A Complete Guide to Successfully Moving to Iowa

A Complete Guide to Successfully Moving to Iowa

Landscape view of Dubuque, Iowa waterline

Starting a new era of your life surrounded by new people, new towns, and new adventures can seem very scary. If you are moving to Iowa there is no need to feel that way! Iowa is filled with good old midwestern charm from its cities and small towns to the people that live there. We’re here to show you how amazing living in Iowa can be.

Iowa Demographics

Iowa’s current population is around 3.18 million people and is slowly rising. This makes Iowa the 31st most populated state in the United States.

When it comes to diversity, the state of Iowa has a moderately diverse population. 49.8% of the population are females and 50.2% are males. When it comes to race and origin, 89.8% of the people identify as white, 4.4% identify as African American, and 5.8% of the population identify as Asian, Latino, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, or other.

Within the state, 28.4% of the residents are younger than 18 years old and 18.3% are older than 65 years old. Over half of the population is between the ages of 18 and 64 years old.

Cost of Living

One of the biggest pros of moving to Iowa is how low the cost of living is. The cost of living score for Iowa is 80.1, which means it is 19.9% lower than the national average. This score is composed of the prices for housing, food, transportation, healthcare, taxes, and other necessities.

The main reason the cost of living in Iowa is so low is because of low housing costs. According to Bestplaces.net, the average home in Iowa only costs $194,900 which is 42% lower than the national average.

While the cost of living in Iowa cities is considered lower than the national average, it’s EVEN LOWER in the rural towns Iowa is mainly comprised of.

Iowa Job Market

Tractor mowing a field in the country

Currently, Iowa has a very low unemployment rate of only 3.2%. However, there are over 59,000 job openings within the state. While this means getting a job should be easy, it is important to look into what careers are popular in Iowa and how much they pay.

Careers in Iowa

It’s important to consider your future career when you’re moving to a new state. You can find openings for most careers in any state, but there are going to be certain jobs that are in higher demand.

Some of the biggest industries in Iowa include agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energies and fuels, and health insurance. Since these are some of the biggest industries within the state, they also account for a large portion of job positions. This makes chances of finding a job within one of these industries high.

Currently, in Iowa, the occupations with the most job openings are registered nurses, retail salespersons, and licensed practical and vocational nurses. The industry that often has the most job openings is any area within the medical field.

Average Salary Rates

The average salary in Iowa is $41,503 per year. This comes out to be almost $20 per hour of work if you are working a 40-hour-per-week job. Iowa may not have one of the higher average salaries in the United States, but they make up for it by having such low costs of living.

If you are working a job for an hourly wage, the minimum wage in Iowa is $7.25. However, if you are working a job where you receive tips your wage can be as low as $4.35. This is typically known as server wage.

Places to Live in Iowa

Iowa is full of a variety of towns, from bigger cities to small rural communities. Moving to Iowa will give you many options for finding a town to live in that fits your lifestyle. Although, each town or city will have its own pros and cons you should consider before making your move to Iowa.

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Urban Iowa

Des Moines night time skyline view

Are you a city person who wants to move to Iowa? Don’t worry, the state isn’t all cornfields and farms. Iowa has multiple big cities you can choose from.

Des Moines

Des Moines is the capital city of Iowa. The city’s population is over 211,000 making it the biggest city in Iowa.

Well known for its city life, Des Moines is full of malls and shopping centers where you can buy just about anything. Many restaurants serve a wide variety of unique cuisines. When summer rolls around in Des Moines, make sure you check out the Downtown Des Moines Market. This market spans 9 city blocks and brings in over 300 vendors.

Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids, Iowa is the second largest city in Iowa with a population of around 136,000. The town is a perfect mix of living in a bigger city while still having opportunities to be out in nature.

When it comes to city life, Cedar Rapids is full of history and art museums. Learn about the history of the Czech people at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library or go see the art at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. If you are still looking to spend time outdoors while living in the city, Cedar Rapids is home to Brucemore Estate which has some beautiful gardens for you to enjoy, or the Indian Creek Nature Center with winding trails.

Iowa City

Iowa City, Iowa is home to the old capitol building and has a population of over 74,000 people.

The city is known for being one of the best small cities for the performing arts. The city has Englert Theater, Hancher Auditorium, and Film Scene where you can see plays, musicals, movies, and dance competitions year-round. While living there, you will also get the college town atmosphere and will probably be cheering right alongside other Hawkeye fans.

Rural Iowa

Farm buildings behind rows of flowers

Iowa is well known for having rural towns and country living. If you are moving to Iowa to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, there are plenty of small-town places for you to call home.


