How to Become an RN in Iowa (A Complete 2023 Guide)

How to Become an RN in Iowa (A Complete Guide)

Looking for a detailed guide on how to become an RN in Iowa?

You’ve come to the right place. 

Here, we won’t leave out any details. We’ll give you all the steps, as well as how to complete them. 

Plus, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions on the topic. 

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started right away! 

5 Steps to Becoming an RN in Iowa

These are the 5 steps to becoming an RN in Iowa: 

  1. Set your career goals
  2. Choose a nursing degree

Let’s dive into the details. 

Step 1: Set Your Career Goals

What kind of nurse do you want to be?

Do you want to be a nurse at a hospital?

Or maybe you want to do something more out there, like intensive care, public health, or military nurse. 

What about working as a nurse in government agencies, insurance companies, or education faculties? 

These are the career goals that you should set before anything else. 

The reason for this is because your career goal will help you decide what subjects to study, which degree to take, where to find a job, and all that. 

Step 2: Choose a Nursing Degree

Once you know your career goals, it’s time to choose a nursing degree. 

Now, RNs in Iowa can either pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Sure, both qualify for the NCLEX exam, but both paths are very different. 

Here is a comparison table that you can refer to:

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Program Length:18 to 24 months36 to 48 months

Program Focus:
Nursing concepts and clinical practiceNursing concepts, clinical practice, ethics, public health, leadership, and management.
Tuition:More affordableMore expensive

Possible Practice Areas:
Emergency department, pediatrics, intensive care, mental healthEmergency department, pediatrics, intensive care, mental health, nursing forensics, research, teaching, management, case management, and public health
Career Advancement Options:LessMore
Nurse Salary:LowerHigher
First Time NCLEX Pass Rate (National)82.8%90.3%
First Time NCLEX Pass Rate (Iowa)84.9%89.3%

NCLEX pass rates cover January 1 to December 31, 2020

The Iowa Board of Nursing and the Iowa Center for Nursing Workforce conducted a study and released the results in April 2021. They asked whether there was a preference for nurses with a BSN since it’s a higher degree. 

Guess what? 89.2% of responders said no.

Still, in 2018, 52.2% of RNs in Iowa had BSNs or higher. 

The statistics don’t matter so much, of course. The decision will be yours and yours alone. So make sure to compare degrees and pick one that will suit your career goals. 

If you’re confused, we came up with some questions to ponder to help you make a decision: 

  • What kind of nurse do you want to be? Remember what we covered in step 1. If you want to specialize in mental health, you’re good with an ADN. However, if you see yourself stepping into a leadership role someday, you’ll need a BSN.
  • Do you want to work in a Magnet hospital? Magnet-designated facilities are the gold standard for innovative nursing practices. However, these hospitals show a preference for BSN nurses.
  • How is your financial status? BSN programs are longer and, therefore, more expensive. You may have to get a loan to pursue this track.
  • How soon do you want to start working? An ADN allows you to begin working after 2 years or less. If you prefer to earn right away, it may be the better option for you. But again, keep in mind that your salary might be smaller than if you have a BSN degree. 

Step 3: Pick a Nursing School

When you’ve settled on a nursing degree, you can start searching for schools. 

However, what’s best for someone else may not be best for you. So we won’t give you a list of “the best nursing schools in Iowa”. Instead, we’ll give you some things to think about when looking for a nursing school. 

  • Approved. This is not an option. You have to go to a nursing school that is approved by the State Board of Nursing. If not, you won’t be eligible to take the NCLEX exam. 
  • Delivery options. Does online education work for you? Some people prefer it if they have a busy schedule or a side job. But if you work better in a classroom setting, then it’s a good idea to attend a traditional school. Or, you could go for one that provides both. 
  • Location. If you prefer to attend in-person classes, begin looking at the practical side of things. Where is the school located? How easy is it for you to commute there daily? Are you open to staying on campus?
  • Instructors. Are the instructors full-time or part-time? What kind of background do they have? Remember, these are the people that are going to educate you. 
  • Class size. Some schools limit the number of students in a class. This is so faculty members have more time to personalize their approach and cater to their needs.
  • Financial assistance. Does the school offer financial support? All nursing students, regardless of degree, can benefit from this.
  • NCLEX pass rate. The ratio of students who pass the licensing exam on their first try shows you how well the school prepares its students for it.
  • Career placement. Some schools partner with healthcare institutions to help you after you graduate. Having this in place makes job-hunting less stressful.

