The University of Iowa Nursing School Review

The University of Iowa (UI, UIOWA) was the first public college in the state when it was founded in 1847, and it remains the flagship member of the Iowa higher education system. The school enrolls over 30,000 students each year, in both undergraduate and graduate programs.

As part of the College of Nursing, the University of Iowa offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in nursing. The nursing department is highly respected and according to the U.S. News and World Report, has several graduate programs that are among the top ten in the field. The programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Prelicensure

The University of Iowa’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Prelicensure curriculum requires 128 credits in total. Of these credits, half are for general education/nursing support classes, and the other half are for nursing courses and clinical rotations. Studying full-time, the program takes four years or four-and-a-half years to complete, depending on the admission option selected. Students have two choices for admission:

Early Decision Admission

The Early Decision Admission option is open to outstanding high school seniors. If accepted, a student on this track will enter the BSN program immediately upon enrolling at the University of Iowa. He will spend his first four semesters completing the general education classes and nursing prerequisites, transitioning into the four-semester nursing course sequence in the fall of his third year. He can graduate with his BSN in four years, and take the National Council Licensing Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Competitive Admission

To enter via the Competitive Admission track, a student must enroll at the University of Iowa and complete four semesters of general education coursework. In the fall of her third year, according to the university’s suggested plan of study, she does not take any classes. She applies to the nursing course sequence for the spring semester. If accepted, she will spend the next four semesters completing the nursing classes. She will earn her BSN in four-and-a-half years.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing – RN to BSN

After earning an associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing, a Registered Nurse (RN) can complete the University of Iowa’s RN to BSN program. The courses are mainly offered online, although students do need to occasionally travel to campus for in-person meetings, and they do need to complete two clinical rotations. On a full-time basis, an RN can complete the program in three semesters. Studying part-time, he will need five semesters to finish. The nursing course sequence for the RN to BSN program begins each fall. In total, a student in the RN to BSN program must earn at least thirty-two credits of nursing classes in order to complete the BSN degree. In addition, if the incoming RN is missing any of the university’s required general education classes, he must plan on completing those as well.

Master of Science in Nursing – Clinical Nurse Leader

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program prepares RNs to take the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) certification exam offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). It begins each fall, and takes six semesters to complete. The classes are mostly offered online, although students usually need to travel to campus at the beginning and end of the program, and for one of the required classes. In total, an MSN student must earn thirty-nine credits in order to graduate. The MSN program is only open to RNs who have a BSN and at least two years of work experience.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

The Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD in Nursing) program is open to nurses who have either a BSN or an MSN degree. A nurse with a BSN degree must plan on six or seven years to complete the curriculum; an incoming student with an MSN degree can usually complete the PhD in Nursing program in four to five years. In total, a student must earn seventy-four graduate-level credits. Although some of the classes in the program are offered online, students do need to come to campus for most of the courses. Students may choose to study either full-time or part-time.

Doctor of Nursing Practice – BSN to DNP

A BSN-prepared RN who wants to earn advanced practice certification should enroll in the University of Iowa’s Doctor of Nursing (DNP) program. Most of the classes in the BSN to DNP program are available online, but students may have to travel to campus for a few courses. Clinical rotations are a required component of the program, but these can be scheduled in a location that is convenient for the student. The program consists of a core curriculum, and classes in a chosen area of specialization. The University of Iowa offers seven different areas of specialization. For all areas of specialization, except for Nurse Anesthesia, students may choose to study full-time or part-time. The following are the available tracks of the DNP program:

Adult/Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

The Adult/Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) program requires eighty-three credits in total. A student on this track must commit to four years of full-time study (which includes two summer semesters). She may also choose to complete the degree in five years (including four summer semesters), studying on a part-time basis.

Nurse Anesthetist:

To become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), a nurse must earn seventy-seven credits. This takes three years of full-time study (including three summer semesters). Part-time study is not an option for the CRNA DNP program. The nursing department cooperates with the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Department of Anesthesia to offer the CRNA DNP program, which has accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA) of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.

Family Nurse Practitioner:

The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) DNP curriculum requires eighty-four credits in total. On a full-time basis, this requires four years of study (including two summer semesters). A part-time student can complete the curriculum in five years, including three summer semesters.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner:

To prepare for certification as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP), a nurse must complete seventy-seven credits. This takes four years of full-time study or five years of part-time study.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner:

The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) DNP curriculum requires eighty credits. A full-time student can complete the course sequence in four years; a part-time student must commit to five years of study.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner:

The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) course sequence requires four years of full-time study or five years of part-time study. In total, a PMHNP student must earn seventy-seven credits.

Health Systems:

The Health Systems (HS) DNP program requires seventy-two credits. To complete this, a student must study full-time for four years or part-time for five years.

Doctor of Nursing Practice – MSN to DNP

Although the standard track of the DNP program is for RNs who have a BSN degree, nurses who have an MSN degree are also welcome in the University of Iowa’s DNP program. Depending on their MSN course of study, they should be able to complete the MSN to DNP program in less time than the BSN to DNP students. The University of Iowa has three different DNP tracks for MSN-prepared nurses:

Health Systems:

A nurse with a master’s-level degree in field related to health systems can complete the Health Systems (HS) DNP program in three years, taking between three and six credits per semester. In total, he must earn forty-one credits.

Health Systems (for nurses with a non-HS master’s degree):

If an incoming student has a master’s degree, but in a field that is not related to HS, she can complete the HS DNP program in four years. In total, she must earn fifty-four credits.

Nurse Practitioner:

A nurse with an MSN degree can prepare for advanced certification as a Nurse Practitioner (NP) by earning thirty-one credits. This takes two years, including one summer semester.


The University of Iowa
101 College of Nursing Building
50 Newton Road
Iowa City, IA 52242

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