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Online Degrees in Tennessee (TN)

Few states are making strides in educational attainment like Tennessee. According to a recent study from the Lumina Foundation, the percentage of adults with an associate degree or higher has surged from just 31.3 percent in 2008 to 33.8 percent in 2013. The fact that the percentage of college-educated adults is rising is a positive indication of where higher education is headed. However, with the national average for degree attainment hovering at around 40 percent, there is still room for improvement.

A further breakdown of the state's educational attainment figures sheds some light on the issue. According to a study from the Lumina Foundation,7.52 percent of adults age 25-64 held an associate degree in 2013, 17.04 percent held a bachelor's, and 9.28 percent held a graduate or professional degree. Meanwhile, a full 22 percent had some college experience, but no degree. With so many Tennessee residents still in pursuit of higher education, it seems likely that the number of degree-holders in the state will continue to rise.

Fortunately, the state has plenty of institutions of higher education to choose from, including a diverse array of schools offering online learning options. In fact, that National Center for Education Statistics lists 187 colleges, universities, trade schools, and community colleges as active in the state. With so many schools to choose from, anyone seeking on-campus or distance learning in Tennessee should be able to find what they're looking for. Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of earning a degree in Tennessee.

  1. Why Should I Earn a Degree in Tennessee?
  2. What Makes Tennessee Ideal for Online Education?
  3. Top 10 Degrees in Tennessee
  4. Top Cities for Tennessee College Students
  5. College Roadmap
  6. Scholarships and Financial Aid
  7. Discover Degree Opportunities

Why Should I Earn a Degree in Tennessee?

When it comes to choosing where to pursue a college degree, you should consider more than just the schools a particular state or region has to offer; you should also consider the local economy and job scene. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, the state of Tennessee is home to 2,749,480 workers, who earn a mean annual wage of $40,650. And like most states, many of the top careers and best employment opportunities require a college degree. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we compiled this list of high employment careers that require a college education:

Occupation

Number of Workers in 2014

Mean Annual Wage in 2014

Registered Nurses

55,560

$57,030

General and Operations Managers

42,400

$104,850

Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education

29,410

$48,970

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

21,470

$36,420

Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education

19,020

$49,870

Accountants and Auditors

18,680

$65,630

Financial Managers

12,870

$101,460

Middle School Teachers Except Special and Career/Technical Education

11,260

$49,250

Business Operations Specialists, All Others

10,560

$59,360

Computer Systems Analysts

9,020

$77,680

Tennessee is home to a diverse mix of cultures and communities. From affluent populations surrounding big cities to rural mountain settlements, the state has something to offer everyone. The biggest metropolitan areas in the state include Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville.

Colleges and universities in Tennessee are spread evenly throughout the state's urban centers and sparse, rural areas. The largest schools in the state include the University of Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State University, the University of Memphis, and East Tennessee State University. Meanwhile, the University of Tennessee system (UT system) is also prominent within the state with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Martin. Including all of its students, the UT system has a total enrollment of almost 50,000.

A number of schools in Tennessee offer flexible, online degree programs. Included on that list are institutions like Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee, and Tennessee Technological University. These colleges, and others in the area, offer distance learning options that are popular with adult students, working parents, and anyone who wants to stay in the workforce while they complete their studies.

As the costs associated with college tuition continue to rise across the nation, tuition and fees have remained relatively affordable in Tennessee. Here are the average tuition and fees for various school types in Tennessee for the 2014-15 school year, courtesy of the College Board:

  • Public Two-Year: $3,948
  • Public Four-Year: $8,541
  • Private, Nonprofit Four-Year: $25,686

In addition to educational opportunity, Tennessee is also home to a diverse and growing workforce and economic climate. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development lists these industries as the key economic powers in the state:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Aerospace and Defense
  • Automotive
  • Business Services
  • Chemicals, Plastics, and Rubber
  • Energy Technology
  • Film, Music and Entertainment
  • Food and Agribusiness
  • Healthcare and Medical Devices
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

Aside from industry and jobs, Tennessee has plenty to offer in terms of quality of life. Not only does the state boast some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States, but it also has affordable real estate and an incredibly low cost of living. In fact, the median housing value, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, was only $139,200 from 2009-2013. Meanwhile, Tennessee is home to more than its share of popular tourist destinations and entertainment venues, including these:

