20 Best BSN Programs in Des Moines, IA (2023 Updated)

Des Moines, the capital and most populous city in Iowa, is home to numerous excellent BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) programs. With a mix of public and private colleges and universities, Des Moines offers aspiring nurses diverse options to earn their BSN degree and launch a rewarding career in healthcare.

When researching BSN programs in Des Moines, it‘s important to consider factors like cost, curriculum, clinical experience opportunities, and student outcomes. The best programs provide rigorous training with a balance of nursing theory and hands-on practice. Small class sizes and accessible faculty also contribute to a high-quality learning experience.

This list highlights the top 20 BSN programs in Des Moines based on national rankings, accreditation, and student reviews.

1. Drake University

Drake University‘s BSN program is offered through the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Students benefit from Drake‘s excellent reputation as a private liberal arts institution combined with strong nursing curriculum.

Key highlights:

  • National ranking: #1 BSN program in Iowa (Nursing Schools Almanac, 2022)
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Flexible options: Traditional 4-year BSN, 15-month accelerated BSN for students with a prior bachelor’s degree
  • State-of-the-art simulation labs and clinical experience at healthcare facilities in Des Moines
  • Small class sizes and low student-faculty ratio

2. Allen College

Allen College is a private institution focused exclusively on healthcare education. Its CCNE-accredited BSN program places emphasis on evidence-based practice and hands-on clinical training.

Key highlights:

  • National ranking: #2 nursing school in Iowa (RegisteredNursing.org, 2022)
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Direct admit program for qualified high school students
  • Guaranteed clinical placement for all students
  • Option to fast-track and earn BSN in 3 years instead of 4

3. Grand View University

Grand View University is a private liberal arts school with a personalized approach to nursing education. The BSN program integrates liberal arts and ethical training with rigorous nursing curriculum.

Key highlights:

  • National ranking: #3 BSN program in Iowa (Nursingprocess.org, 2022)
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • State-of-the-art simulation hospital replicating real healthcare settings
  • Clinical rotations arranged at healthcare facilities in Des Moines
  • Small class sizes (8:1 student-faculty ratio)

4. Mercy College of Health Sciences

Mercy College is a Catholic institution with a focus on values-based nursing education. Their BSN program is offered in an accelerated format, enabling students to earn their degree in just 16 months.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • 16-month accelerated program for students with a prior bachelor‘s degree
  • Hands-on clinical experience at Mercy Medical Center and affiliates
  • NCLEX-RN pass rate consistently above 90%
  • Emphasis on evidence-based practice and holistic care


Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) offers an affordable pathway to earn a BSN. Graduates receive an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) initially and can then transfer to complete the BSN coursework.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission For Education In Nursing (ACEN)
  • ADN to BSN articulation agreements with 4-year colleges
  • High-tech simulation labs and venerable Iowa Methodist Medical Center for clinicals
  • Option to do LPN to ADN bridge program
  • Very low tuition rates as a community college

6. Iowa Wesleyan University

Iowa Wesleyan is a private university providing individualized nursing education in small classroom settings. Their CCNE-accredited BSN program offers flexibility for working nurses.

Key highlights:

  • National ranking: #6 nursing school in Iowa (Nursingprocess.org)
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • RN to BSN program for licensed RNs wishing to upgrade their credentials
  • Online course options combined with in-person clinical instruction
  • Emphasis on leadership, research, and community health nursing

7. MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center

The MercyOne Medical Center in Des Moines offers a hospital-based diploma nursing program. Upon completion, graduates are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for licensure.

Key highlights:

  • Selective admissions process, small cohort size
  • 3-year diploma program, no degree conferred
  • Clinical training occurs on-site at MercyOne Des Moines
  • Opportunity to gain hospital nursing experience before licensure
  • Feeder program into Mercy College ADN and BSN

8. UnityPoint Health – Des Moines

At UnityPoint Health-Des Moines, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AASN) degree by completing the 2-year program. They offer evening and weekend course options.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Transfer options to 4-year schools for BSN completion
  • Hands-on clinical experience at UnityPoint Health facilities
  • NCLEX-RN pass rates consistently above national averages
  • Flexible class schedules to accommodate working students

9. Southwestern Community College

Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa offers an ADN program that prepares students to pass the NCLEX-RN and transfer into BSN programs.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • High-tech simulation lab with computerized manikins
  • ADN to BSN transfer pathways with regional colleges
  • Affordable tuition rates as a community college
  • Small class sizes and personalized instruction

10. Simpson College

Simpson College is a small private liberal arts college recognized for close student-faculty engagement. Their BSN program incorporates innovative learning technologies for nursing education.

