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Nursing in Colorado: Requirements, Licensing, and Salary Outlook

NurseJournal Staff
Updated September 27, 2023
    Learn how to become a nurse in Colorado with this comprehensive list of requirements and resources.
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    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Denver city skylineCredit: Brad McGinley Photography | Moment | Getty Images

    Degree Required

    Degree RequiredADN or BSN

    License Required

    License RequiredRegistered nurse (RN) license


    FeesLicense: $88
    Renewal: $108

    Job Outlook

    Job Outlook28.6% growth from 2020-30

    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.

    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.

    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 AreaMean Salary for RNs
    Denver — Aurora — Lakewood$82,860
    Fort Collins$78,660
    Colorado Springs$78,520
    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.

    • UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital

      The regions 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 countrys top hospitals, with nine nationally ranked specialties.
    • Porter Adventist Hospital

      Porter Adventist Hospital is one of Colorados 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 Health Services in Colorado Springs

      Penrose-St. Francis cares for approximately half a million people each year. The hospital supports around 522 licensed care beds at any given time.
    • SCL Health Saint Joseph Hospital/Intermountain Healthcare

      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 Denvers largest private teaching hospital.
    • Sky Ridge Medical Center

      Located in Lone Tree, the 57-acre Sky Ridge Medical Center campus houses some of the states most advanced medical technology. The facility provides Douglas County residents with expert care.

    Resources for Nurses in Colorado

    • Colorado Nurses Association

      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.
    • Southern Colorado Advanced Practice Nurses Association

      Founded in 1997, SCAPNA unites nurses interested in improving nursing practices. The organizations website lets members connect with one another and explore job openings.
    • Colorado Association of School Nurses

      CASN offers a platform for Colorados school nurses to collaborate and improve care practices. Members enjoy exclusive scholarship opportunities and access to publications.
    • Colorado Council of Black Nurses

      For over 45 years, the Colorado Council of Black Nurses has been a staple nonprofit organization in the states 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

    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.