The field of nursing is constantly evolving and has become a part of the grand conversation in the healthcare industry. There is a high need for registered nurses who have obtained a BSN but, only half of current RNs have done so. Iowa is working hard to change this statistic. Since 2000, the American Nurses Association Board of Directors believed that a BSN should be a standard requirement for those entering the nursing profession. This debate has been constantly debated but many states are in favor of this legislation being passed. Nursing schools in Iowa have responded to this need by introducing accelerated courses for nurses to transition from an RN to a BSN in a small amount of time through on-sites classes, online programs, or a combination of both.

In our Iowa RN program guide, find rankings for both ADN and BSN Degree programs, tuition costs, NCLEX passing rates, and more. Research key Iowa RN Program information to help you compare program metrics and to apply to best RN program for your career in nursing.

In the State of Iowa, nurses are helping to change the face of healthcare. To ensure that they have the best education and preparation for future health care challenges, registered nurses need to graduate from a state-approved associate's degree in nursing program or a BSN degree program.

Nurses who graduate from an RN program can obtain certification in over 100 nursing specialties, go on to earn an RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree.

BSN degree holders have options to earn an Advance Practice Register Nursing (APRN) degree and become a Nurse Practitioner (NP), or earn an advanced degree for a career in any number of nursing leadership roles such Nurse Educator or Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Iowa RN Program Comparisons: ADN vs BSN

Compare RN ProgramsADNBSN
Number of Nursing Programs1518
Average NCLEX Passing Rate85.27%86.41%
NCLEX Passing Rate Range65.28% to 96.53%68.38% to 95.85%
Average Net Price$10,444.71$20,268.89
Average Net Price Range$6,797.00 to $21,626.00$15,966.00 to $24,873.00
Average Student Loan$9,542.14$20,919.11
Average Student Loan Range$7,203.00 to $18,301.00$16,500.00 to $27,000.00
See Additional DetailADN Rankings for Iowa StateBSN Rankings for Iowa State

Best Ranked RN Programs in Iowa

Best Ranked RN Programs in IowaTo help nursing students in their search for a top RN program, the education experts at publish their annual findings of the best nursing schools for both Iowa and the country. Schools ranked on our list have proven their ability to educate highly competent nurses.

To create our rankings, we evaluated 13 ADN degree programs and 15 BSN degree programs in Iowa. We obtained each institution’s first-time NCLEX-RN passing rates, the number of students taking the test, the program nursing accreditation and more. We then compared the results against other nursing programs in Iowa to provide our state rankings. View our methodology

IA Rank
US Rank
Offered As:
97.25 ADNIowa Central Community College159 Fort DodgePublicCampusSee School Details
96.00 ADNNorth Iowa Area Community College2106 Mason City

North Iowa Area Community College is located in Mason City, Iowa. NIACC is proud to boast that it is Iowa’s oldest community college, having been founded in 1918.  NIACC offers an LPN and an ADN program.  They also have a partnership with various universities that allow ADN graduates to pursue their BSN after graduation; the University of Iowa is local, and there are also various other education options for the ADN graduate.

PublicCampusACENSee School Details
92.99 ADNSoutheastern Community College3241 West BurlingtonPublicCampusSee School Details
92.03 ADNSt Luke's College4281 Sioux City

St. Luke’s College is located in Sioux City, Iowa.  Their college is unique because it is a medical center based college – it is the only one in their area, and one of a handful in the entire country.  The college is devoted entirely to healthcare degrees.  They offer both an ASN and a BSN program.

Private Not-For-ProfitCampus, OnlineACEN, CCNESee School Details
90.16 ADNSouthwestern Community College5355 Creston

Southwestern Community College is located in Creston, Iowa.  Their nursing program is unique; they describe it as a “ladder program.”  Their students first complete their LPN.  This allows them to earn their LPN degree and work within a year, and simultaneously obtain the AAS in nursing.  They also have the option of opting out of the RN portion.

