GUIDE
January 9, 2022
Looking up at the trees and sky in Colorado

Medically reviewed by Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC on 1/03/2022

Thinking about working in Colorado? The Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence states “projected increases in demand for nurses due to health care reform, baby boomer nurse retirements, and Colorado’s growing older population” as causes for an increased need for nurses across the state.

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Part One Colorado Nursing Salaries 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the average annual salary for nurses in Colorado are as follows:

 
Practice Level Hourly mean wage Mean annual wage
LPNs and LVNs $26.11 $54,310
Registered Nurses $37.43 $77,860
Nurse Anesthetists $84.50 $175,760
Nurse Midwives $51.10 $106,280
Nurse Practitioners $52.77 $109,760

According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average annual pay for a RN in Colorado is $65,726 a year or $31.60 an hour.  The majority of RN salaries currently range between $53,080 (25th percentile) to $73,749 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $87,841 annually in Colorado. Colorado currently ranks number 18 out of 50 states nationwide for RN salaries.

Highest Paying Cities For Colorado RNs

City Annual Salary Hourly Salary
Golden $76,528 $36.79
Westminster $75,251 $36.18
Denver $75,184 $36.15
Fort Collins $75,043 $36.08
Aurora $72,167 $34.70
Arvada $71,967 $34.60
Vail $71,479 $34.37
Pueblo $70,262 $33.78
Centennial $69,089 $33.22
Longmont $69,007 $33.18

(ZipRecruiter.com)

While these numbers are the reported averages, nurses have the ability to earn even more depending on responsibilities, certifications, and shift differentials.

4 Ways To Increase Your Nursing Salary

  • Certifications (such as CCRN, CPN, and RNC) will all earn individuals additional pay depending on the hospital system. This can vary depending on a variety of factors but nurses can either receive a one-time bonus or an increase in their hourly wage. It is important to check with employers regarding this. 
  • Shift differentials range from 5%-20% depending on the shift work. Weekend night shifts pay more than weekday day shifts. Before accepting any position it is important to speak to Human Resources to understand the shift differential at each hospital. Furthermore, some hospitals will only provide a shift differential if a nurse is paid on an hourly basis. Rarely are salaried employees eligible for this benefit.
  • Participating in hospital- and unit-based committees may also contribute to higher earnings. Hospitals, particularly Magnet-designated, commonly have numerous opportunities in which to participate.

While participation alone does not increase pay, it can help a nurse climb the clinical ladder. With each step in the clinical ladder, there is also a pay increase.

  • Precepting new nurses can also be a way to earn bonuses. Most hospitals offer bonuses for precepting new nurses. This is paid in two lump sums. The first payment is after the new nurse is off of orientation while the final payment is after the new staff member has been in the hospital system for a full year. This is a great incentive for senior nurses to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of nurses.

See a full ranking of all 50 states salaries adjusted for the cost-of-living

Part Two Best Hospitals In Colorado

With more than 1.7 million nurses employed at inpatient hospitals, understanding key differences between these facilities is important. You’ll want to know which hospitals nurses like best and other important features like Magnet status and location.

Magnet Hospitals

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), in its aim to promote nursing excellence, evaluates healthcare organizations through its credentialing programs. The Magnet designation is the highest credential awarded to healthcare institutions based on their work environment, nursing excellence, innovations in nursing practice, and quality patient outcomes.

For RNs seeking work with best-in-class medical institutions, choosing one with Magnet status is a smart move. There are currently 13 Magnet-designated hospitals in Colorado. 

Organization Name City
Children’s Hospital Colorado Aurora
Craig Hospital Englewood
Littleton Adventist Hospital Littleton
Lutheran Medical Center Wheat Ridge
Parker Adventist Hospital Parker
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services Colorado Springs
Porter Adventist Hospital Denver
Rose Medical Center Denver
Saint Joseph Hospital Denver
The Medical Center of Aurora Aurora
UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies Loveland
UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital Fort Collins
University of Colorado Hospital Aurora

Part Three Colorado Nursing Licenses

The Nurse Licensure Compact became effective in Colorado on October 1, 2007, allowing nurses licensed in Colorado to practice in other compact states.

A nurse may hold only one compact license and it must be issued by his/her state of primary residence. If you declare your primary state of residence to be a compact state other than Colorado, you should not apply for licensure in Colorado. You may be required to provide proof of residency, which may include but is not limited to a Colorado driver’s license, voter registration or income tax return.

If you declare a non-compact state as your state of primary residence, and you meet all other requirements for licensure in Colorado, you will receive a single-state license valid for practice only in Colorado. For a list of states participating in the Compact or for additional information regarding the Compact visit:

You may be required to provide proof of residency, which may include a Colorado driver’s license, voter registration, or income tax return. If you declare a non-compact state as your state of primary residence, and you meet all other requirements for licensure in Colorado, you will receive a single-state license valid for practice only in Colorado.

For a list of states participating in the Compact or for additional information regarding the Compact visit:

dora.colorado.gov/professions/nursing or ncsbn.org/nlc/htm

As a Nursing Compact state, Colorado recognizes licenses from 34 other states. These include:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Guam
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Lousiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Ohio and Pennsylvania have passed laws and are awaiting implementation from the state. Additionally, Vermont is set to implement the compact license on 2/1/2022. 

HOW DO I GET LICENSED IN COLORADO?