  • Elvis Presley's Graceland
  • Memphis Rock-n-Soul Museum
  • Grand Ole Opry
  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
  • The Parthenon
  • Hunter Museum of Art
  • Knoxville Museum of Art

Although Tennessee might seem like an open book, here are some little known facts about the state that might surprise you:

  • Shelby County, Tennessee has more horses per capita than any other county in the United States.
  • The Tennessee Aquarium is the largest fresh water habitat of its kind, with 7,000 unique animals and species.
  • The Grand Ole Opry features the longest running radio show in the world.
  • Tennessee is home to more than 3,800 known caves.
  • Elvis Presley's Graceland is the second most visited house in the United States.

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What Makes Tennessee Ideal for Online Education?

There are plenty of factors that make the state of Tennessee an ideal place to earn a college degree and lay down roots. The relatively low cost of living most Tennesseans enjoy is one huge benefit almost anyone would appreciate. According to Retire Tennessee, the cost of living in the state is 10.7 percent lower than the national average.

Meanwhile, some experts say that online education in Tennessee is ideal for an entirely different reason -- because it increases access to those who might have trouble affording higher education otherwise.

According to Joe Kitterman, founder of 180Skills.com, an online career and technical education service that enables careers seekers to gain the skills they need for meaningful employment, Tennessee has one of the highest rates of households falling below the poverty line in the nation.

"As a result," notes Kitterman, "finding a lower cost form of education -- particularly one that allows individuals to flexibly balance existing work with their training -- is an important enabler to helping them prosper."

Kitterman elaborates, "As an example, Forbes.com has listed Nashville/Davidson/Murfreesboro/Franklin, Tennessee among its top 10 manufacturing boomtowns. Finding the right mixture of affordable education that's connected to these growing companies in need can be a quick and effective way to become gainfully employed."

The fact that certain parts of the state might be low-income hasn't stopped other more affluent areas from reaching high levels of educational attainment, however. In fact, certain counties in the Tennessee are home to more than their share of adults with at least an associate's degree:

  • Williamson: 62.98 percent
  • Knox: 46.99 percent
  • Davidson: 44.01 percent
  • Washington: 38.29 percent
  • Rutherford: 37.42 percent

This goes to show that, while higher education in Tennessee still has room for improvement in some towns and counties, certain regions have already made their mark when it comes to reaching high levels of education attainment.

Further, online education is ideal in Tennessee for almost any type of student -- rich or poor, rural or urban, young or old. Not only does distance learning in Tennessee increase access for the state's rural residents, but it also makes it easier for working adults to remain in the workforce while they earn an advanced degree or finish a degree they have already started.

"Online education isn't going anywhere," adds Kitterman. "For individuals who find work, the majority of formal career and technical education they'll receive after embarking upon their career will probably be web-enabled. Becoming accustomed to this form of training will serve individuals throughout their entire career and beyond as lifelong learners."

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Top 10 Degrees in Tennessee

Many on-campus and online degrees in Tennessee are a good investment, but some stand out due to better-than-average outcomes. Using data from the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics, we compiled this list of majors that could lead to promising careers with high pay:

Paralegal Studies

Earning an associate's degree in paralegal studies is the easiest and fastest way to gain employment as a paralegal or legal assistant. Because of exceptional growth in the legal system in Tennessee, this career is expected to remain in demand. Specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of paralegals and legal assistants in Tennessee will increase 49 percent from 2012 to 2022, more than four times the average of all occupations combined. The critical shortage of these professionals in the coming years could also lead to higher pay and better job prospects. Currently, paralegals and legal assistants in Tennessee earn a mean annual wage of $49,070. Here are a few top schools in the state that offer this popular degree program:

  • Nashville State Community College
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College
  • Volunteer State Community College

Foreign Language

Learning a foreign language is a great way to break into a number of careers, which is part of the reason a degree in one continues to be a good investment. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that job openings for interpreters and translators could increase by as much as 44 percent from 2012 to 2022. Relatively high pay has also kept this degree on the minds of many students. As of 2014, interpreters and translators in Tennessee earned a mean annual wage of $39,780. If you want to learn more, check out these schools:

  • University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee Technological University

Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Sonography

Several careers in healthcare are thriving in Tennessee, and diagnostic medical sonography is one of them. Earning an associate degree in sonography or diagnostic medical sonography is the easiest way to get started in this field. Because of expected demand, job prospects for graduates in this field are expected to be exceptional. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment opportunities for diagnostic medical sonographers are expected to increase 42 percent in Tennessee during the decade leading up to 2022. High pay has also helped this degree remain popular. As of 2014, diagnostic medical sonographers in Tennessee earned a mean annual wage of $60,690. If you're interested in learning more, check out these schools:

  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • Volunteer State Community College
  • Baptist College of Health Sciences

Hospitality Management

With so many beautiful places to see and things to do in Tennessee, it's no wonder that the hospitality industry is booming. Students who earn a degree in hospitality management have the potential to break into this growing industry, and perhaps begin a career as a lodging manager or meeting, convention, and event planner. Meeting, convention, and event planners, in particular, are expected to see exceptional career growth in the state. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that demand for these professionals could increase by as much as 41 percent from 2012 to 2022. Pay remains high as well. As of 2014, the BLS reports that meeting, convention, and event planners in Tennessee earned a mean annual wage of $41,020. The following Tennessee schools can help you learn more about a degree in hospitality management:

  • University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College
  • University of Memphis

Veterinary Technology

A love of animals is the reason most people pursue a degree in veterinary technology. However, many stay in this field because of excellent job prospects and relatively decent pay. Because of the predicted demand for animal care, a degree in veterinary technology could prove a valuable investment over the coming decade. U.S. Department of Labor figures show that employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to increase 39 percent in Tennessee between 2012 and 2022. Meanwhile, these workers earned a mean annual wage of $29,170 in the state in 2014. If you want to learn more about earning a degree in veterinary technology, check out these schools:

  • Columbia State Community College
  • Volunteer State Community College
  • Lincoln Memorial University

Engineering

Earning a degree in engineering can be an excellent investment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the following engineering careers are expected to see exceptional growth in Tennessee from 2012 to 2022: Marine engineers and naval architects (39 percent), biomedical engineers (35 percent), and aerospace engineers (30 percent). Whichever type of engineering field you choose, this degree can also lead to high wages. As of 2014, the following types of engineers earned a high mean annual wage in the state: Aerospace engineers ($87,950), biomedical engineers ($80,750), chemical engineers ($89,970), civil engineers ($89,850), and computer hardware engineers ($90,330). If you want to learn more about engineering degrees in Tennessee, check out these schools:

  • Tennessee Technological University
  • University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • Tennessee State University

Marketing

A marketing degree is a great way to begin a career in marketing or advertising. Potential careers for graduates could include marketing specialist or market research analyst. According to the BLS, employment for both of these careers is expected to increase 37 percent in Tennessee from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, high wages help make this degree option popular among students. As of 2014, marketing specialists and market research analysts earned a mean annual wage of $54,830. If you want to learn more about marketing degrees in Tennessee, explore the programs at these popular schools:

  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • Tennessee Technological University

Mathematics

A degree in mathematics can open the door to a number of careers. In fact, you could use your degree to become an actuary or logistician, both careers with excellent job prospects according to the BLS. Recent figures show that employment of actuaries in Tennessee could increase by as much as 36 percent from 2012 to 2022, while job openings for logisticians are projected to increase 22 percent. If you want to learn more about mathematics degrees and possible outcomes, these schools can help:

  • University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • Belmont University
  • Tennessee State University

Information Security/Information Technology

With technology becoming more and more prevalent in the workplace, employers are leaning heavily on professionals who can keep their information and computer networks private and secure. Earning a degree in information security or information technology can prepare you to assist in these efforts, all while providing excellent job prospects. The BLS predicts that employment opportunities for information security analysts will increase 35 percent in Tennessee between 2012 and 2022. Meanwhile, these professionals earned a mean annual wage of $74,560 in 2014. If you want to learn more about this degree, these schools offer some of the best programs in the state:

  • Nashville State Community College
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee College of Applied Technology

