8 Best ADN Programs in Iowa – (2-Year RN Programs)

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

What can you do after you graduate from one of the ADN programs in Iowa? Plenty! An associate degree in nursing will prepare you to take the NCLEX-RN exam, and once you pass that, you’ll find employment opportunities throughout the Hawkeye State. You’ll make $69,370 a year working in one of Iowa’s hospitals, physician practices, or clinics, and demand for your services will increase by 12 percent over the next decade. If you decide to go back to school, your class credits will transfer easily because most ADN curricula are designed to be stepping stones to a nursing bachelor’s degree. Find out more with this list of the 8 best ADN programs in Iowa.


Based on our Ranking Methodology, Based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the 8 best nursing schools for ADN programs in Iowa. You can complete most of these programs in 2 years.

1. Kirkwood Community College - Cedar Rapids

Program Details: You’ll begin clinical experiences the very first term you enroll in Kirkwood Community College’s 2-year nursing program in Iowa. The 86-credit program consists of prerequisites and core nursing courses such as “Health Assessment,” “Foundations of Nursing I & II,” and “Advanced Concepts of Nursing.” Many of your core nursing classes will be accompanied by courses focusing on supervised laboratory, simulation, and real-life clinical experiences; thus, you’ll take “Concepts of Nursing Care” and “Concepts of Nursing Care Clinical” in the same term.

Kirkwood’s Katz Family Healthcare Simulation Center is a 12,000-square-foot facility equipped with seven patient care areas replicating an emergency room, an ICU, and other patient care units; you’ll learn new hands-on skills alongside nurses and paramedics brushing up on theirs. Your final term concludes with an intensive twelve to sixteen-week preceptorship following an experienced nursing professional at one of eight area hospitals.

Why Choose This Program

• You won’t pay an application fee when you apply to Kirkwood Community College‘s ADN program in Iowa.
• The first two terms of this program lead to a Practical Nursing diploma, which qualifies you to take the NCLEX-PN exam.
• Kirkwood Community College’s first-time NCLEX-RN pass rates are consistently above 90 percent.

2. Indian Hills Community College - Ottumwa

Program Details: Indian Hills Community College admits prospective registered nurses into its 83-credit ADN program each fall. The program is taught at the college’s Ottumwa and Centerville Campuses and takes approximately 21 months to complete. Like other ADN programs in Iowa, your Indian Hills course load will consist of general education coursework, prerequisites, and core nursing courses like “Fundamentals of Nursing A & B,” “Acute and Chronic Nursing Problems A & B,” and “Complex Health Problems A & B.” Your final “Preparation for Entry into Practice” course incorporates a clinical preceptorship during which you will participate in direct patient care.” You’ll graduate from this program with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing.

IHCC has a brand new nursing simulation center where you’ll be taught the hands-on skills you’ll use routinely once you become a registered nurse. Clinical rotations take place at Ottumwa Regional Health Center and other healthcare facilities throughout the college’s 10-county district. Most clinical experiences are scheduled Mondays through Thursdays, but there may be some Saturday assignments as well.

Why Choose This Program

• Indian Hills Community College has articulation agreements in place with William Penn University and the University of Iowa School, which will make it easy for you to transfer your associate degree credits should you wish to continue your nursing education.
• IHCC offers a hybrid option for nursing students: Lecture courses will be delivered online, although all labs, clinicals, and testing will take place in person.
• IHCC uses a tiered model nursing education model that prepares interested students to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam following their first year of study.

3. North Iowa Area Community College - Mason City

Program Details: You can enter North Iowa Area Community College’s 72.5-credit ADN program in Iowa either in the spring or in the fall. To be considered for this program, you must pass certified nurse aide training and score 19 or higher on the ACT exam.

