Overview of Nursing Schools in Iowa

  • There are 33 nursing schools in Iowa. The CCNE accredits 16 nursing schools and the ACEN accredits 9 schools in Iowa.
  • Typically, an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) will take between 18 to 24 months to complete, and a Bachelor Degree in Nursing (BSN) will take about 4 years to complete.
  • The average NCLEX passing rate range for ADN students in Iowa is between 67.10% and 94.90%.
  • The average NCLEX passing rate range for BSN students in Iowa is between 25.93% and 97.92%.
  • The average annual salary for registered nurses is between $52,080 to $111,220 a year.
  • Registered Nurses (RN) throughout the country and in Iowa can expect a favorable job growth of 15 percent from 2016 to 2026 which much faster than the average for all occupations.

About Nursing Schools in Iowa

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 Programs ADN BSN
Number of Nursing Programs 15 18
Average NCLEX Passing Rate 83.91% 82.21%
NCLEX Passing Rate Range 67.10% to 94.90% 25.93% to 97.92%

Best Ranked RN Programs in Iowa

To help nursing students in their search for a top RN program, the education experts at RNCareers.org 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 16 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

Best Nursing Schools (BSN) in Iowa

University of Dubuque

Nursing Department

97.92% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • 2000 University Ave, Dubuque, IA - 52001
  • (563) 589-3000
Nurse Admin: Neil MacNaughton, PhD, RN
Title: Department Head
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 97.92%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Bachelor

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 109
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $950
  • Book and Supplies: N/A
  • Percent Received Aid: 95%
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $24,252
  • Percent Admitted: 79%
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: 29%
  • Graduation Rate: 46%

University of Dubuque is a private, coeducational university in Dubuque. This Presbyterian Church-affiliated educational institution was founded in 1852. Its programs are grounded on a liberal arts core. Presently, the university has a student to faculty ratio of 15:1. Moreover, it received a university-wide accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and the State of Iowa Department of Education. Its baccalaureate degree in nursing under the Department of Nursing also holds approval from the Iowa Board of Nursing and an accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Bachelor of Science in Nursing - With a 21st century curriculum design, this BSN program aims to meet the 21st century health care demands by producing baccalaureate-prepared nurses with developed core competencies. Students are fully-equipped for patient-centered care provision and evidence-based practice through exposure to clinical experiences in specialty care. The program also includes rotations to rural health areas in order to cater to under-served populations. The first two years of this four-year program are focused on social sciences, humanities, basic sciences, math, technology, communication, and nutrition. The last two years, on the other hand, are focused on nursing sciences with transition from classroom to real-life health facilities. A senior capstone course is included, requiring a 144-hour preceptorship. In this course, students are paired with a practicing nurse. Graduates are eligible to sit in the NCLEX-RN licensing exam, meeting the licensure foundational academic requirements of 50 states. However, additional requirements may be needed for some states beyond these licensure academic conditions.

Allen College

School of Nursing

97.36% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • 1990 Heath St, Waterloo, IA - 50703-1999
  • (319) 226-2000
Nurse Admin: Kendra B. Williams-Perez, EdD, RN, CNE
Title: Dean & Professor
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 97.36%
  • Programs: Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Accelerated BSN, Bachelor, BSN to DNP, LPN to BSN, MSN, MSN to DNP, Post Master's NP Certificate, RN to MSN

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 43
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $1,200
  • Book and Supplies: N/A
  • Percent Received Aid: N/A
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $2,024,380
  • Percent Admitted: N/A
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: N/A
  • Graduation Rate: N/A

