Become a Nurse in Colorado: Requirements, Licensing, and Salary Outlook


Updated November 18, 2022

Learn how to become a nurse in Colorado with this comprehensive list of requirements and resources.
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Job Outlook

Colorado presents many promising career opportunities for new and experienced nurses looking to practice in the state.

Colorado boasts the nation's second highest growth rate for nursing jobs. According to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence, the healthcare and social service sector generates $11 billion in annual revenue and supports 253,000 Colorado residents.

Find out how you can become a nurse in Colorado.

How to Become a Nurse in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies administers state nursing licensure. In Colorado, prospective nurses must earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing program before applying for licensure.

Apply to an ADN or a BSN program.
ADN-holders can apply for entry-level nursing jobs. Although BSN programs take longer to complete, many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree.
Pass the NCLEX-RN.
Prospective nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) before applying for licensure. The Colorado nursing board offers more information on the exam.
Apply for jobs at local hospitals.
Find a position that suits your location and career goals at a nearby hospital. The following list surveys the best hospitals to work at in Colorado.
Learn More About Hospitals in Colorado
Advance your career with a graduate degree or certification.
After gaining some professional experience, many nurses pursue a master of science in nursing to qualify for advanced positions in the field.
Maintain and renew licensure and certifications.
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies handles nursing license renewal. Nurses must pay a $108 renewal fee.
The Complete Guide to How to Become a Registered Nurse

Colorado Board of Nursing

The Colorado Board of Nursing implements nursing statutes, renews licenses, and enforces nursing policies defined in the Nurse Practice Act, Nurse Aide Practice Act, and the Licensed Psychiatric Technician Practice Act.

Nurses can apply for or renew a Colorado nursing license by creating an account on its website. The site also features resources on topics like accredited RN programs in Colorado, prescription drug monitoring, and certification information. Nurses should check the website often to stay updated on changing rules and regulations.

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How to Get Your Nursing License in Colorado

Professionals may receive a Colorado nursing license by examination or endorsement.

New nurses who wish to practice in the state earn licensure by examination. They must take and pass the NCLEX-RN before applying for a license.

Colorado is a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state. The NLC lets nurses practice in participating states without applying for a new license. RNs who are licensed in another NLC state but wish to practice in Colorado must apply for licensure by endorsement.

Licensure for New Nurses

The following sections detail the Colorado Board of Nursing's requirements for RN licensure.

RN Licensure Eligibility Requirements

  • Proof of an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program
  • Passing NCLEX-RN score
  • Name change documentation, if necessary
  • Completed affidavit of eligibility proving that you may legally work in the U.S.
  • Social security number
  • A criminal background check and/or information on any legal penalties you have received
  • Colorado residency
  • Information detailing any active or inactive licenses held in the past
  • Agreement to uphold the nursing board's terms and policies

Steps to Apply for an RN License

  1. Create an online professional profile on the Colorado Board of Nursing website to manage your license application.
  2. Provide information regarding your professional history, official school transcripts, background check results, proof of residency, and initial examination dates.
  3. All applications expire a year after submission. Failure to provide the necessary documents results in expiration.
  4. Pay the $88 application fee.

Licensure for Nurses From a Different State

As an NLC state, Colorado lets nurses who are licensed in other participating states transfer their credentials without getting a new license. These RNs must apply for licensure by endorsement.

Steps to Apply for an RN License

  1. Nurses licensed in NLC states may practice in Colorado without pursuing another license.
  2. Create a profile on the Colorado nursing board's website.
  3. Provide documents such as official school transcripts, any other healthcare credentials, license verification, and background information.
  4. Submit your completed application with a $108 fee.
Top Nursing Schools and Programs in Colorado

How to Renew Your Nursing License in Colorado

Professionals can check their license's status at any time through the Colorado nursing board's website. Nurses receive a warning before their licenses expire, or if the expiration date has passed.

In Colorado, RN licenses expire on September 30 of odd- or even-numbered years, depending on the issue date. Users may not access the state's online license renewal portal until 4-6 weeks before their license's expiration date.

Renewal costs $108. RNs do not need to fulfill continuing education requirements to renew an active license.

Salary and Employment for Nurses in Colorado

Colorado is home to some of the nation's best healthcare facilities and job opportunities. The state's growing elderly population has led to an increased demand for nursing professionals. Data from Projections Central indicates that RN jobs in Colorado should grow by nearly 28.6% from 2020-30.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs in Colorado enjoy an average annual wage of $80,670.

While Colorado's large metropolitan areas offer the highest median salaries, their costs of living also tend to be high. RNs in these areas also face larger workloads typically.

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

Best Hospitals to Work as a Nurse in Colorado

Every nurse's workplace preferences are slightly different. However, U.S. News & World Report developed a ranking to determine Colorado's best hospitals, based on how well each facility handles rare and life-threatening diseases in addition to common procedures.

  • The region's only academic hospital, UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital provides patients in the metro Denver area with quality care. U.S. News ranks it among the country's top hospitals, with nine nationally ranked specialties.
  • Porter Adventist Hospital is one of Colorado's top full-service, acute care centers, standing in the 6th percentile of hospitals nationwide. Founded in 1930, the facility now employs 940 active medical staff and 1,411 caregivers.
  • Penrose-St. Francis cares for approximately half a million people each year. The hospital supports around 522 licensed care beds at any given time.
  • This hospital is a member of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, a nonprofit faith-based healthcare system, along with eight other hospitals. Saint Joseph Hospital is Denver's largest private teaching hospital.
  • Located in Lone Tree, the 57-acre Sky Ridge Medical Center campus houses some of the state's most advanced medical technology. The facility provides Douglas County residents with expert care.

Resources for Nurses in Colorado

  • This professional organization gives nurses across the state a unified voice. The association advocates for cooperation between nurses and other medical professionals to improve healthcare practices.
  • Founded in 1997, SCAPNA unites nurses interested in improving nursing practices. The organization's website lets members connect with one another and explore job openings.
  • CASN offers a platform for Colorado's school nurses to collaborate and improve care practices. Members enjoy exclusive scholarship opportunities and access to publications.
  • For over 45 years, the Colorado Council of Black Nurses has been a staple nonprofit organization in the state's nursing community. Members work to improve underserved communities by increasing health standards and supporting Black healthcare professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Every licensed RN in Colorado must complete an accredited RN program in Colorado before taking the NCLEX-RN. An ADN takes around 2-3 years to complete, while a BSN typically lasts four years. The NCLEX-RN tests nurses' patient care skills and knowledge.

How much do BSN nurses make in Colorado?

Salary potential varies throughout the state. Higher-density cities offer better pay compared to rural areas due to cities' larger populations and higher costs of living. According to Payscale, a nurse with a BSN living in Boulder earns around $32.09 per hour as of September 2022.

Is Colorado a good place for nurses?

Colorado offers many benefits for up-and-coming nurses who wish to move to the state or establish themselves in the field. According to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence, increased demand for healthcare workers should lead to more nursing jobs.

How do I get my Colorado nursing license?

Before earning a Colorado nursing license, applicants must earn an ADN or a BSN before taking the NCLEX-RN. Colorado participates in the NLC, which allows nurses from other NLC states to relocate and begin practicing without seeking new licensure.

Top Nursing Programs in Colorado 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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