Known for its rural, agricultural heritage, Iowa is an exemplary Midwestern state – one of the safest, healthiest, and happiest states in the union. That’s not to say life in Iowa is perfect, and despite being one of the healthiest states (ranked in the top 20 of all US states and territories), Iowa is also acutely feeling the nursing shortage that is cause for alarm across the nation. Over the next decade, Iowa will need anywhere from 5000 to 10,000 nurses, and the number of graduates coming out of Iowa nursing colleges is still far short.
The best nursing schools in Iowa are getting creative, innovative, and tech-savvy to meet the need in their hospitals, clinics, and schools. Iowa is one of the best states in the US for nursing, with more than a dozen top-notch nursing schools, and one of the best for online RN to BSN degree programs as well. TopRNtoBSN has ranked the best online RN to BSN programs in Iowa for Hawkeye nurses who want to increase their salaries, take on higher-level positions, and become leaders in nursing.
How We Ranked Online RN to BSN Programs in Iowa Nursing Colleges
To rank the online RN to BSN programs in Iowa with the most potential for career development, TopRNtoBSN editors searched through all of the Iowa nursing colleges offering fully online or hybrid BSN programs. With our list in place, we ranked programs according to three factors we believe helps students see a positive impact: Tuition Rate, Student Satisfaction, and Job Placement Rate. Data came from College Scorecard, Niche, and IPEDS.
1. Allen College – Waterloo
When you’re looking into Iowa nursing colleges for an RN to BSN degree program, the options at Allen College in Waterloo help you improve your opportunities for your future. The degree program is a fully online option that allows you to take full-time or part-time courses to fit your schedule. Since it is an online degree program, you have the flexibility to focus on your long-term plans. Allen also offers a scholarship for all nursing students to offset costs.
Allen College stands out from other programs by offering a fully online program with a focus on practical skills and knowledge. The CCNE accredited program does require students to complete residency as part of their degree. It also allows you to continue working as a nurse while you complete your program. Since you can take part-time or full-time courses, the amount of time required for the degree depends on the number of classes you take each semester.
2. Saint Ambrose University – Davenport
Saint Ambrose University in Davenport is one of the best nursing schools in Iowa for an online RN to BSN program. The degree program offers an opportunity to advance in your career by providing the well-rounded education you need to focus on patient care. It takes a liberal arts approach to the degree and ensures that students understand proper methods of communication to handle the challenges of working with patients in a medical setting.
Saint Ambrose University differs from other programs by offering fully online courses that take eight weeks to complete. It focuses on flexibility and accelerated courses to help you move forward with your long-term plans. Due to the short length of the classes, you are able to complete your degree at an accelerated pace and move forward with your career goals when you finish your bachelor’s degree. The program does focus on the needs of registered nurses with an associate’s degree, so you will have the flexibility to continue your normal activities while working on your degree.
3. Briar Cliff University – Sioux City
Briar Cliff University in Sioux City is one of the best nursing schools in Iowa for its online program. The RN to BSN program at Briar Cliff is CCNE accredited with convenient and flexible online classes taught by experienced faculty. The faculty offers mentorship to students and takes a personal approach to education while allowing students to work on their degree when it fits their schedule as a nurse. Faculty are available to students through email, online chats, and similar tools to help students with their concerns. That flexibility and focus on mentorship allow students to learn at a fast pace.
A key way Briar Cliff University stands out from other programs is its focus on mentorship and interpersonal interactions between students and faculty. It does not limit the ability of students to seek help and advice from veteran nurses who have handled a variety of situations in their career. That gives you the confidence to focus on your goals while learning from the right team.
4. Grand View University – Des Moines
Grand View University offers an online RN to BSN program that helps with long-term career goals. The degree program recognizes the value of interpersonal relationships when dealing with patients. That is why the program focuses on developing effective communication skills and practical skills. The program ensures that students are able to identify concerns that may impact a patient’s health and provide the right care to address the situation.
The way Grand View University stands apart is its focus on individuals and caring for others. It goes beyond the basics of health care for patients and recognizes that nurses need to provide a comforting presence to their patients. The program takes measures to help you develop the skills to provide confident and kind care that your patients need when seeking treatment. By putting the needs of patients at the core of its courses, Grand View helps nurses develop the skills they need to handle the challenges of interpersonal interactions with patients.
5. Upper Iowa University – Fayette
When you are looking at Iowa nursing colleges, you will want to evaluate the options for your education from Upper Iowa University. The RN to BSN program is CCNE accredited and provides options to help with your long-term goals. You can take the hybrid online courses that provide most of the classes online and allow you to take a few classes on campus for the experience of hands-on training. Alternatively, you can take the fully online program and avoid the classroom environment.
A key way Upper Iowa University stands out from other programs is its flexible scheduling. You have options to take the accredited courses full-time or part-time. You can also choose between a fully online program or a hybrid program based on your work schedule and your plans for your career. When you add in the accelerated education, you are able to complete your degree in a fraction of the time and focus on advancing in your career as a nurse.
6. Graceland University-Lamoni – Lamoni
Graceland University-Lamoni offers the opportunity to complete your RN to BSN program online without the complexities of going to a traditional school. The online degree program is CCNE accredited and it focuses on providing flexible classes that work around your current schedule. Since the program is designed for working nurses who may have a complex or challenging work schedule, it allows you to focus on accomplishing your goals for your education without worrying about your work.
When it comes to Iowa nursing colleges, Graceland University-Lamoni stands out by focusing on the changing world of nursing. It does not limit education to the basics of practical skills and knowledge. It also provides students with leadership skills that prepare them for more advanced roles as a nurse. You will also learn about global policy and community health as it relates to nursing, focusing on the global challenges of nursing and the role of leaders in nursing fields.
