Top CNA Programs in Iowa

Beginning a Certified Nursing Assistant/Aide (CNA) certificate program is the very first step in beginning a fulfilling career assisting ill patients in a wide variety of healthcare settings. CNA certificate programs prepare students for gainful employment as direct healthcare workers. CNAs are often seen by many as the backbone of the medical establishment. Along with their RN counterparts, CNAs provide nearly 85% of all direct patient care. According to the United States Department of Labor, jobs in the field of nursing assistance are predicted to grow by 21% until the year 2022.

How to Choose a Top CNA Program in Iowa

Prospective students looking to pursue a career as a Certified Nurse Assistant should look to find the best programs available to them. If students are serious about attending the top programs in their state, they should take the following measures into consideration when looking for the best programs:

  • Determine the program's CNA certification exam pass rate; compare it to the statewide average
  • Number of campuses the program is offered at
  • When was the program originally established, and how long has it been continuously running?
  • What is the student success rate of the program? How many students that start the program finish?
  • Local healthcare facility partnerships with the program
  • Institutional program recognition, awards or accolades
  • How much does the program cost to attend compared to other programs in the state?
  • What credentials do the administrators and instructors running the program have? How long have they been teaching?
  • Availability of scholarships/financial aid/grants

Testing and Certification

In order for an individual to be employed as a CNA in the state of Iowa, they are required to be registered with the Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry. To have one's name placed on the registry, they are required to pass two exams: a computerized competency exam and a skills exam. The Computer-Based State Competency exam is given in a 100-question multiple choice format. Scores of 70% and above are considered passing grades. Students are given three chances at the written exam before they're required to retake a certificate course.

The skills portion of the exam consists of a 45-minute patient care scenario where students are expected to demonstrate mastery of a number of skills. Again, a score of 70% or above is required to pass. Like the written exam, the skills exam can be taken up to three times before students must retake a certificate training course.

List of Top CNA Classes and Programs in Iowa

North Iowa Area Community College

North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC), first established in 1918 under the name Mason City Junior College, is a state-funded postsecondary educational institution located in Mason City. The institution represents the very first public two-year community college in the state of Iowa and one of the first community colleges in the country.

NIACCs Certified Nursing Assistant program seeks to allow its students to achieve an elementary understanding of the skills needed to provide safe and effective care for patients. The program is 6 units in total, and is essentially comprised of three sections: in-class lecture/theory (30 hours), laboratory practice (25 hours), and clinical skills experience onsite at a nursing facility (30 hours). NIACC offers CNA programs during Fall, Spring and Summer semesters.

Healthcare facilities located near Mason City that are currently hiring CNAs

  • Heritage Care and Rehabilitation Center
  • Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa


Current tuition fees for NIACC’s Certified Nursing Assistant program can be found by contacting a health professions counselor at 1-888-466-4222.

Northwest Iowa Community College

Northwest Iowa Community College is a 2-year community college located in the northwest corner of the state in Sheldon. The institution was established in 1966 and boasts many programs with successful completion and employment rates.

The Northwest Iowa Community College Certified Nursing Assistant program is a 3-credit hour, 75-contact hour program which qualifies successful students for employment as CNAs in healthcare facilities. The primary purpose of the program is to help students develop skills to care for geriatric patients. Of the 75 contact hours, 30 hours of in-class lecture, 30 hours of clinical practice, and 15 hours of simulated lab practice are required.

Healthcare facilities located near Sheldon currently hiring CNAs

  • Sanford Health
  • Good Samaritan Society
  • Pearl Valley at Primghar


CNA students at Northwest Iowa Community College can expect to pay an amount of $625 for fees including tuition, textbooks, materials, and for the state certification examination. Tuition assistance is available for certain students based on their financial situations.

Northeast Iowa Community College

Northeast Iowa Community College, commonly referred to as NICC, was first established in 1966 under the name Northeast Iowa Technical Institute and is a community college that serves Allamakee, Chicksaw, Fayette, Clayton, Howard, Winnesheik, Delaware, and Dubuque counties.  The two main campuses of NICC are Peosta and Calmar.

