Best Nursing Schools in Iowa

Updated on January 12, 2024

At a Glance

  • Iowa has over 25 nursing schools offering various nursing programs
  • The top nursing schools in Iowa are Allen College, Briar Cliff University, Clark College, and Coe College
  • Nursing programs in Iowa have different acceptance rates, tuition costs, and average salaries
  • Nursing degrees include ADN, BSN, MSN, and DNP, with various specialization options

Iowa has over 25 nursing schools that offer various nursing programs, from associate degrees to doctorate degrees. The nursing field in Iowa continues to grow as the demand for qualified nurses increases. Choosing the right nursing program and school is an important decision that can impact your nursing career. This article reviews 10 of the top nursing schools in Iowa based on factors like acceptance rate, graduation rate, tuition costs, and more.

Allen College

Location: Waterloo, IA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 71%

Tuition: $28,960

Avg Salary: $67,930


Allen College offers several nursing programs including BSN, MSN, DNP, and online RN-BSN. Allen has been educating nurses for over 90 years and has an excellent reputation in Iowa. The college focuses on interactive learning with simulation labs and small class sizes. Graduates have high job placement rates and score well on the NCLEX exam.

Briar Cliff University

Location: Sioux City, IA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 71%

Tuition: $32,182

Avg Salary: $65,500


Briar Cliff is a small Catholic university that provides undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees. Nursing students get hands-on practice at local hospitals and clinics. Small class sizes allow for individual attention from experienced nursing faculty. Briar Cliff has a brand new Nursing Arts Center with advanced simulation labs.

Clark College

Location: Dubuque, IA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 68%

Tuition: $26,070

Avg Salary: $63,960


Clarke University takes a holistic approach to nursing education that focuses on health promotion and knowledge integration. The BSN program includes cutting-edge simulation labs and 190 hours of clinical experience. Graduate degrees are also available, including Nurse Educator and Family Nurse Practitioner.

Coe College

Location: Cedar Rapids, IA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 70%

Avg SAT Score: 1110

Tuition: $45,000

Avg Salary: $65,300


Coe College is regularly ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the Midwest. Nursing students get clinical experience across various settings in Cedar Rapids and nearby Iowa City. The college emphasizes learning through research projects, internships, and study abroad programs.

Dordt University

Location: Sioux Center, IA

Rating: 6/10

Acceptance Rate: 83%

Tuition: $33,400

Avg Salary: $63,200


Dordt University is a Christian college with a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Despite being founded just 10 years ago, Dordt’s nursing graduates have a 100% career placement rate. Students benefit from the program’s strong focus on clinical skills and Christian ethics.

Grand View University

Location: Des Moines, IA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 68%

Tuition: $31,448

Avg Salary: $67,600


Grand View University is considered one of the best nursing schools in the Midwest. The BSN program includes a state-of-the-art simulation hospital along with 400+ hours of hands-on clinical experience. Students can enroll in the Direct Entry MSN program to become an advanced practice nurse with only one additional year of study.

Graceland University

Location: Lamoni, IA

Rating: 6/10

Acceptance Rate: 57%

Tuition: $31,000

Avg Salary: $61,850


Graceland University has educated nurses for over 50 years from its small town campus. Nursing students develop close connections with faculty and get to work alongside peers across multiple healthcare fields. New simulation manikins and a focus on interprofessional teams help prepare Graceland nurses for success.

Mount Mercy University

Location: Cedar Rapids, IA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 71%

Tuition: $34,968

Avg Salary: $64,100


Mount Mercy offers various BSN program tracks for traditional students, working nurses, veterans, and more. Nurses graduate ready to provide care across settings with a holistic perspective focused on service and ethics. Small class sizes, online options, and grants/scholarships make earning a BSN affordable.

St. Ambrose University

Location: Davenport, IA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 68%

Tuition: $35,500

Avg Salary: $70,160


The nursing school at St. Ambrose has been educating nurses for over 35 years. The BSN curriculum includes cutting edge simulation labs and over 800 hours of clinical experience. Nursing students excel on the NCLEX exam with a 95% first-time pass rate. St. Ambrose also offers MSN, DNP and online RN-BSN programs.

University of Dubuque

Location: Dubuque, IA

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 79%

Tuition: $32,350

Avg Salary: $65,100


Founded in 1852, the University of Dubuque is Iowa’s oldest college. The small private school offers a traditional four-year BSN with an emphasis on clinical skills and holistic nursing practice. Graduate programs are also available, including MSN degrees to become a nurse educator or administrator.

Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main nursing degrees?

The most common nursing degrees are the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Nurses can begin working after earning an ADN or BSN. Graduate degrees allow nurses to specialize and take on leadership/advanced practice roles.

How long does it take to earn a nursing degree?

ADN degrees take 2 years, BSN programs usually take 4 years, MSN degrees take 2 additional years after a BSN, and DNP programs take about 3 years post-MSN. Accelerated “direct entry” MSN options allow non-nurses to become advanced practice nurses in about 3 years.

What is the job outlook for nurses in Iowa?

Nursing jobs are rapidly growing in Iowa. The state has an aging population demanding more healthcare. Nursing shortages across rural areas also drive job growth. The Iowa Workforce Development agency predicts the state will need over 10,000 additional nurses by 2026. Great job prospects and competitive salaries await future Iowa nurses.

How much do nurses earn in Iowa?

The average registered nurse salary in Iowa is over $63,000 per year. Nurse practitioners earn approximately $111,000 annually on average. Other high paying nursing roles include certified nurse midwives ($108k) and clinical nurse specialists ($106k).

What prereqs are required to apply to nursing school?

Typical prerequisites include biology, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, statistics, psychology, and human growth/development courses. Specific requirements differ by program. Taking prerequisite classes at community colleges can save on tuition costs before transferring.

What standards should I look for in choosing a nursing school?

The main things to evaluate are the school’s accreditation, NCLEX pass rates, reputation, cost, available specializations, clinical/simulation practice, student-to-faculty ratio, and job placement rates after graduation. Finding the right nursing school fit will help lead to a successful career.

How competitive is nursing school admissions?

Nursing programs are competitive across the country due to rising demand coupled with limited program capacity and nursing faculty shortages. The average admission rate for BSN programs is around 70% nationwide. Developing relationships with advisors, maintaining a high GPA, gaining healthcare experience, and highlighting passion for nursing help applications stand out.

What financial aid options exist for nursing school?

Many options can help pay for nursing school beyond savings and loans, including scholarships, grants, federal funding, loan repayment programs, and tuition reimbursement programs through employers. Attending accredited, public and state universities also keeps costs lower for in-state residents compared to private options.

Can I work while completing a nursing degree?

Many students work at least part-time while enrolled in nursing school, especially in BSN and MSN programs. Maintaining school-program-work balance is challenging yet possible. Look for employer tuition reimbursement programs and flexible healthcare roles like nursing aide positions that reinforce classroom/clinical learning.

Are there 100% online nursing degree options?

Over 1,500 nursing programs now feature online components, with about a third offering full online degrees – mostly at the graduate level. Online MSN and DNP programs are great for working nurses. Many accelerated RN-BSN completion programs also deliver courses strictly online with just clinical portions done locally.

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Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.

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