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Des Moines is home to a large and diverse community of nursing professionals. Each nursing role carries distinct responsibilities and thus requires a tailored educational program.

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) fill the most junior nursing role. CNA certificate programs typically require just eight to ten weeks of study. To gain licensure as a nursing assistant, candidates must pass a state-administered examination immediately after completing the certificate program.

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Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) must complete a more intense certificate program, typically 12 to 18 months in length. Candidates must also pass the NCLEX-PN national examination to gain licensure in Iowa.

Registered nurses (RNs) form the backbone of Des Moines’ nursing workforce. Iowa RNs can pursue one of two prelicensure programs: a two-year associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN national examination to gain licensure.

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) fill the most senior and specialized nursing roles. APRNs must complete one to three years of study in an approved master of science in nursing (MSN) program at an accredited Iowa university.

Nurses of all qualifications can expect competitive pay and a positive employment outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Des Moines’ CNAs, LPNs, RNs, and APRNs earn average annual salaries of $25,000, $41,000, $55,000 and $88,000, respectively. As these number bear out, compensation improves markedly with increased education.

Aspiring nurses in Des Moines are encouraged to consult our comprehensive list of local nursing programs. We’ve profiled each school below, including students’ NCLEX test scores where available.

Featured Schools

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Des Moines nursing schools by NCLEX score

Des Moines Area Community College
2006 Ankeny Boulevard | Ankeny, Iowa 50023
  • Certificate in Practical Nursing: 96.1% NCLEX pass rate (2009 through 2012)
  • Associate's Degree in Nursing: 92.3% NCLEX pass rate (2009 through 2012)
  • Nursing Assistant Certificate
Mercy College of Health Sciences
928 Sixth Avenue | Des Moines, Iowa 50309
  • Associate's Degree in Nursing: 90.6% NCLEX pass rate (2009 through 2012)
  • Nursing Assistant Certificate
  • RN-to-BSN Degree Completion
Purdue University Global - Des Moines
4655 121st Street | Urbandale, Iowa 50323
  • Associate's Degree in Nursing: 84.0% NCLEX pass rate (2012 through 2012)
Grand View University
1200 Grandview Avenue | Des Moines, Iowa 50316
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing: 73.6% NCLEX pass rate (2009 through 2012)
  • LPN-to-BSN Bridge Program
  • MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • RN-to-BSN Degree Completion
Upper Iowa University - Des Moines
1119 Fifth Street | West Des Moines, Iowa 50265
  • RN-to-BSN Degree Completion
School Program NCLEX score Time period
Des Moines Area Community College Certificate in Practical Nursing 96.1% 2009 to 2012
Associate's Degree in Nursing 92.3% 2009 to 2012
Nursing Assistant Certificate
Mercy College of Health Sciences Associate's Degree in Nursing 90.6% 2009 to 2012
Nursing Assistant Certificate
RN-to-BSN Degree Completion
Purdue University Global - Des Moines Associate's Degree in Nursing 84.0% 2012 to 2012
Grand View University Bachelor of Science in Nursing 73.6% 2009 to 2012
LPN-to-BSN Bridge Program
MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader
Master of Science in Nursing
RN-to-BSN Degree Completion
Upper Iowa University - Des Moines RN-to-BSN Degree Completion