With more than 90 years of educational service, Allen College is a health-care focused private institution in Waterloo. The college started in 1925 as a hospital-based School of Nursing which offers diploma programs. Presently, it offers a wide range of healthcare programs—baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral. Moreover, in terms of accreditation, the college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Its baccalaureate, master’s and doctor of nursing practice degree programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) as well.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing - Students seeking a BSN degree at Allen College can do so through any of these three tracks—traditional, accelerated, and RN to BSN. The traditional BSN option requires 4-year completion with the first the first 1.5 years for the prescribed general educational credits from another college, while the remaining 2.5 years for the nursing coursework at Allen College. Meanwhile, the Accelerated BSN option has rigorous coursework which can be completed in 15-16 months or 4 consecutive semesters. Completion of the traditional and accelerated options provide eligibility to sit in the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. Lastly, the RN to BSN option can be completed in one or two years for an accelerated plan or part-time plan, respectively. Nursing courses in this option are delivered in an online format.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) - This MSN program has 8 specialization tracks. The said tracks are: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP), Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (ACPNP), Community/Public Health Nursing (CPH), Leadership in Health Information Technology (LHIT), and Leadership in Healthcare Delivery (LEAD). The LEAD option allows students to obtain an MSN from Allen College and a Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Northern Iowa. Students with BSN degree or RNs with non-nursing baccalaureate degrees are eligible for program admission. Moreover, these tracks are also offered as certificate programs for individuals who already possess an MSN degree.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) - Two entry tracks are offered for this DNP program—the post-graduate DNP and BSN-DNP option for master’s- and baccalaureate-prepared individuals, respectively. Moreover, students in the BSN-DNP option can choose between Nurse Practitioner, Community Public Health Nurse, Nurse Educator, or Nurse Leader, as their track.

Northwestern College

Department of Nursing

97.33% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • 101 Seventh St SW, Orange City, IA - 51041
  • (712) 707-7000
Nurse Admin: Julie Dragstra, EdD, RN
Title: Chairperson
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 97.33%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Bachelor

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 78
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $1,160
  • Book and Supplies: N/A
  • Percent Received Aid: 100%
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $21,658
  • Percent Admitted: 74%
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: 33%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%

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.

University of Iowa

College of Nursing

95.80% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • 101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA - 52242-1316
  • (319) 335-3500
Nurse Admin: Julie Zerwic, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN
Title: Dean
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 95.80%
  • Programs: Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, CNL, Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: APRN Certificate, Bachelor, BSN to DNP, BSN to PhD, MSN, MSN to DNP

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 2768
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $9,942
  • Book and Supplies: $950
  • Percent Received Aid: 87%
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $8,778
  • Percent Admitted: 84%
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: 22%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%

Located in Iowa City, University of Iowa is one of the premier public research universities in the country. With 175 years of educational service, it is the state’s oldest higher educational institution. Its College of Nursing places emphasis on holistic patient care provision. The curriculum is designed to provide a learning-centered environment.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) - This BSN program is approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing. Two pathways are available for this program—the pre-licensure BSN and the RN-BSN. The pre-licensure program prepares students for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam and for their roles as entry-level nurses. It is offered on-campus and is designed for a full-time study. Meanwhile, the RN-BSN program is for RNs with an associate degree or diploma who would like to obtain a BSN degree.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) - With an individualized study plan, this MSN program has flexible coursework since it is offered in an online or hybrid format. Students can choose between these specializations: Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) or Nursing Systems Administration (NSA). The former has options for 2- or 3-year completion while the latter can be completed in 2 ½ years. An MSN Bridge for Master of Nursing and Healthcare Practice (MNPH) Alumni is also offered which can be completed in 1 ½ years.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) - This DNP program has several pathways offered— BSN to DNP Dual Certification, MSN to DNP, and Post-APRN to DNP. Students are fully-equipped for the highest standard of care provision throughout the patient’s lifespan.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - This scholarly and research-focused doctoral product has several entry tracks. Hence, students with an associate’s degree in nursing, baccalaureate in nursing or other fields, and master’s degree in nursing or a health-related field are eligible for program entry. Program graduates are equipped in the three roles highlighted by the AACN.

North Iowa Area Community College

94.90% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • 500 College Dr, Mason City, IA - 50401
  • (641) 423-1264
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 94.90%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Associate

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 67
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $5,971
  • Book and Supplies: $1,044
  • Percent Received Aid: 96%
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $4,576
  • Percent Admitted: N/A
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: N/A
  • Graduation Rate: 52%

North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) is a public educational institution in Mason City. It also operates various community education centers in Hampton, Charles City, Osage, and Lake Mills. It was founded in 1918, and was originally named Mason City Junior College. With more than 100 years of educational service, the college has transfer agreements with several four-year institutions for its students’ seamless transfer and transition. Hands-on experiences are an essential part of the curriculum, made possible by the College’s facilities such as the Diesel Technology Lab, Health Simulation Center, and Careers labs. Moreover, its nursing program is accredited by ACEN and approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing.