Key highlights:

  • National ranking: Top 30 nursing school in Midwest (Nursing Schools Almanac, 2021)
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Low 10:1 student-faculty ratio
  • State-of-the-art simulation hospital on campus
  • Strong emphasis on clinical reasoning and hands-on skills

11. Northwest Iowa Community College

Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC) allows students to begin their path to RN licensure affordably through the ADN program. Graduates can then transfer to partner schools for BSN completion.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • ADN to BSN transfer options with several Iowa universities
  • Simulation labs and clinical rotations in local medical facilities
  • High NCLEX-RN pass rates
  • Scholarship opportunities available

12. William Penn University

William Penn University is a private liberal arts college providing flexible nursing pathways including LPN to BSN, ADN to BSN, and a basic 4-year BSN program.

Key highlights:

  • CCNE accreditation
  • Online and in-person course options
  • Accelerated summer courses to enable faster degree completion
  • Clinical rotations arranged at local hospitals and clinics
  • Emphasis on leadership skills and ethical decision-making

13. St. Luke‘s College

A hospital-based diploma program affiliated with UnityPoint Health St. Luke‘s Hospital, St. Luke‘s College provides intensive clinical training and job prospects within the UnityPoint system.

Key highlights:

  • Selective admissions, small annual cohorts
  • 3-year diploma program
  • All clinical instruction occurs at St. Luke‘s Hospital
  • Direct pathway into ADN and BSN programs at UnityPoint
  • Strong hire rates for graduates at St. Luke‘s Hospital

14. Iowa Central Community College

Iowa Central Community College offers an affordable 2-year ADN program on its campuses in Fort Dodge, Storm Lake, and Webster City. Graduates can seamlessly transfer to the RN to BSN program.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • ADN to BSN transition program for associate degree graduates
  • State-of-the-art simulation labs
  • Clinical rotations arranged at UnityPoint and other regional facilities
  • Very reasonable tuition rates

15. North Iowa Area Community College

The ADN program at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) prepares graduates to provide excellent nursing care. Students benefit from the expertise of seasoned faculty.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Curriculum incorporates new models of clinical nursing education
  • Simulation labs replicating real-world clinical environments
  • Local hospital partners provide a range of clinical training opportunities
  • Seamless transfer to NIACC‘s RN-BSN program

16. Indian Hills Community College

Indian Hills Community College offers an ACEN-accredited ADN program on its Ottumwa and Centerville campuses. The program incorporates interactive learning technology and hands-on clinical practice.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Meets educational requirements for RN licensure
  • Advanced simulation labs and extensive clinical partnerships
  • Experienced faculty and small class sizes
  • Articulation agreements with universities for BSN completion

17. Iowa Lakes Community College

Iowa Lakes Community College offers an Associate Degree in Nursing at its Emmetsburg campus. Graduates can seamlessly continue their BSN studies at the Spencer campus.

Key highlights:

  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Emmetsburg campus for ADN, Spencer campus for BSN
  • Active learning classrooms with the latest educational technology
  • Clinical experience arranged at local healthcare facilities
  • Affordable tuition as a community college program

18. Kaplan University

Kaplan University has a campus in Davenport, Iowa and offers an online RN to BSN program for licensed registered nurses seeking to advance their degree.

Key highlights:

  • CCNE accredited
  • Fully online RN to BSN program, no campus visits required
  • Credit for prior nursing education and work experience
  • Rolling admissions and multiple start dates per year
  • Specialized BSN tracks available, e.g. public health, informatics

19. Briar Cliff University

Briar Cliff University is a small Catholic liberal arts college offering BSN pathways for traditional students and RNs. Graduates are prepared to provide ethical, compassionate nursing care.

Key highlights:

  • CCNE accreditation
  • Traditional 4-year BSN pathway
  • RN to BSN completion program for licensed RNs
  • Small class sizes and hands-on clinical experience
  • Service learning and mission trips incorporated into curriculum

20. Clarke University

Clarke University is a private Catholic college providing an accelerated, affordable BSN program for students who hold a prior non-nursing bachelor’s degree.

Key highlights:

  • CCNE accreditation
  • 16-month accelerated BSN program
  • Clinical training sites across eastern Iowa
  • High-tech simulation labs and advanced learning technology
  • Supportive faculty focused on student success

This covers some of the top BSN programs students can choose from in Des Moines and the surrounding area. Nursing is a fulfilling career that‘s experiencing rapid growth and offers diverse work settings. With excellent programs available, Des Moines provides a great location to launch your nursing education and career. Reach out to desired programs early regarding admissions requirements to be on track for enrollment.

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