The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

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Updated November 28, 2022

Colorado has a projected growth rate for nurses higher than the national average. Discover the state requirements and choose from among these top schools.
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NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Are you looking for a tax-friendly state that offers stunning natural landscapes and a healthy lifestyle? Colorado may be the place for you, with cities boasting high-performing hospitals and healthcare organizations that appeal to working nurses.

World-class skiing and outdoor recreation encourage nurses to find a solid work-life balance that helps prevent burnout. Just outside of Denver and south of Fort Collins is Rocky Mountain National Park, a mecca for interesting wildlife. Museums, professional sports, and optimal shopping and dining options mean there is something in Colorado for nearly everyone.

This page explores how to become a nurse in Colorado, salary information, and the job outlook for nurses. Keep reading to learn more about the top nursing schools in Colorado and how to choose the program that's right for you.

The Best Nursing Schools in Colorado

Only you can decide on the best nursing program in Colorado that meets your needs. This guide offers important criteria to consider as you compare nursing schools, including graduation rate, tuition, time commitment, and admission requirements. Since accreditation is necessary for your nursing license, only accredited nursing schools in Colorado are listed.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in Colorado, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

#1 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

Morgan Community College

  • Fort Morgan, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Fort Morgan-based Morgan Community College offers several of the best nursing programs in Colorado. Students can pursue an LPN-to-RN, RN-to-BSN, or associate degree in nursing (ADN) program. 

The LPN-to-RN program provides entry-level nurse training. Students complete the ADN program's second year in this track. They learn through classroom instruction and supervised clinical experiences.

Details:

  • Program(s): LPN-to-RN; RN-to-BSN; ADN
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 
  • Tuition: $244-$363 per credit for in-state learners; $457-$657 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: LPN-to-RN enrollees need an active unencumbered practical nurse license in Colorado or a compact state
  • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.9% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $57,990 for associate degree-holders, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,574
Out-of-state
$14,662
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,266
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

Regis University

  • Denver, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Regis University is a Jesuit Catholic college located in Denver. Students complete the 120-credit bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) on campus during the day. Transfer students can complete the degree in just two years. 

The BSN requires 750 hours of clinical experience in the junior and senior years. The program emphasizes service-learning and volunteerism. Graduates qualify to sit for the national (NCLEX-RN) licensing exam. 

Details:

  • Program: BSN
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 
  • Tuition: $20,233 per semester
  • Admission Requirements: High school diploma; a minimum cumulative 2.75 GPA; and prerequisite coursework
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.2% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $63,140 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$37,830
Out-of-state
$37,830
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
6,908
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

Aims Community College

  • Greeley, CO
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Aims Community College runs one of the best nursing schools in Colorado. Students can complete the AAS in nursing on the Greeley, Fort Lupton, or Loveland campus. The program requires full-time enrollment. 

Enrollees complete coursework and clinical rotations. They learn how to provide patient care in specialized areas like maternal child and psychiatric-mental health. Degree-seekers develop critical thinking and communication skills. The program prepares students for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.

Details:

  • Program: AAS in nursing
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing 
  • Tuition: $7,817-$12,532 total tuition for in-state learners; $36,870 total tuition for out-of-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: High school transcripts; prerequisite coursework; and HESI test scores
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.5% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $57,990 for associate degree-holders, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$2,544
Out-of-state
$10,200
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
6,634
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

University of Northern Colorado

  • Greeley, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Greeley-based University of Northern Colorado offers a nine-semester bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Students can choose a traditional or second bachelor's degree track. Both options require full-time, on-campus attendance.

In addition to lectures and coursework, students complete clinical experiences in settings like hospitals and nursing homes. UNC is one of the best nursing schools in Colorado for those who already have a non-nursing bachelor's degree and want to enter the nursing field.  

Details:

  • Program: BSN
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 
  • Tuition: $10,947 per semester for in-state learners; $21,246 per semester for out-of-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: School transcripts; prerequisite nursing courses; a minimum cumulative 3.3 GPA; and HESI test scores
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Nine semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92.2% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $57,990 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,596
Out-of-state
$19,854
Retention Rate
72%
Admission Rate
91%
Students Enrolled
12,930
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

Colorado Mesa University

  • Grand Junction, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Colorado Mesa University offers a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) with three tracks. Students can choose the BSN's traditional RN route, RN-to-BSN, or LPN-to-BSN. The BSN prepares all enrollees to meet state licensing requirements.

One of the best nursing schools in Colorado, CMU offers an online RN-to-BSN degree for nurses seeking to advance their careers. The curriculum emphasizes evidence-based practice. RNs can complete the program in 18 months with full-time enrollment. Enrollees can also complete the degree at their own pace.

