Best Nursing Schools in Colorado | 2024

From entry-level nursing programs to graduate degrees equipping students to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), discover the best nursing schools in Colorado. Programs

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Colorado, known for its stunning landscapes and vibrant communities, offers a range of nursing programs to meet the diverse needs of aspiring and practicing nurses.

Whether you're seeking entry-level programs like an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), striving to enhance your scope of practice as a registered nurse (RN) with an RN to BSN, or intending to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Colorado has a nursing program that fits your needs.

Discover these programs below, along with everything you need to know about studying in Colorado, salary expectations after graduation, and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Best Undergraduate Nursing Programs in Colorado

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most while selecting schools with the addition of NCLEX pass rates (when applicable), graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rate of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

The three main types of undergraduate nursing programs in Colorado are:

Best Associate in Nursing Programs in Colorado

ADN, ASN, and AAS degrees are two-year nursing programs typically offered by community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates of this program become registered nurses (RNs) and are eligible to work in entry-level nursing positions, providing direct patient care. Below, we've ranked the top 9 in Colorado.

1. Colorado Mountain College 

Join the thriving nursing community at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs. With an estimated annual tuition of $6,002, this ACEN-accredited associate program provides a solid foundation for your nursing career, supported by a notable NCLEX pass rate of 93%. 

2. Front Range Community College - Larimer

Enroll in the associate program at Front Range Community College in Larimer and set yourself up for success as a registered nurse. With an estimated annual tuition of $10,987, this ACEN-accredited program boasts an impressive NCLEX pass rate of 99%.

3. Morgan Community College 

Discover your potential at Morgan Community College in Fort Morgan with their ADN program. This ACEN-accredited program offers an estimated annual tuition of $8,770, providing a strong foundation for your nursing journey. With a commendable NCLEX pass rate of 90%, you'll be well-prepared to deliver compassionate care as a registered nurse.

4. Front Range Community College – Westminster

Front Range Community College, situated in Westminster, presents an associate in nursing program with an estimated annual tuition of $10,987. The program maintains an exceptional 96% NCLEX pass rate. It is ACEN accredited, reflecting the college's commitment to providing A high-quality nursing education and preparing students for success in their nursing careers.

5. Aims Community College 

Located in Greeley, Aims Community College offers an associate in nursing program with an estimated annual tuition of $9,679. The program holds ACEN accreditation and demonstrates a commendable 92% NCLEX pass rate, signifying the college's dedication to providing a solid nursing education and preparing students for a successful career in the nursing field.

Score School Program City Estimated
Cost(Annual)*
NCLEX Pass Rates
(Avg. 2018-2022)
ACEN
Accredited
99.86 Colorado Mountain College AAS Glenwood Springs $6,002 93% Yes
92.41 Front Range Community College AAS Larimer $10,987 99% Yes
90.29 Morgan Community College ADN Fort Morgan $8,770 90% Yes
89.84 Front Range Community College AAS Westminster $10,987 96% Yes
89.71 Aims Community College AAS Greeley $9,679 92% Yes
89.22 Trinidad State College AAS Alamosa $11,909 98% Yes
87.22 Arapahoe Community College AAS Littleton $11,682 95% Yes
82.96 Pikes Peak State College ADN Colorado Springs $10,088 97% No
80.65 Trinidad State College AAS Trinidad $11,909 88% Yes

Best BSN Programs in Colorado

A BSN is a four-year undergraduate degree in nursing offered by universities and colleges. This program provides a more comprehensive education in nursing, including coursework in areas like leadership, research, and public health. Below, we've ranked the top 7 in Colorado.

1. Metropolitan State University of Denver

At Metropolitan State University of Denver, a transformative BSN program awaits with an estimated annual tuition of $13,806. With CCNE accreditation and an impressive NCLEX pass rate of 95%, students can receive a quality nursing education without breaking the bank.

2. University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley offers a comprehensive BSN program at an estimated annual tuition of $16,075. Accredited by CCNE and maintaining a commendable NCLEX pass rate of 92%, this program equips students with the skills needed for a successful nursing career.

3. Colorado State University – Pueblo

For aspiring nurses, Colorado State University's Pueblo campus provides a robust BSN program with an estimated annual tuition of $13,999. With an NCLEX pass rate of 89% and ACEN accreditation, this program ensures that students receive a valuable nursing education at an affordable cost.

4. University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

The BSN program at the University of Colorado, located on its Colorado Springs campus, offers an estimated annual tuition of $14,633. With CCNE accreditation and an NCLEX pass rate of 88%, this program provides students with a solid foundation to excel in nursing.