Danville, Iowa is home to less than 1,000 people making it a very tight-knit community to live in.

While Danville may be a small town, there is still plenty to do and see there. The library houses the Anne Frank Connection area where people can view letters that were exchanged between Danville resident Juanita Wagner and Anne Frank. The town also has a campground in Geode State Park. The campground has hiking trails, fishing and boating areas, and beaches for the people staying there to enjoy.  

Long Grove

Long Grove, Iowa is another small town with around 800 people. This town may be on the smaller side, but it is full of welcoming people and a rich history.

If you are looking for a day adventure your whole family will enjoy, check out the Walnut Grove Pioneer Village. This old-fashioned village lets you walk through the lives of people who lived back in the 1860s through the 1940s. With 19 different historical replica buildings, your family can spend all day at this historic site whether it be on a self-guided tour or at one of their many events.


Maxwell, Iowa is also home to a little over 800 people. This small town is full of community activities that will make everyone feel welcome.

The biggest community event the town hosts every year is Old Settler Days. Old Settler Days has been around for 122 years. This four-day festival takes place the first full week in August and is fun for all ages. They have carnival rides, a rodeo, tractor pulls, sporting events, live music, a parade, and so much more.

Colleges in Iowa

Looking to further your education? Iowa has multiple colleges you can choose from. While the state may often be seen as a rural farming state, it has some top colleges you can apply to.

Iowa State

Iowa State University is home to the Cyclones. This 4-year public school is located in Ames, Iowa. The university prides itself on being a larger school but still having a small-town atmosphere.

There are more than 100 majors, minors, and certificates you can choose from while you attend the university. They have a vast variety of clubs, organizations, and sporting teams you can be a part of. 93% of all freshmen participate in at least one on-campus organization during their first semester.      

University of Iowa

University of Iowa football stadium

The University of Iowa is home to the Hawkeyes, one of the biggest rivals of the Cyclones. Located in Iowa City, Iowa, this 4-year public school is home to over 30,000 students.

While the university is well known for its advancements in the medical field and space technology, it offers over 200 majors and minors to pick from. They are a division one school, and their football games tend to draw in big crowds.

Their research hospital overlooks the football stadium, allowing for perhaps the best tradition in college football. After the first quarter, everyone in the Hawkeyes stadium turns to wave at the children and their families watching from the hospital above.

University of Northern Iowa

Home of the Panthers, the University of Northern Iowa is located in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The campus has a small-town feel since it has less than 10,000 students.

The university has over 160 majors, minors, and endorsements you can choose from. They are most known for their education majors due to their amazing teacher preparation program. They offer multiple forms of in-the-classroom experiences for their future teachers to prepare them for their careers. Thanks to that, the University of Northern Iowa graduates more educators than any of the other colleges in Iowa.

Drake University

The Drake University Bulldogs call Des Moines, Iowa their home. Drake is a private four-year university and is home to around 5,000 students.

There are 130 undergraduate and graduate programs for students to major in. Since Drake is a private college, it’s on the more expensive side, but 100% of first-year full-time students receive a Presidential Scholarship. They also have an 11 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio, making for small class sizes and allowing students to work closely with their professors.

5 Fast Facts About Iowa

Bikers racing during RAGBRAI

Here are 5 fast facts about Iowa to showcase how unique and amazing the state truly is.

  1. Iowa is the number one producer of pork in the United States. The pigs outnumber people 4 to 1!
  2. Iowa is the only state bordered by two major rivers, the Mississippi River, and the Missouri River. This means many of the towns and cities on the west and east sides of the state are right next to the water.
  3. Iowa has one of the most popular state fairs and over 1 million people attend it each year. One of the biggest attractions people go to see is the butter sculptures that people create for display.
  4. Iowa may be a landlocked state, but they have a town that is on an island sandbar in the Mississippi River. Sabula, Iowa is home to over 500 people.
  5. Iowa is home to the largest bike-touring event in the world. Over 23,000 people participate in Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) every year.

Iowa Moving Companies

Are you moving to Iowa and looking for a local company to help you move? Look no further because Iowa has many moving companies you can choose from.


UniMovers is a labor-only moving company that services areas in Iowa, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Our Iowa locations are in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Cedar Falls, and Dubuque.

Hiring UniMovers can save you anywhere from 30-50% compared to the cost of hiring traditional full-service movers. Another benefit to hiring UniMovers is you are helping support college and university workers. All our movers are college and university students or recent graduates. Also, a portion of every move is donated to our working student scholarship fund and a local nonprofit.

