Nursing Schools in Denver: Top Online & Campus Programs

Learn about the best online and in-person nursing programs in the Denver area and see how they can help you start or move ahead in your RN nursing career.

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Written By

Michael Hoffman

- Bio

A former practicing attorney, Michael Hoffman has years of experience as a freelance journalist specializing in the research and writing of higher education content – from online learning to financial aid, and everything in between. Michael is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael practiced for several years as a civil litigator in Los Angeles and worked in Santa Monica, California as a development executive for a major film producer.

last updated

01/31/2022

If you live in the Denver, Colorado area you may already know about the current critical shortage of qualified nurses in the state. This shortage is partially due to the Covid crisis and will increase because of the expected retirement of at least 2,000 nurses a year over the next ten years, according to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence. The high demand is leading to steep increases in both nurse salaries and signing bonuses, meaning there’s never been a better time to enter the nursing field.

This guide highlights the best nursing schools in Denver and details their many program offerings. It also overviews the different types of degree options and includes information on funding your degree, obtaining your nursing license, and salary and employment expectations.

Best Nursing Schools and Programs in Denver for 2022

We’ve surveyed all the nursing schools in Denver and come up with a list of the best programs for 2022. Below are three of the top schools overall along with three leading the way in online nursing education. These schools were chosen based on factors like accreditation, affordability, study convenience, curriculum quality, availability of support services, and more. These top-tier schools will help you get started in your search for the right nursing program in Denver for you.

Best Overall Nursing Schools in Denver

Front Range Community College

Front Range Community College offers two options for those seeking an ADN leading to eligibility to sit for the NCLEX-RN and obtaining RN licensure. The Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AASN) is a five-semester, full-time program for students with little or no nursing or college experience and is available on Front Range’s campuses in Westminster and Larimer. Current licensed practical nurses intent on becoming fully-licensed RNs can shave a semester off their degree completion times by opting for the four-semester LPN to ADN program available on the Westminster campus.

Front Range sets itself apart from most community colleges by offering a fully-online RN to BSN program for students who already have ADNs or who have completed the first year of an ADN program. A three-semester Practical Nursing Certificate program is available as well.

Metropolitan State University of Denver

The Department of Nursing at Metropolitan State University of Denver focuses exclusively on four undergraduate degree options, all of which are very affordable. Students in the campus-based Traditional BSN complete all general education and nursing prerequisite coursework in their freshmen and sophomore years and all BSN nursing courses and clinicals in their junior and senior years. Students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees can opt for the 17-month Accelerated BSN. Along with their previous bachelor’s degrees, applicants to this highly-competitive program must have completed all prerequisite coursework with a minimum 3.0 GPA and taken the HESI exam.

MSU Denver’s RN to BSN and Dual Enrollment options both combine 100% online didactic coursework with one clinical practicum placement. Both programs can be completed in as little as a year.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

A major healthcare provider in the Denver and Rocky Mountain region, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus hosts a range of undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificate programs through its College of Nursing. These include four pathways for earning a BSN degree, starting with a 24-month, full-time Traditional BSN completion program for students requiring all upper-division nursing coursework and clinical hours. The Accelerated BSN program allows students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees the ability to obtain their BSNs and NCLEX-RN eligibility with 12 months of full-time study. CU Anschutz also offers a 100% online RN to BSN and an RN to BSN Early Decision Option for current ADN students.

Graduate nursing options at CU Anschutz include a partially-online MSN program and post-graduate certificates, each with a dozen specialization tracks. Additionally, its DNP and PhD in Nursing programs combine online courses with on-campus intensives.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Denver

Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian University offers both undergraduate and graduate nursing degree programs all with distance learning components. The RN to BSN features 100% online didactic coursework and clinical hours attended at practice facilities in students’ local areas. The program is part-time to accommodate working nurses and can be completed in a few as 14 months. For pre-licensure students, CCU offers an Adult Undergraduate Student Pathway BSN that is primarily campus-based, but students can complete prerequisite courses online.

CCU’s online graduate nursing programs include an MSN with specialization choices in Nursing Education and Clinical Care Management in Adult and Geriatrics and a DNP with online coursework and a 525-hour clinical experience requirement that can be completed with two years of full-time study. Tuition rates for CCU nursing programs are surprisingly competitive.

Denver College of Nursing

The Denver College of Nursing is a private institution focused on educating and training registered nurses and nursing leaders. DCN offers two online programs for current RNs seeking career advancement and additional knowledge and skills. The RN to BS program features fully-online, asynchronous coursework along with 24/7 online tutoring and support services and can be completed in 15 months. The curriculum consists of 90 quarter credits of general education and upper-division nursing courses. Students receive an additional 90 quarter credits from their ADN degrees to reach the 180 total credits. The MSN Online program consists of six quarters of coursework and can be completed in 15 to 18 months.

Costs at DCN are surprisingly competitive, especially for a private college. The current estimated total program cost for tuition, fees, and books of the RN to BSN program, for example, is just under $15,000.

Regis University

Regis University, a private Jesuit-affiliated institution, hosts the most comprehensive and convenient lineup of online nursing degree and certificate programs of any of Denver’s nursing schools. The undergraduate RN to BSN Completion program gives the option of completing all requirements through 100% asynchronous or web-based synchronous class formats or a combination of the two. All classes are eight weeks long, and students can complete the entire program in 10 months by taking two classes at a time or in 20 months by taking one class at a time.