Nursing (ADN), A.A.S. - This Associate Degree Nursing program has two entry options—for beginning students and for LPNs. It has two annual starts (summer and fall terms). Upon program completion, graduates are conferred an Associate in Applied Science Degree. This provides eligibility to sit in the NCLEX-RN licensing exam,

RN to BSN - This RN to BSN program allows associate-prepared RNs to complete their BSN coursework, both locally and online. The RN to BSN 3+1 structure allows three-year coursework completion at NIACC and one-year BSN completion at the University of Iowa’s online RN-BSN program. Moreover, NIACC has formal articulation agreements with several universities offering baccalaureate degrees in nursing. This allows seamless transition from NIACC to its partner institution. These partners include, but are not limited to: Allen College, Clarke University, Grand View University, Mercy College of Health Sciences, and University of Dubuque.

Coe College

Department of Nursing

94.88% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • 1220 First Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA - 52402-5092
  • (319) 399-8000
Nurse Admin: Heide Bursch, PhD, RN
Title: Associate Professor of Nursing
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 94.88%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Bachelor

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 128
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $1,000
  • Book and Supplies: N/A
  • Percent Received Aid: 100%
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $34,875
  • Percent Admitted: 80%
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: 7%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%

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.

Iowa Central Community College

94.60% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • One Triton Circle, Fort Dodge, IA - 50501
  • (515) 576-7201
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 94.60%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Associate

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 88
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $6,000
  • Book and Supplies: $1,520
  • Percent Received Aid: 94%
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $5,180
  • Percent Admitted: N/A
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: N/A
  • Graduation Rate: 34%

Iowa Central Community College is a comprehensive public educational institution with seven centers, academies and campuses across Iowa, aside from its main campus in Fort Dodge. This community college was organized 1966, and is presently accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The college offers a flexible study program with options for on campus and on-site for some of its programs. In terms of accreditation, its ADN program under the Health Sciences Department is approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing. The said department also offers a Practical Nursing Program.

Associate Degree Nursing Program - With 84 required credits, this AAS program prepares students for their roles as registered nurses. In the first and second semester in the program, the coursework is similar to that of the Practical Nursing Program. Hence, students can obtain a practical nursing diploma after the first summer, and he/she can also obtain an AAS degree after finishing the program. Due to limited enrollment, admission is selective. Moreover, an advanced standing option for LPNs is offered, allowing them to continue in the second year.

Practical Nursing Program - With 44 and a half credit hours required, this diploma program prepares students for entry-level nursing care positions under the supervision of an RN or physician. Since the first two semesters are similar to that of the AAS degree, students can transition to the said degree after completing the diploma program. Coursework includes extensive clinical work of 360 hours in various healthcare settings. This program has an approval from the Iowa Board of Nursing.

Mount Mercy University

Martin-Herold College of Nursing and Health

93.65% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • 1330 Elmhurst Dr NE, Cedar Rapids, IA - 52402-4797
  • (319) 363-8213
Nurse Admin: Kim Bro, PhD, RN
Title: Dean
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 93.65%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Bachelor, MSN

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 84
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $1,320
  • Book and Supplies: N/A
  • Percent Received Aid: 100%
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $16,290
  • Percent Admitted: 76%
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: 25%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%

Southeastern Community College

92.70% 3-Year
Pass Rate
  • 1500 West Agency Road, West Burlington, IA - 52655-0180
  • (319) 752-2731
  • NCLEX Passing Rate: (A) 92.70%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Associate

University Information

  • Total Faculty: 70
  • In-State Undergraduate Tuition: $6,090
  • Book and Supplies: $1,298
  • Percent Received Aid: 85%
  • Average Grant or Scholarship: $5,804
  • Percent Admitted: N/A
  • Percent Admitted who Enrolled: N/A
  • Graduation Rate: 33%

Additional List of Top Iowa Nursing Programs

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.
Source: BLS, Department of Education, State Board of Nursing, Nursing School Websites.


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