Updated: November 25, 2021

Overview of Nursing Schools in Iowa

  • There are 31 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 65.28% and 96.53%.
  • The average NCLEX passing rate range for BSN students in Iowa is between 68.38% and 95.85%.
  • 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.

Online Nursing Programs Liked by Iowa Nurses

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities beloww.

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 85.27% 86.41%
NCLEX Passing Rate Range 65.28% to 96.53% 68.38% to 95.85%

Best Ranked RN Programs in Iowa

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 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

Best Nursing Schools (BSN) in Iowa


University of Dubuque

  • 2000 University Ave, Dubuque, IA - 52001
  • (563) 589-3000
  • Grade: (A) 97.92%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Bachelor
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
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Allen College

  • 1990 Heath St, Waterloo, IA - 50703-1999
  • (319) 226-2000
  • Grade: (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
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,
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Northwestern College

  • 101 Seventh St SW, Orange City, IA - 51041
  • (712) 707-7000
  • Grade: (A) 97.33%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Bachelor
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,
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University of Iowa

  • 101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA - 52242-1316
  • (319) 335-3500
  • Grade: (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
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
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North Iowa Area Community College

  • 500 College Dr, Mason City, IA - 50401
  • (641) 423-1264
  • Grade: (A) 94.90%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Associate
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,
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Coe College

  • 1220 First Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA - 52402-5092
  • (319) 399-8000
  • Grade: (A) 94.88%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Bachelor
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
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Iowa Central Community College

  • One Triton Circle, Fort Dodge, IA - 50501
  • (515) 576-7201
  • Grade: (A) 94.60%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Associate
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
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Mount Mercy University

  • 1330 Elmhurst Dr NE, Cedar Rapids, IA - 52402-4797
  • (319) 363-8213
  • Grade: (A) 93.65%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Bachelor, MSN

Southeastern Community College

  • 1500 West Agency Road, West Burlington, IA - 52655-0180
  • (319) 752-2731
  • Grade: (A) 92.70%
  • Programs: Registered Nursing
  • Award Levels: Associate

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.

Online NP Programs Liked by Iowa Nurses

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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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