Use the school listings to assess the costs, curricula, and time commitment of each concentration. Find out how online RN to MSN programs in Iowa are structured. And learn why our ranking of the cheapest Iowa RN to MSN programs doesn’t mean that much!
New to the state? Have a look at the sections on Iowa’s healthcare landscape and jobs for Iowa RN to MSN graduates. We’ve included links to useful healthcare reports, job & wage data, hospital rankings, local job boards, and IA nursing associations & organizations.
Online RN to MSN Programs in Iowa
Both of the Iowa names in our school listings offer online RN to MSN programs, but that’s where the similarities end. Here’s a short summary of the differences between the two options:
- Allen College: Allen only accepts RNs with an ADN and a non-nursing bachelor’s degree into the online MSN. The non-NP concentrations are primarily online, but the NP specialties are hybrid—you’ll be expected to attend some face-to-face meetings and participate in a 3-day residency. Check with the program coordinator for complete details on each concentration. Allen will consider out-of-state applicants, but students must have an Iowa RN license. In addition, the college cannot guarantee enrollment or clinical & practicum placements for out-of-state residents. Again, talk to the program coordinator before you apply.
- Graceland University: Graceland’s RN to BSN to MSN is not 100% online—it includes at least one on-campus focus session in Independence, MO (2-3 days). This is held in conjunction with the MSN’s Advanced Practice Competencies Lab course. On the other hand, clinical practicum experiences can be completed in the student’s local community. Be sure to read the state authorization language on the School of Nursing homepage before you apply. Graceland cannot accept students from certain states.
Cheapest RN to MSN Programs in Iowa
This ranking of the most affordable Iowa RN to MSN programs is based on per credit graduate tuition rates. But it’s very unfair of us to compare the two! You’ll see that they have different admissions requirements and very different programs. What’s more, the actual per credit rate for Allen isn’t that much higher than Graceland.
One more thing to mention—Allen’s Leadership in Health Informatics Technology (LHIT) concentration is a joint degree that’s offered in conjunction with the University of Minnesota. That means you’ll pay different tuition rates on courses offered from each university.
Iowa’s Healthcare Landscape
In some ways, Iowa has it good. According to the Commonwealth Fund’s Scorecard on State Health System Performance, it does well in factors such as Prevention & Treatment and Access & Affordability. It agreed to Medicaid expansion. It hasn’t been hit as hard as most states by the opioid epidemic. And it often receives highly respectable grades in the U.S. Rural Health Report Card.
But there are 3 areas where healthcare experts are seeking to improve the state’s metrics:
Lifestyle: America’s Health Rankings often identifies excessive drinking and a high prevalence of obesity in Iowa (e.g. top 10 in the nation) as major matters of concern. Hypertension, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are some of the state’s leading causes of death. This is where you’ll find groups such as Iowa Healthiest State Initiative and the Department of Health’s Healthy Iowans trying to make a difference.
Mental Health: A low rate of mental health providers and the closure of state mental health institutes has put a strain on Iowa ERs and prisons. Iowa passed a 2018 law that mandated the creation of new access centers designed to provide short-term care (e.g. detox, crisis observation, and crisis stabilization), but more work will be needed. The Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Iowa (NAMI Iowa) have been very vocal about this issue—see IHA Mental Health and NAMI Advocacy for updates on their latest efforts.
Maternal Health: Between 2016-2018, maternal mortality in Iowa increased by 16%. This may be due to a lack of care. Scores of hospitals in Iowa have closed their labor and delivery units in the past 20 years. Due to low volume, rural & small hospitals are finding it hard to justify the cost of obstetrics services. In a 2017 workforce analysis from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Iowa was ranked #50 for the number of OB-GYN physicians per capita. UI Health Care is working to reverse the trend with a 5-year, $10 million grant.
