Iowa Nursing Schools and Programs

by NurseJournal Staff

Top Iowa Nursing Schools, Colleges & Degree Programs. Iowa does not yet have a significant shortage of nurses. However, it is projected that a shortage crisis is about the begin as a substantial percentage of the current workforce starts to...

Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Students interested in pursuing online nursing programs in Iowa can consider opportunities across associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. In this guide, readers can learn more about four types of nursing to gain a better understanding of the pathway to each discipline: certified nurse assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN) and nurse practitioner (NP). This page allows learners to explore why they should pursue their online nursing degree in Iowa, including common coursework, state licensing requirements for different nursing types, salary and employment information, and useful nursing resources.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Iowa

Nursing students in Iowa can consider online program options at every degree level. Schools maintain different course requirements and clinical components, depending on specialization and program structure.

Nursing students in Iowa enjoy the 22nd lowest tuition rates in the United States for in-state and out-of-state students at public four-year institutions. Iowa also features the lowest cost of living in the United States, further allowing nursing students to pursue more affordable degree opportunities.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in Iowa

Most states require the same process to become an RN. First, you must earn an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree in nursing. Online nursing schools in Iowa may require you to complete a practicum experience near the university or locally. After graduation, you must pass a licensing examination. Depending on location, other licensing exams and fees may apply.

  • 1. Choose the Path That's Right for You

    When researching your ideal nursing school, there are four paths to consider. Aspiring nurses without a post-high school education can pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Completing this program qualifies you to become an RN. To enjoy higher earning potential, you should consider earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). For seasoned nurses aiming to advance their careers, a master of science in nursing (MSN) qualifies them to become NPs, who can treat patients and write prescriptions without physician supervision. The doctor of nursing practice degree (DNP) is nursing's terminal degree. A DNP allows nurses to become educators and researchers. Before committing to an online nursing program in Iowa, make sure that the program aligns with your background and goals.
  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Consider each prospective school's prerequisites, along with any clinicals, fellowships, or internships they may require. To find the best fit, you should determine if you can fulfill these requirements in addition to your other obligations. Another consideration is how long it takes to earn the degree. An associate degree can take 2-3 years to complete, depending on course load and other commitments, while a doctoral program requires 3-6 years and prior education. Some online nursing degrees offer accelerated paths, which expedite the time to completion. You should also consider whether you want to earn an on-campus or online nursing degree. Online RN programs in Iowa offer many advantages to prospective students, especially those with full- or part-time jobs.
  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Most nursing programs in Iowa prepare students for licensure. Your on-campus or online nursing degree provides the knowledge needed to pass the NCLEX-RN, which all nursing students must pass before becoming RNs. The exam costs $200, and candidates take the test with a computer at a testing center. The computer-adaptive exam comprises 75-265 questions depending on your answers. Many RNs begin their careers at hospitals in metropolitan areas. More experienced nurses, such as NPs, work in private practices in suburban or rural settings.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Iowa

Professionals must hold different degrees and educational backgrounds across nursing positions. Earning a nursing degree prepares individuals to develop the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to pursue careers after graduation. In the section that follows, readers can learn more about some of the common aspects of nursing programs.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Iowa

Depending on the degree level, specialization, and the college or university, course offerings for online nursing programs can differ. At the associate level, students typically focus on basic nursing concepts, exploring more advanced topics at the bachelor's level, and emphasizing the most specialized nursing topics and skills at the master's and doctoral levels. Students pursuing their nursing degrees at the bachelor's level may encounter some of the following common course topics during their curriculum.

Human Anatomy and Physiology

During this course, learners explore topics such as histology, cell physiology, and nervous and sensory systems. Throughout their assignments, students focus on the function and structure of the human body.

Ethics in Nursing and Healthcare

Students build a foundation for understanding ethics in nursing practice, focusing on current legislation, cultural differences, and political and religious controversy.

Community Health Nursing

Learners focus on understanding the role of nurses within community health contexts, focusing on things like community assessment and intervention, epidemiology, and environmental hazards.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Online nursing programs in Iowa offer different structures and feature varying requirements, depending on the school and degree level. Many community colleges across the state offer online nursing programs at the associate level. Degree-seekers can also consider flexible RN-to-BSN programs that allow learners to continue working as they earn their degrees.

The length of time it takes students to earn their degrees depends on the level of degree they pursue. Associate students often complete their programs within two years, bachelor's students within four years, master's students in about two years, and doctoral programs can vary in length, depending on the particular program requirements and the type of enrollment students pursue.

