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Iowa Nursing License Requirements

The Iowa Board of Nursing oversees the practice and licensure of nurses in the state of Iowa. There are many opportunities for prospective nurses in Iowa as licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners. Whether you have already begun your education to become a licensed nurse in Iowa or are looking for information to begin planning your career, this page can help you find out more about the steps to becoming a nurse in Iowa.

» How to become a licensed practical nurse (requires completion of a training program)
» How to become a registered nurse (requires an associate’s or bachelor’s degree)
» How to become a nurse practitioner (requires a master’s degree)

6 Steps to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse in Iowa

1. Graduate from a Licensed Practical Nursing Program.

The Iowa Board of Nursing requires prospective licensed practical nurses to demonstrate an education in practical nursing by graduating from a program in practical nursing.1 The Iowa Board of Nursing approves licensed practical nursing programs in the state, a list of which can be accessed on its website.2 Nursing programs in other states may also meet the Iowa education requirements.3 Candidates planning their education may wish to view statistics on approved programs on the Iowa Board of Nursing website.4

2. Request and Complete Fingerprint Cards for Criminal History Background Check.

A criminal history background check is required for nurse licensure in Iowa.5 The fingerprint cards to be used are not available through the Iowa Board of Nursing website and should be requested by phone.1 The fingerprints submitted must be taken by an authorized technician, such as a sheriff’s or police department official.6

3. Complete the Waiver for Completing Criminal History Background Checks.

In addition to requesting and completing fingerprint cards for the criminal history background check, applicants must complete the Waiver for Completing Criminal History Background Checks.5 The waiver gives the Iowa Board of Nursing permission to complete the required record checks with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.5 The waiver and the completed fingerprint cards should be sent to the Iowa Board of Nursing with the application materials.1

4. Submit the Application For License By Examination

The Application for License By Examination, Licensed Practical Nurse – Registered Nurse should be completed for practical nurse licensure.7 Applications for may be submitted online through the Iowa Board of Nursing website or by mail.1 To ensure that files are kept intact and to prevent potential processing delays, the Iowa Board of Nursing requests that applicants who choose to submit the application by mail submit the four major components of the application together in the same envelope:1

  • The Application for Exam;
  • Completed fingerprint cards for criminal background check;
  • The background check waiver form;
  • Fees for licensure.

Note that paper applications received without completed fingerprint cards will be returned to the applicant.8 Finally, sealed, official transcripts must be sent by the nursing program attended to the Iowa Board of Nursing.8 The Iowa Board of Nursing will reject transcripts sent directly by the applicant and not the nursing program.8

5. Register to Take the National Council Licensure Examination.

A passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) is required to earn a license to practice practical nursing.8 Candidates must register to take the exam with Pearson VUE, the company that the Iowa Board of Nursing uses to administer and score the exam.8 Initial registration for the exam is completed through the Pearson VUE website.9

6. Take the NCLEX Exam.

After registration with Pearson VUE has been completed and the license application has been reviewed by the Iowa Board of Nursing, the applicant will receive an Authorization to Test to schedule and attempt the NCLEX-PN.1 Applicants who do not earn a passing score will be notified by mail within two weeks of the exam.10 The notification will include further instructions for applying online to re-take the NCLEX-PN and for paying the re-exam fees.10 Candidates may re-apply at any time but must wait 45 days in between testing attempts.10 Applicants who do pass may be issued a license in practical nursing.

6 Steps to Become a Registered Nurse in Iowa

1. Graduate from a Registered Nursing Program.

To become licensed in Iowa, registered nurses must first graduate from a program in registered nursing.1 The Iowa Board of Nursing approves in-state programs that meet its education requirements for registered nursing and publishes a list of approved programs on its website.2 Nursing programs in other states may also meet the Iowa education requirements.3 Historical statistics for approved nursing education programs can also be viewed through the Iowa Board of Nursing.4

2. Request and Complete Fingerprint Cards for Criminal History Background Check.

The Iowa Board of Nursing requires all applicants for registered nurse licensure to complete a criminal history background check.5 As the Iowa Board of Nursing does not provide the required fingerprint cards on its website the cards must be requested by phone.1 The fingerprints submitted must be taken by an authorized technician, such as a sheriff’s office or police department official.6

3. Complete the Waiver for Completing Criminal History Background Checks.

Applicants for registered nurse licensure must provide the Waiver for Completing Criminal History Background Checks along with the completed fingerprint card.5 The waiver allows the Iowa Board of Nursing permission to perform the required record checks with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.5 The waiver and the completed fingerprint cards should be sent to the Iowa Board of Nursing with the application materials.1

4. Submit the Application For License By Examination.

Prospective registered nurses should complete the Application for License By Examination, Licensed Practical Nurse – Registered Nurse.7 The application can be completed online on the Iowa Board of Nursing website or by mail.1 To avoid mismatched paperwork and potential delays in processing, the Iowa Board of Nursing requests that applicants who choose to submit the application by mail submit the four major components of the application together in the same envelope:1

  • The Application for Exam;
  • Completed fingerprint cards for criminal background check;
  • The background check waiver form;
  • Fees for licensure.