5. Colorado Mesa University 

Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction presents a BSN program with an estimated annual tuition of $15,898. The program is CCNE accredited and features an NCLEX pass rate of 84%, providing an affordable pathway for students to build a good foundation for their nursing careers.

Score School Program City Estimated
Cost(Annual)*
NCLEX Pass Rates
(Avg. 2018-2022)
Accredited
99.00 Metropolitan State University of Denver BSN Denver $13,806 95% Yes
95.47 University of Northern Colorado BSN Greeley $16,075 92% Yes
93.48 Colorado State University Pueblo BS Pueblo $13,999 89% Yes
92.34 University of Colorado Colorado Springs BSN Colorado Springs $14,633 88% Yes
88.26 Colorado Mesa University BSN Grand Junction $15,898 84% Yes
88.14 Regis University BSN Denver $23,916 87% Yes
87.51 Colorado Christian University BSN Lakewood $25,681 87% Yes

Best RN to BSN Programs in Colorado

RN to BSN programs are designed for licensed RNs who want to earn a bachelor's degree. These programs typically take one to two years to complete and allow RNs to enhance their skills, knowledge, and career opportunities by obtaining a BSN. Below, we've ranked the top 7 in Colorado.

1. University of Colorado (CU) College of Nursing

CU's program is online and associated with the Anschutz Medical Campus. They have an early decision program along with their RN to BSN program. If you are currently working on your ASN program, you can start your BSN once you complete one semester.

  • Tuition: $565 per credit hour for in-state students; $1,494 per credit hour for out-of-state students
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Admission Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 88%
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1

2. Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) Department of Nursing

MSU's RN to BSN is a 10-course online program, giving students flexible schedules. They offer dual enrollment if you haven't earned your ADN. With dual enrollment, you can achieve your BSN while earning your ADN.

  • Tuition: $15,125 for Colorado residents; $21,295 for out-of-state students
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Admission Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1

3. Colorado Mesa University (CMU) Department of Nursing

Colorado Mesa University is in Grand Junction, Colorado, but is online. The program strives for nursing excellence, and with the accelerated track, you can earn your nursing coursework in as little as 18 months.

  • Tuition: $360.85 per credit
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Admission Rate: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 38%
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1

4. Colorado State University (CSU) Pueblo Department of Nursing

In Pueblo, Colorado, CSU's program prepares students as safe, competent nurses for professional positions. You can transfer up to 90 credit hours: 57 prerequisite and 33 RN credits.

  • Tuition: $338 per credit hour for in-state students; $812 per credit hour for out-of-state students
  • Accreditation: ACEN
  • Admission Rate: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1

5. University of Northern Colorado (UNC) School of Nursing

Located in Loveland, Colorado, UNC's program is entirely online, where you can take one class at a time. You'll complete an additional 180 practicum hours upon completion and enroll in courses such as advanced health assessment and professional nursing concepts.

  • Tuition: $544.00 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Admission Rate: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 58%
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1

6. Adams State University (ASU) Department of Nursing

Adams State University is in Alamosa, Colorado, and is online. Their program requires a GPA of 2.5 for admission, and you'll have to submit an essay and two letters of recommendation.

  • Tuition: $8,610 per year for in-state students; $21,546 per year for out-of-state students
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Admission Rate: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 21%
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1

7. Colorado Christian University (CCU) School of Nursing

Located in Lakewood, Colorado, CCU's nursing program integrates biblical values with nursing as a ministry. The curriculum prepares students to be highly competent, compassionate, and moral nurse leaders.

  • Tuition: $530 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Admission Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 70%
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1

Best Graduate Nursing Programs in Colorado

The two main types of graduate nursing programs in Georgia are:

Best MSN Programs in Colorado

An MSN is a graduate-level nursing degree that can be pursued after earning a BSN. It offers advanced training and specialization in various nursing fields, such as nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse administrator. MSN graduates often have opportunities for leadership roles in healthcare.

1. University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus

The University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus offers 12 MSN CCNE accredtited specialties:

  • Adult-Gerontology Programs
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Adult-Gerontology
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Health Care Informatics
  • I-LEAD Nursing Leadership and Health Care Systems
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Acute Care
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Veteran and Military Health Care
  • Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

Expected graduate outcomes include participating in interdisciplinary healthcare teams as a leader, the development of a professional, ethical, caring, and culturally sensitive approach when working with patients, the ability to integrate evidence-based knowledge and theoretical frameworks, and more.

