Become a Nurse in Colorado: Requirements, Licensing, and Salary Outlook
| NurseJournal Staff
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.
Keep reading to 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
Pass the NCLEX-RN
Apply for Jobs at Local Hospitals.
Learn More About Hospitals in Colorado
Advance Your Career With a Graduate Degree or Certification.
Maintain and Renew Licensure and Certifications.
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.
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.
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
- Create an online professional profile on the Colorado Board of Nursing website to manage your license application.
- Provide information regarding your professional history, official school transcripts, background check results, proof of residency, and initial examination dates.
- All applications expire a year after submission. Failure to provide the necessary documents results in expiration.
- Pay the $88 application fee.
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
- Nurses licensed in NLC states may practice in Colorado without pursuing another license.
- Create a profile on the Colorado nursing board's website.
- Provide documents such as official school transcripts, any other healthcare credentials, license verification, and background information.
- Submit your completed application with a $108 fee.
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 30% from 2018-28 — the second highest rate in the country.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs in Colorado enjoy an average annual wage of $77,860, ranking 16th out of the 50 states for wages.
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|
|Denver — Aurora — Lakewood||$77,530|
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 HospitalThe 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 HospitalPorter 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 Health Services in Colorado SpringsPenrose-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 HospitalThis 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.
Sky Ridge Medical CenterLocated 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
Colorado Nurses AssociationThis 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 AssociationFounded in 1997, SCAPNA unites nurses interested in improving nursing practices. The organization's website lets members connect with one another and explore job openings.
Colorado Association of School NursesCASN offers a platform for Colorado's school nurses to collaborate and improve care practices. Members enjoy exclusive scholarship opportunities and access to publications.
Colorado Council of Black NursesFor 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 $31 per hour as of June 2021.
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
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