Completing prerequisites and the basic nursing curriculum will take you five terms. A four-semester course called “Nursing I-IV” teaches you how to apply evidence-based interventions to meet patients’ healthcare needs over their lifetimes. This ongoing nursing course also includes opportunities to participate in patient care experiences in clinical settings such as gerontology long-term care, pediatrics, maternal-newborn, and similar healthcare environments. You’ll master hands-on skills in NIACC’s Health Simulation Center, a four-room facility equipped with life-like manikins that replicate the essential life functions of patients ranging in age from newborns to senior citizens.

Why Choose This Program

• This 2-year nursing program in Iowa offers licensed practical nurses advanced placement into its ADN program.
• NIACC participates in Iowa’s “RN to BSN 3+1” agreement, which allows NIACC ADN graduates to seamlessly transfer to the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing to finish their BSN degree in just one year.
• NIACC also has articulation agreements in place with Allen College, Briar Cliff University, Clarke University, Coe College, Dordt College, Grand View University, Iowa State University, Iowa Wesleyan University, Mercy College of Health Sciences, Mount Mercy University, St. Ambrose University, University of Dubuque, and William Penn University that facilitate the acceptance of its ADN graduates into these institutions’ BSN programs.

4. Iowa Central Community College - Fort Dodge

Program Details: Students who enroll in Iowa Central Community College’s ADN program will benefit from 720 hours of clinical training, making this one of the very best ADN programs in Iowa since a multiplicity of clinical experiences are key to successful RN practice. Before you begin working directly with patients, you’ll hone your practical skills at the William G. & Marlys Smith Simulation Center, which is equipped with seven simulation labs replicating a medical-surgical room, a labor and delivery room, a nursery, a pediatric room, an apartment setting, an ambulance simulator, and an emergency department. You’ll participate in clinical experiences at medical centers, hospitals, clinics, and community agencies throughout Webster, Buena Vista, and Hamilton Counties.

This 78-credit, 2-year RN program in Iowa is offered at the college’s campuses in Fort Dodge, Storm Lake, and Webster City. The program includes a prerequisite “Nurse Aide” course as well as two “RN Capstone” classes, in which you’ll prepare for the NCLEX-RN examination and review nursing fundamentals to ease your transition into the registered nursing field. Other core nursing courses include “Nursing Theory I, II, & III” and six clinical practicums.

Why Choose This Program

• ICCC’s William G. & Marlys Smith Simulation Center is so state-of-the-art that physicians, nurses, and other local healthcare professionals use it to brush up on their own skills.
• Iowa Central Community College offers LPNs advanced standing into its ADN program upon successful completion of a third-semester “Advance Standing Bridge” course.
• Graduates of this associate nursing degree program consistently earn NCLEX-RN pass rates above 90 percent.

5. Southeastern Community College - West Burlington

Program Details: You can start Southeastern Iowa Community College’s 85-credit ADN track in the summer, fall, or spring. The program is taught at the college’s two campuses in Burlington and Keokuk. Like other 2-year RN programs in Iowa, its curriculum includes prerequisites, core nursing courses, skills labs, and clinical experiences at healthcare facilities throughout Des Moines and Lee Counties.

SCC’s ADN degree builds upon the foundations of practical nursing: All students take a “PN Issues and Trends” during their third semester of core nursing coursework. Other core nursing classes include “Role Transition,” “RN Issues and Trends,” and “Nursing I, II, III, & IV.” Southeastern Community College’s Clinical Simulation Lab is housed in a two-story facility equipped with technology designed to replicate a virtual hospital.

Why Choose This Program

• Southeastern Community College offers daytime and evening nursing coursework to accommodate the needs of working students.
• SCC has articulation agreements with other schools, including Iowa Wesleyan University, the University of Iowa, and Mount Mercy, if you want to earn a BSN after completing your ADN degree.
• The Great River Health Foundation offers grants of up to $9,000 to selected students enrolled in this program.