Northeast Iowa Community College’s Certified Nurse Aide program consists of 80 hours of theory/in-class lecture, lab practice at the school, and clinical experience at health facilities located off campus. NICC’s program places a special emphasis on mental, social and the physical health of the elderly population. Upon completing this program, CNAs can matriculate into the registered nursing program if they so choose.

Healthcare facilities located near Peosta and Calmar currently hiring CNAs

  • UnityPoint Health
  • Mercy Medical Center
  • Ennoble Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
  • Regional Health Services of Howard County


  • Iowa Resident: $170 per credit hour
  • Out-of-State: $190 per credit hour
  • International Students: $205 per credit hour

Iowa Lakes Community College

Originally established in 1966, with its main campus located in Estherville, Iowa Lakes Community College is a publicly-funded postsecondary learning institution with subsidiary campuses in Spencer, Emmetsburg, Spirit Lake, and Algona. ILCC primarily serves students coming from Dickinson, Clay, Kossuth, Palo Alto, and Emmet counties.

ILCCs Certified Nursing Assistant program is offered at three of their campuses: Spencer, Algona, and Emmetsburg. Each program is composed of 75 contact hours: 30 off-campus clinical hours, 30 classroom lecture hours, and 15 laboratory skills training hours. The course is available to be taken for credit or non-credit.

Healthcare facilities located near Estherville currently hiring CNAs

  • Good Samaritan Society
  • Pearl Valley at Lake Park
  • Avera Health


Prospective students CNA students of Iowa Lakes Community College are expected to pay $625 for fees including tuition, materials, and more. Tuition assistance and financial aid is available for eligible students.

Marshalltown Community College

Marshalltown Community College is a community college located in the city of Marshalltown. The educational institution was first established in 1927 as Marshalltown Junior College. MCC is a member of the Iowa Valley Community College District.

MCC offers prospective CNA students a state-approved nurse aide program which consists of 75 total contact hours. Similar to other CNA programs in the state, the 75 contact hours are made up of 30 classroom lecture hours, 30 hours of off-campus clinical training at a long-term healthcare facility, and 15 hours of lab practice.

Healthcare facilities located near Marshalltown currently hiring CNAs

  • UnityPoint Health
  • Bickford Senior Living
  • DaVita


Students thinking about enrolling in MCCs Certified Nursing Assistant Program are expected to pay an approximate amount of $720 for fees which include tuition, textbooks, scrubs, background checks, and the state certification examination.

Hawkeye Community College

Hawkeye Community College, originally founded in 1966 under the name Hawkeye Institute of Technology, is a community college located in the city of Waterloo. The college has additional educational centers in Grundy County, Waverly, Independence and Cedar Falls.

HCC offers interested students a 3-credit course that goes by the name PNN-100 Nursing Assistant. The course mainly emphasizes imparting the appropriate knowledge to its students to allow them to achieve the skills needed to provide effective direct patient care. The course consists of 32 lecture hours, 32 clinical hours at a long-term healthcare facility, and 16 hours of laboratory practice on campus.

Healthcare facilities located near the city of Waterloo currently hiring CNAs

  • Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa
  • UnityPoint Health
  • Harmony House Health Care Center


Students enrolled in HCC’s Certified Nursing Assistant course can expect to pay a total estimated cost of $611.

Southeastern Community College

Southeastern Community College is a 2-year, post-secondary educational institution that was originally created via the merging of Burlington Junior College and Keokuk Community College in 1967. Today, SCC’s two campuses are located in the same cities. The school also has a regional center located in the city of Mount Pleasant.

SCC offers students a robust 88-contact hour, 3.5-credit hour Nursing Aide Course. The program’s breakdown of contact hours is in-line with state-approved curriculum standards. The CNA course is comprised of 36 hours of lecture time, 32 hours of clinical training onsite at a healthcare facility, and 20 hours of lab instruction/practice. Unlike many other CNA programs in the state, SCC offers its students an instruction module on confidentiality, communication and professionalism.

Healthcare facilities located near Keokuk and Burlington currently hiring CNAs

  • Donnellson Health Center
  • Henry County Health Center
  • Bickford Senior Living
  • Great River Health Systems


For those students who reside within the Iowa state lines, the total estimated cost of attendance is approximately $959. For individuals coming from outside of state, the total estimated cost of attendance is about $976.