Becoming an LPN in Iowa

Looking to enter the healthcare industry in Iowa? Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a rewarding and promising career, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicting growth of nearly 12% for the industry through the year 2026.  Those ready to take the first step on this nursing journey should research and enroll in an LPN program in the state. Iowa LPNs earn around an hourly wage of $19.10 or annual salary of $39,730, which is roughly $4,300 less per year than national average.


Best LPN Programs in Iowa

Are you looking to become a licensed practical nurse in Iowa? The school you choose is important when it comes to getting your license. Approved programs in Iowa are offered at community colleges, technical centers, and private career schools - we list 11 schools across the state. After careful review of NCLEX-PN exam first-time pass rates over the past several years, we have ranked the top 5 programs. For more information on our LPN program rankings, see our Methodology page.

To see all the top ranked LPN programs in Iowa click here.

Details on Iowa LPN Schools & Classes

There are plenty of schools in Iowa with LPN programs, from community colleges to vocational schools. Programs typically take between one and two years to complete, depending on full or part-time attendance.

The curriculum for LPN programs in the state will include a mix of introductory nursing courses and labs. Titles may include:

  • Fundamentals of Nursing in Health Care
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Medication Administration for Nurses
  • Life Span Health Care


Looking for a properly accredited school with an LPN program should be at the top of any prospective student’s list. National organizations such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing offer accreditations that signify quality and academic excellence. Regional accreditations are also sometimes offered. Last but not least, the Iowa Board of Nursing is an excellent resource for finding approved LPN programs.

Admission Requirements

Choosing the right school is just the first step toward a career as an LPN; you’ll also need to make sure you meet the admissions requirements. While these may differ depending on school, common requirements include:

  • High school graduate or GED
  • Minimum GPA of 2.5
  • Official transcripts from high school and/or any colleges attended
  • Two letters of reference
  • Personal essay

Tuition and Costs

Due to the relatively short duration of the LPN program, it is one of the most affordable nursing programs available. Students will need to cover the costs of tuition, mandatory fees, books and supplies, and other miscellaneous expenses. For example, the total cost of the LPN program at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon is approximately $10,150 for in-state residents, or $10,510 for non-residents. For those worried about paying for LPN school, financial aid and scholarships are typically available for well-qualified applicants, just inquire with your school of choice’s financial aid department.

Iowa LPN Licensing Requirements

Iowa has educational requirements that must be fulfilled by attending a state-certified LPN program. Once the student has completed the required coursework, he or she must sit for and pass the NCLEX exam.

In order to receive state licensure, the applicant must submit an application to the state, including:

  • Official transcript of state-approved nursing program.
  • Completed fingerprint cards and signed waiver.
  • Information regarding criminal offenses—submit a criminal background check.
  • NCLEX registration.

Iowa LPN Licenses must be renewed every 3 years, and the license holder is responsible for 36 contact hours of continued education. For detailed information about LPN licensure by examination in Iowa check out:

NCLEX Exam Information

Upon graduating from an LPN program, students are required to take and pass the NCLEX-PN exam in order to earn their license. This exam consists of roughly 100 questions spanning various aspects of nursing. For more information about the NCLEX-PN exam, check out our comprehensive guide here. Students are also encouraged to take an NCLEX-PN practice test to prepare for the real thing.

LPN Reciprocity and eNLC

The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) consists of 24 states—1 of which is Iowa, which allows nurses to register a primary state but work in other states within the NLC without additional licensure. As of January 2018, the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) will go into effect, which adds extra protections to the original NLC. Nurses already under the original NLC will be grandfathered in to the new eNLC.

Nurses from other states, outside of the compact, are required to apply for an Iowa state license by endorsement if they are seeking licensure in the state. They will also be required to submit the following:

  • Official transcripts from state-approved nursing program.
  • Verification of original license.
  • Completed fingerprint cards and signed waiver.
  • Information regarding criminal offenses—submit a criminal background check.

Graduates from a foreign nursing school, holding a license in another country, can apply for a license in the state of Iowa. As well as the items listed above, they will be required to also submit the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) evaluation of their official transcript and proof of English proficiency.

For detailed information about LPN endorsement by application in Iowa check out:

LPN Salary in Iowa By Area

The table below lists career information collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for licensed practical nurses in Iowa. The table is sorted by total employment, with the largest metropolitan areas listed first.