Admission requirements can differ vastly among schools. Typically, each applicant must meet a specific minimum GPA. Master's and doctoral candidates typically must meet more extensive admission requirements, including standardized test scores, nursing licenses, and undergraduate degrees in nursing.

Nursing Licensure in Iowa

Individuals interested in pursuing nursing careers in Iowa can obtain licensure as CNAs, LPNs, RNs, or NPs. The Iowa Board of Nursing regulates licensure of all disciplines in the state, ensuring all nurses practice at the highest quality.

Requirements to obtain licensure vary depending on the nursing type. Candidates must satisfy different criteria, such as educational requirements, additional clinical hours, and exams. Additionally, different types of licenses hold varying renewal structures, featuring different renewal periods and continuing education requirements.

The Iowa Board of Nursing regulates licensure of all disciplines in the state, ensuring all nurses practice at the highest quality.

Iowa NPs enjoy full practice authority, allowing them to prescribe medications and controlled substances and evaluate, treat, and diagnose all patients, in accordance with state licensing and practice laws.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Readers can review the table below to explore requirements for the various types of nursing licenses in Iowa.

CERTIFIED NURSE ASSISTANT CNAs in Iowa focus on entry-level nursing roles in many different settings. Before these professionals can begin practicing, they must obtain their CNA licenses. To begin this process, students must complete a board-approved CNA training program. In Iowa, CNA candidates typically satisfy the requirements of their training program within 2-3 months. Full-time students can often complete their program within one month. All board-approved CNA training programs in the state require applicants to meet specific prerequisites and pass a criminal background check. Each applicant must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, provide immunization records, complete an application, and attend orientation. During their program, learners focus on building their competencies in basic nursing care, focusing on topics such as communicating with patients, medical terminology, and responding to health emergencies. Once CNA candidates complete their training program, they must complete and pass a competency exam, demonstrating their nursing skills and knowledge. The exam includes a supervised skills exam and a multiple-choice portion.

Iowa Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Board-approved CNA training program
  • Additional Clinical Hours: N/A
  • Exams: CNA competency exam
  • Renewal Frequency: Every 24 months
  • Continuing Education: N/A
LICENSED PRACTICAL NURSE Before nurses can practice as LPNs in Iowa, they must earn a board-approved LPN degree. These programs typically take learners one year to complete and include coursework and hands-on learning opportunities. LPN students must obtain CPR certification during their program. Throughout their curriculum, students develop the skills and knowledge they need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam after graduation. Once they earn their degrees, LPN candidates must complete and pass the NCLEX-PN exam. As part of the application process, each candidate must provide official transcripts, a completed application, fingerprints, and then pass a criminal background check. Licensed LPNs must renew their credentials every three years. During their renewal period, LPNs must satisfy 36 continuing education hours.

Iowa Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Board-approved LPN degree program
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Completed during degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every three years
  • Continuing Education: 36 continuing education hours completed during the renewal period
REGISTERED NURSE Many candidates choose to pursue an associate degree in nursing, allowing them to obtain their RN license within about two years. Other candidates pursue BSN degrees, taking them around four years to earn their licenses. While both degree types qualify candidates to complete the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain licensure, many employers, especially hospitals, prefer to hire RNs who hold BSN degrees. Before choosing which pathway to follow, RN candidates should determine their specific career goals to make sure they best prepare for their desired profession. Once learners earn their degrees, they must complete and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. After obtaining their RN licenses, individuals must renew their credentials every three years. To renew, RNs must complete 36 continuing education hours.

Iowa Licensure Requirements

  • Education: ADN or BSN
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every three years
  • Continuing Education: 36 continuing education hours satisfied within the license renewal timeframe
NURSE PRACTITIONER Students who hold an active RN license can enroll in MSN programs to begin the process of becoming NPs in Iowa. At the graduate level, many schools allow nursing students to focus their degrees on this specialization. An NP candidate can also pursue a DNP. Once they earn their degrees, NP candidates must earn national certification in their chosen areas of specialty. Obtaining national certification develops the skills nurses need to provide care to a specific patient population area. In Iowa, NPs can pursue specializations in areas like school nursing, acute care, or perinatal care. While NPs do not need to renew their status by completing continuing education credits, they do need to maintain their RN license by satisfying continuing education hours and meet any renewal requirements for their specific national certification.

