The Top Nursing Schools in Iowa

The Top Nursing Schools in Iowa

As Iowa grapples with an increased demand for healthcare professionals amid the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for qualified nurses becomes more crucial than ever. This guide navigates the landscape of nursing education in Iowa, shedding light on the top programs available, the process of earning a nursing degree, obtaining licensure, and securing employment within the state. Delve into the comprehensive information presented here to understand the pathway to becoming a nurse in Iowa, including insights into salary expectations, job outlook, and a detailed exploration of the best nursing programs within the state.

The Best Nursing Schools in Iowa

Gain insights into Iowa’s top nursing schools and discover how to select a program that aligns with your educational goals.

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Our Evaluation Methodology: Our approach to ranking the best nursing schools in Iowa relies on a data-driven methodology, providing you with a streamlined way to identify programs that suit your needs. Our metrics emphasize crucial factors such as academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings, offering a comprehensive view for prospective students. We draw from publicly available provisional datasets from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to inform our ranking. All data is current as of the publication date of this article, and program-specific details may vary.

1. North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC)

– Location: Mason City, IA
– Duration: 2 years
– Delivery: Online + Campus

As the oldest community college in Iowa, NIACC holds a national ranking and serves around 3,000 students. The Associate of Applied Science in Nursing program at NIACC provides two entry paths, catering to both novice college students and licensed practical nurses. Clinical experiences, some scheduled during evenings and weekends, offer hands-on learning with potential travel requirements.

– Program: Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
– Campus: Mason City, IA
– Type: Public
– Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
– Tuition: $172 per credit for Iowa residents; $258 for out-of-state students
– Admission Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; official transcripts; minimum 20 ACT score
– Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $57,995 for associate graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $4,793
– Out-of-state: $7,189
– Average Graduate Tuition: Not provided
– Retention Rate: 66%
– Admission Rate: Not provided
– Students Enrolled: 2,894
– Institution Type: Public
– Percent Online Enrollment: 73%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

2. Coe College

– Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
– Duration: 4 years
– Delivery: Campus

Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, Coe College, with over 1,400 students, offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with two entry paths. Direct entry is available for high school seniors with a 27 ACT score or higher and a 3.7 GPA. Standard entry caters to sophomore-level or higher college students meeting Coe’s general education requirements with at least a 2.7 cumulative GPA.

– Program: Bachelor of Science in Nursing
– Campus: Cedar Rapids, IA
– Type: Private
– Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
– Tuition: $50,314 per year
– Admission Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; minimum 3.0 GPA; personal essay
– Minimum Time Commitment: Four years
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 89% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,402 for bachelor’s graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $45,230
– Out-of-state: $45,230
– Average Graduate Tuition: Not provided
– Retention Rate: 80%
– Admission Rate: 63%
– Students Enrolled: 1,430
– Institution Type: Private
– Percent Online Enrollment: Not provided
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

3. Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC)

– Location: Sheldon, IA
– Duration: 2 years
– Delivery: Online + Campus

Originally established as a vocational high school in 1965, NCC transitioned into a comprehensive community college in 1993. The one-year Associate of Applied Science in Nursing program welcomes licensed practical nurses and graduates of NCC’s practical nursing program. The curriculum covers medical-surgical, obstetrical, pediatric, geriatric, and psychiatric areas and qualifies for the Iowa Last Dollar Scholarship, providing free tuition.

– Program: Associate of Applied Science in Nursing
– Campus: Sheldon, IA
– Type: Public
– Approved by: Iowa Board of Nursing
– Tuition: $183 per credit for Iowa residents; $193 for out-of-state students
– Admission Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; official transcripts; valid LPN license and proof of eligibility to practice
– Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months first-time pass rate
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 83%
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $50,439 for bachelor’s graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $5,190
– Out-of-state: $5,490
– Average Graduate Tuition: Not provided
– Retention Rate: 73%
– Admission Rate: Not provided
– Students Enrolled: 1,777
– Institution Type: Public
– Percent Online Enrollment: 67%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

Best Iowa RN to MSN Degree Programs + Bridge Requirements

4. Mount Mercy University (MMU)

– Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
– Duration: 4 years
– Delivery: Online + Campus

Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of America, MMU, a Catholic university with 1,600 students, offers top-notch nursing programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. The Doctor of Nursing Practice includes a 44-credit Family Nurse Practitioner pathway for non-certified nurse practitioners and a 27-credit option for those already certified.