In other words, aspiring APRNs in Iowa should find plenty of opportunities to make Iowa better. Iowa CNMs might want to apply themselves to improving rural access (e.g. telehealth and travel nursing); PMHNPs could advocate for more resources and nurse-run practices; and FNPs and public health experts can start to turn the boat around on diet & exercise, especially for youth.
Jobs for Iowa RN to MSN Graduates
Career Outlook for RN to MSN Graduates
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)’s pages on Nurse Practitioners and Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary will give you a broad sense of the job territory for Iowa APRNs. Hover over an area on the job & wage maps to view the data points for each Iowa region.
As any Iowa RN will already know, Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids are the three major urban centers for NPs (Iowa City has a particularly high concentration). Having said that, Iowa has a large rural population (e.g. 40%+), so NPs are fairly evenly distributed across the state.
Looking for a hospital job? You can use the IHA Membership Directory to find hospitals and clinics in your chosen area. You may want to cross-check your choices with the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the Best Hospitals in Iowa and the ANCC’s list of Magnet Facilities in Iowa. UIHC in Iowa City and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids usually appear in both.
Interested in education? Iowa nursing instructors tend to be paid more than their peers in Missouri or Illinois. UI has a giant College of Nursing, but don’t forget the many private universities and community colleges that are around. We also want to point out that nurse educators who want to teach full-time at eligible Iowa institutions are eligible for the Health Care Loan Repayment Program.
Planning on running your own practice? NPs in Iowa have full independent practice & prescriptive authority and are recognized as primary care providers. The Iowa Board of Nursing has full details on rules & regulations in its section on Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner – Role & Scope (the ARNP designation in Iowa includes CNSs, CNMs, NPs, and CRNAs). ARNPs may have a collaborative agreement with a physician if their practice so warrants, but this agreement is not a requirement.
Hoping to serve in rural areas? The Iowa Loan Repayment Program offers two-year grants to primary care medical, dental, and mental health practitioners who agree to work in HPSAs. Primary care NPs, CNMs & PMHNPs are eligible to apply. You can choose your area by examining the Iowa Department of Public Health’s HPSA maps.
Career Resources for Future APRNs
Iowa Nursing Job Boards
- INA Career Center: Job listings for Iowa nurses, including ARNPs, nurse educators, and nurse leaders
- IANP Career Center: Job listings for Iowa NPs
- INPS Career Center: Job listings for Iowa NPs
- IAHospitalJobs.com: Openings for healthcare professionals in Iowa hospitals
Iowa APRN Salary & Wage Data
- Annual Mean Wages for Iowa Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: Categories can include “Nurse Practitioners,” “Nurse Midwives,” and “Nurse Anesthetists”
- Annual Mean Wages for Iowa Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary
- AANP National Compensation Survey: Available to AANP members
Iowa Nursing Organizations
State Board of Nursing
Iowa Nursing Associations & Coalitions
- Iowa Association of Nurse Practitioners (IANP)
- Iowa Hospital Association (IHA)
- Iowa Nurses Association (INA)
- Iowa Nurse Practitioner Society (INPS)
Iowa Nursing Specialty Organizations
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association – Iowa Chapter (APNA Iowa)
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses – Iowa (AWHONN Iowa)
- Iowa Association of Nurse Anesthetists (IANA)
- Iowa Association of Nursing Students (IANS)
- Iowa League for Nursing (ILN)
- Iowa Organization of Nurse Leaders (IONL)
- Iowa School Nurse Organization (ISNO)
- Iowa State Council Emergency Nurses Association (Iowa ENA)
- Northwest Iowa Association of Occupational Health Nurses (NIAOHN)
Nursing School Overview
