Nursing is a rewarding career for passionate people who enjoy helping others improve their quality of life. Colorado offers a particularly exciting atmosphere in which to study and practice nursing. With abundant sunshine and easy access to nature, the state attracts individuals seeking healthy lifestyles and has long emphasized physical and emotional wellness. Healthcare organizations and medical research facilities, such as the University of Colorado's Anschutz campus in Aurora and the HealthOne Corporation's hospitals throughout the Denver area, make up many of its largest employers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nursing field continues to expand, with a higher-than-average job growth rate of 15% for registered nurses (RNs) and 31% for nurse practitioners (NPs). The BLS reports that RNs, personal care aides, and nursing assistants are some of the fastest-growing professions in the country. Students who earn a degree at one of the many nursing schools in Colorado can enter a growing profession in a state that values and promotes health.
How to Become a Nurse in Colorado
Obtaining a nurse's license in Colorado has become relatively standardized. However, details such as costs and procedures may vary depending on your career goals, specific 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 prepares students for certain entry-level positions, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) can enable professionals to practice nursing across all healthcare professions. In Colorado, NPs, midwives, anesthetists, and specialists are required to possess a master's degree. Those interested in pursuing an advanced or specialized nursing position, such as a neonatal or psychiatric nurse, should consider earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP), which is the highest degree in the nursing field. Those interested in teaching nursing will need at least an MSN degree, although most universities require a DNP.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Your first decision should focus on whether an on-campus or online nursing degree 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. Additionally, most nursing programs require clinical hours, which provide critical hands-on experience. Many programs also offer optional internships and fellowships. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) program typically takes two years to complete; BSN programs take four years; and 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 costs $200, plus additional application and endorsements 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 you a nursing job. The length of time required to find a job will depend on your level of experience, career goals, and location, along with the connections you made during your nursing degree program.
Nursing Licensure in colorado
The Colorado Board of Nursing provides nursing licenses in Colorado. All first-time candidates must take the NCLEX, a nationwide requirement for nursing. Nurses who received licensure in other states can earn a nursing license in Colorado through endorsement, which allows them to forego the NCLEX and begin seeing patients in the state as soon as they receive approval from the nursing board.
Aspiring nurses can take the NCLEX in two types: the NCLEX-RN, which qualifies individuals to become registered nurses, and the NCLEX-PN, which qualifies someone to become practical nurses. To take the NCLEX-PN, students need a diploma in licensed practical nursing or licensed vocational nursing, while to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, candidates must first obtain an ADN or BSN.
Nursing licenses issued in Colorado are compact licenses, which qualify its holders to practice in interstate compact states, including Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nebraska. Colorado does not require nurses to complete continuing education (CE) to maintain their licenses.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Colorado
App Fee $88
Endorsement Fee $43
State Requirements By Nursing Type
To become an RN for the first time in Colorado, students are required to take one of the state's approved nursing programs, either at the associate or bachelor's level. Many hospitals prefer RNs to hold a bachelor's. The candidate must then pass the NCLEX-RN. You are required to answer a minimum of 75 out of the maximum of 265 questions in the six hours provided for the NCLEX-RN. The exam costs $200, and the application includes an $88 processing fee paid to the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).
During the online application process, candidates answer a series of screening questions related to criminal history and professional conduct. The license remains valid for two years, at which time you must renew your license through the DORA website, where those in the field must also maintain a special Healthcare Professions profile. Colorado does not hold CE requirements for RN license renewal, and those with surrendered or revoked licenses may become reinstated on a case-by-case basis.
Candidates with an out-of-state license may apply for endorsement certification, which requires a $43 fee and verifying their license either online or through a form directly from the state. The department may ask you to complete refresher coursework to get you up to date with Colorado's scope of RN practice standards.
To become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in Colorado, you must complete 80 instruction hours of an associate-level CNA certification program approved by the state, such as Lamar Community College's CNA certification program. Then, CNA candidates take the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP). Those training as RNs, LPNs, or psychiatric technicians may take the exam after completing five semester hours of core nursing topics. The NNAAP consists of two sections: a written exam and a skills exam.
Candidates can choose to take the written section (consisting of 70 multiple choice questions) in an oral form (60 questions and 10 multiple choice questions) delivered via an MP3 file. The in-person skills section 30 minutes to complete, and the two parts of the exam together initially cost $135. Subsequent attempts at the skill and written sections cost $85 and $50, respectively. During the online application process, candidates answer a series of screening questions related to criminal history and professional conduct. CNAs must renew their certification through the DORA website every two years. CNAs whose certifications have become surrendered or revoked may, on a case-by-case basis, appeal for reinstatement.