Step 4: Get Your RN License

So you’ve set your career goals, you’ve chosen a degree, and you’ve completed the degree at your preferred nursing school. 

Now it’s time to get your actual RN license. 

Here are the steps to get your RN license in Iowa:

  • Apply for an RN license.
    • Make your nursing school send a hard copy of your official transcript directly to the Board through ground mail. It won’t be accepted if it arrives by other means.
    • Complete your application through the Iowa Board of Nursing (IBON) website. You need to make an account to use their online service. 
    • Pay the fee of $143 (already includes criminal history background check)
    • Submit to the Board the completed required documents packet given to you by your nursing school. If your nursing school is out of state, you can request a packet of required documents with instructions from the Board. 
  • Get your Authorization to Test (ATT). Once the Board reviews and approves your application, you will receive your ATT, which will have your NCLEX exam schedule, along with other instructions. 
  • Pass the NCLEX exam. If you pass, the Board will inform you that your RN license is already issued. 
  • Verify your license online through Nursys. Simply click on quick confirm and follow the prompts to complete the process. 

And there you have it!

You are now a Registered Nurse in Iowa. 

The last thing now is to find a job. 

Step 5: Get a Nursing Job

If your nursing school has a career placement program, you can go to them for your first nursing job. 

However, you can always explore your options independently. 

What’s the secret to an effective job hunt? Let’s trim it down to 3 phases.

Phase 1: Shortlist

First, check out healthcare facilities in your area. Remember, a hospital is only one of your options.

If you’re leaning toward that setting, ask yourself which hospital piques your interest? 

Consider your experience and preferences and use these to narrow down your options.

Phase 2: Research

Next, gather as much information as you can.

Tap your network and see if you know anyone who can give you a better idea of what goes on in the facility. Get in touch with former colleagues or professors. You can even speak with your physician and get his input.

If some places look extremely attractive, go to their website and see what posts are open. Check out their requirements and see how well you fit them.

Phase 3: Apply

All your effort will be for nothing until you take the plunge. Prepare your CV and a cover letter — you can even customize these based on what you’ve learned.

Highlight skills and experiences that make you a good fit for your preferred role. Most of all, believe that you can do it! A healthy amount of self-confidence makes an applicant attractive to a prospective employer.

Frequently Asked Questions

As promised, we’re going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions. So let’s go!

How much do RNs earn in Iowa?

RNs in Iowa earn 29% less than the national average of $82,750. That means the average salary in the state is $64,990.

Your degree may impact your compensation. ZipRecruiter found that BSN nurses’ annual salary average is $73,756, while ADNs’ is $49,562.

How often do I need to renew my RN license in Iowa?

Your RN license expires on the 16th day of your birth month every 3 years. 

To renew, you must complete CE requirements.

You need to earn 36 CE hours in preparation for your license renewal. On your first cycle, 2 out of the 36 hours must be on identifying and reporting abuse of children. Another 2 hours must be about the same subject but focus on dependent adults.

For all renewals after that, you need to recertify for each course. These courses must be at least 1 CE hour.

Helpful Resources for Iowa RNs

List of Associate Degree Programs (ADNs) in Iowa

Here’s a list of ADN programs approved by the Iowa BON:

Des Moines Area Community College
1144 7th St, Des Moines, IA 50314, United States
Phone: +1 800-362-2127

Eastern Iowa Community College
101 W 3rd St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States
Phone: +1 563-336-3300

Hawkeye Community College
1501 E Orange Rd, Waterloo, IA 50701, United States
Phone: +1 319-296-2320

Indian Hills Community College
525 Grandview Ave, Ottumwa, IA 52501, United States
Phone: +1 800-726-2585

