Top LPN Programs in Iowa

Last Updated/Verified: July 12, 2021

High-school graduates in Iowa looking for an alternative to a four-year Registered Nurse degree should consider a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program. It can take as little as nine months, with Iowa LPN programs blending classroom-based learning and hands-on experience. Those that pass the state licensure exam can work in hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes, and other healthcare organizations in Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, and elsewhere in the state.

LPNs in Iowa: Quick Facts

  • Iowa high-school grads can become an LPN in around 9-12 months.
  • The average base salary for an Iowa LPN is $27.04 per hour or $48,535 a year, according to Indeed.com.
  • The average overtime salary for an LPN in Iowa is $7,500 a year.
  • The most popular benefits for LPNs in Iowa are 401(k)s, paid-time-off, employee referral programs, and tuition/license reimbursement.
  • The employment outlook for LPNs in Iowa is positive. There will be a 14.6 percent increase in job opportunities from 2018 to 2028, according to Projections Central.

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Overview of LPN Schools in Iowa

The Iowa State Board of Nursing (IBON) addresses educational and employment challenges for nurses in Iowa and regulates the state’s nursing schools. At the time of writing this guide, IBON had approved 15 practical nursing programs in Iowa.

High-school graduates who enroll at an LPN school will learn skills such as:

  • Human health and growth development
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition management
  • Home health management
  • Long-term care
  • Patient care
  • Wound care
  • Vital signs collection
  • General nursing skills

Students learn the foundations of nursing on an LPN program then more specific skills. These skills include maternity care, pediatric care, and mental health.

Accreditation

Three organizations recognize LPN schools in the state:

  • IBON
  • The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which provides accreditation to learning institutions in the central United States, including colleges and community colleges. It is one of seven regional accreditation agencies in the U.S.
  • The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), which regulates the quality of nursing programs at various educational levels, including practical nursing courses.

LPN Admissions Requirements

Iowa LPN programs typically require:

  • A high-school diploma, GED, or equivalent with a GPA of 2.75+.
  • The prerequisite courses to enroll in that LPN program. Applicants typically need a C+ average.
  • A good score on the ATI TEAS test.

Graduates applying to LPN programs in the state need to pass a drug test and criminal background check. Each school in Iowa has specific admissions and educational requirements.

Tuition & Costs

Student nurses in the State of Iowa cover the costs of tuition and program supplies, as well as accommodation and living expenses when living on campus. Students can reduce these costs with grants or other types of financial aid. Some healthcare providers reimburse students tuition and other expenses if they work for the organization after graduation.

Tuition fees in Iowa vary depending on the learning provider. Des Moines Area Community College, for example, charges students around $170 per credit for its practical nursing program. (Approximate fees for the 2020-2021 academic year.)

LPN Licensing Requirements in Iowa

High-school graduates in Iowa have several options for becoming a nurse. However, enrolling in an LPN program and passing the state licensure examination is the quickest method. Students who get an LPN certification can become a nurse in 9-12 months, on average, significantly faster than studying for a four-year RN degree. Upon graduation, licensed practical nurses can find work at local hospitals, medical centers, doctors’ offices, and long-term care facilities.

Checklist to become an Iowa LPN

  1. Get a licensed practical nurse certification from a school recognized by IBON, NECHE, or ACEN.
  2. Get a CPR card.
  3. Pass the NCLEX-PN exam (see below) and get a license from IBON.
  4. Find a job with a healthcare provider in Iowa.

NCLEX-PN Exam

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the state licensure exam for practical nurses in Iowa through IBON. This exam, the National Council Licensure Examination for Practice Nurses, or NCLEX-PN, ensures students have the required skills for a career in the nursing sector. Those studying for an LPN program must pass the NCLEX-PN before receiving a license from IBON.

LPN Reciprocity

  • An LPN from another state can work as a nurse in Iowa via ‘endorsement’ if they have a valid nursing license.
  • An LPN from another country can work as a nurse in Iowa if they pass the NCLEX-PN exam and receive an evaluation from the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS).

LPN Salaries in Iowa

LPNs, on average, earn $27.04 per hour or $48,535 a year, according to research from Indeed. Entry-level LPNs earn an average of $45,684, while those with over a decade of experience earn $52,180.