Two Men and a Truck

Two Men and a Truck is a full-service moving company that has locations in Iowa as well as in 45 other states. They offer both short and long-distance moving services along with packing services.

All of the movers who work for their company are fully licensed, insured, and background checked. This gives you peace of mind when you are putting your move in the hands of a company. Alongside their packing services, they also offer competitively priced boxes and packing supplies if you want to do it yourself.

North American Van Lines

North American Van Lines provides moving services in all 50 states. This company has been around for over 90 years and offers full-service moving options along with many additional services.

Some of the additional services they offer are full-service packing, fragile-only packing, self-packing assistance, and furniture and appliance assembly. They also offer storage options for both short-term and long-term use. Another service they offer is vehicle shipping if you are unable to get your vehicle to your new home yourself.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Iowa

There are many pros and cons of moving to Iowa. You should know both the good and the bad of moving to this state.

Pros of Moving to Iowa

Here are some of the biggest pros of moving to Iowa.

  • Iowa has a very low cost of living in comparison to the national average. This low cost of living is one of the biggest appeals of moving to the state.
  • Iowa has a low crime rate compared to other states. Iowa has a crime rate of 2,489 per 100,000 people. Out of the fifty states, thirty-five states have higher crime rates than Iowa.
  • The people of Iowa are well known for their “Iowa Nice” mentality. Living in Iowa will allow you to be surrounded by people with friendly midwestern charm.

Cons of Moving to Iowa

While moving to Iowa has a lot of pros, it also does have some cons.

  • Iowa is known for having very extreme weather conditions. From heavy snow storms in the winter, to heat waves in the summer, Iowa hits the extremes on both sides of the spectrum. Iowa is also known to be a very windy state since it is so flat.
  • If you are a big sports fan, Iowa may not be the state for you. While they have many different college teams to cheer for, Iowa has no professional sports teams.
  • Iowa is a landlocked state which can cause higher transportation costs and longer transit times for both importing and exporting goods.

Pros or Cons of Moving to Iowa

The pros and cons of moving to Iowa can greatly vary by person. Some people may see things as a benefit of moving to the state while others may view it as a downside.

  • Iowa may have some bigger cities, but the state is mainly full of small, rural towns.
  • Iowa is often a swing state when it comes to politics. The state often goes back and forth when it comes to its political backing during the presidential election and the election for its governor.
  • Iowa City is surrounded by big cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, Minneapolis, and Madison. However, all of these cities are around a 4 to 5-hour drive away if you want to visit them.


While there are many pros and cons of moving to Iowa, the benefits outweigh the downfalls. Iowa has a lower cost of living than the national average and job opportunities in many fields. Iowa has bigger cities like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City, and smaller cities such as Danville, Long Grove, and Maxwell. The state is also full of college life and opportunities to further your education. With many unique features and attractions to see, moving to Iowa is full of new opportunities.


Is the Iowa State Fair worth going to?

The Iowa State Fair is worth visiting! They have hand-crafted butter sculptures, locally sourced honey lemonade, and you can get almost any food fried on a stick for you to eat. Having over 1 million visitors each year proves how much people enjoy this state fair.

Will I save money if I decide to move to Iowa?

Iowa is very well known for having a low cost of living in comparison to the national average. This means buying or renting a home and the cost of everyday living tends to be cheaper than in other states. This low cost of living is something that makes people want to move to Iowa.

Can anyone participate in RAGBRAI?

RAGBRAI is open for anyone to participate in whether it be for the full week or for part of the ride. However, you do have to register and registration fees vary from $40 to $300 dollars depending on how long you want to ride and your registration time.

Are there any smaller colleges in Iowa?

There are over 50 colleges and universities in Iowa. Iowa has both public and private universities along with a variety of 2-year and 4-year colleges. When it comes to furthering your education, Iowa offers options to fit everyone’s career paths.

Are people in Iowa as friendly as people claim?

There is definitely a reason for the phrase “Iowa Nice.” People in Iowa are well known for their midwestern charm and their hospitality.

Do the pros of moving to Iowa outweigh the cons?

While moving to Iowa will be a different experience for everyone, overall, moving to Iowa is filled with many great benefits. From new experiences and opportunities to different lifestyles to fit everyone, Iowa has a little bit of everything.

Jessica is a students at the University of Northern Iowa. She is majoring in English Education with a creative writing minor. In her free time she loves to read books of every genre, write short stories, and spend time with friends. In the future she hopes to share her love for reading and writing with her future students.