Become Nurse In Iowa + Requirements & Licensing icon

Become Nurse In Iowa + Requirements & Licensing

| NurseJournal Staff

Iowa is a great state to work in as a nurse. Demand is high and set to grow over the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a registered nurse (RN) is $53,520, not as high as in other states, but certainly still interesting, particularly since the cost of living is also lower in this state. So how do you become a nurse in Iowa?


Becoming a nurse in Iowa is a three stage process: STAGE 1. CHOOSE THE TYPE OF EDUCATION YOU WANT TO PURSUE. The least popular, but quickest option is the LPN (licensed practical nurse) diploma, which takes one year to complete. Alternatively, you can become an RN, with options for a two year associate’s degree program, or a four year bachelor’s degree. The longer you study, the more you will learn and the better your job opportunities. STAGE 2. MEET THE PREREQUISITES. You will always have to have completed your high school or GED. Additionally, if you want to complete an ADN or BSN, you will usually also need to complete a number of undergraduate courses. The school of your choice will tell you which courses they require, with statistics being the most common one. It should take you no more than six months to complete this. STAGE 3. PASS THE NCLEX EXAM. For the NCLEX examination, LPNs take the NCLEX-PN exam while RNs take the NCLEX-RN examination. This is a national qualification, meaning you can transfer your license to different states.


To become an APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) in Iowa, you must complete the following four stages as set by the Iowa Board of Nursing. STAGE 1. OBTAIN A GRADUATE DEGREE THAT IS AT LEAST AT MASTER’S DEGREE (MSN) AND FOCUSES ON A CLINICAL SPECIALTY. In-state programs are approved by the Board. Out-of-state programs must be accredited by an agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The Board has created a list MSN certificate programs, as well as a list of approved MSN and DNP (doctorate) programs. For a course to be approved, the following courses must be included in the curriculum:
  • Advanced physiology/pathophysiology
  • Advanced health assessment
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Education/counseling of patient/family
  • Health promotion and maintenance
A number of specializations are recognized by the Board. One specialization is for those who wish to work with fluoroscopy x-ray equipment in clinical settings. To be allowed to do this, you must take courses in radiobiology, radiation physics, radiation management and radiological safety. You must repeat this each year if you want to continue to supervise use of the machinery. Additionally, it is possible to receive a specialization in a certain population. Recognized population foci in Iowa include geriatrics, pediatrics and women’s health, as well as several others. To specialize, your MSN curriculum must have included coursework such focus. STAGE 2. BECOME NATIONALLY CERTIFIED BY A RECOGNIZED AGENCY. This certification must be in your chosen specialization category. The various agencies set requirements for examination and certification. The general categories recognized by the Board are:
  • NP – Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • CNMCertified Nurse Midwife
  • CRNA – Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • CNS – Clinical Nurse Specialist
Additionally, the Board recognizes a number of sub-specialties that are related to a population focus. These are the:
  • Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Certified School Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Psych/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Certified Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Perinatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Adult Health
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Perinatal
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Medical/Surgical
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Adult Psych
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Oncology
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Gerontology
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Orthopedics
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Community Health
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Home Health
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist Child/Adolescent Psych
The Board recognizes the following national certification agencies: • The ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) that recognizes the Adult Nurse Practitioner, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP), Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP), Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) and the Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). • The AANP (American Academy of Nurse Practitioners) that recognizes the Adult Nurse Practitioner and the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP. • The AACN (American Association of Critical-Care Nurses) that recognizes the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. • The NCC (National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties) that recognizes the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) and the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP). • The PNCB (Pediatric Nursing Certification Board that recognizes the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Acute Care and Primary Care. • The ONCC (Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation) that recognizes the Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS). • The AMCB (American Midwifery Certification Board) that recognizes the Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). • The National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) that recognizes the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). STAGE 3. APPLY TO BE REGISTERED AS AN APRN. This can be done by completing the Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Application. You must also include various items of documentation and the relevant fees with this application. There is no requirement for a criminal history background check, although you will be asked to disclose past criminal convictions if any. STAGE 4. RENEW YOUR LICENSE TOGETHER WITH YOUR RN LICENSE EVERY THREE YEARS. This cannot be done online. You will receive a renewal form in the post instead. There are no continuous education (CE) requirements as set by the Board. However, your national certification agency is likely to have CE requirements that you must meet in order to maintain your certification. The only requirement is for APRNs who regularly work in examination, treatment or counseling of adults and children. These have to take part in a minimum of two hours of training to identify and report child and/or adult abuse. They must do this every five years through an approved course. Iowa Board of Nursing RiverPoint Business Park 400 S.W. 8th Street, Suite B Des Moines, IA 50309-4685 Tel: 515/281-3255 Fax: 515/281-4825 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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