2. University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado offers two MSN tracks that are CCNE accredited:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Leadership, Quality, and Safety

The FNP track prepares students to successfully practice and contribute to the advancement of patient care as APRNs, while the fully online Leadership, Quality, and Safety MSN prepares students to function as leaders in collaborative, interdisciplinary, evidence-based practice. 

3. Colorado State University

Colorado State University offers four ACEN accredited MSN tracks:

  • Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult/Gerontology Acute Care/Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Educator

Students in these programs utilize interprofessional collaboration to provide safe, quality patient-centered care, oftentimes resulting in careers as nurse administrators, health policy experts, and clinical nurse leaders.

Best DNP Programs in Colorado

The DNP is a terminal practice-focused doctoral degree in nursing. It is designed for experienced nurses who want to advance their clinical practice and leadership skills. DNP programs often emphasize evidence-based practice and healthcare system improvement. Graduates with a DNP can pursue roles as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, or healthcare executives.

1. University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus

The University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus offers five different CCNE accredited DNP tracks:

  • APRN
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Dual DNP/MSN Public Health
  • Post-Graduate DNP Health Systems Leadership
  • Veteran and Military Health Care Leadership

Typical career outcomes of these nursing programs include Clinical Nurse Educator, Clinician-Scholar, Developer/Evaluator of Health Care Programs, Healthcare Entrepreneur/Executive, and Clinical Administrator.

2. University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado offers two DNP tracks that are CCNE accredited:

  • BSN to FNP
  • Post Master's DNP

The BSN to FNP and post-master's DNP are for working nurses interested in a practice-focused doctorate. Graduates of these programs are prepared as clinical experts with a focus on critical thinking, leadership, and political policy skills needed to advocate for patient care.

3. Colorado State University

Colorado State University's hybrid DNP program prepares graduates to create and deliver new models of healthcare to communities locally, across the nation, and worldwide. As some states require nurses to have an MSN to practice as nurse practitioners, this program offers a concurrent MSN with a major in Nursing, awarded with the completion of the DNP. Colorado State University's MSN and DNP programs are CCNE accredited. 

Studying Nursing in Colorado

Studying nursing in Colorado can be an excellent choice, as the state offers a unique blend of academic opportunities, natural beauty, and a growing healthcare industry. Here's what to expect:

  • Academic Excellence: Colorado is home to several reputable universities and colleges that offer nursing programs, including the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. These institutions provide a high-quality education with experienced faculty and state-of-the-art facilities.
  • Diverse Nursing Programs: Colorado offers a variety of nursing programs, including ADN, BSN, RN to BSN, MSN, and DNP programs. This diversity allows aspiring nurses to choose the educational path that aligns with their career goals and interests.
  • Clinical Opportunities: Colorado's diverse healthcare landscape provides students with a wide range of clinical placement options. Students have the opportunity to gain practical experience in urban hospitals, rural clinics, and specialized healthcare settings.
  • Outdoor Lifestyle: Colorado's stunning natural landscapes, including the Rocky Mountains, offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. This can be a great way to relax and de-stress from the demands of nursing school.
  • Growing Healthcare Industry: Colorado's healthcare industry is growing, and there is a strong demand for healthcare professionals, including nurses. This can translate to excellent job prospects for nursing graduates.
  • Community Involvement: Colorado has a strong sense of community and often encourages healthcare professionals, including nurses, to get involved in outreach programs, volunteer work, and community health initiatives.
  • Licensing Requirements: Graduates who plan to practice nursing in Colorado must meet the state's licensing requirements. This typically includes passing the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) and meeting other state-specific requirements.
  • Cultural Diversity: Colorado is a diverse state with a mix of urban and rural areas. Studying nursing here exposes students to a wide range of patient populations and healthcare challenges.
  • Cost of Living: The cost of living in Colorado can vary depending on the city or region. While some areas can be expensive, others are more affordable, which allows students to choose an environment that fits their budget.
  • Networking Opportunities: Colorado has several nursing associations and professional organizations that offer networking opportunities, continuing education, and career development support for nursing students and professionals.

Colorado offers a blend of academic excellence, diverse clinical experiences, a growing healthcare industry, and the chance to enjoy the state's stunning natural beauty. It can be an attractive option for those looking to embark on a nursing career in a dynamic and scenic environment.

Salary Expectations

Several factors can affect salary expectations for nursing professionals in Alabama, including education, experiences, healthcare facility, employer, demand for specialty, shift and hours, and more. The following averages are from the latest data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS). To develop the best understanding of potential salaries, it's important to conduct further research relevant to yourself and your employer.

