5 Best RN to BSN Programs in Iowa (Online & Campus) – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org

Working as a registered nurse (RN) in Iowa can be incredibly rewarding, but in today’s healthcare climate, preference is given to RNs who have the most education and experience. For that reason, RN to BSN programs in Iowa are gaining popularity. These programs will build upon what you learned in your ADN or diploma program to provide you with new skills and abilities, and they do it in a flexible way that fits your busy lifestyle. There are nine nursing schools across Iowa offering these outstanding programs, and we have ranked the top five for your consideration.

Online RN to BSN Programs in Iowa: What You Need to Know?

Because RN to BSN programs are geared toward working RNs, flexibility is important. For this reason, online RN to BSN programs in IA are by far the most popular options among Iowa’s working nurses. Online programs allow you to progress at your own pace and on your own time.

ACEN/CCNE Accredited & Approved by Iowa Board of Nursing: The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are national groups that set exceedingly high standards for RN to BSN programs. Because these programs are so rigorous, employers prefer to hire nurses who have completed them. As such, the program you choose should be accredited by one of these two bodies and approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing.

Coursework: RN to BSN coursework will build upon your ADN or diploma program and provide more specialized education. For example, many of the courses focus on the ethics and law associated with nursing, research, and even nursing management and leadership, all of which are important for improving the nursing industry across the state of Iowa. You may also participate in clinicals, labs, or simulations depending on your specific program requirements.

Sample Courses
Intro to Baccalaureate Nursing, Professional Writing, Introduction to Nursing Research, Health Policy, Law, and Ethics, Community & Public Health Nursing, Nursing Informatics, Collaboration & Communication in Healthcare, Nursing Leadership, Chronic Illness, and Application of Evidence-Based Practice

Clinical Training: Clinical training is not a requirement for RN to BSN degrees in this state, but individual schools may require it. During clinical training, you will put your classroom (or online) knowledge to the test working with patients in a partner medical facility.

Program Length: Program length varies depending on the school and program you choose. For example, a traditional on-campus program may take 18 months to complete while an online program gives you more flexibility and allows completion in anywhere from one to two years. On average, it takes 16 months to complete an RN to BSN program in the state of IA.

Typical Admission Requirements: Admission requirements vary from school to school. As an example of what to expect, you will need to provide the following in order to join the program at Allen College:

• A minimum cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 on a standard 4.0 scale for all post-secondary courses;
• Proof of computer literacy;
• Your current RN license; and
• Proof of completion of general education requirements set forth by the school.

What are the 5 Best Accredited RN to BSN Programs in Iowa for 2024?

(Based on our ranking methodology, the following are the 5 best RN-to-BSN programs in Iowa (Online & Campus).)

1) Allen College, Waterloo

Type: Online

Program Overview: Allen College has a beautiful campus which is located in Waterloo. With 90 years of rich history in healthcare education, nursing students thrive in its friendly and warm environment. The RN to BSN is an online program that offers part time as well as full-time study options. Clinical training can be conveniently completed closer to home in the presence of a preceptor. You can start this program either in Fall or Spring, provided you hold a current license as a registered nurse. To graduate you must complete 124 credits, out of which 30 are core nursing courses, 54 credits are general education courses and 40 credits can be transferred from your previous college experience.

Key Highlights

• Academic achievement, work experience, extra-curricular activities, leadership, community service and diversity are some of the admission criteria, the college reviews as part of its holistic admission policy.
• Being known for its commitment towards community service, nursing students at Allen College can complete special courses focused on service learning and graduate with honors. These voluntary activities are facilitated by the Anne Christensen Doyle Center for Engagement, Learning and Leadership.

2) Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids

Type: Online & Campus

Program Overview: Located in the picturesque Cedar Rapids, Mount Mercy University is a Catholic liberal arts university. It offers two convenient options to advance your career with an RN to BSN degree.

Online: The online program is offered with nine start dates, so you have the flexibility to start whenever you are ready. While you will complete the coursework entirely online, opportunities to network with faculty and peers are provided through discussion forums and projects. It takes about 18 to 24 months of full-time study to complete this program. You can transfer up to 63 credits from your previous degree and complete 30 credits in core nursing courses at Mount Mercy.

Campus: If you are someone who prefers one-on-one instructions, then this on-campus RN to BSN course in Iowa can be a good option. With two start dates, in Spring and Fall and an accelerated format, the program offers appreciable convenience and flexibility. Classes are offered in the evenings and over the weekends, allowing you to carry on with other commitments. Up to 61.5 credit hours can be transferred towards the BSN degree, helping you graduate sooner.

