Next Step Program

A vocational recovery fund designed to assist qualified injured workers in obtaining training to re-enter the workforce

A permanent impairment from a workers' compensation injury can be a major roadblock. Some impairments could even prevent returning to the pre-injury job. With funds from this program, qualified applicants can learn job skills for a new career path.

The Next Step Program connects permanently disabled injured workers with public institutions, non-profit organizations, and monetary resources to acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to return to meaningful employment. 

How it works

  • Have a compensable workers' compensation claim
  • Have a permanent injury with an impairment rating.
  • Meet either of these requirements:
Date of Injury Work Status Application Due 
on or after July 1, 2018 No return to work, or return to work at a lower pay within 90 days of receiving “final” disability payment
on or after April 30, 2021 No Return to Work after Original Award within 90 days of receipt of your original award payment

Applications are due no later than 90 days after the payment date for permanent partial disability benefits. 

Download Application  (Español)

A program representative will either call or talk to you in-person to determine if the program requirements are met.  The Next Step Specialist will help you select a job in demand, so that you can safely train within your abilities. 

You'll be assessed for your skills and jobs that fit your interests. Find your local American Job Center. You will be required to register on There is a list of jobs in demand on Jobs4TN, but make sure to train within your abilities.

After you receive our letter, register for classes. Funds will be sent to your educational institution after we confirm your class registration.

 Training for Case Managers

Attention Case Managers! We would like to partner with you in informing injured workers about the Next Step Program. This training teaches case managers how they can help injured workers best utilize the resources, funds, and expertise of the Next Step Program. This training will be delivered online via Microsoft Teams.

  • Online, Free
  • Date: Fall 2024 (TBD)
  • Available Credit: 1 CEU (Commission for Case Manager Certification)

Award Amount

The award is a last-dollar scholarship that applies to the cost of tuition and mandatory fees. A student could be awarded up to $5,000 per year. The max amount that a single student can receive is $20,000 for all eligible years. The total award budgeted for this program is $500,000 per year. 


Any public post-secondary institution within the TN State Board of Regents System or any business contracted with the State of Tennessee to provide vocational training, vocational assessment, job analysis, employment training, or general educational services. 

For example: Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, Community Colleges (Motlow, Chattanooga State, Southwest TN), University of Memphis, University of Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, etc. 

We provide 1-year scholarship commitments and re-consider scholarships for additional years based upon need and satisfactory academic performance. 

The Next Step Program is a Tennessee-specific program. Applicants must have a permanent injury that occurred in Tennessee. Injured workers can live in surrounding states but must have been injured while working in Tennessee. Other states may have similar services, try searching for "vocational rehabilitation" or "CareerOneStop". 

"Back to work" is the goal! So even if you aren't sure what your next step is, feel free to apply and we can help you expand your options. Even if you’re not eligible for the Next Step Scholarship, we have more resources to help you make the most informed decision on your next step. 

First off, you're going to do great. Second, if life gets in the way and grades start to suffer, then reach back out to us for assistance.

It ultimately depends on the refund policy of your school.

Since the scholarship would be re-applied to each year, an academic progress report will show us if you quit or fail. At that point, an additional scholarship is not likely to be approved again. We understand that emergencies come up, and we hope to work with you to see you succeed.

No, but you will need to contact the Next Step Specialist to send you a "Request for Leave of Absence" form to fill out and submit prior to the beginning of your leave.   

Yes, you may return to work and apply for the scholarship. Scholarship eligibility is based on the terms of your settlement agreement and the date of your injury.  If you have a permanent impairment rating, returned to work earning less than 100% of the salary received from your pre-injury employer, and received the original and/or resulting award, you may be eligible for the scholarship.

No, there is no cost for any of the non-educational services or any services provided by the Next Step Program. 

Student Testimonial 

I want to thank the Next Step Program for giving me the opportunity to go back to school and get a degree. The Next Step Program is an awesome program that helps people who have work injuries return to work by supporting the means of education. The representatives are great! And on top of everything, do a wonderful job! Thank you, Marion, for all your support.

—K.H., Next Step Scholarship Recipient and Class of 2022 August Graduate 

This Page Last Updated: April 11, 2024 at 2:50 PM