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Top Colorado Nursing Schools and Programs

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Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Busy students or current nurses looking to advance their careers do not always have time to attend courses on campus. Flexibility is one of the top reasons students choose online nursing programs in Colorado over on-campus programs. Online programs offer the same quality education as on-campus programs, but students can complete courses at their own pace.

This resource covers four types of online nursing programs in Colorado: certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and nurse practitioner (NP). Keep reading to learn more about online RN programs in Colorado, including Colorado nursing licensure requirements.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Colorado?

Attending an online nursing program in Colorado satisfies Colorado nursing license prerequisites, setting nurses up for a career anywhere in the state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area employs more RNs than most other areas in the Rocky Mountain region.

Other nursing types also enjoy high employment and pay in Colorado. The BLS reports that NPs in Colorado earn more than the national average. As Colorado continues to grow, the number of open positions for all nursing types should grow as well.

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Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in Colorado

The process for obtaining a nursing license in Colorado is pretty standard. However, details such as costs and procedures vary by career, program, and whether you take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become an RN or NP. Read on for further information about the process of becoming a nurse in Colorado, including information regarding the nursing licensing exam and details about different nursing degrees.

  • 1. Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    While an associate degree in nursing (ADN) prepares students for entry-level positions, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) enables professionals to practice nursing across all healthcare professions.

    In Colorado, NPs, midwives, anesthetists, and specialists mrrf a master’s degree. Those interested in pursuing an advanced or specialized nursing position, such as neonatal or psychiatric nursing, should consider earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), which is the nursing field’s highest degree. Those interested in teaching nursing need at least an MSN degree, although most universities require a DNP.

  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Consider whether an on-campus or online nursing program best fits your learning style and academic needs. Prerequisites depend on the specific degree. For a BSN, prerequisites typically include introductory courses in human anatomy, biology, nutrition, and physiology. Most nursing programs require clinical hours, which provide critical practical experience. Many programs also offer optional internships and fellowships. An ADN program typically takes two years to complete, while BSN programs take four years. RN-to-BSN programs take three years.

  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Generally, candidates should begin studying for the NCLEX at least 2-3 months before taking the exam. The NCLEX has an associated fee, and there are additional application and endorsement fees specific to each state. Students can take up to six hours to complete the NCLEX-RN and up to five hours to complete the NCLEX-PN. Earning a nursing license does not guarantee a nursing job. How long it takes to find a job depends on your experience, career goals, and location, along with the connections you made during your nursing program.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Colorado

Nursing positions require a mix of experience and education. No matter what nursing license you pursue, you need at least some education. A higher level of education can mean a higher salary or an easier time finding a job.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Colorado?

Most nursing programs have similar outcomes, such as becoming licensed and qualifying for a position. However, not all programs require the same courses. While specific courses vary by school, most undergraduate nursing students in Colorado study the following subjects.

Pharmacology

This introductory course teaches nursing students about drug receptors, metabolism in patients, and the distribution of prescribed medication. Videos often accompany online pharmacology courses.

Newborn and Women’s Health Nursing

Newborns and mothers often require medical attention before, during, and after birth. This course covers pregnancy, birth, and the legal and ethical implications of nursing as it relates to newborns and mothers.

Health Informatics

This course combines nursing and computer programs. Nurses learn to use data and information to provide better healthcare services to patients. The course also covers medical research and data visualization.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Because every nursing license requires a combination of experience and education, no nursing degree can be done entirely online. Nursing licenses require a minimum amount of clinical experience, and requirements vary by license. However, Colorado nursing students can complete some or all of the required courses for each license online.

Each nursing type requires different levels of experience and education, so some take much longer to complete than others. For example, the average CNA program takes just six weeks to complete in Colorado, while an NP must complete a four-year BSN followed by a 2-3 year, graduate-level nursing degree.

Before applying to an online program, students should ensure that it has programmatic accreditation and approval from the Colorado nursing board. Programs that are both accredited and approved meet the same requirements as comparable on-campus programs.