Regis’ online MSN offerings include a Family Nurse Practitioner – Rural and Underserved Communities low residency program consisting of one synchronous class per week plus local clinical rotations. There’s also a Leadership and Healthcare Systems program that is fully online and asynchronous or synchronous, a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program with one synchronous class per week plus local clinical rotations, and an RN to MSN program that combines synchronous and asynchronous classes. Additional online programs at Regis include an MSN to DNP, Post-BSN to DNP, and an FNP Post-Master’s Certificate.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in or Near Denver

The above spotlights show the range of degree and certificate programs available from Denver nursing schools. To help you know which program is right for you, below are descriptions of the most common types of programs available from nursing schools in Denver. We’ve also included program examples for each.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Denver

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

An ADN is one of the quickest and most cost-effective routes to qualifying for the NCLEX-RN. ADN programs combine general education and lower-division courses with clinical rotations at local healthcare facilities. They typically require two years of full-time study and are available at community colleges.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (Traditional BSN)

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs qualify graduates for the NCLEX-RN. Traditional BSNs are for students with little or no previous college and nursing experience. Many employers prefer to hire nurses with a BSNs because of the additional education and skills provided by a four-year degree.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated BSNs allow students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees to save time earning their BSNs and becoming RNs by applying the general education credits from bachelor’s degrees to their BSN programs. Some accelerated BSN programs require healthcare experience, such as working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and certain prerequisite coursework.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Denver for Current Nurses

LPN to RN Programs

LPN to RN (ADN to RN) programs are designed for current LPNs seeking career advancement by becoming RNs. Typically available on community college campuses, LPN to RN programs normally require three to four semesters to complete.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

Current RNs with nursing diplomas or ADNs can expand their knowledge base and become more attractive in the job market by earning their BSNs through a time-saving and cost-efficient RN to BSN program. Designed with working RNs in mind, these programs often feature 100% online curriculums and both full-time (one year) and part-time (two years) options.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

Current RNs with nursing diplomas or ADNs interested in taking on leadership positions in management and advanced practice should consider an MSN through an RN to MSN program. These programs combine undergraduate and graduate nursing coursework into a single curriculum that is usually completed in three years of full-time study with part-time options also available. Some programs also award BSNs.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Denver

Traditional MSN Programs (Master of Science in Nursing)

BSNs seeking to move into advanced nursing practice and leadership roles can opt for traditional MSN programs, typically offered with specialization tracks. Many are fully or partially online, and program lengths vary based on specialization and study pace. Most students complete their degrees in around two years.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and PhD Doctoral Programs

Nursing doctoral degrees are for highly-experienced nurses intent on filling senior leadership roles. The DNP is designed for students seeking top-level positions in advanced nursing practice and healthcare administration while the PhD in Nursing prepares graduates for post-secondary academic and advanced research careers. Program lengths are typically one to three years for DNP programs and three to six years (or more) for PhD programs.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates

Post-graduate certificates are for current nursing master’s and doctoral degree holders who wish to expand their professional knowledge base by adding a specialization. Areas of specialization often include nurse educator, nurse leadership and administration, family nurse practitioner, and any number of acute and primary care nurse practitioner fields. Many post-grad certificate programs are fully or partially online.

Examples of Denver Nursing Schools with this Program

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Denver

Getting help paying for college is essential for most nursing students in Denver. Fortunately, many funding opportunities are available, including scholarships and grants, assistantships and fellowships (primarily for grad students), employer tuition assistance, and the Veterans Administration (for active-duty military and veterans). The most accessible financial aid resource, though, is the student loan. There are many loan programs available, both public and private, but the biggest by far is the federal student loan.

Student loan repayment programs are also great options for many students at Denver nursing schools. The federal government, through its Health Resources & Services Administration, and the State of Colorado both offer such programs.

Find out more about funding your nursing degree through EduMed’s nursing scholarships, financial aid, and nursing student loan forgiveness guides.

How to Become an RN in Denver: Licensing Requirements

Working as a registered nurse in Denver requires an RN license issued by the Colorado Board of Nursing (CBN) or a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) member state or U.S. territory. The two methods for obtaining a Colorado RN license are endorsement and examination. The endorsement method is for current RNs with licenses issued by a non-NLC state or territory. If you’re be seeking your first RN license, though, you’ll use the examination method that includes taking and passing the NCLEX-RN. Visit EduMed’s guide to the best nursing schools in Colorado for a detailed look at the steps you’ll take to obtain your Colorado RN license via examination.

Job Market and Earnings for RNs in Denver

The job market for RNs and other nurse professionals in Denver and throughout the U.S. is red hot and expected to stay strong for at least the next several years. In the Denver/Aurora metro area, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, job growth for RNs is projected at nearly 30% through 2030. That’s more than twice the estimate for RNs for the nation as a whole. Figures are similarly strong for Denver nurse anesthetists (33%), nurse midwives (21%), and nurse practitioners (44%).

Earnings estimates for RNs in the Denver metro area are also impressive, as indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures below. Employment opportunities after graduating with your RN from a nursing school in Denver include those at hospitals, which employ almost 60% of RNs in the area, ambulatory health care services, and nursing and residential facilities.

How Much You Could Make as an RN or Advanced Practice Nurse in Denver

Median Hourly WageAvg. Hourly WageAvg. Annual Wage
Registered Nurses$37$38$79,300
Nurse Practitioners$55$54$112,590
Nurse Midwives$56$55$114,980
Nurse Anesthetists$89$88$182,330

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020