PublicCampusSee School Details
88.10 ADNNortheast Iowa Community College Dist6433 CalmarPublicCampusSee School Details
86.00 ADNDes Moines Area Community College7504 Ankeny

Des Moines Area Community College is located in Ankeny, Iowa.  DMACC currently offers an LPN program and an RN program.  They do not have an LPN to RN program, but it is in the developmental stages and will be available at a later date.

PublicCampusACENSee School Details
84.35 ADNNorthwest Iowa Community College8543 SheldonPublicCampusSee School Details
80.69 ADNIndian Hills Community College9618 OttumwaPublicCampus, OnlineSee School Details
77.98 ADNEastern Iowa Community College Dist10651 DavenportPublicCampusSee School Details
77.05 ADNHawkeye Community College11659 WaterlooPublicCampusSee School Details
75.55 ADNWestern Iowa Tech Community College12667 Sioux CityPublicCampusSee School Details
71.77 ADNMercy College of Health Sciences13690 Des MoinesPrivate Not-For-ProfitCampus, OnlineACEN, CCNESee School Details
97.82 BSNUniversity of Dubuque142 DubuquePrivate Not-For-ProfitCampusCCNESee School Details
97.20 BSNAllen College262 Waterloo

Allen College is located in Waterloo, Iowa.  Allen College is unique in that it is a college that provides only healthcare education.  The following degrees are available: Associate of Science in Radiography, Bachelor of Health Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, Doctor of Nursing Practice, and Doctor of Education in Health Professions Education degree programs.

Private Not-For-ProfitCampus, Hybrid, OnlineACEN, ACME, CCNE, COASee School Details
95.62 BSNUniversity of Iowa3120 Iowa City

University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, Iowa.  Their College of Nursing offers a BSN program and an RN to BSN program.  For the BSN who chooses to continue his or her education, they also offer an extensive graduate program.

PublicCampus, HybridACEN, ACME, CCNE, COASee School Details
93.89 BSNMount Mercy University4196 Cedar RapidsPrivate Not-For-ProfitCampusCCNESee School Details
93.27 BSNNorthwestern College5226 Orange City

Northwestern College is located in Orange City, Iowa.  They offer a traditional BSN program and an online RN to BSN program.  Students in their traditional BSN program have an advantage as their Nursing Arts Laboratory is located in a former hospital, which has a nurses station, patient rooms with beds, IV equipment, hospital-based computerized medication system and an electronic health record simulation program.

Private Not-For-ProfitCampus, OnlineCCNESee School Details
91.92 BSNIowa Wesleyan University6271 Mount Pleasant

The Division of Nursing at Iowa Wesleyan University is dedicated to providing an educational environment that allows students to explore, practice, question, experience, and critically reason across the continuum of care.

Clinical Practices – Complete a variety of clinical experiences, including a one-on-one internship.

Mentoring – Receive one-on-one mentoring from caring and dedicated nursing faculty advisers.

Small Class Sizes – Participate in small class sizes to maximize student-faculty interaction.

Assistance with Job Search – Use career search aid and historically high employment rates to your advantage.

Private Not-For-ProfitCampusACME, COASee School Details
91.71 BSNCoe College7278 Cedar Rapids

Coe College is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Their nursing program’s slogan is, “The nursing program is elite, selective, and known for educating outstanding nurses. We are not a typical BSN program!”  Their program is unique in that their students have the opportunity to travel abroad, are paired one-on-one with nurse experts, and participate in highly interactive classrooms.

Private Not-For-ProfitCampusCCNESee School Details
89.63 BSNLuther College8338 Decorah

Luther College is located in Decorah, Iowa.  They offer a BSN program and a Direct Entry Program.  The Direct Entry Program allows a high school senior to apply for entrance into the program their freshman year of college.