Nursing Licensure in Colorado

Nursing students apply for all types of licenses through the Colorado Board of Nursing. The board also reviews programs in Colorado to determine whether they meet nursing licensure standards. The names for nursing types and licenses vary slightly from other states. For example, Colorado has certified nurse aides instead of nurse assistants. However, the scope of practice for nurse aides is comparable to nurse assistants in other states.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners lists Colorado as a full-practice state for NPs. This means NPs have no restrictions for practice and can have prescriptive authority. The board also outlines different requirements for each nursing type, which we explore further in the next section.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

In Colorado, nursing licensure eligibility depends on education, experience, and proof of knowledge through examination. Licenses expire, so nurses must meet renewal requirements to continue practicing.

  • Certified Nurse Assistant

    Known as certified nurse aides in Colorado, these nurses must complete a board-approved CNA program. Approved programs require at least 75 hours of in-person practice, 16 of which must be onsite clinical training. Students can complete these programs in 4-8 weeks, depending on the program.

    After completing an approved program, CNA applicants take the Colorado Nurse Aide exam offered through Pearson VUE. Nurses must earn a passing grade on both the written and skills portions of the exam. Individuals must speak English fluently to pass the skills portion.

    Nurses renew their CNA licenses every other year by January 31 and submit their renewal applications online. Colorado does not require continuing education (CE) or specific amounts of work experience for certification renewal. However, nurse aides with medication aide authority must meet different application and renewal requirements.

    Colorado Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Board-approved CNA program

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Completed in program

    • Exams: Colorado Nurse Aide exam

    • Renewal Frequency: Every even-numbered year by January 31

    • Continuing Education: None required

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

    LPN applicants must complete either an approved LPN program or an ADN. These programs take 1-2 years, depending on the program type and school. After completing the program, nurses apply for the NCLEX-PN. Nurses who earn a passing score on the NCLEX must pay an application fee and submit test scores and transcripts.

    Colorado LPN licenses expire on August 31 of even-numbered years. Nurses who earn a license after May 1 do not renew their licenses for over two years. Those who earn a license on April 31 must renew their licenses by August 31 of the same year. Colorado does not require CE or work experience for renewal eligibility.

    Colorado Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Board-approved LPN program or ADN

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program

    • Exams: NCLEX-PN

    • Renewal Frequency: Every even-numbered year by end of August

    • Continuing Education: None

  • Registered Nurse

    Colorado RNs must complete an approved associate or bachelor’s program. These programs take roughly 2-4 years, and RNs with a BSN tend to earn higher median wages than those with an associate degree. Approved programs satisfy all requirements for licensure unless the RN earns additional certifications.

    After completing an approved program, nurses are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN. Nurse applicants need a passing score on the NCLEX. If they fail, they may immediately take the NCLEX-PN. Finally, new nurses select Colorado as their primary state of residency.

    RNs in Colorado follow similar steps to license renewal as LPNs. Colorado does not require CE, and nurses renew their licenses on August 31 of even-numbered years. RNs who earn a license before May 1 during an even-numbered year must renew their licenses by that year’s deadline.

    Colorado Licensure Requirements

    • Education: ADN or BSN

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program

    • Exams: NCLEX-RN

    • Renewal Frequency: Even-numbered years by end of August

    • Continuing Education: None, unless required for special certification

  • Nurse Practitioner

    NPs must complete an advanced practice nurse (APN) application in Colorado. To be eligible, applicants need an active Colorado RN license or an eligible multi-state license. Next, the applicant must complete an approved graduate program and earn a national certification related to their field of study. Finally, NPs select at least one population focus and submit their application. Nurses with multiple population focuses need national certification for each focus.

    Colorado requires NPs to actively work for at least two years during a five-year period for renewal. Individuals must renew their APN and RN licenses every two years. NPs must hold national certification. Maintaining certification requires CE credits.

    NPs pursuing prescriptive authority must either complete a Colorado mentorship program or attain at least 1,000 hours of documented prescribing experience in another state. Prescriptive authority licenses expire at the same time as RN and APN licenses. Colorado does not require CE for prescriptive authority renewal.

    Colorado Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Approved graduate-level program

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Completed in program

    • Exams: Related national certification exam

    • Renewal Frequency: Renewed at same time as RN license

    • Continuing Education: None, if NP meets minimum work experience

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Colorado FAQ

  • What Nursing Field Makes the Most Money?

    According to the BLS, NPs make the most of the four nursing types. NPs who work in hospitals and specialize in niche fields tend to make more than the average NP.