Key Highlights

• As an RN to BSN student you can take advantage of benefits enjoyed by traditional students such as free tutoring, writing assistance, and access to learning resources.
• If you hold an accredited bachelor’s degree from any other field along with an associate in nursing, you can transfer up to 93 credits, saving substantial time and money.

3) Grand View University, Des Moines

Type: Online, Hybrid

Program Overview: Grand View University is located in Des Moines, an economically thriving and vibrant city where learning and recreational opportunities are galore. The RN to BSN program in the Hawkeye State is offered in an accelerated format and requires 124 credits to complete. If you study full-time, you can complete this program in about 12 to 14 months. Keeping it fast paced, the program allows you complete a three-credit course in eight weeks, which otherwise typically takes fifteen weeks to complete. To be eligible you must have earned at least a 3.0 in nursing pre-requisites and a hold a current nursing license. Graduation requires achieving a minimum of ‘C; in nursing courses including principles of statistics, foundations of nursing practice and leadership in nursing.

Key Highlights

• Eligible nursing students are provided with an opportunity to be part of Sigma Theta Tau International’s endeavor in advancing healthcare in the world through service, research and leadership.
• The small sized classes of 14 to 15 provide effective mentorship and particularly focus on nursing with care and current skill set development.

4) Clarke University, Dubuque

Type: Online

Program Overview: Clarke University’s Department of Nursing has stayed consistent to its values of education, charity and justice. Added to that, its Dubuque location offers a host of advantages such as small-town calm and amenities of a city. Offering 100% online RN to BSN education in Iowa, the college makes pursuing a bachelor’s program in nursing substantially affordable. Furthermore, with the program beginning every eight weeks, in August, October, January, March and June, you can enroll as per your convenience. A rigorous coursework and strategically placed clinicals prepare you with the most current evidence-based nursing care. Depending on your curriculum requirements you can transfer up to 95 credit hours. Upon graduation, you can advance your career and can take up placements either as a forensic nurse, health educator, infection control nurse or risk management coordinator, to name a few.

Key Highlights

• 100% of Clarke’s nursing graduates find placement upon graduation.
• The program lays emphasis on critical thinking, communication and leadership skills.

5) Saint Ambrose University, Davenport

Type: Online

Program Overview: A 136 years old institution, Saint Ambrose University is deep-rooted in the Catholic tradition. It strives towards providing nursing education that churns out holistic healers. The completely online RN to BSN program can be completed in as little as fifteen months. With each course being of three credits, you will complete them in eight-week sessions. Depending on your curriculum plan, you can transfer up to 68 credits towards your degree. To graduate, you must complete 127 to 135 credits, out of which 27 credits are in core nursing courses such as health assessment across the lifespan, concepts of applied nursing care, chronic illness and palliative nursing care, and leadership in nursing.

Key Highlights

• There are three program plans to choose from; three, four and five semester plans. While the four- semester plan starts in Spring, the three and five semester plans start in Fall.
• Nursing graduates of the college are providing competent patient care in prominent healthcare systems such as Genesis Health system, Mayo Clinic Health System, Baylor University and Rush University Medical Center.



Update on Iowa’s Push for 80 Percent BSN

In an effort to promote better patient care and more positive overall outcomes, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has challenged the healthcare industry to have at least 80% of its RNs educated at the BSN level or above by 2020. The Iowa Center for Nursing Workforce’s annual plan focuses on this push, and in its 2017 report (and subsequent 2018 actions), the group promoted Future Ready Iowa, an organization focused on helping educate the workforce of the future for the benefit of the employees, the employers, and the state as a whole.

The latest Trends in Nursing report available for the state of Iowa shows that despite the IOM challenge, which was issued in 2010, Iowa continues to lag behind. In 2015, there were 25,564 RNs who held ADN or ASN degrees and another 6813 RNs who had a nursing diploma. When compared to the number of RNs who were educated at the baccalaureate level – only 13,621 – it becomes clear that Iowa still has a long way to go. However, with employers offering better salaries for RNs with BSN degrees, and with better employment opportunities, the gap continues to close a little more each year.

How to pay Your RN to BSN in Iowa

One of the primary reasons why RNs fail to pursue bachelor’s degrees is cost. These programs can certainly become expensive, particularly for RNs who are already working full time and providing for themselves and their families. Fortunately, there are several different options for paying for your RN to BSN education in the state of IA.

