Best Psychology Schools in Tennessee in 2024

January 26, 2024 | Admin

Reasons to earn your psychology degree in Tennessee

Psychology is a popular degree course and a good career prospect in Tennessee, with plenty of potential for growth as the stigma around seeking mental health treatment dissolves. When studying this discipline, you gain an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the way the mind works, while potentially helping people enjoy a healthier happier life.

The job psychologists do is essential for the proper functioning of society, so it’s both challenging and rewarding. Psychologists must earn a doctoral degree in order to achieve licensure, but there are also career paths in mental health for undergraduates.

If you stay in school longer, your chances of climbing to the top of the career ladder become significantly higher. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, psychologists earn $80,370 per year, which is significantly higher than the nation average annual wage of $56,310.   

Why choose Tennessee?

Tennessee is a vibrant state with a rich cultural heritage and plenty of bustling hotspots for students. It’s perhaps most famous for its music scene, which includes superstar alumni, such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Whitney Houston, Kings of Leon, Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Ke$ha — to name a few.

Aside from entertainment, there are some smart economic reasons to study and work in Tennessee, which is renowned for being one of the most fiscally stable states in the United States. This means that there’s healthy investment in industries and plenty of opportunities for career growth. What’s more, the area is beautiful, with areas such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park providing the opportunity to escape from your studies and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

What are job prospects like for mental health professionals in Tennessee?

One of the most attractive aspects of studying psychology is Tennessee is the fact the rate of growth in the field of mental health is significantly higher than the state average. The BLS states that psychologist’s careers across the nation are set to grow 3% between 2019 and 2020, whereas the U.S. Department of Labor projects that growth in school, counseling and clinical psychology is set to be as high as 13% between 2018 and 2026 in Tennessee.

The state’s reputation for fiscal responsibility means it’s attracting plenty of investors and generating new business regularly. As of May 2020, there were 1,290 clinical, counseling and school psychologists working in Tennessee, earning an average of $75,250 — which is higher than the national average wage. It’s also more than you’d earn working as a qualified psychologist in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

Tennessee is the 15th most populated state in the country, meaning that there’s likely to be a steady demand for mental health experts. According to the BLS, the Kingsport and Bristol area is the most lucrative location in the state to work in this field. 

Career options for qualified psychologists

Once you obtained your qualification in psychology, there are lots of job options to choose from, depending on your personal preferences and specialization. It’s also crucial that you obtain licensure if you want to maximize your earning potential and open the most doors. However, even if you don’t go on to earn a graduate degree, there are plenty of professions that benefit from expertise in human behavior.

Read on to find out more about some of the most popular careers for psych graduates.

Licensed psychologist

If you see your studies all the way through, you can start a career as a chartered, licensed psychologist. You’ll work with clients and patients in a variety of clinical settings, analyzing their behavior and helping them work through their thoughts and emotions so they find more healthy ways of coping with stress, trauma, and other mental health issues.

You can further specialize in fields such as sport and mental health, educational psychology, and occupational psychology. It’s important to note that if you want to become a psychiatrist, you’ll need to earn a medical degree to become a qualified doctor. 


Psychotherapists work directly with families, couples, and individuals, helping them resolve interpersonal and emotional issues while building up solid coping mechanisms. Psychotherapists often train in specific specializations depending on their personal preferences and expertise, including psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy, CBT, holistic therapies, hypno-psychotherapy, and experiential therapy.


Counseling helps people come to terms with their experiences and history through talking and being listened to. You’ll guide them through the process of self-discovery, providing insight, empathy, and understanding to help them make constructive choices and feel better about themselves. Counselors can work with people who are grieving, abuse victims, people with addictions, children, job seekers, and families.

Social work

Social workers are vital for society, helping young people and adults who are struggling to function. Understanding what drives behavior can be a huge benefit to social workers who are required to empathise with and offer support to people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Social workers can work with children, vulnerable adults, or individuals within the criminal justice system.


While you can become an educational psychologist in Tennessee with a degree in this field, you can also go into teaching to inspire the next generation of psychology students. 


Universities and an array of private and public institutions require research psychologists to use their skills and expertise to move industry forward and provide key insights to government agencies. Researchers can also work in the nonprofit sector, where they can work to help us better understand issues like the impact of substances on mental health, child development, or rehabilitation from brain damage. 

