Iowa has deep roots in Christianity. Early settlers in the state included Quakers, Amish, and Mennonites, and today 77% of Iowans identify as Christian. Most Christians in Iowa attend mainline and evangelical Protestant churches, but there are many Catholics as well. A study by the Pew Research Center reveals 53% of Iowans view religion as very important, and 36% attend religious services at least once per week.
53% of Iowans view religion as very important, and 36% attend religious services at least once per week Pew Research Center
Two-thirds of Iowa's high school graduates -- slightly more than the national average -- enroll immediately in college. The majority of Bible colleges in Iowa are interdenominational and welcome students of all faiths. Many Christian colleges in Iowa provide undergraduate and graduate programs in both traditional and online formats.
For students interested in combining faith and learning, Christian colleges in Iowa provide high-quality academic programs, membership in national religious student organizations, and opportunities for engagement and fellowship within the local community. Christian colleges in Iowa are able to cater to the academic and social needs of Christian students.
Online Christian Colleges in Iowa
There are many benefits to attending online Christian colleges in Iowa. Students seeking a faith-based program with maximum flexibility should consider Christian online colleges. Many schools offer asynchronous learning formats, allowing students to complete the degree not only from the comfort of their own home, but also on their own schedule. Iowans may find online Christian colleges are especially convenient for working professionals, as well as students with children, family, or church obligations.
Online Bible colleges in Iowa also tend to be more affordable than on-campus programs. Distance learners eliminate the need to commute or pay for on-campus accommodations and fees. Many online schools still offer benefits such as international ministry opportunities and travel-based missionary projects. In fact, online Christian colleges in Iowa typically offer the same, faith-based curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, simply integrating religious coursework into online setting. Most online Christian colleges and universities offer online spiritual support and counseling, live streams of student worship services, and networking community groups for religious students.
Iowa's Best Online Christian Schools
Buena Vista University
Located in Storm Lake, Buena Vista University traces its history back to 1891, when the Presbyterian Church founded the institution. The school has grown over the past 125 years from four buildings to more than two dozen facilities, including the $9.5 million Lamberti Recreation Center. The school strives for recognition as a leader in rural higher education, and today enrolls more than 1,800 learners. BVU boasts an average student-to-faculty ratio of 9-to-1, with an average class size of no more than 19 students.
At the top of the list of Christian colleges in Iowa, BVU offers a range of online programs for those pursuing bachelor’s and master's degrees, as well as graduate endorsement. In total, the university offers over 30 programs online. These include:
Learners must earn 42-60 credits to complete their undergraduate degree. Earning a master’s degree requires 30-51 credits. BVU’s flexible courses begin six times per year and last eight weeks each. Students can easily access their course assignments, view their grades, communicate with professors, and schedule appointments with tutors online.
The university also accepts 100% of associate degree credits from partner community colleges within the Iowa Community College Online Consortium.
BVU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Northwestern College boasts an impressive record of accomplishments; for instance, 98% of recent graduates either secure jobs or enter graduate school within six months of graduation. The school's mission to build minds and faith began with its founding in 1882. NWC maintains its affiliation with the Reformed Church in America. The college maintains a commitment to high quality Christian liberal arts education for those seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The school stands out among private Christian colleges in Iowa thanks to its array of flexible and affordable fully online programs for adult learners. These include:
Admission to the RN-to-BSN program requires an associate degree or a hospital diploma in nursing with a minimum 2.7 GPA. Applicants must submit a copy of their active RN license. Those seeking admission for a BA in early childhood must possess either an associate or bachelor’s degree demonstrating a minimum 2.25 GPA. Graduate studies in education require proof of a teaching license and an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0.
The eight-week online classes allow learners to complete two courses each semester, even as they study at their own pace. Students can finish their bachelor’s degree in 18-24 months, thanks to NWC's seamless process for accepting transfer credits.
Northwestern College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Established in 1895 by the Community of Christ, Graceland University prides itself on creating communities of learners who strengthen their collective potential to lead productive, meaningful lives. The university ranks among the best Christian colleges in Iowa, offering more than 50 majors and programs and more than 50 student organizations and clubs. The school emphasizes the pleasure of lifelong learning and intellectual rigor, along with the importance of a fulfilling personal and professional life.
Lamoni, which sits about one hour south of Des Moines, houses GU’s main residential campus.
GU offers five online bachelor's programs:
Learners who wish to transfer previously earned college credits must have completed at least two semesters of coursework and earned a minimum 2.0 GPA. The university offers partnership programs with Indian Hills and Southwestern Community Colleges.
