e. completed within two years of the intended term of entry to graduate study.