How to Become a Nurse Administrator in Iowa

With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the need for optimal healthcare leadership exploded as hospitals, doctors, and long-term care facilities scrambled to meet unprecedented demands in an uncertain healthcare landscape. That need hasn’t diminished, and those looking to grow their professional career by building their business and clinical skills are poised to experience great success.

A Nurse Administrator manages nursing teams, healthcare staff and patient care in various healthcare settings. You have to be able to navigate finances, hire and evaluate the right staff and ensure best practices of care, all while continuing to develop your skills and knowledge.

How Do You Become a Nurse Administrator in Iowa?

Nurse Administrators are almost always Registered Nurses (RNs) with at least some work experience under their belts. You can become an RN without earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), but pursuing a four-year degree is the most common route to licensure. In Iowa, Registered Nurses make around $64,990, and Nurse Administrators make $97,240, which is a significant jump in pay. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Statistics predicts that the profession will grow by about 32%, much higher than the average for other occupations in the U.S. That means there will be over 50,000 job openings yearly in the field. However, becoming a Nurse Administrator isn’t for the faint of heart.

Leadership in a high-stress industry requires adequate support, specialized skills, and business savvy. To set yourself up for continued success, you’ll want to choose a path forward that’s tailored to your career goals and current lifestyle needs. Nurse Administrators often hold graduate degrees, and while pursuing one isn’t necessary to further advance your career, graduate study can open up an entire network of opportunities and connections that could be beneficial in the future.

Most degree programs are also available online, making working full-time and going to school simultaneously more possible. Depending on your goals, you may want a degree program that offers a global healthcare perspective to have a bigger picture of the healthcare field beyond Iowa. If you leave the state, you’ll have a sense of healthcare trends worldwide. Or, you may want to pursue something that caters to a specific community or demographic closer to home. You can get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) or look into certificate programs in leadership or management if you want to gain knowledge without committing a degree. There are multiple suitable options in Iowa. It is up to prospective students to find the right fit for their needs.

Best Nursing Leadership and Administration Programs in Iowa

1. The University of Iowa

The University of Iowa (UI) is a public research university in Iowa City, Iowa, founded in 1847. The oldest university in the state, UI sits next to the Iowa River and is home to one of the most well-regarded medical centers in the country. The university enrolls around 31,000 students with about 6,400 graduate students. One of UI’s core values is diversity, and it was one of the first schools to endorse an LGBTQIA+ group in the 1970s.

UI offers an online MSN in Nursing Systems Administration that students can complete in 2.5 years. The degree consists of 33 credit hours and 300 practice experience hours. In addition, students can expect to take leadership, clinical data management, finance, quality and safety classes. For Iowa residents, the cost of the program is around $33,569. Non-residents will pay $67,526.

To apply, prospective students need a BSN with at least a 3.0 GPA, one year of work experience and a completed statistics course. You’ll then submit an online application, statement of purpose, supplemental information form, resume, official transcripts, copy of your active RN license, three recommendations and a statement of disclosure.

2. Allen College

Allen College (AC) is a private university focusing on healthcare in Waterloo, Iowa. A small school, AC only enrolls around 634 students, with approximately 207 students pursuing an MSN. Enrollment has decreased significantly due to the pandemic and nurses going through burnout. Still, AC is confident its numbers will continue to rise and plans to keep providing some of the best medical education in the state.

AC has an MSN in Leadership in Healthcare Delivery-Administration (LEAD) that students can complete in 2.5 years if attending full-time. The program is 38 credit hours along with 300 clinical hours, and you can also attend part-time to better fit your needs due to your work schedule or life outside of school. The coursework consists of classes on leadership, policy, population health, ethics, law, economics and finance. Presently, each credit hour costs around $920, making the total cost of tuition about $35,000. Students enrolling in the LEAD program are also automatically eligible for a 25% tuition discount, making this program even more appealing.

Students with a BSN need to send official transcripts showing a minimum 3.0 GPA and a copy of their active RN license. For those with an RN license and a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you’ll submit transcripts with proof of a 3.0 GPA, a copy of your RN license and evidence that you’ve completed a statistics course. You’ll also need to take six undergraduate nursing courses, which you can complete at Allen College.

3. St. Ambrose University

St. Ambrose University (SAU) is a private Catholic institution in Davenport, Iowa. Established in 1882, SAU offers 14 graduate degrees and serves around 685 graduate students. Since the beginning, SAU has welcomed students of all faiths, backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. The school’s mission is to continue its dedication to student growth, excellence, social justice and service.

SAU’s online Master of Public Health (MPH) degree draws on broad health perspectives, explicitly focusing on inequities and challenges within healthcare systems. In this program, students will develop their research skills to make global, national, regional, state and city-level changes. You can complete the degree in 43 credit hours over 18 months on a full-time schedule or 33 months through a part-time program. Each cohort only admits 30 students, so admission is competitive. In addition, you’ll take epidemiology, biostatistics, health systems, policy, economics, management and leadership classes. Each credit hour costs around $700, making the program slightly more affordable at roughly $30,100, excluding additional fees.

Prospective students will need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university with a 3.0 GPA, a personal statement and three letters of recommendation. Once you have those supplemental materials, you must submit them and your online application.

4. Mount Mercy University

Mount Mercy University (MMU) is a private Catholic university in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. MMU enrolls only 1,600 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. Cedar Rapids is Iowa’s second-largest city and ranks as one of the top cities in the U.S.

MMU offers an online MSN in Nurse Administration that students can complete in 16-21 months. In the Nurse Administration concentration, you’ll take classes on research theory, leadership in healthcare systems, pharmacology, pathophysiology and physical assessment. Students will also complete a professional practicum to round out the program’s 36 credit hours. Each credit hour is around $690, making the total cost for tuition about $24,840. MMU does offer scholarships as well as discounts for employer partners.

To apply, students need to have an active RN license, a BSN from an accredited institution, an undergraduate statistics course with a “C” or better and two letters of recommendation. You’ll also need to pass a background check and meet immunization and insurance requirements. To complete the application process, submit an online application and send your official transcripts.

5. Iowa State University

Iowa State University (ISU) is a public land-grant research university in Ames, Iowa. Founded in 1858, the school now enrolls over 30,000 students with 4,264 graduate students and 100s of degree programs. Ames is among the top college towns in the U.S. and the top ten cities for career opportunities.

ISU has a Master of Healthcare Analytics and Operations (MHAO) that’s best suited for students interested in analyzing healthcare systems and data to improve patient care outcomes. The program is slightly shorter, only taking 30 credit hours and as little as 15 months. Students take courses on supply chain management, statistics, data privacy and security and machine learning in business and healthcare analytics. To fulfill a professional learning requirement, students must also enroll in a healthcare internship of at least 20 hours a week. For Iowa residents, tuition is about $6,700 total, and for non-residents, you can expect to pay around $15,100. However, ISU does have a limited number of graduate assistantships that can help offset the cost of tuition as well, so that may be an excellent option to look into as you weigh your finances.

ISU recommends that students have at least two years of working experience before applying to the program. You’ll need to submit a resume, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Students should complete an online application and pay the $60 fee to begin the admission process.