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A Guide to Nursing in Colorado

Colorado is a beautiful state that includes the Denver Botanic Gardens, Rocky Mountains, and Mount Evans. If you want to get a taste of the Old West, take a train ride at the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum. If you are on the more athletic side, visit Breckenridge, the most famous ski resort in the U.S. If you’re not quite up for skiing down the mountain, relax in the lodge while drinking cocoa by the fireplace.

If you are a registered nurse (or are thinking of becoming one) read on to find the information you need, from licensing info, continuing education requirements, job & salary outlook, top hospitals, and nursing associations. Let us help you find your dream job!

In this article, we will cover:

Licensing information

Below are the fees for becoming a nurse in Colorado whether you are a first-time nurse or are moving to Colorado from another state. For more information visit the Colorado licensing page.

Licensing fee by examination (first-time nurses):

  • NCLEX fee: $200

  • Application fee: $88

  • Fingerprint processing fee: $51

Licensing fee by endorsement (already have RN licensure):

  • Application fee: $43 (RN/LPN); $75 (APRN)

  • License verification: $30

  • Fingerprint processing fee: $51

Colorado is a nursing compact state, which allows nurses to hold multi-state licenses.

*Fees are subject to change.


Steps for renewing a Colorado nursing license

  1. Verify the status of your license Visit the Verification page in order to confirm your license. Colorado RN and APRN licenses expire on September 30 of every year and depend on the issue date.

  2. Go to the Colorado Board of Nursing site to enter your renewal application Visit the Colorado Renewal Information page for more specifics. Colorado is a compact state. If your Primary State of Residency is in another compact state do not apply for licensure in Colorado unless you are declaring Colorado as your Primary State of Residency.


Continuing education requirements

The Colorado Board of Nursing does not require nurses (RN, LPN, ARPN) to take any continuing education units in order to maintain their Colorado nursing license (though some employers may have requirements). APRNs must maintain national certification.


Job and salary outlook for nurses in Colorado

Due to the shortage of nurses, these healthcare professionals are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates the profession will grow by about 9% between 2020-2030. The annual mean salary is $77,860.

We can also help you check out salary estimates to help determine if Colorado is the right state for you.

[ MORE: Average nurse salary in Colorado ]


Top hospitals in Colorado

If you’re not already picking up the phone to call movers, maybe this list of the best hospitals in Colorado will sway you in the right direction. Here are the top hospitals according to U.S. News and World Report:

  • UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital – Aurora, CO: The University of Colorado Hospital is part of the Magnet Recognition Program and provides the “full spectrum of patient care, from family medicine to a comprehensive array of subspecialty clinics and programs.” Top specialties include:

    • Conditions related to cancer

    • Cardiology & heart surgery

    • Diabetes & endocrinology

    • Nephrology

    • Neurology & Neurosurgery

  • UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies – Loveland, CO: This Magnet Recognition Program® recognized facility boasts two intensive care units, a birthing center and a special care nursery, a medical nursing unit, a surgical nursing unit, and full-service radiology and laboratory departments. Specialties include:

    • Cardiology & heart surgery

    • Nephrology

    • Neurology & Neurosurgery

    • Orthopedics

  • SCL Health Saint Joseph Hospital – Denver, CO: This Magnet Recognition Program® facility “provides a tradition of healthcare that includes compassionate caregivers, stellar clinical expertise and active clinical partnerships with Kaiser Permanente, National Jewish Health and community physicians.” Specialties include:

    • Colon & lung cancer

    • Cardiology & heart surgery

    • Orthopedics

    • Pulmonology & lung surgery

*Magnet status – Awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and is considered the “gold standard” for excellence in nursing practice and care. Hospitals must meet certain criteria and apply to be designated.


Nursing organizations and associations in Colorado

Once you become a registered nurse (or even if you’re in the process), joining a nursing organization or association will give you access to networking, job opportunities, and a wealth of information shared between fellow nurses. Here are a few of the organizations and associations for nurses in Colorado:

Colorado Nurses Association

Mission: “Strong together to advance the profession of nursing to improve health for all.”

Colorado Organization of Nurse Leaders

Mission: “Innovate by engaging nursing leaders in life-long learning, mentorship of current and future leaders, public and policy advocacy and strategic partnerships.”

Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence

Mission: “Building upon a foundation of evidence, the Center advocates for and provides professional education, leadership development, coaching, and data analysis to continually strengthen a diverse nursing and healthcare workforce. Our defining strategy is to convene and engage the right people, at the right time, to develop and implement innovative solutions to emerging healthcare challenges.”

Check out the comprehensive list of national organizations as well.


Basic steps for licensing and certification

Step 1: Education

Attend an accredited nursing school to earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). An ADN will take between 18 and 24 months to complete, while you can expect to spend roughly four years to earn a BSN. If you already have an ADN, there is an ADN to BSN bridge program that allows you to earn a BSN in 12-18 months. There is also an RN to BSN bridge which takes three semesters of nursing courses to be completed in one year. These programs will save you time and money. The more education you have, the better your chances of landing your dream job.

Step 2: Licensing

When you are six weeks away from graduation, you can apply to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. There are 75 to 265 questions on the NCLEX-RN with a five-hour time limit for completion. If you do not pass the NCLEX-RN on your first attempt, you must wait 45 days before you can try again.

The NCLEX includes questions on the following topics to test nursing candidates’ knowledge:

1. Safe and effective care environment

2. Health promotion and maintenance

3. Psychosocial integrity

4. Physiological integrity

Step 3: Experience

This step in the process is to gain hands-on experience. This will provide you with invaluable opportunities to work with patients making you attractive to future employers.

Step 4: Certification

The final step is to obtain certifications for your chosen career. Requirements for earning a certification vary so it is important to check with the governing body for information. Incredible Health offers free courses in order to obtain or renew certification requirements. Create a free account to access professional development mandates and get instant certificates.

Contact information

Colorado Board of Nursing

Phone: (303) 894-2430

Fax: (303) 894-2821



1560 Broadway, Suite 1350

Denver, CO 80202

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