Individuals with an undergraduate degree in psychology from a college in Tennessee are qualified to work in HR, communications, media and marketing and business and management. These vocations all benefit from an in-depth understanding of what makes people tick. 

Cost of psychology schools in Tennessee

Going to college in Tennessee isn’t cheap, but it’s an investment that you’ll see excellent returns from. The cost of tuition in the state varies significantly, but you can expect to earn approximately what you pay for the entirety of your education within a year or two of getting qualified.

Tuition fees

Tuition costs more if you’re coming out-of-state to earn a degree, while it’s much cheaper if you opt for study in the state you live in. Undergraduate degrees can cost as little as approximately $11,000 per year in-state and $25,000 out of state all the way up to around $35,000 in-state and $45,000 out-of-state. Luckily in Tennessee, there are far more colleges at the lower end of the scale than the higher.

A graduate program is more costly, but the returns are significantly higher than if you only opt to study at bachelor’s degree level. 

Financial aid is available for those who can’t afford to pay upfront.

Overall costs of attending college

When you’re planning your education, be careful to take all costs into consideration. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are the average indirect costs associated with studying an undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee:

  • Books: $1,598
  • Accommodation: $12,150
  • Transport: $1,664
  • Personal: $4,002

What to expect in a psychology program at a Tennessee school

As you can see, Tennessee is an attractive prospect for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in psychology. Not only is a great city to be a student in, but the colleges are, for the most part, affordable. Read on to discover how to become a licensed psychologist in Tennessee and find out more about the specializations you can choose from. 

How to become a licensed psychologist in Tennessee

Many people opt to earn an undergraduate degree in general psychology and focus on a specialization later on, but it’s possible to specialize at B.A. level in some schools. If you want to achieve licensure, you’ll need to achieve the highest possible level of qualification, a doctoral degree. In Tennessee, licenses are awarded by the Board of Examiners of Psychology — and you’ll need to pass exams and demonstrate professional experience under supervision. 

There are four main steps to getting fully qualified as a psychologist in Tennessee:

  1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology — both a B.A. and a B.S. count towards the requirements for entering graduate school once you’ve completed your course. This will take around 120 credit hours, or approximately four years to complete. Bear in mind that you don’t need to major in psychology to go on to earn a master’s or a Ph.D., but it can provide you with the necessary foundational knowledge. 
  2. You can choose to study for a master’s degree in psychology once you’ve graduated from your undergraduate studies. At this stage of your educational career, you can choose to hone in on a specialty or study general psychology. While a master’s isn’t necessary, it can be particularly helpful if you didn’t major in psychology at bachelor’s degree level. Master’s programs usually take around 35-45 credit hours or two years to complete.
  3. The next required step after the bachelor’s degree is to complete a doctoral degree in the field of psychology, which can take anywhere from between four and seven years. There are two different degree programs to choose from: Ph.D. and Psy.D., which the American Psychological Association describes in detail. To earn licensure in Tennessee, you’ll need to get your degree from a college that is accredited by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards or the APA. If you’re seeking a career as a health service provider, you’ll need to study clinical, school, counseling, or a combined doctoral degree.
  4. Finally, you’ll apply for a licensure with HSP designation by submitting your application to the board, completing 3,800 hours of supervised clinical practice, and passing the national and state examinations. If you don’t aim to work in a clinical setting, you can apply for licensure without HSP designation. There are costs associated with obtaining licensure, which are outlined here.

Psychology degree programs in Tennessee

Let’s take a detailed look at what you can expect when studying at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.

Bachelor’s degree

You can get a bachelor’s from any accredited college in Tennessee that offers four-year programs. It’s possible to attend community college or obtain an associate’s degree to get the foundational knowledge and credits necessary to proceed. You’ll need a high school diploma or GED equivalent, with an average GPA of around 3.0, although this can vary between institutions.