The university also offers an online master’s in education to those with an undergraduate degree in education or an endorsement from an accredited school. Students in this program can specialize in literacy instruction, instructional leadership, or special education. GU’s School of Nursing allows students to earn an RN-to-MSN or a master’s specializing in either family nursing or adult gerontology acute care.
The school also offers a doctor of nursing practice. Learners can also pursue a master’s in religion through the Community of Christ Seminary, which prepares leaders to serve ministries, congregations, and the world.
Graceland University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Saint Ambrose University
A leader among private Christian colleges in Iowa, Saint Ambrose University prides itself on providing learners with a holistic experience that goes beyond a classroom education. Students benefit from the opportunity to engage in experiential, hands-on learning while also enjoying scheduling flexibility and a peer community. With an average class size of 20 students and a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, SAU encourages learners to regularly interact with professors and one another.
Founded in 1882, SAU is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport. The private liberal arts institution offers seven online degrees:
Applicants for online undergraduate programs must submit an application demonstrating a minimum 2.0 GPA in any previous college coursework. RN-to-BSN applicants must also complete their prerequisite classes with a minimum C grade and a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Students can earn their bachelor’s degree in 15-24 months. Graduate admission requirements vary, and may include a writing sample, a resume, and professional references. These programs require 14-24 months to complete.
The university’s courses last eight weeks. Students may transfer up to 90 credits toward their bachelor’s degree. The school accepts graduate credits on a case-by-case basis. Active military and veterans enjoy discounted tuition and fees.
Saint Ambrose University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Mount Mercy University
Based in Cedar Rapids, Mount Mercy University is home to more than 1,800 students from across the globe. Reputed for its diversity and open-mindedness, the school encourages learners to work toward a more just and peaceful world by establishing values relating to five critical concerns: immigration, earth, nonviolence, women, and racism. Furthermore, MMU couples hands-on learning with textbook studies.
The student-to-faculty ratio stands at 15-to-1, and nearly 100% of alumni find employment or enroll in graduate school within nine months of graduation. In addition, MMU boasts a strong campus ministry. This includes church services and faith exploration through reflection groups, volunteerism, and service learning.
Students can choose among an array of online programs to earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree. These include:
Topping the list of Christian colleges in Iowa, MMU offers a 10-minute application process for online learners. If they wish, candidates may apply over the phone. The school does not require an application fee. Applicants may submit test scores or a personal statement.
MMU also helps potential students collect the required documents for their applications and transfer credits. In fact, the university may pay any required fees when requesting transcripts on applicants’ behalf. Those transferring to undergraduate programs must demonstrate a minimum 2.5 GPA in their previous studies, while graduate program applicants must have earned at least a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate studies.
Mount Mercy University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Grand View University
Grand View University was established in 1896 by the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, launching the school's tradition of equipping and empowering learners to serve society to their fullest potential. The institution commits to developing the whole person and preparing students for successful careers, encouraging alumni to give back to their communities and the world. Grand View's enrollment totals 1,900 students, with an average class size of just 16. Over half of the school's 20,800 alumni live in the state, and 84% of current students reside in Iowa.
One of the leading Christian colleges in Iowa, GVU offers online undergraduate programs in various studies, including:
The school’s online graduate program in organizational leadership encourages students to make a difference in their workplace as they advance professionally. Most complete this 30-credit master’s degree in 21 months, since classes begin every eight weeks and allow flexible start dates. GVU also offers a unique mentoring program for graduate learners. Students may complete a three-day on-campus residency, if they wish.
Those seeking admission to GVU’s online studies must complete an application and submit official transcripts from all previously attended institutions. Applicants with fewer than 24 college credits must also provide either SAT or ACT scores and a high school transcript. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis. GVU also accepts military credits and honors GI Bill benefits.
Grand View University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
William Penn University
William Penn University’s online programs allow learners to successfully balance their lives as they pursue their degrees. The university offers flexible, affordable programs featuring eight-week course terms, letting students finish their education faster.
WPU’s Quaker heritage dates back to 1873 and forms the basis of its welcoming community, which embraces people of all ethnicities and faiths. Founded by Quaker settlers who valued education, the school strives to prepare leaders for their careers while leveraging technology to demonstrate innovation. A standout among the top Christian colleges in Iowa, WPU offers a range of online degrees, including:
First-time college students must demonstrate a minimum 2.0 cumulative high school GPA and a minimum 18 ACT score (or the SAT equivalent). Transfer students must submit proof of a minimum 2.0 GPA in previous college courses. WPU admits undergraduate and graduate learners immediately upon receiving their application materials. The school maintains an articulation agreement with several area community colleges, including Indian Hills, Kirkwood, Southeastern, and Iowa Valley community colleges.