Private Not-For-ProfitCampusCCNESee School Details
88.03 BSNMorningside College9378 Sioux CityPrivate Not-For-ProfitCampus, Hybrid, OnlineACEN, ACME, CCNE, COASee School Details
87.62 BSNSaint Ambrose University10390 DavenportPrivate Not-For-ProfitCampusCCNESee School Details
83.82 BSNMercy College of Health Sciences11456 Des MoinesPrivate Not-For-ProfitCampus, OnlineACEN, CCNESee School Details
80.42 BSNGrand View University12486 Des MoinesPrivate Not-For-ProfitCampusCCNESee School Details
76.00 BSNClarke University13509 DubuquePrivate Not-For-ProfitCampus, Hybrid, OnlineACEN, ACME, CCNE, COASee School Details
73.72 BSNBriar Cliff University14518 Sioux CityPrivate Not-For-ProfitCampus, Hybrid, OnlineACEN, ACME, CCNE, COASee School Details

Become an Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) in Iowa

RNs who wish to become advanced practice registered nurses will want to pursue any number of avenues to earn Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing consists of graduate-level coursework and clinical practice for those nurses who wish to direct patient roles such as a nurse practitioner. You can also pursue indirect patient roles such as teaching or leadership roles, or become involved in policy, state-wide health initiatives or community engagement. There are many clinical and non-clinical avenues that an RN with MSN can pursue.

Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in Iowa

Learn how to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) and research schools in Iowa offering the following high paying nurse practitioner specialties: Learn about Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree.

Iowa  RN Licensing Requirements

Iowa has strict regulations nurses must complete in order to gain licensure. There are three ways a nursing candidate can obtain licensure: by exam, by endorsement, and in some cases, by completing a program abroad.

RN Licensure by Exam

Before a candidate can register for test, he/she must have received authorization to do so. The following items must be completed in order to be authorized to test:
  • Completed Application for Exam
  • Two fingerprint cards and signed waiver form (they must be received from the Iowa Board of Nursing to the nursing program.
  • $93 application fee and $50 fee for fingerprint cards. Fees can be paid online, by check, or money order. All fees are non-refundable.
  • Official transcripts
  • Separate application submitted online to NCLEX which includes the $200 fee

RN Licensure by Endorsement

Nurses who have gained licensure in one of the other 50 states can obtain licensure in Iowa through an endorsement. The following documentation must be submitted in order to complete this process:
  • Proof of graduation from a board-approved RN program
  • Criminal background check
  • Passing the NCLEX exam
  • $169 fee payable to the Iowa Board of Nursing
  • Verification of original license

RN License for Nurses Educated Abroad

In some cases, nurses who were educated abroad will be able to obtain licensure in the state of Iowa. In order to do so candidates must complete the Professional Report application of the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools Credentials Evaluation Service (CES). In order for the report to be complete, the candidate must submit validation of license/ registration. Candidates will also be required to pass an English as a Foreign Language test. This does not apply to nurses who used a textbook and program that was presented in English.

Iowa State Board of Nursing

River Point Business Park 400 S.W. 8th Street Suite B Des Moines, IA 50309-4685 (515) 281-3255

RN Salaries in Iowa

A lot of medical facilities prefer nurses that have obtained a Bachelor’s degree. Nurses who have completed a program are likely more knowledgeable when employed in some of the following areas:
  • Areas requiring administrative and leadership skills
  • Research departments that compile statistical nursing data
  • Legal units to handle nursing problems and mishaps
There is a high need, not only for nurses, but also for educators to teach new nurses. By obtaining a BSN, you will be closer to becoming a MSN and becoming an educator if this is a desired path.

Iowa Registered Nursing Salaries

Iowa City has the highest hourly and annual median wage, while Des Moines highest RN employment for nurses. Almost all cities within Iowa are within 10% in salary range.
Area nameEmploymentHourly median wageAnnual median wage
Ames, IA700$26.81$55,760
Cedar Rapids, IA2,630$24.77$51,510
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL3,220$25.37$52,770
Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA6,510$26.87$55,880
Dubuque, IA1,150$23.61$49,110
Iowa City, IA3,320$28.81$59,910
Sioux City, IA-NE-SD1,590$22.99$47,810
Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA2,080$25.72$53,500
Northeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area2,130$24.24$50,420
Northwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area3,180$23.20$48,260
Southwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area1,970$24.41$50,770
Source:, 2014 Data