Biomedical Technology/Biomedical Engineering

Earning a degree in biomedical technology or biomedical engineering could prove useful in Tennessee. One of the most common careers individuals with either of these degrees pursue is medical equipment repairer, which usually only requires an associate degree for entry-level positions. According to the BLS, employment for these workers is expected to increase by as much as 33 percent in Tennessee from 2012 to 2022. Wages are high too; as of 2014, medical equipment repairers in the state earned a mean annual wage of $43,660. The following Tennessee schools offer top-notch degree programs in this area of study:

  • East Tennessee State University
  • University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Vanderbilt University

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Top Cities for Tennessee College Students

Memphis

The largest city in the state, Memphis was home to 653,450 residents in 2013. As the county seat of Shelby County and part of the Memphis metropolitan area, Memphis is the largest city on the Mississippi River and the 20th largest in the United States. In addition to its many festivals and street fairs, Memphis also sponsors several film and music festivals, including Carnival Memphis and the Indie Memphis Film Festival. Music lovers can visit the city's riverfront to enjoy everything from Memphis Soul to gospel and rock-n-roll. The city's famous Beale Street is popular with young and old music lovers alike. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Memphis is home to 30 colleges, universities, community colleges, trade schools, and beauty schools. The following prominent schools call the area home:

University of Memphis

With a fall 2013 enrollment of over 21,000 students, the University of Memphis is one of the largest schools in Tennessee. They currently offer 17 bachelor's degrees, 54 master's degrees, 25 doctoral degrees, and various certificate programs for students seeking formal training and credentials. Tuition and fees came out to $8,619 for the 2014-15 school year for in-state students, and the school is known for the following popular programs:

  • Accelerated BSN Second Degree Option
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
  • Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering

Southwest Tennessee Community College

With a focus on small class sizes and multiculturalism, Southwest Tennessee Community College aims to prepare students for the workforce through their various on-campus, online, and hybrid education programs. Tuition and fees came out to $3,843 for the 2014-15 school year, and the career-focused schools is known for these programs:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
  • Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Pharmacy Technician Technical Certificate

Rhodes College

Voted America's #1 Service-Oriented College by Newsweek two years in a row, Rhodes College prides itself on intellectual engagement and its focus on liberal arts and sciences. Current enrollment includes approximately 2,040 students, and tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to $41,572. Some of the school's most popular degree programs include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Political Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Biology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Greek & Roman Studies

Nashville

The city of Nashville was home to approximately 624,496 residents in 2013, and the Nashville metro area contained nearly 1,757,912 residents that year, making it the largest metropolitan statistical area in Tennessee. As the state's capital, Nashville is home to Tennessee's Supreme Court and various other government buildings and headquarters. Meanwhile, Nashville is also known as "Music City" for a reason, namely its love for all things country music. The National Center for Education Statistics lists 32 colleges, universities, trade schools, and community colleges as active in Nashville, including these:

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University is an internationally recognized research university offering undergraduate programs in the liberal arts, sciences, engineering, music, education, and human development. A full range of graduate and professional degrees are also available for students. With a total enrollment of 12,725 students and undergraduate tuition of $42,768 for the 2014-15 school year, Vanderbilt aims to prepare the nation's best students for exemplary careers in the real world. Some of Vanderbilt's most popular degree programs include:

  • Doctor of Medicine
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science in Medical Physics

Nashville State Community College

Nashville State Community College is a career-oriented two-year school that offers 80 programs of study at prices almost any student can afford. In addition to their on-campus programs, NSCC also offers distance learning in Tennessee, as well as online and hybrid courses. Current enrollment includes 10,007 students, yet tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to only $3,753 for state residents. Some of the school's most popular degree programs are:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Architectural Engineering Technology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Computer Technology
  • Associate of Applied Science in Healthcare Management

Belmont University

Belmont University features an enrollment of over 7,500 students from more than 25 countries. The school offers more than 80 bachelor's degree programs, 22 master's programs, and five doctoral degree programs across a wide range of disciplines. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to $28,660, and the school is known for these programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Arts in Design Communications
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Knoxville

With a population of approximately 183,270 in 2013, Knoxville is Tennessee's third largest city, and part of the Knoxville metropolitan statistical area, which boasts a population of around 852,715. Knoxville is one of the largest cities in the Appalachian Mountains and borders the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains State Park. The National Center for Education Statistics lists 13 colleges, universities, and trade schools as active in the area, including the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee. Here are some details on the most prominent schools in and around Knoxville:

