Top Nursing Schools in Iowa

Rank School Name Score Tuition Student/Teacher ratio Program count Graduation Rate
1 Indian Hills Community College 95.25 $$$$$ 17:1 1 24%
2 Hawkeye Community College 95.25 $$$$$ 15:1 3 28%
3 Northwest Iowa Community College 95.00 $$$$$ 13:1 3 54%
4 Northeast Iowa Community College-Calmar 94.75 $$$$$ 14:1 3 34%
5 Western Iowa Tech Community College 94.00 $$$$$ 17:1 3 18%
6 Southwestern Community College 94.00 $$$$$ 15:1 3 40%
7 Iowa Lakes Community College 94.00 $$$$$ 15:1 3 48%
8 Eastern Iowa Community College District 93.75 $$$$$ 17:1 3 28%
9 Kirkwood Community College 93.50 $$$$$ 18:1 3 22%
10 Southeastern Community College 92.50 $$$$$ 18:1 3 29%
11 North Iowa Area Community College 92.50 $$$$$ 20:1 3 41%
12 Des Moines Area Community College 92.25 $$$$$ 20:1 3 20%
13 Iowa Central Community College 91.75 $$$$$ 20:1 3 37%
14 Iowa Western Community College 90.75 $$$$$ 19:1 3 18%
15 Marshalltown Community College 90.75 $$$$$ 26:1 1 18%
16 Ellsworth Community College 90.75 $$$$$ 21:1 3 19%
Rank School Name Score Tuition Student/Teacher ratio Program count Graduation Rate
1 Allen College 96.75 $$$$$ 9:1 2 75%
2 St Luke’s College 96.00 $$$$$ 5:1 11 100%
3 University of Iowa 93.75 $$$$$ 16:1 1 70%
4 Mercy College of Health Sciences 93.25 $$$$$ 8:1 7 41%
5 Clarke University 93.25 $$$$$ 8:1 4 74%
6 Graceland University-Lamoni 92.25 $$$$$ 13:1 3 54%
7 Grand View University 91.00 $$$$$ 13:1 7 47%
8 Mount Mercy University 91.00 $$$$$ 14:1 5 72%
9 Saint Ambrose University 90.50 $$$$$ 11:1 7 57%
10 Iowa Wesleyan College 90.25 $$$$$ 10:1 7 32%
11 Briar Cliff University 90.00 $$$$$ 12:1 5 47%
12 Luther College 90.00 $$$$$ 12:1 11 82%
13 Coe College 89.75 $$$$$ 11:1 11 70%
14 University of Dubuque 89.00 $$$$$ 13:1 11 48%
15 Morningside College 89.00 $$$$$ 13:1 11 54%
16 Northwestern College 88.50 $$$$$ 13:1 11 63%
17 Dordt College 87.75 $$$$$ 15:1 11 66%
18 William Penn University 86.75 $$$$$ 17:1 11 35%
19 Upper Iowa University 86.00 $$$$$ 18:1 11 38%

Browse Top Iowa Nursing Schools

Nursing schools are working to educate the next generation of nurses, and Iowa uses its public education system to offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs for aspiring RNs and advanced practice nurses. To explore nursing school in Iowa, both public and private, use the search tool below.

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What It Takes to Get Licensed in Iowa

To legally practice nursing in Iowa, licensing is required. Nursing licenses are issued by the Iowa Board of Nursing, which is also charged with setting standards for the nursing practice and education in the state. Nurses looking to get a license can find an overview below:

Eligibility for Licensure

Iowa nurses must graduate from a recognized RN program to be eligible for a license. They then need to:

  • Submit an application to sit for the licensure exam, fill out fingerprint cards and sign a waiver form for a background check, and pay a $143 fee for application and fingerprint processing
  • Arrange for their nursing program to mail official transcripts directly to the Iowa Board of Nursing
  • Simultaneously register to take the NCLEX-RN with the test administrator, Pearson VUE, and pay a $200 fee

Upon receipt of all materials by the state and Pearson VUE, applicants will receive authorization to test (ATT). They then have 90 days to schedule and pass the exam. Applicants who do not pass can reapply with the state and Pearson VUE to retake the exam.