– Program: Doctor of Nursing Practice
– Campus: Cedar Rapids, IA
– Type: Private
– Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
– Tuition: $890 per credit
– Admission Requirements: MSN degree; valid RN license; minimum 3.25 GPA; 3 letters of recommendation; resume; personal interview
– Minimum Time Commitment: 16 months
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $56,847 for bachelor’s graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $32,862
– Out-of-state: $32,862
– Average Graduate Tuition:
– In-state: $10,296
– Out-of-state: $10,296
– Retention Rate: 75%
– Admission Rate: 66%
– Students Enrolled: 1,807
– Institution Type: Private
– Percent Online Enrollment: 29%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

5. St. Luke’s College

– Location: Sioux City, IA
– Duration: 4 years
– Delivery: Online + Campus

Affiliated with UnityPoint Health, St. Luke’s College focuses on health system-based education for nursing and other health professions. The 72-credit Associate Degree in Nursing program prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN and enables them to practice as registered nurses. The curriculum integrates simulation and multi-bed experiences at dedicated skill labs on campus and hands-on clinical experiences at UnityPoint Health and other affiliated sites.

– Program: Associate Degree in Nursing
– Campus: Sioux City, IA
– Type: Private
– Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
– Tuition: $540 per credit
– Admission Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; official transcripts; minimum 2.5 GPA; minimum 19 ACT score
– Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $50,856 for associate graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $18,900
– Out-of-state: $18,900
– Average Graduate Tuition: Not provided
– Retention Rate: Not provided
– Admission Rate: 29%
– Students Enrolled: 235
– Institution Type: Private
– Percent Online Enrollment: 53%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

These detailed programs equip aspiring nurses with the knowledge and skills needed for a successful and impactful career in healthcare.

Exploring the Finest Nursing Programs in Iowa

#6 Iowa Lakes Community College

Estherville, IA
Duration: 2 years
Delivery: Online + Campus

Situated in the Great Lakes Region of the state, Iowa Lakes offers a diverse array of 60 certificates, degrees, and pre-professional programs. Aspiring nurses can opt for the on-campus associate in nursing program or choose the hybrid option at the Emmetsburg campus. The 85-credit program not only prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN but also offers the opportunity to obtain a practical nursing diploma after completing 46 credits.

– Program: Associate degree in nursing
– Campus: Emmetsburg, IA
– Type: Public
– Accreditation: Iowa Board of Nursing
– Tuition: $191 per credit for Iowa residents; $202 per credit for out-of-state students
– Admission Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; official transcripts; minimum 3.0 GPA; minimum ACT score of 20
– Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $46,868 for associate graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $5,856
– Out-of-state: $6,208
– Average Graduate Tuition: Not provided
– Retention Rate: 68%
– Admission Rate: Not provided
– Students Enrolled: 2,035
– Institution Type: Public
– Percent Online Enrollment: 35%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

#7 Western Iowa Tech Community College

Sioux City, IA
Duration: 2 years
Delivery: Online + Campus

Established in 1966, this comprehensive community college boasts an enrollment of over 5,000 students. WITCC provides on-campus and hybrid associate in nursing programs at its Sioux City campus and an on-campus option at its Denison campus. Students embark on the licensed practical nurse program in their first year and complete requirements for the associate degree in the second year.

– Program: Associate of applied science in nursing
– Campus: Sioux City, IA
– Type: Public
– Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
– Tuition: $14,381 per year for Iowa residents; $14,454 per year for out-of-state residents
– Admission Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; official transcripts; minimum 24 ACT score; completion of WITCC practical nursing program in the previous semester or valid LPN license and six credits of anatomy and physiology
– Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 72% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $50,387 for associate graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $3,672
– Out-of-state: $3,696
– Average Graduate Tuition: Not provided
– Retention Rate: 64%
– Admission Rate: Not provided
– Students Enrolled: 5,976
– Institution Type: Public
– Percent Online Enrollment: 45%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

#8 Morningside College

Sioux City, IA
Duration: 4 years
Delivery: Online + Campus

Formerly known as Morningside College, Morningside University, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, introduced its first doctoral program, the doctor of nursing practice, in 2021. The program offers tracks in direct patient care and transformative leadership, with entry options for BSN-to-DNP or MSN-to-DNP. This online program entails a one-day residency for project dissemination and competency demonstration.