Grants: Grants are sums of money provided by the federal or Iowa state government that you do not have to repay. They range in value from a few thousand to a few hundred dollars, and you can apply for them by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Loans: Student loans are another option, though you should use these only to bridge the gap between grants, scholarships, and what you can afford to pay for your education out of pocket. Federally-backed loans are by far the most popular, but if you have excellent credit, you may be able to acquire a more affordable loan from your personal bank.

Scholarships: Scholarships are another source of funding that you will not need to repay. They are small sums of money, but you can apply for (and win) numerous scholarships to help you pay for the cost of your education. The Iowa Nurses’ Association is a great source of information about the various scholarships available to you, and you might also check with your school of choice and your employer for even more opportunities.

Employer Assistance Programs: There are a couple different types of employer assistance programs that may help you pay for your RN to BSN education in "The Hawkeye State". In some cases, your employer may offer you tuition reimbursement in exchange for your agreement to work in a certain location or position for a specified time. In other cases, you may receive a small scholarship in much the same way you might receive a bonus.

6 Benefits of Pursuing an RN to BSN in Iowa

Obtaining a higher degree brings about a sense of self-satisfaction and pride, but aside from this, there are six other incredible advantages of earning an RN to BSN degree in Iowa.

1. Expand Your Knowledge and Skills: When it comes to nursing – and to healthcare in general – the more you learn, the more you will be able to do. The ability to make sound decisions quickly is one of the most important parts of providing excellent patient care, and with the new knowledge, skills, and abilities you will learn during the program, you will become more valuable to your patients and your employers.

2. Salary Bump: Of course, more valuable employees tend to earn larger salaries, and the same can be said for RNs in Iowa who pursue higher education. Before earning a BSN degree, RNs across IA earn an average annual salary of $63,030. However, after completing the program, they earn a significantly higher salary of $72,330 a year – a difference of $9,300 annually.

Before RN To BSN After RN to BSN How Much More Will I Earn
(Source: Compiled using data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

3. More Job Openings: Iowa is a sparsely-populated state when compared to others, and this means that job openings can be sparse, as well. This is especially true for RNs who are ADN graduates; there are only around 650 new and replacement jobs available for them across the state each year. However, after completing a BSN program, that number climbs to 1,170, and many of these are in high-demand facilities with excellent hours and pay.

Iowa Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
Annual Openings for BSN Graduates 1,170
Annual Openings for ADN Graduates 650
(Source: Compiled using data from careeronestop.org)

4. Brighter Outlook: In today’s workforce, job outlook is just as concerning as salary in most industries, and nursing is certainly no different. By completing a BSN program, though, you can drastically improve your overall job outlook. Between 2020 and 2030, 1,000 new jobs will open for ADN-educated RNs, representing growth of 10.10%. However, for BSN-educated RNs, there will be 2,260 openings, representing a much higher growth of 13.03%.

10 Year (2020-2030) Job Outlook
Employment New Job Growth
2020 2030 Number %
(Source: Compiled using data from careeronestop.org)

5. Advance Your Career: Many RNs dream of advancing their careers in the future and moving from an overnight shift nurse in a nursing home, for example, to a charge nurse in a world-renowned hospital. RN to BSN degree in the state of IA is an important first step toward these goals, and the knowledge you gather as you study will allow you to apply for many different leadership and research positions.

Advancement Opportunities
Charge Nurse Director of Nursing
Chief Nursing Officer Nurse Educator
Clinical Nurse SpecialistNurse Manager
Clinical Research Nurse Nurse Supervisor

6. Post-RN to BSN Higher Education Options: Of course, if you wish to keep studying after completing your baccalaureate degree, the possibilities are endless. With an MSN or MS degree, which takes an additional two years, you could work as an Administrator or Clinical Leader earning up to $145,680 each year. With a PhD or DNP, which takes up to six additional years, you could become an APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) or even a Health System Executive and earn as much as $170,090 each year, even in a relatively small state like Iowa.

Type of Degree Length Roles and Responsibilities Salary
Master’s Degree (MSN/MS)Up to 2 yearsAdministrator, Certified Nurse Midwife, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical Leader, Clinical Nurse Specialist & Nurse Practitioner$93,550 - $145,680
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree4 to 6 yearsAdvanced Practice Registered Nurse, College Faculty, Nursing School Dean, Health System Executive, Researcher, & Senior Policy Analyst$93,550 - $170,090

RN to BSN Programs in Nearby States
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Wisconsin

  • RN to BSN Programs in other States

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