Details:

  • Program(s): BSN; online RN-to-BSN; LPN-to-BSN
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 
  • Tuition: RN-to-BSN: $322 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: RN-to-BSN: An associate degree or diploma in nursing from an accredited program; minimum 2.5 GPA; prerequisite courses
  • Minimum Time Commitment: RN-to-BSN: 18 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes, for traditional BSN and LPN-to-BSN students
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 80.5% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $60,750 for bachelor's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,787
Out-of-state
$20,720
Retention Rate
74%
Admission Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
9,373
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
35% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

Trinidad State Junior College

  • Trinidad, CO
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Trinidad State Junior College delivers nursing programs on the Trinidad and Alamosa campuses. TSJC provides four pathways into one of the best nursing programs in Colorado. Students can choose the associate degree in nursing (ADN), BSN through dual enrollment, PN certificate-exit, or LPN-to-ADN option.

The ADN program requires 64.5 credits leading to an AAS. Enrollees take classes like nursing fundamentals, maternal-child nursing, and medical surgical nursing concepts. The program highlights a 100% NCLEX-RN pass rate.

Details:

  • Program(s): ADN; BSN through dual enrollment; PN certificate-exit; LPN-to-ADN option
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing 
  • Tuition: $247 per credit for in-state learners; $255 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: ADN: High school or GED diploma; Accuplacer scores; and prerequisite coursework
  • Minimum Time Commitment: ADN: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $54,850 for associate degree-holders, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,574
Out-of-state
$5,957
Retention Rate
59%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,621
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#7 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

University of Colorado Colorado Springs

  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

The master of science in nursing (MSN) at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs enrolls RNs with 1-2 years of experience. The program includes an MSN core, advanced practice core, and specialty classes in either the adult/gerontology or family major.

One of the most flexible nursing programs in Colorado, the MSN offers nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist specialties. Students complete all graduate courses online.

Details:

  • Program: MSN
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education 
  • Tuition: $770 per credit for in-state learners; $770 for out-of-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: An accredited bachelor's degree in nursing; a minimum 3.0 GPA; and unrestricted RN license in the state where the nurse will complete the clinical
  • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.9% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $92,360 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$9,284
Out-of-state
$20,082
Retention Rate
70%
Admission Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
12,807
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

Northeastern Junior College

  • Sterling, CO
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Sterling-based Northeastern Junior College offers a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN). After the first year, students can take the practical nursing (PN) certificate-exit option and sit for the NCLEX-PN licensing exam. 

Those who complete the full program qualify for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. Licensed practical nurses can enter one of the best nursing programs in Colorado through the LPN to associate advanced placement options. 

Details:

  • Program(s): ADN; PN certificate-exit; LPN to associate advanced placement option
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing  
  • Tuition: $177-$255 per credit for in-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: ADN: prerequisite courses and a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: ADN: Four semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 76.2% first-time pass rate
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,467
Out-of-state
$6,701
Retention Rate
65%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,390
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

Community College of Aurora

  • Aurora, CO
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

The Community College of Aurora in Denver offers a patient care technician (PCT) program that prepares certified nursing assistants (CNAs). 

Enrollees complete lectures and exercises in a simulation lab. They get practical experience during 30 hours in a clinical setting. Graduates qualify to sit for the Colorado nurse's aide certification exam. The PCT program also offers phlebotomist coursework.

Details:

  • Program(s): PCT: certified nursing assistant; phlebotomy
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: High Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $1,206 for CNA certificate
  • Admission Requirements: High school or GED diploma; SAT or ACT scores
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Two semesters for the entire patient care technician program
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,574
Out-of-state
$14,662
Retention Rate
65%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
8,597
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 The Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

Otero Junior College

  • La Junta, CO
  • 2 years
  • Campus

Description:

At Otero Junior College, one of the best nursing schools in Colorado, the associate of applied science (AAS) in nursing offers two tracks. Full-time students can complete the full AAS in two years. The degree prepares enrollees for state RN licensure.

Students can opt for the AAS degree's practical nursing (PN) certificate-exit option. These enrollees receive a PN certificate after two semesters. This qualifies them to sit for the state practical nursing exam.

Details:

  • Program(s): AAS in nursing; practical nursing certificate-exit option
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing 
  • Tuition: $247 per credit for in-state learners; $255 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: AAS: high school or GED diploma; prerequisite coursework; a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2-4 semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,574
Out-of-state
$5,957
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,279
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Featured Online Nursing Programs

How to Choose a Nursing Program in Colorado

As you explore nursing programs in Colorado, look at the acceptance rate for the school. The higher the percentage, the greater the potential you'll be admitted. Likewise, the NCLEX-RN pass rate indicates how well the school prepares students for their nursing career.

The level of education and preparation must be balanced against the program's tuition. However, students may also have unique financial opportunities to help offset the costs. The Colorado Nurses Association offers several nursing scholarships, and most colleges and universities have a list of external scholarships available to students not administered by the school.

Many nursing programs in Colorado offer online options to give working students scheduling flexibility. It is important to note that while much of the coursework may be completed online, state accreditation standards have in-person clinical requirements.

Clinical opportunities vary by program and licensure status. For example, first-year nursing students receive help finding clinical placements. However, online nursing programs for advanced nursing degrees may require the student to find their own clinical setting. The school must approve the placement.

The length of your nursing program in Colorado depends on the degree. Full-time students can complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN) in two years and a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) in four years.