WPU tailors each student’s financial aid package to help them pay for their degrees. Aid may combine grants, work-study programs, and loans. Moreover, the university offers institutional scholarships and benefits for active-duty military and veterans.
WPU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Briar Cliff University
Briar Cliff University delivers a high quality liberal arts education through a Catholic lens. The school values the Franciscan tradition of caring, openness to all, and service, and encourages students to increase their sense of self-awareness and grow in their relationships. BCU understands the importance of career preparation and academic freedom, focusing on students’ educational success and extracurricular experiences. The student body totals more than 1,200, with learners representing 42 states, Puerto Rico, and 26 foreign countries.
The university’s online degree completion programs make BCU a leader among private Christian colleges in Iowa. Students may choose from the following bachelor's programs:
The university accepts up to 90 transfer credits from other schools. Applicants with an associate degree receive 62 credits toward their bachelor’s degree. BCU also awards credits for real-life work and volunteer experiences. Students can sit for tests through the College Level Examination Program to earn credit for knowledge acquired outside of the classroom.
Degree completion students may also apply for financial aid to help cover the costs of their studies. Aid packages may include federal direct loans, the federal Pell grant, and an Iowa tuition grant. The school also offers 100% matching Yellow Ribbon program benefits for active-duty military and veteran students and their dependents.
Briar Cliff University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Iowa Wesleyan University
Located in Mount Pleasant, Iowa Wesleyan University seeks to inspire, educate, and empower students to lead meaningful lives. The school prides itself on offering a quality education and personalized learner experience at an affordable price. Rooted in the religious and cultural aspirations of frontier settlers, IWU began in 1842. The university honors social justice and civic engagement while embracing self-discovery and bold risk-taking.
Called IW Online, the university’s flexible online programs allow learners to balance personal, professional, and academic demands. Expert faculty teach programs that lead to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, including:
The university offers 100% online degrees, with classes lasting eight weeks each. Online learners can take advantage of student success and career advisors, who provide assistance throughout enrollment. Students may transfer previously earned college credits if they received at least a C; IWU accepts up to 90 semester hours of transfer credit. In addition, IW Online offers credit by examination, allowing learners to expedite their degrees using knowledge acquired outside of the classroom.
Employees of IWU’s partner organizations, military service members, and their dependents enjoy tuition discounts.
Iowa Wesleyan University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Iowa's Best Online Seminaries
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary hosted its first classes in the summer of 1921 as the Omaha Bible Institute, with the seminary established in 1986. The school aims to prepare professionals in Christian vocations to become ministry leaders in churches globally. With a vision to hone students' focus on eternity and God, Faith advocates the mantra of look, lean, and lead. The school's history roots in Baptist fundamentalism, while its values include Bible-centered training and discipleship.
Faith Online, the institution’s online academic programming, offers Bible courses to those pursuing the school’s online biblical worldview certificate. These courses examine books of the Bible, music appreciation, and Bible doctrine. The seminary also offers online classes to help students complete their master’s degrees. Learners can fulfill most requirements online, but the seminary requires an on-campus residency, which students can complete in four weeks of morning and afternoon modular studies.
Admission to the master’s program requires an application, two completed reference forms, and college transcripts. The seminary offers a host of scholarships, including a faithful servant scholarship, church match scholarship, and dean’s scholarship. The seminary does not encourage loans for education, but some learners may qualify for Stafford and private loans based on their financial aid application. Faith only certifies loans for students who complete the FAFSA. The school also offers learners on-campus employment opportunities to defray their educational expenses.
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
What Christian Colleges are in Iowa?
Finding the Right Christian College
Students considering Christian colleges in Iowa should account for several factors, including cost, location, denomination, and available programs. Students must determine if their school can serve their unique academic, personal, and spiritual needs. The right Christian college should not only offer a robust academic program in your major of choice, but should also provide a safe, supportive learning environment in which you can thrive.
Students should also consider the school's values system. Most Christian colleges in Iowa require students to live a lifestyle synonymous with the Christian faith.
Students should also consider the school's values system. Most Christian colleges in Iowa require students to live a lifestyle synonymous with the Christian faith. Some schools prohibit the use of drugs and alcohol and do not allow co-ed housing on campus. Others require students to attend a minimum number of chapel services per week or perform service work in the local community.