AreaTotal EmploymentAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Salary
Des Moines, West Des Moines990$20.06$41,730
Davenport, Moline, Rock Island660$20.19$41,990
Waterloo, Cedar Falls480$18.30$38,070
Cedar Rapids420$19.32$40,190
Sioux City350$17.86$37,150
Iowa City190$20.80$43,270

For those interested in advancing their nursing career, see our Iowa LPN to RN/BSN programs page.

Top Ranked Iowa LPN Programs


Iowa Valley Community College District

3702 S Center St, Marshalltown, IA 50158 - (641) 752-4643 - Visit Homepage

Iowa Valley Community College District is made up of two schools offering LPN programs, 1) Marshalltown Community College (MCC) is located in Marshalltown, IA and 2) Ellsworth Community College (ECC) located in Iowa Falls, IA. With small class sizes and one on one attention it's a wise decision to consider their offerings considering the successful NCLEX-PN pass rates over the past 5 years.

Overall Score: 98.88 - Request Info on Iowa Valley Community College District

North Iowa Area Community College

500 College Dr, Mason City, IA 50401 - (641) 423-1264 - Visit Homepage

Mason City’s North Iowa Area Community College offers an LPN program designed to train nurses to assist physicians and RNs in complex situations. Enrolled students are prepared through classroom curriculum as well as off-site clinical experiences. Upon completion of the program, students are able to sit for the NCLEX-PN examination.

Overall Score: 97.54 - Request Info on North Iowa Area Community College

Iowa Central Community College

1 Triton Cir, Fort Dodge, IA 50501 - (515) 576-7201 - Visit Homepage

Iowa Central Community College provides quality educational opportunities in and out of the classroom. ICCC's Practical Nursing (PN) Program prepares students for entry-level positions, to provide nursing care under the supervision of a Registered Nurse or Physician. The Practical Nursing Program prepares students for a career in a wide-range of health care settings.

Overall Score: 96.72 - Request Info on Iowa Central Community College

Northwest Iowa Community College

603 W Park St, Sheldon, IA 51201 - (712) 324-5061 - Visit Homepage

Northwest Iowa Community College’s LPN program prepares students to provide compassionate nursing care for patients across the lifespan. The curriculum includes courses in medical-surgical, maternity, geriatric, pediatric, and mental health care, amongst other topics. Supervised clinical experience is offered through area healthcare clinics, giving students a well-rounded educational base.

Overall Score: 96.65 - Request Info on Northwest Iowa Community College

Southeastern Community College

1500 W Agency Rd, West Burlington, IA 52655 - (319) 752-2731 - Visit Homepage

West Burlington’s Southeastern Community College boasts a practical nursing program which prepares students for effective nursing care and encourages life-long learning. The curriculum emphasizes evidence-based clinical practice and teaches students to provide support under RNs and other healthcare providers. Graduates of the program go on to work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical settings.

Overall Score: 96.53 - Request Info on Southeastern Community College

Continued List of All Programs in Iowa

#6 Northeast Iowa Community College District
1625 Hwy. 150, Calmar, IA 52132
(563) 562-3263 Visit Homepage
96.19Request Information
#7 Western Iowa Tech Community College
4647 Stone Ave, Sioux City, IA 51106
(712) 274-6400 Visit Homepage
92.72Request Information
#8 Iowa Western Community College
2700 College Rd, Council Bluffs, IA 51503
(712) 325-3200 Visit Homepage
91.89Request Information
#9 Eastern Iowa Community College District
306 W River Dr, Davenport, IA 52801
(563) 441-4001 Visit Homepage
88.12Request Information
#10 Iowa Lakes Community College
300 S 18th St, Estherville, IA 51334
(712) 362-7231 Visit Homepage
87.60Request Information
#11 Indian Hills Community College
525 Grandview Ave, Ottumwa, IA 52501
(800) 726-2585 Visit Homepage
84.58Request Information

Are we missing your school's program or need to make changes to the information listed? Please contact us.

Additional IA Nursing Resources

  • Iowa Board of Nursing
    River Point Business Park
    400 S.W. 8th Street, Suite B
    Des Moines, IA 50309-4685
    Phone: (515) 281-3255

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