Why Become a Nurse in Colorado

The recreational attractions in Colorado appeal to those who love outdoor activities and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to these benefits, the state boasts 13 Magnet Hospital designations. This award from the American Nurses Credentialing Center is a stamp of nursing excellence.

The 2020 NCLEX-RN pass rate is 4% higher than the national average, an overall indication of the quality of the nursing schools in Colorado.

Although Colorado is not a right-to-work state, they have a hybrid program called the Labor Peace Act. This authorizes the establishment of standards for fair conduct in the workplace and means that most employees enjoy the same compensation and benefits as union members.

Colorado has not yet passed mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios, but the Colorado Nurses Association has established Principles for Nurse Staffing that emphasize:

  • The need for nurses to have input in staffing decisions
  • Healthcare facilities to include staffing guidelines with measurable outcomes
  • Needs based on multiple factors
  • Flexible staffing and teamwork initiatives to meet the needs of the patients

Finally, as you evaluate the healthcare environment in Colorado, note that the state is a part of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). This allows nurses to hold one multistate license that allows them to practice in their home state and other participating NLC states. Many surrounding states are NLC states, except Nevada, Oregon, and California.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Colorado

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual registered nurse (RN) salary is $80,670 among the 51,680 RNs employed in the state. Colorado ranks 16th nationally for RN salary and 18th in the cost-of-living index.

Projections Central expects a job growth rate for RNs and nurse practitioners (NPs) comparable to or higher than the national average, placing Colorado as the second fastest-growing state in the U.S. for RNs and NPs.

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses in Colorado

Some of the top-performing hospitals in Colorado are located in Aurora, Loveland, Denver, and Fort Collins. They are also some of the top-paying metro areas in the state.

High-Paying Cities in Colorado
Top Paying Metropolitan Areas Median Salary for RNs
Boulder $85,020
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood $82,860
Fort Collins $78,660
Pueblo $76,930
Colorado Springs $78,520
Source: BLS

Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Colorado

There are many opportunities for RNs in Colorado to advance their education and career. As in other states, you may get your RN license through an ADN or a BSN nursing program in Colorado after passing the NCLEX-RN. You may receive your license through examination if it is the first time you've applied for state licensure. If you do not have a license from an NLC state, you may obtain your license through endorsement.

RN Requirements

As in other states, you must first be licensed to practice as an RN. After completing an accredited ADN or BSN program, you must pass the NCLEX-RN. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies administers the nursing licenses through the Colorado State Board of Nursing. The board oversees nursing education, licensing, and enforcement.

The board also approves a candidate's application to take the NCLEX. The student must send official transcripts from the nursing program and include the nonrefundable application fee. To apply for a new license, a student must submit an application online. The application includes:

  • Fingerprint and background check
  • Non-refundable and non-transferable fee
  • Information about your nursing education
  • Other healthcare licenses you may hold
  • Primary state of residence
  • General criminal history screening
  • A completed Health Professions Profile
  • Date of the initial licensing exam
  • Official transcripts

RNs who declare their primary state of residence in Colorado must renew their license by September 30 every two years. Continuing education credits are not required for renewal.

APRN Requirements

To become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you must have graduated from an accredited master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies also administers and oversees the licensure of APRNs in the state. The application process requires that you hold an active and unencumbered RN license in Colorado or hold an NLC state license. A complete application includes:

  • Payment of the appropriate non-refundable and non-transferable fees
  • Information about other healthcare licenses you may hold
  • Verification of your national certification
  • Selection of a population focus, if applicable, with the appropriate additional certification
  • Declare a primary state of residency
  • Attest to your professional liability insurance
  • Information about your RN license
  • Criminal history screening and Healthcare Professions Profile if you have a multistate license

APRNs may also apply for prescriptive authority. APRN status is renewed every other year and may be completed at the same time as the RN license renewal by September 30. Continuing education credits are not required for the RN renewal but may be required to renew the APRN certification by the national organization.

Other Top Nursing Programs in Colorado

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Colorado


How long does it take to become an RN in Colorado?

To become an RN, you must graduate from an accredited ADN or BSN program. This can take 2-4 years or more, depending on the program you select and if you attend full or part time. To get your license, you must also pass the NCLEX-RN and apply to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies for your license.

Is there a nursing shortage in Colorado?

As in other areas of the country, there is a shortage of nurses. Additionally, Colorado's Center for Nursing Excellence reports that 32% of nurses in the state are over age 55. This means within 10 years, nearly one-third of the nurses working in Colorado will retire. This could result in a greater shortage.

How do I transfer my nursing license to Colorado?

Since Colorado is an NLC state, you may practice in Colorado if you come from a state that is also part of the compact. If you want to change your state of residence to Colorado and transfer your license from another state, you should apply for endorsement through the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. Submit a fingerprint and background check, license verification, and applicable fees. You must also answer criminal history screening questions and complete a Health Professions Profile.

How much do BSN nurses make in Colorado?

According to ZipRecruiter, which gathers information from job postings, the average annual salary for a nurse with a BSN is $78,270. The average salary is higher in certain metropolitan areas and may be lower in rural areas. The top-paying Colorado cities include Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs.

Find Nursing Programs in Other States

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