CNA classes in Iowa are one of the most sought after programs in all of allied health. The demand is skyrocketing and shows no stopping in the future! Working at facilities that include everything from long-term care facilities to hospitals, nursing assistants are an entry-level position doesn’t require a degree (training and certification prerequisites can often be met in a few months), and may make a helpful first step towards more advanced jobs in the patient care field.

How to become a CNA in Iowa

In the State of Iowa, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) work under the joint jurisdiction of multiple state agencies. These include the Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals (DIA) who maintains the state’s registry, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) who regulates CNA certification in the state, and the Iowa Health Care Association (IHCA) who regulates training programs.

In order to be eligible to work as a nursing assistant, you must be listed on the Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry.

Becoming certified in Iowa

The process for becoming certified in Iowa consists of the following five steps:

Step 1 – Earn a high school diploma or G.E.D.

Receiving your high school diploma is a basic fundamental to becoming employed in any type of specialized job. Working in the medical field is no exception. You can find positions in the field that may be held without a high school education, but they typically have little room for advancement.

Where CNA training programs are concerned, you’re going to also discover quickly that most accredited programs require applicants to give proof of a high school diploma or G.E.D. prior to starting classes. For these reasons, if you are interested in working in medical care, it’s a wise decision to complete this worthwhile step.

Step 2 – Enroll in an IHCA-approved CNA training program

The organization responsible for regulating nurse assisting training programs in the state is the Iowa Health Care Association (IHCA). For you to become eligible to challenge for certification, you will need to first graduate from a training program that is approved by this organization.

There are a number of things you may want to consider if you are selecting a program to attend. As you compare your options, you may want to take these factors into account:

  • Make sure that the program is approved by the IHCA
  • Determine if a minimum of 70% of prior grads passed both the Iowa Nurse Aide Written and Skills exams
  • See if available courses fit your schedule
  • Find out what the course costs, and be sure you can afford it

Which CNA programs in Iowa are approved by the IHCA?

Before you can challenge either of the two CNA certification exams (written or skills) administered in Iowa, you must first graduate from a program approved by the Iowa Health Care Association (IHCA). The approval statuses and locations where programs are offered is subject to change, so we advise you to contact the IHCA directly to review currently approved courses. You can find information from IHCA here.

Step 3 – Complete the state’s mandated training hours

Obviously, graduation from your nursing assistant program is an essential first step. Courses in Iowa require you to satisfy the state’s mandatory minimum of 30 hours in a hands-on clinical environment, and 75 hours in classroom study.

You aren’t considered to be eligible to challenge the state’s two certification tests (the Iowa Nurse Aide Written and Skills Exams) unless you’ve met this prerequisite.

Step 4 – Pass the Iowa Nurse Aide Written and Skills Exams

In the Hawkeye State, you are legally required to pass two state-administered exams for nursing assistant certification – the Iowa Nurse Aide Written Exam and the Iowa Nurse Aide Skills Exam. These tests require the test taker to complete written problems, as well as a clinical demo.

The written test is timed, and will ask you to answer multiple-choice problems about the material that was covered in the course of your training course. An evaluator will lead you through the skills exam, during which you’ll have to display the clinical skills you would need while on the job. Finishing your certification will require a passing mark on both of these assessments.

Unlike most of the U.S., where a national test provider is used, Iowa offers multiple options for administering its state tests to aspiring nurse aides in the state. The locations where these tests are normally offered depend are often dictated by the program you attend. You will want to ask the staff at your CNA training program about test dates and times for when the next exams will be administered.

The fees for the exam is $50 for the written test and $85 for the skills test.

Step 5 – Become listed on the Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry

After passing the certification test, the final step you must complete to begin earning a living as a nursing assistant in <state name> is getting your name included on the Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry. Operated by the Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals (DIA), this is a listing of all certified nursing assistants who are approved for employment in the state. Unless you are on this checklist, you cannot be approved for employment. This detail is usually taken care of for you, however.

The registry is typically informed by the exam providers shortly after you’ve passed the state’s two certification exams. The typical waiting time to get your name placed on the list is two-to-three weeks in Iowa.

Don’t hesitate to contact your state registry personally with the information below if you have additional concerns.

Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry
Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals
Division of Health Facilities
Lucas State Office Building
321 East 12th Street – 3rd Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319-0083

CNA salary and jobs in Iowa

Nationally, as well as in Iowa, the demand is very high for nursing assistants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 17% growth in new job opportunities across the country and 15% in the State of Iowa through 2024. The vast majority of new positions are expected to be created in hospitals and nursing homes. There will also be some need at government agencies and facilities.

As previously mentioned, many of these opportunities could make good starting points for careers in nursing (e.g. RNs or LPNs).

Below is a listing of the major metropolitan areas in the Hawkeye State and additional data on nursing assistant compensation by location and county.

LocationPay TypeLowMedianHigh
United StatesHourly$9.64$12.78$18.22
Yearly$20,040 $26,590 $37,900
IowaHourly$10.16$12.70$17.10
Yearly$21,120 $26,420 $35,570
Iowa City, IA MSAHourly$11.01$14.01$17.83
Yearly$22,900 $29,150 $37,100
Ames, IA MSAHourly$12.03$13.73$16.03
Yearly$25,030 $28,550 $33,350
Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA MSAHourly$10.75$13.73$18.22
Yearly$22,360 $28,550 $37,890
Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA MSAHourly$10.25$12.91$16.59
Yearly$21,330 $26,860 $34,510
Southwest Iowa BOSHourly$10.18$12.64$17.61
Yearly$21,170 $26,300 $36,630
Cedar Rapids, IA MSAHourly$10.19$12.56$16.25
Yearly$21,200 $26,130 $33,810
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA MSAHourly$10.11$12.53$16.04
Yearly$21,030 $26,050 $33,370
Dubuque, IA MSAHourly$10.08$12.36$17.46
Yearly$20,970 $25,710 $36,320
Northeast Iowa BOSHourly$10.05$12.34$16.14
Yearly$20,900 $25,670 $33,560
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL MSAHourly$9.96$12.31$15.45
Yearly$20,720 $25,610 $32,130
Northwest Iowa BOSHourly$10.11$12.17$16.21
Yearly$21,040 $25,310 $33,710
Southeast Iowa BOSHourly$9.97$11.85$17.48
Yearly$20,730 $24,640 $36,350
Sioux City, IA-NE-SD MSAHourly$9.96$11.68$15.54
Yearly$20,710 $24,280 $32,320