6. Northeast Iowa Community College - Calmar & Peosta

Program Details: Northeast Iowa Community College only accepts applicants who’ve completed certified nurse aide training into its 82-credit ADN program in Iowa. The program is taught at the college’s campuses in Calmar and Peosta and accepts new students in the fall and the spring. You’ll learn clinical skills and sharpen your critical thinking faculties in NICC’s Health Simulation Laboratories, which have been set up to duplicate an emergency medical service ambulance, an emergency room, a maternity suite, and other clinical settings.

You’ll begin participating in clinical experiences in your very first semester as part of your “Introduction to Nursing Concepts” course. Other core nursing classes include “Introduction to Nursing Care of Adults I & II,” “Advanced Nursing Care of Adults,” and “Psychiatric Nursing Care.” Northeast Iowa Community College also participates in a concurrent enrollment program that allows students to complete ADN work at NICC while simultaneously pursuing a BSN at Upper Iowa University.

Why Choose This Program

• You’ll be able to transfer 64 credits from your Northeast Iowa Community College ADN degree toward an RN-to-BSN degree at Emmaus Bible College, Clarke University, the University of Iowa, Kaplan University, Allen College, and Northwestern College in Iowa; Clarkson College in Nebraska; and Central Methodist University in Missouri.
• LPNs accepted into this program will be granted advanced standing and join the traditional ADN students in the second year of core nursing coursework upon completing the “Transitioning from Practical into Associate Degree Nursing” course.
• Graduates of NICC’s ADN program have a 100 percent job placement rate.

7. Southwestern Community College - Creston

Program Details: Passing the NCLEX-PN exam is a requirement for enrolling in Southwestern Community College’s RN program. At the end of the first year of this 81-credit 2-year RN program in Iowa, you'll receive an LPN diploma. However, you cannot continue with the second year of classes toward your associate degree unless you are a licensed practical nurse, and admission into the RN portion of the curriculum is not guaranteed.

Many of SCC’s core nursing courses are divided into two sections that you’ll take one year apart. Thus, you’ll take “Mental Health Nursing I” in the LPN year of the curriculum and “Mental Health Nursing II” in the RN year. Other core nursing courses include “Maternal Child Health I & II” and “Medical Surgical Nursing I, II, & III.”

Classes begin each year in mid-August. You’ll learn hands-on skills in Southwestern Community College’s Simulation Center, which contains three virtual hospital inpatient rooms outfitted with ventilators, cardiac equipment, ultrasound devices, and other task trainers, as well as high-fidelity manikins capable of replicating various states of health. Clinical rotations and preceptorships occur at healthcare facilities in Creston and other communities throughout Union County.

Why Choose This Program

• Southwestern Community College also admits LPNs who have not taken its first-year nursing classes directly into its second-year associate degree program.
• SCC has transfer agreements with Clarkson College, Graceland University, Mercy College of Health Sciences, Nebraska Wesleyan University, the University of Iowa, and William Penn University that make it easy for students to transfer credits toward an RN-to-BSN program.
• 95 to 100 percent of Southwestern Community College’s ADN graduates find employment as registered nurses within a few months of graduation.

8. Iowa Lakes Community College - Emmetsburg

Program Details: Iowa Lakes Community College’s 76-credit ADN program in Iowa is a five-term curriculum that accepts new students in the summer and fall semesters. Your core nursing coursework will include “Nursing Concepts I-IV,” “Behavioral Health Concepts,” and two semesters of statistics. The college’s nursing simulation lab, where you’ll learn hands-on skills, features replicas of three hospital rooms as well as a nursing station. You’ll participate in clinical nursing experiences at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare settings throughout Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth, and Palo Alto counties.

Why Choose This Program

• Iowa Lakes Community College’s curriculum is grounded in holistic nursing, a specialty that emphasizes the integration of physical, mental, and spiritual components to help patients attain wellness.
• Since Iowa Lakes Community College serves a predominantly rural district, much of the curriculum taught by this ADN program in Iowa focuses on the healthcare challenges RNs face serving patients in sparsely populated areas.
• ADN students at ILCC consistently have pass rates of 100 percent on the NCLEX-RN examination.


Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

ADN Programs in Other States