Bachelors of Science in Nursing in Iowa

As Iowa’s healthcare needs shift dramatically, medical facilities and the Iowa Board of Nursing increasingly favor BSN degree programs as the preferred path to RN licensure in the state.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette notes that as the state’s aging population grows, more BSN-educated nurses are needed for home visits, ambulatory care and to care for patients in long-term care facilities, making Bachelor of Science in Nursing prepared nurses attractive to employers.

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This trend can also be seen in graduation data released by the Board in 2012, which shows the number of students graduating from BSN programs increased by an average of 80 per year during the six-year period prior to the study, even while the number of BSN programs in the state remained constant at 19. Additionally, the percentage of students graduating from BSN programs increased from 42% to 46% over that same period, while the number of ADN program graduates decreased from 58% to 54%.

Not only are BSN-educated RNs better suited for employment in Iowa’s healthcare market, those enrolling in these programs can also take advantage of state incentives such as Title VIII grants. An American Association of Colleges of Nursing report notes that over $44,000 dollars in grants were awarded to Iowa’s nursing students in 2013 alone.

Enrolling in an Online or On-Campus BSN Degree Program in Iowa

Academic institutions in the following cities offer campus-based pre-licensure BSN programs as a pathway to RN licensure, many of which also offer partial or full online components to accommodate working students or those making a career change:

  • Waterloo
  • Sioux City
  • Dubuque
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Sioux Center
  • Des Moines
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Decorah
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Orange City
  • Davenport
  • Iowa City

Prerequisites for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program

There are a few entry requirements schools generally expect prospective students to meet before enrolling in a BSN degree programs, such as:

  • Complete an admissions application
  • Submit official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended, if any
  • Submit two letters of recommendation
  • Students with or without a prior bachelor’s degree in another field must successfully complete a Certified Nurses Aid course and exam
  • Complete 64 or more semester hours of academic credit prior to beginning upper division coursework, including all prescribed coursework


  • Hold a baccalaureate or higher degree in a non-nursing discipline and have completed designated general education courses

BSN Program Course Outline

After enrolling in a BSN program, students must complete general education classes before they register for nursing-specific coursework. This can happen in two ways: at some institutions, students apply to the BSN program prior to taking these lower level courses, while others require students to complete general coursework first and then apply for upper-level BSN admission.

Most programs require students to complete 120 credits prior to graduation, in coursework such as:

General Education:

  • Oral Communication
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Lifespan Growth & Development
  • Social Science Electives
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Microbiology with Lab
  • Nutrition
  • Intro to Statistics

Professional Nursing Education:

  • Introduction to Professional Nursing
  • Pathophysiology
  • Fundamentals of Clinical Nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Maternal-Newborn Nursing
  • Aging Adult Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Professional Issues & Trends
  • Community & Public Health Nursing
  • Nursing Leadership & Management

Clinical Experience

Coursework is complemented with clinical experience, generally completed through a rotation in a local hospital or clinic in partnership with their academic institution.

Below are a few of the medical facilities with which Iowa BSN programs partner for clinical rotations:

  • Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, IA
  • Cedar Valley Medical Specialists in Waterloo, IA
  • Foot Care and Community Screening Clinic in partnership with the Salvation Army
  • UnityPoint Health in Cedar Rapids, IA

Becoming Licensed and Entering the Nursing Field as a BSN-Educated RN in Iowa

The Iowa State Board of Nursing oversees and approves all nursing licensure and education programs in the state. All students will need to apply for an RN license, take the NCLEX-RN exam and submit fingerprints to the board prior to approval for licensure.

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Taking the NCLEX-RN Exam

After completing the required coursework, students looking to obtain an Iowa RN certification through an online BSN degree program will need to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. The following are steps graduates must complete before taking the exam:

  1. Official transcripts sent to the Iowa Board of Nursing by the student’s degree-awarding institution
  2. Request and return a fingerprint card to the Board
  3. Fill out the Board’s RN application here and send a $143 application fee
  4. Register and pay the $200 testing fee to take the NCLEX-RN exam here.
  5. Candidates will receive confirmation that the board has approved testing, then they may complete the exam
  6. Upon passing the exam, an Iowa Board of Nursing Registered Nurse license will be sent by mail

Opportunities for BSN-Educated RNs in Iowa

According to, Bachelor of Science in Nursing prepared nurses in Iowa earn a median pay of roughly $13,000 more per year than their ADN qualified peers. In addition, the number of nurse residency programs in the state is growing, helping BSN graduates make a smooth career transition.

One such program is offered through the UI network of Hospitals and Clinics and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Over 12 months, new nurses attend lectures and receive hands-on learning experiences in topics ranging from Evidence-Based Practice to Dealing with Death and Dying.

Not only are they ideal candidates for such residency programs, BSN-prepared nurses are also preferred for a variety of higher-level nursing positions in Iowa after residency, including the following:

  • Administrative Hospitalist
  • Clinical Trials Nurse

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