All nursing license and certificate applications, including permission to take the NCLEX must be submitted online using Colorado’s DORA (Dept. Of Regulatory Agencies) system.  For assistance, contact the licensing department directly:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (303) 894-7800

Fax: (303) 894-7693

Address: Division of Professions and Occupations

1560 Broadway, Suite 1350

Denver, CO 80202

There are two ways to obtain nursing licensure in Colorado:

  • Licensure by Exam (first-time nurses)
  • Licensure by Endorsement (out-of-state nurses)

You must apply for nurse licensure online through Colorado’s DORA system.  Before you begin, make sure you have all the required information.

Requirements for those applying by Examination or Endorsement:

  • Verify other licenses. See below for additional information on License Verification through Nursys.
  • Pay the required fee. You must pay the application processing fee with a credit card or electronic check to complete the application process.
    • Application Fee: $88
    • Examination Fee: $200
    • Endorsement Fee: $43
  • Complete the Affidavit of Eligibility. You will be asked to attest to and provide information that you are lawfully present in the United States or otherwise eligible to work here.
  • Provide your social security number. Those who don’t have a social security number must submit a signed Social Security Number Affidavit.
  • Provide name change documentation (if applicable).
  • Answer the screening questions, provide documents about criminal history or disciplinary actions. 
  • Nurse Licensure Compact.  You should check whether your current license is from a state that is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. See below for more information on Multi-state licenses and NLC.
  • Qualifications. Colorado has a mandatory practice act, which means that you may not practice as a Registered Nurse in this state without a Colorado or other compact state license.
  • Healthcare Professions Profiling Program (HPPP). You will be asked a series of questions concerning your practice during your online application. This profile is required for healthcare professionals in Colorado. Your Healthcare Professions Profile is an ongoing responsibility; you must update your profile online within 30 days of changes and/or reportable events. As you complete your profile, please read the instructions carefully.

    For more information visit: colorado.gov/dora/HPPP or call 303-894-5942.

MULTI-STATE LICENSES AND NURSE LICENSURE COMPACT (NLC)

The Nurse Licensure Compact became effective in Colorado on October 1, 2007, allowing nurses licensed in Colorado to practice in other compact states.

A nurse may hold only one compact license and it must be issued by his/her state of primary residence. If you declare your primary state of residence to be a compact state other than Colorado, you should not apply for licensure in Colorado.You may be required to provide proof of residency, which may include but is not limited to a Colorado driver’s license, voter registration or income tax return.

If you declare a non-compact state as your state of primary residence, and you meet all other requirements for licensure in Colorado, you will receive a single-state license valid for practice only in Colorado. For a list of states participating in the Compact or for additional information regarding the Compact visit:

You may be required to provide proof of residency, which may include a Colorado driver’s license, voter registration, or income tax return. If you declare a non-compact state as your state of primary residence, and you meet all other requirements for licensure in Colorado, you will receive a single-state license valid for practice only in Colorado.

For a list of states participating in the Compact or for additional information regarding the Compact visit:

dora.colorado.gov/professions/nursing or ncsbn.org/nlc/htm

LICENSE VERIFICATION

Colorado utilizes the Nursys database to verify licenses. If you are moving from another state, begin by registering with Nursys.com in order to speed up the license endorsement process.

LICENSE RENEWAL

All Colorado nursing licenses expire on September 30 every two years.

If you are issued a license within 120 days of the upcoming renewal expiration date, you will be issued a license with the subsequent expiration date. This means that any licenses issued between June 1 - December 31 will be valid until September 30 two years later.

For example:

If your license was issued on July 1, it would be up for renewal on September 30.

If your license was issued between January 1 - May 31, your renewal date would be September 30. 

GETTING A LICENSE WITH A CRIMINAL RECORD

In the online application, you will be asked a series of screening questions related to your criminal history and/or pending complaints filed against you in other jurisdictions (if applicable).

This may require you to upload court documents or other material. Please review DPO’s information regarding the disclosure of criminal history contained at the end of this checklist.

Part Four Colorado State Board Of Nursing

The Colorado Board of Nursing is responsible for enforcing statutes, rules, and policies for all nurses, nurses aides, and psychiatric technicians in the state.

Contacting The Board

Office Address

1560 Broadway, Suite 1350
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (303) 894-2430 
Fax: (303) 894-2821
Email: [email protected]

Colorado State Board of Nursing website

Office Hours

8am - 5pm, Monday - Friday (Except Government Holidays)

Part Six Continuing Education Requirements 

Colorado does not require any continuing education in order to renew your nursing license. However, if you have any special certifications, you may be required to complete continuing education in order to renew those.

For more information on continuing education, see our Continuing Education Guide.

Part Seven Labor Unions in Colorado

Colorado has a unique law to govern unions called the Labor Peace Act. It authorizes the state to establish standards of fair conduct in employment relations in order to protect the rights of the public, the employee, and the employer and to oversee collective bargaining units.

Union members often enjoy higher pay, better working conditions, and more job security. However, they must also pay union dues, participate in strikes, and may have limited access to advancement opportunities (due to seniority).

Related: Pros and Cons of Nurses Unions 

Part Eight Nursing Jobs In Colorado

As a skilled nurse, you are in control of your career. Check out the featured listings below or search thousands of job listings on our job board and get the pay and career path you deserve.

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