When studying for a bachelor’s, you’ll get an overview of the knowledge required to move forward in your career and studies, with some schools offering specializations at this early stage. The APA offers the following guidance about what this type of degree program should teach students:

  1. Knowledge base: All graduates should be able to make sense of and describe the key principles in psychology and how to apply them in a real-life setting. 
  2. Critical thinking: Problem solving, interpretation of behavior and scientific reasoning are essential skills you’ll need to move forward in your career as a psychologist.
  3. Ethical and social responsibility: Bachelor’s graduates should leave school with a clear understanding of the ethical and social responsibilities of mental health professionals. They must also understand ethics with regards to clients and society.
  4. Communication: Communication is one of the fundamental skills for anyone working with people, and psychologists must be able to present information clearly and succinctly in written and spoken formats.
  5. Development: By the time you’ve finished your degree, you should have a clear understanding of the trajectory you want your career to take. 

Some of the courses you might study in detail at this level include:

  • Introduction to general psychology
  • Introduction to drugs and behavior
  • Introduction to abnormal psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Psychology of aging
  • Social psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Clinical psychology
  • Psychology of education 

Master’s degree

A master’s degree is essential for individuals who want to maximize their understanding and expertise within the field of psychology — but it’s not a crucial step in the process of getting licensure. That said, if your intention is to work in research or teaching, this type of degree is necessary, and a doctoral isn’t necessarily.

Master’s graduates are perfectly prepared for a wide range of careers, as well as having a head start if they choose to earn a doctorate. While a master’s lets you earn more than a standalone bachelor’s degree, going on to earn a doctoral degree give you the best chance of a successful, lucrative career in Tennessee.

There is usually a wide array of master’s programs to choose from, including general and more specialized fields. Some of the modules you might study include:

  • Memory and mental processing
  • Bias, ethics, and reasoning
  • Group dynamics
  • Psychological statistics
  • Learning and cognition
  • Clinical psychopharmacology
  • Research methods
  • Principles of neuroscience   

Ph.D. and Psy.D.

Psy.D is an applied psychology program that prepares students for licensed practice in a clinical setting. This type of degree usually takes around four years to obtain, but it often takes up to six years as learners need to complete an internship and research dissertation.

In the first three years of this type of course, you’ll learn complex concepts and focus on your chosen specialization. The coursework you’ll complete might include the following:

  • Statistics
  • Psychological theory
  • Child development and psychopathology
  • Cognitive assessments
  • Behavioral assessments
  • Advanced psychodynamic theory
  • Clinical interviewing

Psychology course options

You’ll have plenty of fascinating course material to study and reflect upon while studying psychology in Tennessee. Here are some examples of topics you’ll cover in your course.

Behavior modification

While there are an array of genetic and environmental factors that make us individuals, they’re not all set in stone. A main aim for many people who seek or require mental health treatment is to change behavior that’s leading to harm. Concepts you’ll explore include systematic desensitization, extinction, escape and avoidance, and positive, negative and conditioned reinforcement. 

Personality theory

There are an array of personality theories, including Freud’s ego, superego and ID, and the OCEAN model. This course helps students understand the traits that influence development and influence social learning.

Social psychology

Social psychology explored how society affects the way individuals perceive themselves and interact with the world around them. 

Health psychology

Health psychology is an exploration of how health affects behavior and how behavior affects health. You’ll explore questions like: Why do people smoke? And, what drives people to consume unhealthy foods in spite of knowing the health consequences.


As you progress through your psychology studies, you’ll get increasingly focused in on your chosen specialization. This is because there are so many denominations within this field, and a broad array of professions to choose from. The sooner you get an idea of the career path you want to take, the earlier you can pick a specialty.

Let’s take a close look at some of the options for psychology specializations in Tennessee:

Counseling psychology

The APA recognizes counseling psychology as a specialty within the field of psychology. This is a general style of practice that provides learners with the necessary overview to understand interpersonal relationships, personality, and how people function socially and mentally. Counseling psychologists must complete doctorate-level studies and seek licensure from the board. 

Clinical psychology

Clinical psychology is another broad field of study that gives graduates the skills necessary to research, assess, diagnose, evaluate, and prevent mental health and behavioral problems. The aim of studying clinical psychology is to be able to work with the full spectrum of mental health disorders, including the most severe ones. You’ll also learn how to improve services offered by institutions and conduct and analyze research to develop the field itself.

You can study at Ph.D. or Psy.D. level to obtain this career, with master’s degrees mainly acting as stepping stones towards a doctorate. 