  • Can Someone Become a Nurse in Two Years?

    Yes. Nurse aide, practical nurse, and RN licenses all require two years or fewer. However, the more education you earn, the higher your potential income.

  • How Should I Choose What Nursing Field to Go Into?

    Nursing is a vast industry, and the higher your education, the more fields there are available to you. If your main concern is finances or job security, pick a nursing specialty that has high demand and growth potential.

  • How Long Does it Take to Get an RN License in Colorado?

    RNs must complete at least two years of nursing before licensure. After submitting an application, Colorado usually takes 4-6 weeks to respond.

  • Is Colorado a Good State For Nurses?

    Colorado boasts some of the nation’s highest growth projections for nurses. While wages are higher in other states, Colorado could see wages jump to attract qualified nurses.

Colorado Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

Growth for all nursing types in Colorado looks promising. Projections Central projects some of the highest growth rates for nurses in Colorado. While wages do not always meet or exceed the national average, strong growth projections could be a precursor for wage growth.

High growth should appeal to nursing graduates. While some positions are more competative than others, projections show a strong need for all nursing types. If projections for the next decade are accurate, graduates for each nursing type should have a relatively easy time finding a good position.

However, projections are not guarantees. Before applying to or beginning a nursing program, note that no level of education guarantees a nursing position or a minimum salary.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Colorado, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $32,610 30.5%
Licensed Practical Nurse $51,210 22.3%
Registered Nurse $74,240 35.7%
Nurse Practitioner $111,210 45.6%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

  Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Wyoming $30,910 $46,790 $67,360 $116,030
Nebraska $28,730 $43,160 $64,470 $103,800
Kansas $26,210 $43,240 $61,030 $99,430
Oklahoma $25,690 $41,260 $63,080 $103,280
New Mexico $28,310 $47,560 $71,730 $109,810
Arizona $31,450 $54,090 $77,000 $110,750
Utah $27,880 $48,130 $65,670 $105,840

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


Projections for certified nurse aides in Colorado show a 30.5% job growth from 2016-2026. For perspective, this is much higher than the national projected CNA job growth of 11.5%, and it’s the third-highest state projection behind Utah and Arizona. Nurse aides in Colorado also earn a higher wage than the national mean salary. Certified nurse aides in Colorado could see a spike in open positions while earning more than average CNAs.

Licensed Practical Nurse


Like certified nurse aides, LPNs in Colorado earn higher than the mean national salary. Also like nurse aides, projections for LPNs in Colorado show much higher job growth than national projections. Only Arizona has a higher projected job growth than Colorado. If projections prove accurate, becoming an LPN in Colorado could be a lucrative decision.

Registered Nurse


Following projections for other nursing types, projections show massive growth for RNs in Colorado. The projected 35.7% job growth outpaces the national 14.8% growth projection, as well as projections for every state other than Utah and Arizona. While RNs in Colorado earn a lower mean salary than the national average, the high demand for RNs could force wages to increase.

Nurse Practitioner


The projected national job growth for NPs is 36.1% — a sizable projection that still does not match Colorado’s projections of 45.6% job growth. While behind Arizona and Utah in projected growth, Colorado NPs earn a higher mean wage than NPs in those states. The above-average wages and job growth should be enough to convince some nurses to earn a graduate degree.

Nursing Resources for Colorado

  • Colorado Nurses Association An excellent local representative for RNs and NPs, CNA offers members networking opportunities, discounts on CE, and subscriptions to various industry publications and resources.
  • Colorado Society of Advanced Practice Nurses Perfect for NPs, CSAPN provides APNs with an online forum to discuss all things nursing. CSAPN also offers scholarships for nursing students.
  • Colorado Board of Nursing This board licenses nurses and approves programs for nurses in Colorado. Nurses submit all initial license and renewal applications through its online portal.
  • Colorado Student Nurses Association Colorado's state chapter of the National Student Nurses' Association, CSNA helps nursing students connect with other students. CSNA also organizes an annual convention.
  • Colorado Organization of Nurse Leaders Nurses looking to expand their skill sets or improve their resumes can gain leadership experience through CONL. The organization also provides nurses with a Colorado nurse job board.

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Advertisement 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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