These are the most populous metropolitan areas in Iowa with the highest average LPN salaries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  1. Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA ($48,570 per year)
  2. Iowa City, IA ($48,020)
  3. Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL ($45,280)
  4. Sioux City, IA-NE-SD ($45,150)
  5. Cedar Rapids, IA ($44,300)

Job Outlook for LPNs in Iowa

Iowa has suffered from nursing shortages in recent years, a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, healthcare employers offer LPN graduates various benefits to join their organizations. These benefits include generous paid-time-off, sign-on bonuses, referral programs, and tuition fee/student loan reimbursement.

The job outlook in the state is positive. Projections Central predicts a significant increase in job opportunities for LPNs in Iowa (14.6 percent) from 2018 to 2028.

Top LPN Schools in Iowa

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC)
1100 7th St
Des Moines, IA 50314
(515) 964-6324

This program provides intensive training to students in classroom and clinical environments, focusing on the nursing skills required to pass the NCLEX-PN. DMACC gives high-school students a faster route into nursing than those studying for an RN degree.

Kirkwood Community College
6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
(319) 398-5563

Kirkwood Community College prepares its students for the NCLEX-RN exam with a combination of practical and classroom training. Students at Kirkwood can graduate, receive an LPN certification, and land their first job in nursing in around 12 months, making this course an attractive option for those who don’t want to study for four years at college.

Eastern Iowa Community College
101 W 3rd St
Davenport, IA 52801
(563) 441-4256

This reputable community college has a high pass rate and offers nursing students academic and hands-on experience. Students here learn a broad range of nursing education skills and get jobs at hospitals, medical centers, and long-term care facilities. The program teaches skills such as document management, mental health management, and patient care.

Indian Hills Community College
525 Grandview Ave
Ottumwa, IA 52501
(641) 683-5164

The LPN program at Indian Hills Community College lets high-school grads become a nurse in around a year. Students learn traditional healthcare skills like nursing care, as well as soft skills like communication and working with a team. These skills increase the chances of graduates finding work in a local healthcare environment.

Iowa Western Community College
(Clarinda campus)
923 E Washington St
Clarinda, IA 51632
(800) 432-5852, ext 3392

Spread across three campus sites, Iowa Western Community College’s Clarinda base provides ample educational opportunities for high-school graduates in the state. Its LPN program welcomes students who want to become qualified nurses and promotes learning outcomes that increase job opportunities.

Hawkeye Community College
1501 E Orange Rd
Waterloo, IA 50701
(319) 296-4013

This intensive full-time program in Waterloo blends academics with clinical experience for better educational outcomes. Graduates from Hawkeye Community College get jobs at hospitals, nursing homes, medical centers, and other healthcare organizations across the state.

North Iowa Area Community College
(Mason City campus)
500 College Drive
Mason City, IA 50401
(641) 422-4216

A full-time LPN program that combines classroom-based teaching and hands-on medical experience before preparing students for the NCLEX-PN. Embracing the latest science and technology, high-school grads that enroll at North Iowa Area Community College can become practical nurses in around a year.

Iowa Valley Community College District 
3700 S Center St
Marshalltown, IA 50158
(641) 752-7106

Iowa Valley Community College District, spread across two campuses, offers both nursing associate degrees and LPNs. Many high-school graduates study the latter at its Marshalltown base and develop the skills required for the NCLEX-PN exam in the quickest possible timeframe.

Western Iowa Tech Community College
(Council Bluffs campus)
2700 College Rd
Council Bluffs, IA 51503
(800) 352-4649

Western Iowa Tech Community College provides students with various educational opportunities at a modern campus in Council Bluffs. Students develop the skills required for different healthcare scenarios.

Southwestern Community College
1501 W Townline St
Creston, IA 50801
(641) 782-7081

A full-time LPN course that helps students get careers in the healthcare sector. Those that enroll in this course learn various nursing skills and work with patients at hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and other locations.

Additional Resources

Learn more about becoming an Iowa LPN:

Iowa State Board of Nursing (IBON) regulates educational opportunities in Iowa and administers the state licensure examination. LPN students need to pass this exam to work with a local healthcare provider.
400 SW 8th St Suite, B Suite B, Des Moines, IA 50309

Higher Learning Commission (HLC) provides accreditation to nursing programs in the central U.S., including those listed in the previous section.
230 S LaSalle St suite 7-500, Chicago, IL 60604

National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the NCLEX-PN exam for Iowa students through IBON.
111 East Wacker Drive, Suite 2900, Chicago, IL 60601-4277

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) ensures the educational quality of post-secondary learning providers in the U.S.
3390 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30326