Forensic psychology

Forensic psychology is the field of studying criminal behavior and working within the justice system or other government, nonprofit, or private agencies. This specialization primarily prepares learners for working in law enforcement, teaching them how to profile, interview and understand suspects. In other cases, a forensics expert might work directly with offenders in prisons, helping to rehabilitate them and determine their eligibility for release, or upgrading or downgrading which level of security they’re housed in.   

Forensic psychologists can even work in family courts, helping to determine the most constructive outcome of custody battles or working with children in juvenile detention centers.

Health psychology

Clinical healthy psychology, or medical psychology, is a field that examines the relationships between emotional, social, cognitive, behavioral, and biological reasons for healthfulness and preventing illness and injury. These professionals are essential for improving the health care system and discovering ways to maximize health and minimize disease and disability within the community.

Sport psychology

Sports are one of the biggest industries on the planet, and it’s particularly important in American culture. As such, professionals who work with athletes and sportsmen and women are in high demand and can command an impressive salary. There are a variety of specializations to choose from within the field, including academic sport psychology, clinical sport psychology, and applied sports psychology. 

If you’re interested in becoming a trainer, coach or athletic director, the information you’ll learn in this type of course will be extremely valuable in your profession. To get to a career in this field, you’ll need to learn a doctoral degree.  

Organizational psychology

Money makes the world go round, but business psychologists work within businesses and organizations to maximize productivity and identify strengths and weaknesses within a team. In fact, more companies than ever are working with psychologists to devise assessments that provide insight into their workforce and place people in positions that are best suited to their personality and behavior models.

You can enter this field with a bachelor’s degree, but you’ll earn more if you complete graduate studies.

Child psychology

Child psychology is a popular field, and one of the most important within society. This is because it’s helping the upcoming generations before deviant or depressive behavior becomes pathological. Infants, toddlers, children, and young adults have unique needs as their brains are still developing — making it a crucial time for resolving mental health issues and implementing coping mechanisms for adult life. 

In most cases, learners get a bachelor’s in psychology and then go on to specialize in child or developmental psychology before   

Clinical neuropsychology

Neuropsychology relates to the way the nervous systems influences behavior, mood, and thinking patterns. Professionals in this field conduct assessments on individuals with complex disorders that affect the brain. For example, a clinical neuropsychologist might work with stroke victims, helping to rehabilitate them using their expertise in neuroscience and human behavior. 

Cognitive behavioral psychology

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most highly-regarded mental health treatments in the world, and cognitive behavioral psychologists focus on this specialization. CBT aims to help clients understand the deep-rooted patterns of thought that drive behavior. By showing them how to identify unhelpful beliefs and implement constructive ones, you can actively guide people through the emotional processes necessary to live a more fulfilling life.   

Top 10 schools in Tennessee with psychology programs 

There are lots of schools in Tennessee offering psychology programs, so be sure to carefully explore your options before choosing. A degree is a major investment, and not something to take lightly.

Vanderbilt University 

Vanderbilt University is the highest ranking in Tennessee, according to U.S. News & World Report’s table of national universities. It offers undergraduate and graduate level studies in the field of psychology, but it’s also one of the most expensive colleges on our list. The acceptance rate is 9.1% and it’s a large college with more than 14,000 students enrolled. You can apply here

Bethel University

Bethel University is an affordable private, nonprofit school that has a population of 6,523 students. It offers undergraduate programs in applied psychology, neuroscience, general psychology and clinical child psychology, as well as master’s in counseling. The acceptance rate is 90%, and you can find out more about applications here

Belmont University

Belmont University is a small private university with a high acceptance rate of 84%. You can earn a bachelor’s in neuroscience or general psychology as well as a master’s in mental health counseling. Freshman can apply online.

Bryan College-Dayton

Bryan College-Dayton is a mid-range private school with a small population of just 1,667 students and a low student to teacher ratio. The acceptance rate is 51% and you can fill out an application online.

Austin Peay State University

Austin Peay State University is an affordable public school that has a high acceptance rate and medium-sized student population. You can get an undergraduate degree in general psychology or study towards a master’s in school counseling or industrial and organizational psychology. Find out how to apply on the college website.

Freed-Hardeman University

At Freed-Hardeman, which is a private university in Tennessee, students can gain a certificate in counseling psychology, a bachelor’s in general psychology or master’s in counselor education or counseling psychology. You can apply to this school online.

Find the program that’s right for you

Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

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