Nursing Schools and Licensing Requirements in Iowa [2022 Guide]

Updated August 12, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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Iowa has more than 33,000 registered nurses, some of whom are advanced practice nurses. That means one out of every 100 Iowans is a nurse. But more are needed. Iowa lawmakers and healthcare advocates are aware of the challenges facing the nursing industry over the next decade and are working to make nursing a desirable degree plan for college students. Read on to find out more about nursing schools in Iowa, salaries, and licensure requirements in the state.

Top 10 Nursing Schools and Licensing Requirements in Iowa

Allen College Waterloo, IA
St Luke's College Sioux City, IA
University of Iowa Iowa City, IA
Mercy College of Health Sciences Des Moines, IA
Clarke University Dubuque, IA
Graceland University-Lamoni Lamoni, IA
Grand View University Des Moines, IA
Mount Mercy University Cedar Rapids, IA
Saint Ambrose University Davenport, IA
Iowa Wesleyan University Mount Pleasant, IA 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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To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria: Accredited at the institutional level Private nonprofit or public school Minimum of 1 bachelor's or master's degree in subject area for 4-year schools Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools Schools were then scored on factors such as: Cost & Financial Aid Number and variety of program offerings Student-teacher ratios Graduation rates (4-year schools only) Placement and support services offered Academic/Career counseling services Employment services Loan default rates These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or "bang for your buck" of a college or degree program.

Top Nursing Schools in Iowa

4 - Year Colleges

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

AreaHourly Median WageAnnual Median Wage
Iowa City$28.81$59,910
Des Moines-West Des Moines$26.87$55,880
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

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Iowa vs. National Numbers


YearAnnual salary(25th percentile)Annual salary(median)Annual salary(75th percentile)Annual salary(25th percentile)Annual salary(median)Annual salary(75th percentile)
Registered Nurse$44,940$53,220$61,490$0$54,620$66,640$81,080
Certified Nurse Midwife$88,590$102,530$124,570$0$82,580$96,970$114,090
Nurse Anesthetist$146,950$167,640$0$0$132,380$153,780$181,860
Nurse Practitioner$82,650$90,770$100,520$0$82,720$95,350$113,470
Registered Nurse31,8602,687,310
Certified Nurse Midwife505,110
Nurse Anesthetist21036,590
Nurse Practitioner1,210122,050
Registered Nurse38,1303,238,400
Certified Nurse Midwife507,700
Nurse Anesthetist12043,900
Nurse Practitioner920147,300
Registered Nurse1,190105,260
Certified Nurse Midwife0290
Nurse Anesthetist01,560
Nurse Practitioner305,850

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.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

See All Posts 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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