Iowa Licensure Requirements

  • Education: MSN or DNP
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Completed during program
  • Exams: None required, but candidates must obtain national certification in their chosen specialty
  • Renewal Frequency: Every three years
  • Continuing Education: None, but NPs must maintain their national certification and RN license

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Iowa FAQ

WHAT NURSING FIELD MAKES THE MOST MONEY? While there are many lucrative career opportunities across the nursing field, nurse anesthetists commonly top the list of highest paid nursing professionals.
IS IOWA A GOOD STATE FOR NURSING? Nurses in Iowa enjoy high salary opportunities, often reporting wages similar to the national figures for the occupation. Across nursing disciplines in the state, professionals also enjoy above-average projected job growth rates.
DOES AN ONLINE NURSING DEGREE HAVE THE SAME VALUE AS AN ON-CAMPUS DEGREE? Yes. Online nursing degrees often feature the same courses, instructors, and degree requirements as on-campus programs, making online degrees just as valuable as traditional degree options.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN RN LICENSE IN IOWA? RN candidates can follow different paths to obtaining licensure. Individuals who pursue an ADNs can obtain their licenses in about two years, while those who focus on earning BSNs take closer to four years.
IS IOWA A NURSE COMPACT STATE? Iowa belongs to the enhanced nurse licensure compact (eNLC). These nurses can practice in other states belonging to the eNLC without obtaining additional licensure.

Iowa Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

While attaining more education can advance a nurse past entry-level positions to more advanced roles, professionals should not expect a certain salary guarantee or employment opportunity based simply on their educational background. Salary and job growth information can differ vastly since data depends on several factors.

Readers can refer to the table below to better understand how annual mean wage amounts can vary across different levels or types of nursing in Iowa. The table also outlines projected job growth figures in the state and allows readers to compare salary data to U.S. figures and information from nearby states.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Iowa, by Type

Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $29,120 9.2%
Licensed Practical Nurse $42,820 8.4%
Registered Nurse $59,130 14.4%
Nurse Practitioner $106,290 32.7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Nebraska $28,730 $43,160 $64,470 $103,800
South Dakota $26,820 $38,630 $58,340 $100,690
Minnesota $33,710 $47,020 $78,920 $119,160
Wisconsin $29,590 $45,290 $71,470 $106,790
Illinois $28,810 $51,080 $73,890 $105,800
Missouri $25,930 $42,580 $65,130 $102,470

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Mississippi $23,100 $37,930 $58,490 $109,700
Tennessee $26,400 $40,120 $61,320 $95,990
Georgia $25,870 $41,690 $68,950 $106,750
Florida $26,840 $44,400 $66,210 $101,100

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


In 2018, CNAs throughout Iowa earned an annual mean wage ($29,120), just slightly lower than the national mean annual wage for the occupation ($29,580). Iowa CNAs enjoy comparable mean wages to the nearby states of Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri. The scientific, research, and development services industry boasts the highest salary opportunities for CNAs.

Licensed Practical Nurse


LPNs in Iowa took home an annual mean wage of $42,820 in 2018, around $5,000 less than the national mean wages for the occupation. Professionals working in the junior colleges industry earn the highest salaries for the occupation, while those in the nursing care facilities industry enjoy the highest concentration of jobs and employment levels. LPNs in Iowa also report above-average projected job growth rates of 8.4%.

Registered Nurse


The annual mean wage for RNs in Iowa reached $59,130 in 2018, with those working in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry earning the highest wages. RNs can experience the highest employment levels and concentration of jobs in the general medical and surgical hospitals industry. BLS data indicates a projected job growth rate significantly higher than the national average for all occupations at 14.4%.

Nurse Practitioner


Iowa NPs earned an annual mean wage approximately $4,000 less than the $110,030 national annual mean wage for the occupation in 2018, reporting a figure of $106,290. However, NPs in the state enjoy a much higher-than-average projected job growth rate of 32.7%. NPs in Iowa enjoy the highest overall earning potential in the personal care services industry.

Nursing Resources for Iowa

  • This professional association aims to connect nurses across Iowa, advocating for the profession and providing support across the field to help nurses grow through guidance.
  • IANP advocates for advanced practice registered nurses, promoting the profession through continuing education, leadership, an annual conference for members, and legislative activities.
  • Iowa's nursing board issues licenses, regulates guidelines and procedures across the field, establishes effective procedures, and ensures quality healthcare throughout the state. Prospective nurses can access the board's website to learn more about licensing requirements.
  • Committed to guiding nursing students preparing to obtain their RN licenses and pursue BSNs, IANS promotes the growth and development of nursing students throughout Iowa.
  • By focusing on optimizing the academic success and health of all students by advocating for and educating school nurses, ISNO makes use of evidence-based professional development opportunities and effective partnerships to promote the occupation.

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