CNAs certified out-of-state may receive certification in Colorado by completing a certification through endorsement application and either verifying their certification online or (for certain states) presenting a completed verification form directly from the state. Applicants for endorsement must pay a $10 processing fee. If your previous certification does not completely meet Colorado standards, you may also need to complete refresher coursework.
Earning your practical nursing license in Colorado begins with completing one of the state's approved LPN programs from a technical college or two-year institution, such as Delta Monrose Technical College. Rather than taking a program for an LPN diploma, you might consider pursuing an associate degree RN program with an LPN exit option. The LPN exit option entails taking more prerequisites before beginning nursing studies. Candidates must then apply to DORA to take the NCLEX-PN.
The NCLEX-PN covers topics such as coordinated care, psychosocial integrity, and reduction of risk potential. The exam costs $200 in addition to an $88 application processing fee. A proctor allows candidates five hours to complete the exam by answering a minimum of 85 out of the 205 question maximum, though it typically only takes around two hours to finish. The license lasts two years, at which time LPNs must renew them online. Colorado does not hold CE requirements for LPN license renewal. On a case-by-case basis, LPNs with surrendered or revoked certification may apply for reinstatement.
LPNs from out of state may apply online for licensure through endorsement. They need to present verification for their license online or through a completed form directly from the state in addition to paying a $43 processing fee. If your previous training does not meet Colorado's standards, the board may ask you to complete refresher coursework.
To gain licensure as an NP in Colorado, you must complete a graduate or postgraduate nursing program accredited by an institution recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. Several schools in Colorado offer graduate and postgraduate nursing programs, such as University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus. Like RNs, NPs must pass the NCLEX-RN and pay all attendant exam and application processing fees to practice.
Colorado recognizes NPs, certified nurse midwives (CNM), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA), and clinical nurse specialists (CNS) under the umbrella of advanced practice nurses (APN). For some of these different types of nursing, you must obtain certification from varying organizations, such as the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists. After completing your studies and securing an RN license, you can apply for APN licensure status, which DORA grants for educational credentials and specialized certification. You can submit certification documentation to DORA's online system.
Those applying for graduate education alone must submit transcripts to the division. Candidates pay an application processing fee of $75 and must create a Healthcare Professions profile on DORA. Additionally, if you wish to practice independently, you need to obtain liability insurance.
An NP from out of state can obtain licensure in Colorado by presenting DORA with either documentation of both a graduate degree from a programmatically accredited school and national certification or credentials from another state in addition to proof of practice for at least two of the past five years.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Colorado
As Colorado's economy thrives and its population grows, the healthcare and social services industry remains one of the largest in the state, second only to the retail trade. According to the Colorado Nursing Center, one out of nine Colorado residents works in healthcare, and the industry employs about 250,000 people. The BLS reports that 47,590 of these professionals are RNs, 19,230 are nursing assistants, and 23,640 are personal care aides. The rate of job growth for registered nurses in Colorado is 33%.
The field of gerontological nursing continues to expand in Colorado. In general, Americans enjoy longer lives than ever before, and as more retired and older individuals favor Colorado, the state has plenty of opportunities for personal care aides and gerontological nurses. Due to its outdoor culture, Colorado is also an ideal state to practice sports medicine nursing.
Employment Data For RNs in Colorado
RNs enjoy comfortable prospects both in Colorado and nationally. According to the BLS, as of 2017, RNs nationwide enjoy a mean annual wage of $73,550 and a median annual wage of $70,000, with the 10th percentile making $48,690 and the 90th earning $104,100. RNs typically work in environments such as general hospitals, specialty hospitals, and outpatient care centers. They earn their highest mean annual wages in specialty hospitals, general hospitals, and outpatient care centers. At $72,570, the mean annual wage for RNs in Colorado lags slightly behind their national mean but surpasses the national median.
Additionally, with the total employment count of 49,340 reflecting a location quotient of 0.95, an about-average number of RNs make sparsely populated areas of Colorado their home. Most RNs in Colorado find work in the Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood regions, more populated regions with RN location quotients of 1.78, 1.03 and 0.92, respectively. RNs in Colorado enjoy their best salary prospects in nonmetropolitan Northwest Colorado, Boulder, and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, where they earn respective annual mean wages of $76,100, $75,130, and $74,010.
RNs living in or relocating to Colorado should strongly consider living in areas near the state's center and its northern and westernmost boundaries over its southern and easternmost nonmetropolitan regions.