RN Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs in Colorado in 2022 earned:

  • Mean Hourly Wage: $41.63
  • Annual Mean Wage: $80,630 - $86,590

Unfortunately, the BLS does not specify whether this is an ADN-prepared RN or BSN-prepared RNs; however, given that a BSN is likely to increase earning potential, this is likely to be representative of slightly lower than the average BSN-RN salary.

RN salary in Colorado is lower than the national estimates for 2022, as the BLS reports RNs across the U.S. earning:

  • Mean Hourly Wage: $42.80
  • Annual Mean Wage: $89,010

With the highest-paying states being:

  • California: $133,340
  • Hawaii: $113,220
  • Oregon: $106,610
  • Massachusetts: $104,150
  • Alaska: $103,310

The BLS collected the Colorado RN wage data from 36,840-66,460 nurses.

Advanced Practice Salaries: MSN- and DNP-Prepared Nurses

For advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with an MSN or DNP, the BLS reported the average salaries in Colorado are:

  • Nurse Practitioners: $115,230 - $118,300
  • Nurse Anesthetists: $63,570-$185,860

Compared to the national averages of:

  • Nurse Practitioners: 124,680
  • Nurse Anesthetists: $205,770

Nursing School Accreditation

Choosing a nursing program with accreditation is essential, no matter where you are in your nursing career. Here's why it's so important:

  • Educational Quality Assurance: Accredited programs uphold high standards in areas such as curriculum, faculty qualifications, resources, and clinical training, achieved through regular assessments.
  • Licensure Requirement: Most states require nurses to graduate from an accredited program to obtain a state license, which is necessary for working as a registered nurse or an advanced practice registered nurse.
  • Enhanced Employment Prospects: Graduates from accredited programs are often preferred by employers due to a quality education that meets national standards. This can lead to more job opportunities and flexibility in roles, including travel nursing or moving to states that demand accreditation.
  • Ease of Credit Transfer: Credits from accredited nursing programs are generally more easily transferred to other institutions, which is beneficial for students looking to transfer or pursue higher education.
  • Professional Reputation Boost: Completing an accredited program bolsters professional standing, reflecting education and training that meet national nursing standards.
  • Financial Aid Access: Accredited programs are typically required for eligibility for federal financial aid, which is crucial for those needing financial support for their nursing education.

For those aiming to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), accreditation is also key for:

  • Clinical Hour Completion: Accredited programs are designed to meet the clinical hour requirements, which can range from 500 to 1000 hours, depending on the MSN or DNP pathway.
  • APRN Certification: For various advanced practice nursing certifications, graduating from an accredited program is crucial. Accreditation is often a prerequisite for specific certification and state license eligibility, essential for APRN roles.

Prospective nurses should look for programs accredited by respected organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). For those starting with ADN programs, ACEN is the main accrediting body as CCNE only accredits nursing programs at the baccalaureate level and above.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: ADN vs. BSN - Which Nursing Degree Is Better?

When it comes to choosing between an ADN and a BSN), it's crucial to consider your career prospects. While obtaining an RN license is attainable with an ADN, a BSN opens doors to more extensive opportunities upon graduation and in the long run.

BSN programs place a strong emphasis on research, leadership skills, and evidence-based practice, offering a well-rounded education that goes beyond clinical skills. Furthermore, in today's healthcare landscape, numerous institutions mandate BSN qualifications for registered nurses to meet accreditation standards and achieve prestigious Magnet status.

Q: Why Pursue a DNP When I Can Be an APRN with an MSN?

Opting for a DNP degree, even when an MSN qualifies you for APRN roles, can yield numerous advantages.

A DNP equips you with enhanced expertise and capabilities, enriching your nursing practice and leadership proficiencies. It readies you for specialized nursing fields and advanced research roles. Moreover, some employers mandate or prefer DNP qualifications for senior nursing positions, often translating to higher income potential. Deciding to pursue a DNP ultimately hinges on your career objectives and aspirations.

Q: With so many options and pathways, how do I know where to start?

Everyone has different goals and pathways, which makes the choices great, but it can be overwhelming at first. Typically, beginning with either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a solid first step. If you're considering advancing to roles like nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or nurse anesthetist, starting with an ADN and bridging to a BSN is an option. Alternatively, earning your BSN upfront allows for a smoother transition to advanced practice roles later on. 

Your path should ultimately align with what's best for you. If starting to work sooner is a priority, starting with an ADN and progressing to a BSN while working is feasible, though challenging. Opting for a direct path to a BSN means waiting four years before working as a nurse. Ultimately, it's about evaluating your life and determining the best pathway for you. In the meantime, researching ADN and BSN  programs can help you decide.

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