– Program: Doctor of nursing practice
– Campus: Sioux City, IA
– Type: Private
– Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
– Tuition: $590 per credit
– Admission Requirements: Bachelor’s or master’s degree; official transcripts; minimum 3.0 GPA; valid RN license; two letters of recommendation; resume; personal goal essay
– Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 87% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,479 for bachelor’s graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $31,220
– Out-of-state: $31,220
– Average Graduate Tuition:
– In-state: $5,040
– Out-of-state: $5,040
– Retention Rate: 68%
– Admission Rate: 63%
– Students Enrolled: 2,599
– Institution Type: Private
– Percent Online Enrollment: 54%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

#9 Saint Ambrose University

Davenport, IA
Duration: 4 years
Delivery: Online + Campus

Established as a seminary for men in 1882, SAU transitioned to full coeducation in 1968. This Catholic-sponsored institution houses one of the top-ranked nursing schools in Iowa. First-time college students can pursue the traditional four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). The accelerated BSN track allows non-nursing bachelor’s degree holders to earn their degree in 16 months. The curriculum integrates clinical experiences in acute care and community settings.

– Program: Bachelor of science in nursing
– Campus: Davenport, IA
– Type: Private
– Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
– Tuition: $34,390 per year
– Admission Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; official transcripts; minimum 2.5 GPA
– Minimum Time Commitment: 16 months
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 88% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $59,377 for bachelor’s graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $31,532
– Out-of-state: $31,532
– Average Graduate Tuition:
– In-state: $17,460
– Out-of-state: $17,460
– Retention Rate: 76%
– Admission Rate: 77%
– Students Enrolled: 2,968
– Institution Type: Private
– Percent Online Enrollment: 17%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

#10 Eastern Iowa Community College District

Davenport, IA
Duration: 2 years
Delivery: Online + Campus

Serving residents of several counties bordering the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa, EICC enables students to earn an associate of applied science in nursing degree in less than two years. The curriculum emphasizes a robust clinical component, typically requiring two clinical days per week in direct patient care settings, along with conference and observational experiences and simulation lab practice.

– Program: Associate of applied science in nursing
– Campus: Davenport, IA

– Type: Public
– Approved by: Iowa Board of Nursing
– Tuition: $179 per credit for Iowa residents; $246 per credit for out-of-state residents
– Admission Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent; official transcripts; minimum 2.75 GPA; completion of Certified Nurse Aide curriculum and proof of active status on the Iowa Direct Worker Registry
– Minimum Time Commitment: 22 months
– On-Campus Requirements: Yes
– School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 78% first-time pass rate
– Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $54,996 for associate graduates, according to College Scorecard
– Average Undergrad Tuition:
– In-state: $5,376
– Out-of-state: $7,520
– Average Graduate Tuition: Not provided
– Retention Rate: 64%
– Admission Rate: Not provided
– Students Enrolled: 8,002
– Institution Type: Public
– Percent Online Enrollment: 37%
– Accreditation: Yes, Higher Learning Commission

How to Choose a Nursing Program in Iowa

When faced with the decision of choosing a nursing program in Iowa, it’s essential to factor in elements that can significantly impact your academic and professional pursuits. Simplify your selection process by delving into aspects such as cost, program duration, available financial aid, and curriculum alignment to ensure a harmonious fit.

To gauge the effectiveness of a program in preparing its students for a nursing career, scrutinize its accreditation status. Additionally, delve into the average National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) scores and graduation rates to ensure a program’s track record aligns with your expectations.

Iowa Medical Assisting Programs & Training + Online Options

The Advantages of Pursuing a Nursing Career in Iowa

Iowa stands out as an excellent location for aspiring and current registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). With projected employment demand surpassing the national average and boasting one of the lowest costs of living in the nation, Iowa provides a conducive environment for nursing professionals.

A noteworthy aspect contributing to Iowa’s appeal is its participation in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). As part of this compact, Iowa, along with 36 other states, adheres to a standardized set of rules and procedures that all licensed RNs must follow.

Moreover, the NLC facilitates a streamlined process for RNs from other participating states to qualify for a license in Iowa with minimal paperwork. Conversely, RNs licensed in Iowa encounter fewer hurdles when practicing in another NLC state.