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Boasting an enrollment of more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville is one of the largest schools in the state. Throughout the school's 11 colleges, they offer more than 300 degree programs. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to only $5,938 for in-state students, and the university is known for the following top-notch programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Arts in Child & Family Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education

Pellissippi State Community College

Pellissippi State Community College is a career-oriented community college aimed at preparing students for careers in the real world. Current enrollment includes over 10,700 students, and tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $3,868. While some of the school's students earn associate degree that lead to quick entry into the workforce, others use their credits to transfer to a four-year school. Some of the school's most popular degree programs are:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
  • Associate of Science in Teaching
  • Associate of Applied Science in Healthcare Office Administration

Johnson University

Johnson University is a small, faith-based school that offers more than 70 bachelor's, master's, Ph.D., and associate degree programs. In addition to its campus in Knoxville, Johnson University also offers a campus in Florida and a fully-online school. Enrollment was around 1,031 students last year, while tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year came out to only $12,050. As a leader in online education in Tennessee, Johnson University is known for these growing programs:

  • Online Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership
  • Online Associate of Science in Biblical Studies
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Studies

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College Roadmap

When considering earning a degree Tennessee, you might as well consider moving there as well. With a low cost of living and plenty of job prospects available after you graduate, the state has much to offer prospective students.

But, where should you live? If you love the rural wilderness and urban areas, it's important to know that Tennessee has both. However, you may not know where to lay down roots until you see these regions for yourself. If a college road trip is in your future, this itinerary can help:

Start your journey in the western part of the state in Memphis. Not only can you enjoy the big city atmosphere, but you can also check out the following schools: Rhodes College, Cambridge College, and LeMoyne-Owen College, just to name a few. Don't forget to check out the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College while you're there as well. A quick jaunt to the east will lead you to Jackson. There, you'll find several larger schools clustered in a relatively rural area. Campuses you should see include Lane College, Union University, West Tennessee Business College, and the huge campus at Jackson State Community College.

Next, you should head east to Nashville. Take in some of what "Music City" has to offer while exploring the urban side of this mostly mountainous and rural state. Any trip to Nashville wouldn't be complete without seeing some of the beautiful campuses nearby. Make sure to check out Belmont University, Fisk University, Nashville State Community College, and Vanderbilt University at the very least.

After Nashville, you'll want to head southeast to the Chattanooga area. Take in the southern charm, explore the Appalachian traditions, and check out the following schools: Chattanooga State Community College, Tennessee Temple University, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Round out your trip with a visit to the area surrounding Knoxville. Explore the beautiful mountains and set aside some time for hiking and sightseeing. Then tour the campuses at schools like Johnson University, Pellissippi State Community College, South College, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

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Scholarships and Financial Aid

Students seeking either on-campus or online education in Tennessee can typically pursue the same types of financial aid. Generally, the aid process starts with each student filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. This form allows federal and state agencies to determine what kind of aid each student may qualify for. Types of federal aid can include, but are not limited to: Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.

School-specific aid is another option. Once you choose an institution of higher education, you should check with the school to see what type of aid you qualify for, if any. Additional state aid may also be available. The Tennessee Student Assistance Program lists a number of scholarships and grants for Tennessee students, including these options:

  • Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship Program
  • TSAC-Byrd Scholarship Program
  • Ned McWherter Scholars Program
  • Dependent Children Scholarship Program
  • Tennessee STEP UP Scholarship Program
  • The Tennessee Student Assistance Award Program
  • Tennessee HOPE Access Grant
  • Dual Enrollment Grant

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Sources:
A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, Tennessee, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#tennessee
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=TN
Cost of Living, Retire Tennessee, http://www.retiretennessee.org/cost-of-living/
Fastest Growing Occupations, CareerOneStop, http://acinet.org/oview1.asp?next=oview1&Level=edu4&optstatus=&jobfam=&id=1&nodeid=3&soccode=&stfips=47&ShowAll=
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tennessee, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tn.htm
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Tennessee, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/47000.html
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, http://www.tnecd.com/
Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, http://www.tn.gov/collegepays/index.html
Tuition and Fees by Sector and State Over Time, College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-time