Iowa Central Community College
One Triton Cir, Fort Dodge, IA 50501, United States
Phone: +1 800-362-2793

Iowa Lakes Community
Estherville, Iowa, United States
800-242-5106 or 800-242-5108

Iowa Valley Community College District
3702 S. Center Street
Marshalltown, Iowa 50158

Iowa Western Community College
2700 College Rd, Council Bluffs, IA 51503, United States
Phone: +1 712-325-3200

Kirkwood Community College
6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, United States
Phone: +1 319-398-5411

Mercy College of Health Sciences
928 6th Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
Phone: +1 515-643-3180

North Iowa Area Community College
500 College Dr, Mason City, IA 50401, United States
Phone: +1 888-466-4222

Northeast Iowa Community College
1625 IA-150, Calmar, IA 52132, United States
Phone: +1 844-642-2338

Northwest Iowa Community College
603 W Park St, Sheldon, IA 51201, United States
Phone: +1 712-324-5061

Purdue University Global
4655 North West 121 Street, Urbandale, IA 50323-5702
(515) 727-2100

Southeastern Community College
1500 W Agency Rd, West Burlington, IA 52655, United States
Phone: +1 319-208-5000

Southwestern Community College
1501 W Townline St, Creston, IA 50801, United States
Phone: +1 641-782-7081

St. Luke’s College
2800 Pierce St Suite 410, Sioux City, IA 51104, United States
Phone: +1 712-279-3149

Western Iowa Tech Community College
4647 Stone Ave, Sioux City, IA 51106, United States
Phone: +1 712-274-6400

Visit the Iowa BON website for updates.

List of Baccalaureate Degree Programs (BSNs) in Iowa

Here’s a list of BSN programs approved by the Iowa BON:

Allen College
1990 Heath St, Waterloo, IA 50703, United States
Phone: +1 319-226-2000

Briar Cliff University
3303 Rebecca St, Sioux City, IA 51104, United States
Phone: +1 800-662-3303

Clarke University
1550 Clarke Dr, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States
Phone: +1 563-588-6300

Coe College
5008, 1220 1st Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402, United States
Phone: +1 319-399-8500

Dordt University
700 7th St NE, Sioux Center, IA 51250, United States
Phone: +1 712-722-6000

Graceland University
1 University Pl, Lamoni, IA 50140, United States
Phone: +1 641-784-5000

Grand View University
1200 Grandview Ave, Des Moines, IA 50316, United States
Phone: +1 515-263-2800

Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011, United States
Phone: +1 515-294-4111

Iowa Wesleyan University
601 N Main St, Mt Pleasant, IA 52641, United States
Phone: +1 319-385-8021

Luther College
700 College Dr, Decorah, IA 52101, United States
Phone: +1 563-387-2000

Mercy College of Health Sciences
928 6th Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
Phone: +1 515-643-3180

Morningside College
1501 Morningside Ave, Sioux City, IA 51106, United States
Phone: +1 712-274-5000

Mount Mercy University
1330 Elmhurst Dr NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402, United States
Phone: +1 319-363-1323

Northwestern College
101 7th St SW, Orange City, IA 51041, United States
Phone: +1 712-707-7000

St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust St, Davenport, IA 52803, United States
Phone: +1 563-333-6000

St. Luke’s College
2800 Pierce St Suite 410, Sioux City, IA 51104, United States
Phone: +1 712-279-3149

University of Dubuque
2000 University Ave, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States
Phone: +1 563-589-3000

University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242, United States
Phone: +1 319-335-3500

Upper Iowa University
605 Washington St, Fayette, IA 52142, United States
Phone: +1 800-553-4150

William Penn University
201 W Trueblood Ave, Oskaloosa, IA 52577, United States
Phone: +1 800-779-7366

Visit the Iowa BON website for updates.

In Conclusion

So there you have it. 

Your complete 2023 guide on how to become an RN in Iowa. 

As you can see, the journey will take time, dedication, and investment. You need to go through each step one at a time. 

But in the end, you will feel the satisfaction of getting to your hold RN license and starting your first nursing job. 

So good luck!

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