Salary and Employment Outlook for Nurses in Iowa

Despite RNs in Iowa having one of the lowest average annual salaries at $62,570, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the state compensates with a lower cost of living, rated at 90.1 compared to the national average of 100. Nurse practitioners (NPs) in Iowa earn a higher annual mean wage of $107,910, slightly exceeding the national median of $117,670.

Despite the comparatively lower salaries for RNs in Iowa, healthcare professionals working in the state enjoy the advantage of a low cost of living, indicated by an index of 90.1, notably below the national average of 100. Adding to the appeal, Iowa anticipates a surge in the demand for nurses. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the state is poised for a substantial 15.1% increase in nursing employment, surpassing the projected national growth rate of 12.1%.

Cities Offering the Highest Salaries for Nurses in Iowa

For those seeking the highest-paying nursing positions in Iowa, metropolitan areas such as Iowa City, Des Moines (West Des Moines), Ames, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo–Cedar Falls are among the top choices. The following median salary figures for RNs in these cities highlight the competitive pay scales:

Highest-Paying Cities
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for RNs
Iowa City $68,940
Des Moines — West Des Moines $64,140
Ames $64,030
Cedar Rapids $61,540
Waterloo — Cedar Falls $61,080

Source: BLS

Steps to Embarking on a Nursing Career in Iowa

Navigating the path to becoming a nurse in Iowa involves meeting specific licensing requirements. Aspiring RNs must graduate from a state board-approved nursing program, successfully pass the NCLEX, and undergo a background check. APRNs must fulfill the same criteria as RNs, with the additional requirement of completing a graduate nursing program and a specialty certification exam. Continuing education remains a crucial component for both RNs and APRNs to uphold their licensure.

RN Requirements

To attain RN status in Iowa, individuals must graduate from an accredited nursing program with either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Subsequently, prospective nurses need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for licensure in the state, incurring fees such as a $200 examination fee, $93 application fee, and $50 for a background check.

RNs are obligated to complete a minimum of 36 continuing education hours every three years. Additionally, nurses engaged in the examination, counseling, or treatment of dependent adults or children must undergo training on the identification and reporting of abuse.

APRN Requirements

Aspiring APRNs in Iowa must possess an unencumbered RN license, allowing practice within the state. Obtaining a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice is a prerequisite, coupled with the successful completion of a national certification exam in a nursing specialty. Fees associated with this process include an examination fee (varying by specialty), an $81 application fee, and a $50 background check fee.

APRNs are required to fulfill a modest 36 contact hours each year to maintain their license. Similarly, training on the identification and reporting of abuse is mandatory for those who regularly engage in the examination, counseling, or treatment of dependent adults or children.

Exploring Additional Noteworthy Nursing Programs in Iowa

For those seeking comprehensive information on additional top nursing programs in Iowa, including RN to MSN degree programs, medical assisting programs, and answers to frequently asked questions about nursing in the state, there are valuable resources available to guide your academic and professional journey.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Iowa

How long does it take to become an RN in Iowa?

The timeline for becoming an RN in Iowa varies based on the chosen academic path. Full-time students can complete an ADN program in two years and a BSN in four years. A part-time schedule may extend this timeline. Pursuing an MSN program typically requires two years of full-time enrollment after earning a BSN and gaining two years of clinical experience, resulting in a potential total of up to eight years to start practicing as an APRN.

Is Iowa a good state for nursing?

Iowa stands out as an attractive state for nursing professionals due to its low cost of living, projected demand for healthcare professionals, and participation in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC).

Does an online nursing degree have the same value as an on-campus degree?

The value of an online nursing degree, much like an in-person program, hinges on the institution offering it. Notably, over 90% of students who attended online programs at Allen College, Graceland University, Mount Mercy University, Northwest Iowa Community College, and the University of Iowa passed the NCLEX on their first attempt, underscoring the effectiveness of these online programs in preparing future nurses.

Is Iowa a compact state?

Yes, Iowa is a compact state. In 1998, the Iowa State Board of Nursing initiated compact legislation, which became active in 2000. This allows Iowa nurses to obtain a multistate license, enabling them to practice in other compact states. Conversely, those moving to Iowa from another compact state must apply for primary licensure in Iowa.

In conclusion, Iowa provides a promising landscape for nursing professionals, and with careful consideration and planning, individuals can embark on a fulfilling and successful nursing career in the state.

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