Nursing License Requirements in Iowa

The Iowa Board of Nursing, or IBON, issues licenses to Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses. The National Nursing Database reports that there are currently 48,511 RNs and 12,056 LPNs with active Iowa licenses.

Iowa is a nurse compact state, so nurses who live in other compact states should not apply. They should apply instead for multistate licensure in their own home state.

Select the type of Nursing License you are seeking:

New graduates and international nurses may apply for a license by examination. Nurses licensed in other U.S. states may apply for license by endorsement. In Iowa, the requirements are essentially the same whether one applies for licensure by examination or endorsement. The main difference is that it’s not necessary to retake the exam. (International nurses, though, face some additional requirements.)

Iowa has a statewide articulation plan. This is designed to make it easier for nurses who begin their education at a lower level (associate’s degree or practical nursing) to transfer credits and eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

The Iowa Nurses Association is a statewide professional organization that supports nurses. The Iowa Nurses Foundation is the philanthropic branch; nursing students can compete for scholarship moneys ( The INA is also a source of information about federal and state programs that help nurses fund their educations or repay their loans (

The Iowa Health Care Association provides scholarship moneys to health care workers in long term care who want to further their education.

LPN Requirements in Iowa

Education Requirements for LPNs

LPNs must graduate from a board approved nursing program. in Iowa, RN students may not be licensed as LPNs. There is a list of approved practical nursing programs on the Board site ( The Iowa Board only approves programs within its borders, but it accepts the approval process carried out by other state boards.

Read “Choosing an LPN Program in Iowa” to gain a better understanding of the LPN program education requirements and process.

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NCLEX-PN and the Application Process

Later the candidate will need to pass the NCLEX-PN. The candidate may apply for license by examination online or by submitting a paper application ( Fingerprints are required and should be completed before application. The applicant should request a card from the Board and then go through an authorized fingerprint technician.

The Board requests that the fingerprint card arrive in the same envelope along with the application, waiver, and fee. The fee is currently $143 for application and background check. Transcripts should be sent directly from the school where the LPN program was completed. There is a checklist included in the application packet.

A candidate with a criminal conviction on the record may or may not be found eligible by the Board. The candidate will need to provide all relevant information. The candidate may also choose to provide letters of recommendation.

The candidate must register separately for the licensing exam ( There is a candidate bulletin available online that the BON requests applicants read. The testing fee is $200.

Once a candidate is approved, the candidate must schedule an exam within the window granted by the ATT. If the candidate fails to do so, the candidate will need to go through the application process again.

LPNs must take additional coursework to be authorized to supervise other nurses or to perform IV therapy. An LPN who is employed as a supervisor at a long term care facility is expected to complete a board approved course within six months. If the LPN is studying to be an RN and is within a year of graduation, the candidate may request a waiver. A waiver may be granted in other instances when the LPN is unable to meet the requirement; however, there should be a good reason.

Out of State LPN Applicants

Out of state applicants must supply transcripts and fingerprints as well as license verification. Transcripts must come directly from the school of nursing.

A $169 fee is required for nurses applying by endorsement; this covers the background check as well as application. There is a separate application for these applicants (

International nurses should have their credentials evaluated by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. If the nurse did not do the education in English, the candidate will also need to pass an English proficiency exam: either the TOEFL or the IELTS. The TOEFL is available in several formats.

The next step is to apply to the Iowa Board for permission to take the NCLEX-PN. There is an application form specifically for nurses licensed in other countries ( Candidates should make sure they have the current version. Internationally educated nurses should also see the list of frequently asked questions

RN Requirements in Iowa

RN Education Requirements

An RN should complete a board approved professional nursing program. Programs are approved at the associate’s (ADN) level and higher.

If a student who attended a program in another state wants to go through the examination process in Iowa, that’s fine, so long as the program is in good standing with the board in its own state. Some out-of-state programs may let students do their clinical requirements within Iowa – the Iowa Board does have some authority in this process. “Choosing an RN Program in Iowa” offers several additional resources to learn about selecting an appropriate professional nursing program.

Application Process

After graduation, the student should have the school send an official transcript to the Iowa Board. The candidate will request fingerprint cards from the Board ( The completed fingerprints should be sent in the same envelope as the application and the $143 fee for application and background check – that is if the candidate utilizes a paper application. It is now` possible to apply online.

The candidate will also need to take the NCLEX-RN. The candidate may download a candidate handbook from Pearson ( The process is completed in two steps. After the candidate registers and pays the $200 fee, the candidate will wait for authorization by email or mail. (The Iowa BON must communicate eligibility to the testing company before it can be sent.)

Once authorized, the candidate can schedule a computer adapted exam at a choice of testing centers, in Iowa or another state. A candidate who passes can expect the license to arrive in the mail. A candidate who does not pass on a first attempt will be sent information about applying for a retake. The candidate will pay an additional $93 to the Iowa Board.

RN Licensure by Endorsement

RNs who are licensed in other states should use the application for license by endorsement. License verification will be required.

An internationally educated nurses should provide evidence of CGFNS credential evaluation or certification even if the candidate has since been licensed in another state ( Applicants will not be required to show evidence of English proficiency at this stage.


Iowa Board of Nursing

Iowa Nurses Association

The Iowa Health Care Association

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