The Top Nursing Schools in Iowa

March 2, 2022 , Modified on April 28, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Review some of the top nursing programs in Iowa. Explore the process of earning a degree, becoming licensed to practice, and finding employment in the state.

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NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The Top Nursing Schools in Iowa
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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Iowa hospitals have experienced an increase in patients and an exodus of nurses, creating a great demand for healthcare professionals.

This guide explores how to become a nurse in Iowa, the salary and job outlook, and the best nursing programs in the state. Keep reading to learn more about the top nursing programs in Iowa.

The Best Nursing Schools in Iowa

Learn more about the top nursing schools in Iowa and how to choose a program that fits your needs.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in Iowa, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Featured Online MSN Programs

How to Choose a Nursing Program in Iowa

When choosing a nursing program in Iowa, consider factors that might impact your academic and professional goals. To simplify the selection process, research the cost, program length, financial aid options, and curriculum to ensure a good fit.

Determine if the program successfully prepares its students for nursing by verifying nursing program accreditation and reviewing the average National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) scores and graduation rates.

Why Become a Nurse in Iowa

With its projected employment demand above the national average, coupled with having one of the lowest costs of living in the nation, Iowa is an excellent location for prospective and current registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

Iowa also benefits from being a part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). As part of the NLC, Iowa has joined 36 other states in agreeing to a set of rules and procedures all licensed RNs must follow.

RNs from one of the other 36 NLC states can qualify for a license in Iowa with minimal paperwork. Conversely, RNs licensed in Iowa have an easier time practicing in another NLC state.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Iowa

With an average annual salary of $62,570, RNs in Iowa have one of the lowest compensation rates in the county, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nurse practitioners (NPs) earn a higher annual mean wage of $107,910, which is slightly more than the national median of $117,670.

Despite lower RN salaries, nurses who work in Iowa benefit from the state's low cost of living, with an index of 90.1 compared to a national average of 100. Iowa also expects an increase in the demand for nurses. According to the BLS, the state can expect a 15.1% increase in employment, which is higher than the 12.1% growth projected nationally.

Highest-Paying Cities for Nurses in Iowa

The highest-paying cities in Iowa are located in the more densely populated areas of the state, such as Des Moines, the state's capital. Cities to the north and east of the capital include some of the state's highest-paying regions.

Highest-Paying Cities
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for RNs
Iowa City $68,940
Des Moines — West Des Moines $64,140
Ames $64,030
Cedar Rapids $61,540
Waterloo — Cedar Falls $61,080
Source: BLS

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Iowa

The state nursing licensing requirements in Iowa are similar to those in other states. Prospective RNs must graduate from a state board-approved nursing program, pass the NCLEX, and complete a background check. APRNs must meet the same requirements as RNs in addition to completing a graduate nursing program and a specialty certification exam.

Both RNs and APRNs must satisfy continuing education requirements for nurses to maintain their license.

RN Requirements

To become an RN in Iowa, nurses must graduate from an accredited nursing program with either anassociate degree in nursing (ADN) or abachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Upon completion, prospective nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for licensure to the state. Fees include a $200 examination fee, $93 application fee, and $50 for a background check.

RNs need a minimum of 36 continuing education hours every three years to maintain licensure. The state also requires nurses who regularly examine, counsel, or treat dependent adults or children to complete training on the identification and reporting of abuse.

APRN Requirements

To become an APRN, nurses need an unencumbered RN license that allows them to practice in the state. RNs must earn amaster of science in nursing (MSN) or adoctor of nursing practice and pass a national certification exam in a nursing specialty. An examination fee applies, which varies by specialty. Nurses must also pay an $81 application fee and a $50 background check fee to get their license from the state.

APRNs only need 36 contact hours each year to maintain their license. They must also complete training on the identification and reporting of abuse if they regularly examine, counsel, or treat dependent adults or children.

Other Top Nursing Programs in Iowa

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Iowa


How long does it take to become an RN in Iowa?

The time it takes to become a nurse in Iowa depends upon the academic path. Full-time students can complete an ADN program in two years and a BSN in four years. A part-time schedule can increase this time line.

An MSN program typically takes two years to complete when enrolled full time after earning a BSN and gaining two years of clinical experience. Therefore, it could take up to eight years to start practicing as an APRN.

Is Iowa a good state for nursing?

The low cost of living, projected demand for healthcare professionals, and NLC status make Iowa a great location for prospective nurses and seasoned veterans.

Does an online nursing degree have the same value as an on-campus degree?

Much like an in-person program, the value of an online degree depends on the institution. Over 90% of students who attended online programs at Allen College, Graceland University, Mount Mercy University, Northwest Iowa Community College, and the University of Iowa passed the NCLEX on their first attempt, highlighting their ability to successfully prepare future nurses.

Is Iowa a compact state?

Yes. In 1998, the Iowa State Board of Nursing voted to initiate compact legislation, which became active in 2000. Iowa nurses can earn a multistate license that allows them to practice in other compact states. Those who move to Iowa from another compact state must apply for primary licensure in Iowa.

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NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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