Allen is a small, private, and non-profit college of nursing & health professions in Waterloo. As you can see from the website, the School of Nursing has close ties with UnityPoint Health. Allen was incorporated as a subsidiary of the Waterloo branch in 1989, and the college remains an affiliate of the system (something to bear in mind for job hunting). Wondering which specialty to choose? Allen publishes detailed data about graduation rates, completion rates, and exam pass rates. In 2018, 204 students enrolled in the MSN program and most them chose NP specialties, especially the FNP and PMHNP. Overall, NCLEX rates have been excellent (e.g. 96%+ over a 3-year period); graduate certification pass rates are usually very good (e.g. 95%+ for first-time takers, with the exception of 2017). Considering the non-NP concentrations? They're often ranked between #132-#170 in U.S. News & World Report's Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. In addition, students in those tracks are automatically eligible for a 25% tuition scholarship. We didn't find many independent reviews of Allen's nursing graduate programs, but there are plenty of opinions on the web about the BSN program. Each concentration page also has a useful FAQs section with information on how to arrange clinical preceptors.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
Allen is willing to consider RNs with a non-nursing bachelor's degree for its MSN. In addition to the baccalaureate, candidates should have an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher on the last 60 college credit hours, and current licensure as an RN in Iowa. While clinical experience is not required prior to admission, NP students should have 800 hours of clinical experience as an RN prior to enrolling in a clinical specialty course. Once accepted, students in the RN to MSN pathway must complete 3 undergraduate bridge courses in Statistics, Nursing Research, and Community Health. The remainder of the program is devoted to the MSN, which begins each year in the fall and spring. The length of the master's degree will depend on the specialty. Non-NP concentrations are 38 credits with 300 clinical hours, Nursing Education is 41 credits with 375 clinical hours, and NP specialties are 45 credits with 600 clinical hours. The LHIT concentration is a joint degree that's offered in conjunction with the University of Minnesota. Theory courses for Nursing Education and non-NP specialties are primarily delivered in an online format, but coursework for NP specialties is hybrid, with periodic on-campus meetings. You can choose a full-time or part-time schedule for the MSN. Full-time study might take 2 years; part-time study might take 3-4 years.
Nursing School Overview
Graceland is a private liberal arts university with campuses in Lamoni, Iowa, and Independence, Missouri. The School of Nursing is fairly well-known in Iowa and its NP programs are strong enough to achieve a top 130 spot in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. According to those data, the NP programs have a strong 4-year graduation rate (e.g. 98%), lots of faculty (e.g. 22 full-time & 23 part-time), and small class sizes (e.g. 11 students). But they also had high debt rates, so be sure to chat with your employer about tuition reimbursement. Because Graceland's MSN is such a popular program, you'll find heaps of independent reviews and opinions about it on nursing message boards. Most of the reviews about the FNP are complimentary, with high praise for the professors and online resources, but folks did point out that preceptors can be hard to find. You can also check on certification pass rates in the university's annual Fact Book. For example, between 2014-2017, the FNP pass rate ranged from 86%-96% (2016 was 86% and 2017 was 88%). AGACNP figures aren't always available, so we'd recommend you talk to recent alumni about the pros & cons of the specialty and ask the program coordinator for exam data.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
Graceland's online RN to BSN to MSN program is open to RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma from an NLNAC-, ACEN-, or CCNE-accredited program. All candidates should have a current license to practice as an RN in the U.S and a GPA of 3.0 or above in the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework. The application will also need to include 3 references and a professional goals statement. Students in the RN to BSN to MSN track complete almost all of the same undergraduate courses as RN to BSN students (i.e. 28 semester hours of core courses and 25 semester hours of support courses), with the exception of 2 BSN courses that are covered at the MSN level. Transfer credits are also allowed. Once you've completed requirements for the BSN, you have the option to "step out" with a bachelor's degree. Or you can proceed straight into the MSN without reapplying. All MSN NP concentrations are 47 semester hours. Most of the coursework is online, but there's at least one focus session on the Independence, MO campus (2-3 days) that's held in conjunction with the Advanced Practice Competencies Lab course. Clinical practicums can be tackled in your home community. On a full-time schedule, the MSN might take 8 trimesters (i.e. ~2.5 years) to complete. On a part-time schedule, it could take 12 trimesters (i.e. 4 years).