If the applicant does not include completed fingerprint cards with the application, the application will be returned.8 In addition, applicants must request that the school of nursing attended send sealed, official transcripts directly to the Iowa Board of Nursing.8 Transcripts provided by the applicant will not be considered.8

5. Register to Take the National Council Licensure Examination.

A passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is required to obtain a registered nurse license.8 The registration for the exam must be completed through Pearson VUE, the company that the Iowa Board of Nursing uses to administer and score the exam.8 Applicants should complete the exam registration through the Pearson VUE website.9

6. Take the NCLEX Exam.

After registration with Pearson VUE has been completed and the license application has been reviewed by the Iowa Board of Nursing, the applicant will receive an Authorization to Test to schedule and attempt the NCLEX-RN.1 If the NCLEX-RN is not passed, applicants will be notified by regular mail and will be provided with information on how to re-take the exam.10 Candidates must wait 45 days in between testing attempts; note that there is an additional fee for re-taking the NCLEX-RN.10 Applicants who pass the exam can be issued a registered nurse license.

5 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Iowa

1. Become a Registered Nurse in Iowa.

The Iowa Board of Nursing requires prospective nurse practitioners to first qualify and obtain licensure as registered nurses.11 Applicants must therefore first complete an education appropriate to the practice of registered nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN.1 As a master’s degree is required for nurse practitioners, applicants may wish to consider a bachelor’s degree program for registered nursing as a prerequisite to further education.11

2. Earn a Master’s Degree in Nursing.

The Iowa Board of Nursing requires prospective nurse practitioners to hold at least a master’s degree in nursing.12 Programs in the state of Iowa that meet the Iowa Board of Nursing education requirements for nurse practitioners can be accessed through the Board’s website.2 A formal advanced practice program with an appropriate supporting clinical experience approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing may also be acceptable for nurse practitioner licensing.13

3. Become Nationally Certified.

To obtain a nurse practitioner license in the state of Iowa, candidates must first earn national certification from a certifying body.12 The certifying organization must be recognized by the Iowa Board of Nursing.11 A current list of bodies so recognized is provided on the Application for Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Registration.14

4. Complete the Application for Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Registration.

The Application for Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Registration is provided for prospective nurse practitioners in Iowa and should be completed in its entirety.14 Note that the national certifying examination results, as well as a copy of current national certification issued by the appropriate organization, should be included in the application packet.13 If circumstances do not allow these documents to be forwarded at the time of application be sure to note this and the reason in the application packet.13 Applicants must also request that an official transcript from the master’s or formal advanced practice program completed be forwarded to the Iowa Board of Nursing.13

5. Apply for Controlled Substance Prescriptive Authority.

Prescriptive authority for medical devices and substances that are not on the controlled schedule is granted with nurse practitioner licensure.11 For authority to subscribe controlled substances, nurse practitioners must register with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners.11

Iowa Nursing Associations

Joining a nursing association or organization in Iowa can provide benefits to current and future nurses such as access to continuing education, professional networking, and employment opportunities.

Iowa Nursing Salary

Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants 22,750 $25,270
Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses 6,780 $37,410
Registered Nurses 32,170 $52,540
Nurse Practitioners 1,320 $85,500

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.

References:
1. Iowa Board of Nursing: Initial License by Examination for Graduates of Board Approved Nursing Education Programs
2. Iowa Board of Nursing: Nursing Education Programs Approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing
3. Iowa Board of Nursing: Criteria for Out of State Nursing Programs
4. Iowa Board of Nursing: Nursing Education Program Statistics
5. Iowa Board of Nursing: Waiver for Completing Criminal History Background Checks
6. Iowa Board of Nursing: State & National Criminal History Background Checks
7. Iowa Board of Nursing: Application for License By Examination, Licensed Practical Nurse – Registered Nurse
8. Iowa Board of Nursing: Instructions for Licensure in Iowa By Examination
9. Pearson VUE: The NCLEX Examination
10. Iowa Board of Nursing: Re-Exam Information
11. Iowa Board of Nursing: Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
12. Iowa Administrative Code, Iowa Nursing Board: [655]
13. Iowa Board of Nursing: Instructions for Registration Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
14. Iowa Board of Nursing: Application for Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner Registration