7. Mercy College of Health Sciences – Des Moines
The Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines is an excellent nursing program for RN to BSN students. The online degree program is CCNE accredited and focuses on education mobility. Since it is a fully online program, students are able to work on their degree when it fits their schedule and from any location. That allows you to continue working as a nurse while you complete your bachelor’s degree and focus on your career plans.
When you are looking into the advantages of a program, Mercy College of Health Services in Des Moines stands out for its focus on flexibility. The program strives to help students accomplish their goals by teaching leadership skills and nursing skills while still working around a challenging schedule. Since nurses may have different schedules on a weekly basis, the flexible online degree allows you to complete coursework when you are available and from any location.
8. Clarke University – Dubuque
Clarke University has an online RN to BSN program that is CCNE accredited and prepares students to advance in their career. The degree program is fully online and does not require students to spend any time on-campus to complete their degree. It allows students to transfer up to 95 credits from other programs, which allows you to complete your degree at a fast pace.
Clarke University stands out by offering students greater flexibility for their education. The program focuses on critical thinking skills, communication skills, and practical nursing skills to prepare you for the challenges of advancing in your career and working as a leader in nursing.
9. St Luke’s College – Sioux City
When you are looking for the best nursing schools in Iowa to complete your bachelor’s degree, St. Luke’s College in Sioux City offers the training you need to focus on your career. St. Luke’s College offers a flexible online RN to BSN program that works around your work schedule and focuses on the challenges of nursing in a modern environment.
A key way St. Luke’s College differs from other programs is the focus on informatics and specialized skills. As advances in technology change the way nurses handle their patients, a program that offers courses and training to handle technological tools will help with your goals. St. Luke’s College offers training in technology and practical nursing skills. St. Luke’s College in Sioux City takes a well-rounded approach to nursing and provides students with the training to handle the challenges of working in a modern environment.
10. Iowa Wesleyan University – Mount Pleasant
The RN to BSN program at Iowa Wesleyan University is a flexible online program in Mount Pleasant that offers the training you need to focus on your career goals. The ACEN accredited program has six start dates that allow you to work on your degree when it fits your situation. It also allows you to work around your normal hours at work and your family obligations with 24-hour access to your coursework and materials.
A key way Iowa Wesleyan University differs from other programs is its focus on providing students with the training to handle their career goals. It takes your experience in the military or as a nurse into account as part of your degree program. It also offers flexible start dates and provides eight-week long courses so you can complete your degree at an accelerated pace.
How Do I Become an RN in Iowa?
To become a registered nurse in Iowa, an individual must graduate from one of the approved and accredited nursing programs in Iowa. The Iowa Board of Nursing keeps an updated listing of approved programs on their website. Iowa nursing programs for registered nurses typically take at least two years to complete. Nurses with no prior experience will choose associate degree programs or bachelor degree programs. Registered nurses who complete either of these nursing programs in Iowa will have an Associate of Science in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Although most ASN and BSN programs take two to four years from graduation, accelerated nursing programs in Iowa cut down on the time for completion. In fact, registered nurses could finish an accelerated program in half the time of a traditional degree track. Iowa nursing programs are also part of a statewide articulation plan to make it easy to transfer between colleges.
Iowa nursing license verification is required upon completion of the appropriate schooling. To be licensed, nurses must take and pass the national NCLEX-RN. Along with passing the NCLEX-RN, the Iowa Board of Nursing requires an application fee and background check fee. Iowa nursing licenses are valid for three years and require renewal every three years. Continuing education credits are mandated for the renewal of all Iowa nursing licenses.
How is the Job Market for Nursing in Iowa?
Nursing jobs in Iowa have experienced a steady growth rate in the last decade. According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a total number of 33,770 registered nurses in Iowa. Over the next decade, it is estimated that a minimum of 1,280 Iowa nursing jobs will be available each year through 2024. This demand to fill jobs related to nursing in Iowa has made wages competitive. A shortage of filled nursing jobs in Iowa has led to a number of statewide initiatives to increase the availability of registered nurses.
A lack of residency programs for nurses has been one of the reasons cited for the state’s shortage. To combat this issue, online residency options have been created. The state has also started funding programs for nursing educators in Iowa. As many educators have entered retirement, there is a lack of staff available to train new professionals for Iowa nursing jobs. Nursing jobs in Des Moines, IA are being consistently posted on local job boards. As a metropolitan location with nationally ranked medical centers, the city is always in need of licensed RNs. Rural areas have a nursing shortage too with some Iowa medical centers forced to shutter their doors due to low staffing issues.
How Much Do Nurses Make in Iowa?
The nursing salary in Iowa is competitive. Direct care jobs are considered the fastest growing in the state with wages reflecting the strong need to fill vacant positions. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that the mean hourly wage for nurses in Iowa is $27.97. The annual Iowa nursing salary average is $59,130. The nursing salary in Iowa for specialists is even higher. For instance, nurse practitioners in Iowa make an average salary of $106,290 annually.
The nursing salary in Iowa has a lot of appeal for nurses who decide to further their education after becoming registered nurses. For instance, a nursing anesthetist makes upwards of $209,000 per year. The geographic location of a registered nurse will also impact the average Iowa nursing salary. Metropolitan areas pay the most to nurses with averages that exceed $66,000 per year. Rural areas pay closer to $55,000 per year. The level of education will also affect a nursing salary in Iowa. When a nurse has a BSN, he or she is more likely to be promoted. According to a 2013 survey of nurses in Iowa, BSN nurses could make upwards of $71,670 yearly.