Registered Nurse Certification in How to Become an RN in Iowa: Nursing License Application and Renewal Guide

Obtaining a registered nurse (RN) license is a popular and lucrative career choice for those interested in starting a career in healthcare. You can earn your RN certification in as little as a year, depending on your desired specialty or degree of practice. As a certified and licensed RN, you can practice preventive care, restorative treatment, and trauma care in a wide range of healthcare settings.

In 2018, the reported yearly salary for RNs in Iowa was $56,888. This is lower than the national average. Below is a comprehensive guide to achieving and maintaining your Iowa state RN license.

Iowa Board of Nursing

The Iowa Board of Nursing regulates state licensure for RNs, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs). You can contact the Iowa Board of Nursing by phone at (515) 281-3255 during the board’s business hours, which are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Registered Nurse Education Requirements

In order to become a certified registered nurse, you must graduate from an accredited nursing program. Programs must be approved by the state in order to be eligible for certification — Iowa nurse training programs will most easily meet this requirement, but out-of-state schools may also be accepted. Depending on your desired level of practice or specialty, you can pursue an associate’s degree, which can take one to two years to complete, a bachelor’s degree which can take three to five years to complete, or even a master’s degree, which can take three to six years to complete.

RN Licensure by Examination

Once you’ve completed your nursing program, you will need to pass the state board exam in order to apply for your RN license. To take the exam, you will need:

Fingerprinting and Background Checks

The Iowa Board of Nursing requires fingerprint cards from all exam applicants. You can be fingerprinted at your local police station or at a private fingerprinting center.

Approved Exams

Currently, the state of Iowa only recognizes one exam for licensing purposes: the National Council of Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). All applicants, including foreign applicants, will have to apply for and pass the NCLEX-RN to apply for an Ohio RN license. Practice exam questions are available ahead of time for applicants wishing to prepare for the test.

Applying to Take a Certification Exam

In order to take the NCLEX-RN in Iowa, you will need:

  • A completed application for licensure by examination;
    • Note; In-state graduates will receive an application packet upon graduation, out-of-state applicants will need to request a packet by emailing
  • Official transcripts sent directly from your nursing program to the board;
  • Two fingerprint cards and a waiver authorizing a criminal background check;
  • Completed registration with Pearson VUE;
  • Payment of application and testing fees;
  • Receive an Authorization to Test (ATT);
    • Note: ATTs are valid for 90 days; if you do not test within 90 days, you will have to pay another registration and testing fee.
  • Schedule your test at your nearest testing center;
    • Note: you will need a valid driver’s license, military ID, or passport to be admitted to your testing center.

Testing Vendors and Proctors

There are four testing centers in Iowa.

Pearson Professional Centers-West Des Moines IA
3737 Woodland Ave
Third Floor, Suite 340
Colony Park Office Building
West Des Moines, Iowa 50266
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Coralville (Iowa City
327 2nd Street
Suite 370
Wells Fargo Building
Coralville, Iowa 52241
United States

Pearson Temporary Test Centers-Iowa City IA
2510 N. Dodge Street
Iowa City, Iowa 52245
United States

Pearson Professional Centers-Davenport (QuadCities
100 East Kimberly Road
Suite 401
Northwest Bank & Trust Company
Davenport, Iowa 52806
United States

Additional Requirements for Certification

Applicants educated outside of the U.S. or Canada will need to additionally submit:

  • Proof of legal presence in the United States;
  • One of the following documents from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS):
    • The Credentials Evaluation Service (CES) Report
    • Visa Screen certificate or certificate verification letter verifying that a Visa Screen was issued
    • Certification program CGFNS certificate or certificate verification letter verifying that a certification program CGFNS certificate was issued
  • Passed English proficiency test;
  • Completed Iowa Board of Nursing application;
  • U.S. residential address;
  • Fee payment in U.S. dollars;
  • Two completed fingerprint cards and signed criminal history background waiver.

Applying for Licensure

Once you have taken the NCLEX-RN, you can check your unofficial scores through your Pearson VUE account. Your official scores will be sent directly to the nursing board, and upon approval, the board will issue you your nursing license.

RN Licensure by Endorsement (Out-of-State Applicants)

Iowa does offer licensure by endorsement for those already licensed in another state. To be approved for licensure by endorsement, you will need:

  • Proof of graduation and an official transcript from a state-approved nursing program;
  • Proof of having passed the NCLEX-RN;
  • Verification of original license  —  this can be done through Nursys;
  • Fingerprint cards and a waiver authorizing a criminal background check;
  • Application for licensure by endorsement filled out through IBON Online Services.

Iowa is a part of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) and will approve individuals applying for endorsement with a multistate NLC license. States that have adopted the NLC include:

ArkansasNew Hampshire
ColoradoNew Jersey
DelawareNew Mexico
FloridaNorth Carolina
GeorgiaNorth Dakota
IndianaSouth Carolina
IowaSouth Dakota
MarylandWest Virginia

RN License Renewal

You can renew your license through IBON Online Services. Renewal must be completed 30 days prior to expiration. The state of Iowa stipulates that RNs must complete 36 hours of continuing education in order to be eligible for renewal.  

Continuing Education Requirements

RNs in Iowa who attend, examine, or work regularly with dependent adults or children must take a mandatory abuse reporter course as a part of their 36 hours of continuing education. The course is facilitated by the Iowa State Department of Human Services and may be completed online.

Iowa Nursing License Verification

To check the status of your license, you can use the Nursys QuickConfirm portal or view your license through the IBON online license search.

quick RN guide links