Employment Data For CNAs in Colorado
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs), who typically work in general hospitals and nursing care facilities, can anticipate more comfortable salary prospects in Colorado than they might elsewhere. According to the BLS, nationally, CNAs made a mean annual salary of $28,540 and a median of $27,520 in 2017. In Colorado, one of the top-paying states for CNAs, they make a mean annual salary of $32,040, above both the national mean and median. Nevertheless, salary expectations for CNAs do not vary as widely as RNs or other healthcare professionals. Nationally, the 10th percentile make $20,680 annually while the 90th make $38,630. Colorado's location quotient of 0.79 for RNs reflects 20,540 employed in total, around average for a less-populated state.
The majority of CNAs employed in Colorado work near the state's central regions, with 10,490 in Denver-Aurora-Lakewood and 2,970 working in Colorado Springs. CNAs in Colorado make their highest wages in the state's central and northwestern regions. The annual mean salary is $34,620 in Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, $33,260 in northwestern nonmetropolitan areas, $31,880 in Boulder, and $31,070 in Fort Collins. In the regions with the highest location quotients for CNAs, such as the eastern and southern Colorado nonmetropolitan areas, they make much less annually. Colorado's central and northwestern areas offer CNAs the best prospects.
Employment Data For NPs in Colorado
NPs can anticipate comfortable salary and employment prospects in Colorado and nationally. According to the BLS, as of 2017, NPs, anesthetists, and nurse midwives make $110,930 and $107,480 in median and mean annual earnings, respectively. Due to the range of available specializations, average annual earnings vary widely. The tenth percentile earn $74,840 annually, while the 90th earn $145,630. NPs and other specialists earn the most in scientific and technical consulting services, with respective figures of $139,460 and $132,000 in physicians' offices, general hospitals, and outpatient care centers.
In Colorado, NPs, make a mean annual wage of $110,440, just below the median and above the mean. They earn their highest wages in the Boulder region, where NPs can expect a mean annual wage of $118,760. Everywhere else in Colorado, they make below the state and national mean averages, with the exception of Denver-Aurora-Lakewood's mean of $108,120, but only 2,810 NPs live in sparsely-populated Colorado. Most NPs in Colorado reside in either Denver-Aurora-Lakewood or Colorado Springs. NPs in Colorado should strongly consider staying near the state's center, which features more secure employment and salary prospects.
Biggest Hospitals in Colorado
When deciding where to pursue an online nursing degree in Colorado, consider the locations of primary hospitals and other medical organizations. Forming connections with large hospitals through clinical hours, internships, and fellowships will create job opportunities after graduation. The state's large hospital networks often associate with the nursing schools in Colorado. We highlight two of the state's leading hospitals below.
- Denver Health Medical Center : This hospital, founded in 1860 to serve the greater Denver Health network, became one of Colorado's busiest hospitals and delivers care to more than 25,000 patients per year. Along with benefitting the general population, the center focuses on the needs of low-income communities, pregnant teens, and homeless individuals.
- Children’s Hospital Colorado : With its main campus in Aurora and several others across the state, this hospital employs more than 3,000 pediatric specialists and more than 5,000 full-time employees. The hospital partners with more than 400 outreach clinics and healthcare organizations.
Additional Nursing Resources in Colorado
- Colorado Board of Nursing: This organization, part of DORA, oversees nursing licenses and certifications in the state. The website provides resources for nursing professionals, including license applications and information, laws and policies for various areas of nursing, opportunities to file complaints, and resources for finding nursing schools in Colorado.
- Colorado Nurses Association: This professional organization represents all of Colorado's registered nurses. The association focuses on improved safety, access to care, and general workplace quality for nursing professionals.
- Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence: This organization unites nurses and other healthcare workers across the state; provides nursing education, coaching, and leadership development; and promotes better workplace conditions for nurses. The center also connects nurses across regions and specialties, including rural nurses and public and community health nurses.
- Colorado Public Health Nursing Leaders: This branch of the Public Health Alliance of Colorado comprises a group of nursing directors from across the state who meet regularly to share information and strengthen local nursing practices.
- Colorado Student Nurses Association: This organization provides students enrolled in nursing schools in Colorado with professional resources, such as information about professional opportunities and access to reduced malpractice insurance and student health insurance. The organization holds an annual conference and offers reduced registration fees to its members.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Colorado
The following database includes all accredited ADN , BSN, RN-to-BSN , MSN , and DNP online nursing schools in Colorado. Each online nursing degree varies in regards to its format, course offerings, specializations, and professional opportunities. This database will help you find a program that fits your unique career goals.