Holders of RN licenses for another state can apply for licensure by endorsement. This requires a separate application, but a background check and waiver form are still required. Fees are slightly higher, adding up to $169. Applicants must also verify their original license, which can be done for many via

Keeping a License Active

Nursing licenses must be renewed online every three years between 30 and 60 days before the expiration date. The expiration date falls on the 15th of the nurse’s birth month. The fee is $99. During renewal, veteran nurses must be able to document 36 contact hours of continuing education; nurses who are renewing their Iowa license for the first time must document 24 hours.

Becoming an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner in Iowa

Nurse practitioners must first have an RN license from Iowa or a compact state before they can get an advanced registered nurse practitioner license, a title that encompasses 37 categories of health providers. Once they graduate from a master’s or advanced practice program in the specialty and get certified by a recognized national body in the specialty, they can apply to be a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, or certified registered nurse anesthetist. To apply they must:

  • Fill out an application
  • Pay $81
  • Verify their RN license (if held outside of Iowa)
  • Prove they are currently certified in the specialty
  • Have official transcripts mailed to the Iowa Board of Nursing
  • Report any criminal offenses

Iowa does not issue temporary licenses to ARNPs, so it is vital to begin this process well in advance of starting to practice as an ARNP.

For renewal, advanced registered nurse practitioners must renew their RN licenses before renewing their advanced practice licenses. ARNPs do not need to do continuing education credits to renew their license beyond what is required by their national certifying body. Some advanced practice nurses, however, must do two hours of training every five years on reporting of child abuse.

The Iowa Board of Nursing offers more detailed information on Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Licensure. Visit the site for application forms, information on Compact renewal, and FAQs.

Nursing Salaries & Employment in Iowa

Like many other occupations, salary and employment for RNs in Iowa can vary greatly, depending on education, location, and type of employer. To get a sense of what the state has to offer registered nurses, review the statistics below:

Top-Paying Areas for RNs in Iowa

Area Hourly Median Wage Annual Median Wage
Iowa City $28.81 $59,910
Des Moines-West Des Moines $26.87 $55,880
Ames $26.81 $55,760
Waterloo-Cedar Falls $25.72 $53,500
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island IA-IL $25.37 $52,770
Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area $25.22 $52,460
Cedar Rapids $24.77 $51,510
Southwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area $24.41 $50,770
Northeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area $24.24 $50,420
Dubuque $23.61 $49,110

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Iowa vs. National Numbers

  • Iowa
  • National
  • Annual Salary (25th percentile)
  • Annual Salary (median)
  • Annual Salary (75th percentile)

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Total Employment (2014)
2022 occupational outlook
Avg. annual openings (2012 – 2022)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 and Projections Central

Organizations & Resources: Iowa Nurses

Iowa Association of Nursing Students

As the Iowa chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association, IANS is aimed at RNs. The organization provides professional support to nursing students at 11 schools.

Iowa Board of Nursing

The Iowa Board of Nursing is responsible for licensing nurses of all backgrounds. It is an essential resource for nurses getting an initial license or renewing an existing one.

Iowa Developmental Disabilities Nurses Association

IDDNA supports the work of nurses who provide care to the disabled patient population. The association runs conferences and holds quarterly meetings, making membership especially valuable for nurses looking to network.

Iowa Nurses Association

The Iowa Nurses Association is a member of the American Nurses Assocation. It issues scholarships, offers continuing education courses and organizes an annual convention for Iowan nurses.

Iowa Organization of Nurse Leaders

IONL acts as the voice of management in the nursing profession. To this end, it is focused on advocacy issues and promotes legislation that corresponds with the platform of its national association, the American Organization for Nurse Executives.

Iowa Psychiatric Nurses Association

The Iowa chapter of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association works to strengthen the psychiatric nursing workforce. It appeals to members by proving both networking and continuing education programs.