Certain Christian colleges in Iowa only offer a handful of academic majors. Students should ensure that their school offers a program in their area of interest before applying.
Students attending online Christian colleges may take advantage of several resources that integrate faith into the distance learning experience. Many schools offer support through Christian student groups and campus ministries, as well as online streaming worship services and virtual spiritual counseling services.
Seminary Schools vs. Bible Schools
When researching Christian colleges in Iowa, students may be confused about the differences between a seminary school and a Bible college. While some sources mistakenly use the terms interchangeably, these institutions offer different programs to different types of students.
Bible colleges in Iowa offer undergraduate programs in religious studies and/or ministry-oriented majors. Students may choose a two-year or four-year degree in preparation for a bi-vocational or lay ministry career. Some schools offer programs in religious studies, Bible studies, theology, ministry, or divinity. However, they also offer non-religious majors such as biology and nursing. While Bible colleges typically focus on undergraduate programs, they may offer graduate degrees through a separate department or school.
Seminaries, also called divinity schools, are ideal for graduate students seeking advanced training for careers in pastoral or parachurch ministry. Seminaries emphasize coursework in systematic theology, pastoral counseling, Greek, Hebrew, and advanced biblical exegesis. While seminary students typically focus on intensive training for a ministry career, some seminaries also offer advanced degrees in biblical languages, theology, and religious history.
Accreditation for Christian Colleges
As with any college, accreditation is of utmost importance when it comes to researching Christian colleges in Iowa. Schools may hold regional accreditation or national accreditation. Most schools in Iowa hold institutional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission, a division of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Regional accreditation typically requires a more rigorous process and higher standards than national accreditation. Employers prefer candidates from regionally accredited schools.
A school's accreditation policy is especially relevant to potential transfer students. Many nationally accredited institutions will accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, though most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other institutions with the same accreditation.
Schools may receive specialized accreditation in addition to institutional recognition. For example, some online Christian colleges in Iowa are accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission or the Association for Biblical Higher Education.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education oversee all accreditation in the U.S.
Career and Salary Expectations
Graduates from Iowa Christian colleges are qualified for a variety of community and service-related occupations. The state boasts an unemployment rate of just 2.8% and a strong non-farm economy. Education and health services account for the third-largest employment sector in the state. Some of the state's fastest growing industries include manufacturing, financial activities, and professional and business services.
Workers in all occupations in Iowa earn a mean hourly wage of $21.50 and an annual mean salary of $44,730
Workers in all occupations in Iowa earn a mean hourly wage of $21.50 and an annual mean salary of $44,730. Christian colleges in Iowa can provide training in numerous religious occupations, as well as community-oriented jobs. Many of these careers offer a salary higher than the state average. As shown below, graduates from counseling and social work programs at traditional or Bible colleges in Iowa may earn between $33,000 and $50,000 per year.
Graduates of traditional and online Christian colleges interested in a career in the religious workforce can expect a similar range of employment and salary estimates. While there are only a small number of religious directors and clergy in the state, they typically earn strong salaries.
|Occupation||Employment||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Wage|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||1,270||$20.49||$42,620|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||340||$26.37||$54,860|
|Mental Health Counselors||1,470||$23.15||$48,140|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||3,140||$20.18||$41,980|
|Healthcare Social Workers||1,420||$21.96||$45,680|
|Social and Human Service Assistants||4,580||$15.90||$33,070|
|Directors, Religious Activities and Education||100||$24.61||$51,200|
|Religious Workers, all other||160||$15.04||$31,280|
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Many religion-based institutions and organizations, including Christian colleges in Iowa, award scholarships to qualifying students aspiring to a career in ministry or religious administration. Christian scholarships typically require applicants to verify their faith through a testimony or essay, in addition to meeting standard academic qualifications. The following scholarships are available to students attending a Bible college in Iowa, as well as Iowa state residents.
Ann Crawford Alexander Memorial Scholarship $1,000
National Presbyterian College Scholarship $2,500
Christian Missionary Scholarship Foundation Varies
Scholarships for Iowa Residents
All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship $4,383
Gov. Terry E. Branstad Iowa State Fair Scholarship Varies
Iowa Tuition Grant Varies
Iowa Technical-Vocational Tuition Grant $900
Find a Church in Your Community
For many students, locating the right place of worship in their community is essential to adjusting to college life. Worship services and faith-based programs can help students find peers with similar interests outside of the classroom. These services can also bridge the gap between faith-based learning and religious social events. Students can locate a nearby church through online directories such as Church Finder and USA Churches.
Christian networking websites can help students connect with other like-minded individuals to find career opportunities, continuing education classes, and local seminars and workshops. Professional organizations such as the ones listed below provide an extensive network of support for Christians in all sectors of the workforce.
- The Christian Business Network One of the world's premier organizations for Christian business professionals, the CBN offers diverse networking opportunities to current and aspiring faith-based business people. Benefits include professional skill-building, social networking, and inter-industrial collaboration.
- American Academy of Religion The AAR serves roughly 9,000 teachers and research scholars specializing in theology and religious studies. The academy hosts 10 regional groups addressing the specific needs of religious education professionals in every area of the U.S.
- CBMC International Connecting Business & the Marketplace to Christ promotes contemporary technology and networking skills for Christian professionals. CBMC International views information technology and globalization as critical knowledge for spiritual business leaders in the marketplace today.
- FCCI The Fellowship of Companies for Christ International equips members with the tools they need to achieve increased success and profitability in business and commerce. FCCI members receive exclusive access to an international conference, local business leader groups, and online assessments and webinars.
Find Christian Ministries
While the faith-based curriculum offered at Christian colleges in Iowa may be ideal for students considering religious studies, not all students can afford to attend a private Christian university. Fortunately, many public non-Christian universities in Iowa recognize the importance of Christian ministries on campus. These ministries help bond students of all Christian denominations together through academic and extracurricular events.
- Campus Crusade for Christ Campus Crusade for Christ, commonly known as Cru, has engaged over 100,000 students through more than 2,300 campus locations around the world. Cru's mission is to help students build a close relationship to Christ, preparing them for lifelong service in evangelism and discipleship.
- Chi Alpha Chi Alpha encourages its members to take a holistic approach to integrating their love of Christ into academia and the professional world. Chi Alpha hosts an annual training conference, as well as exclusive alumni engagements and guest speaker events.
- International Fellowship of Evangelical Students The IFES maintains a large membership of Christian students on every continent worldwide. The fellowship promotes spiritual programs with a global focus. The IFES encourages tithing through pledges and donations, and circulates multiple faith-based publications.
- Fellowship of Christian Athletes The FCA encourages athletes to unite their passions for sports and Christ through training camps and ministry opportunities. The FCA also provides athletes with skills they need to start their own ministries or become ministry leaders on their school's campus.
- Catholic Campus Ministry Association The CCMA is the world's premier Catholic campus ministry. The association helps students build their evangelism and discipleship skills and grow their ministry groups through training and webinars. The CCMA also hosts an annual campus ministry convention.
- Lutheran Student Movement U.S.A. The most prominent Lutheran campus ministry in the country, the LSM-USA offers resources such as a directory of alternative spring break trips and service-learning projects. The group hosts an annual national gathering for college-age Lutheran students, campus pastors, and key figures in campus ministry.
- Reformed University Fellowship As America's official Presbyterian campus ministry, the RUF ensures that all campus ministers are ordained and seminary trained. The ministry promotes holistic integration of spirituality into all aspects of student life.
- UKirk UKirk hosts cohort student groups, grant opportunities, and a collegiate summit. The ministry also provides students with literature review opportunities and lectionary training resources.
- Baptist Collegiate Ministry Life The BCM Life promotes leadership, development, and connection among Baptist college students in North America. The BCM Life caters to multiple areas of ministry. The ministry operates on campuses and in churches, as well as in international locations. It also hosts tree-planting and beach-clean-up initiatives.
Public Universities in Iowa with Christian Ministries
- Iowa State University: Iowa State hosts dozens of campus ministries in all major Christian denominations, including Catholic, Lutheran, Latter Day Saints, and Orthodox Christian. The school also caters to Christian students in specific majors or with common interests, including with veterinary and intervarsity Christian fellowships.
- University of Iowa: The Wesley Center at the University of Iowa hosts multiple ministry programs rooted in the Christian Wesleyan tradition. In connection with the university's School of Religious Studies and Women's Resource and Action Center, The Wesley Center hosts weekly events supported by campus ministries including Cru and the Campus Christian Fellowship.
- University of Northern Iowa: UNI's long list of religion and spirituality organizations includes the Campus Christian Fellowship, St. Stephen the Witness Catholic Student Center, and Chi Alpha. The school also hosts its own chapters of the International Justice Mission and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.