Updated: February 09, 2022

Eight Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Colorado

  1. Earn an RN Degree First – All Nurse Practitioners (NPs) must first become RNs. Earning your RN through an accredited ADN or BSN program is your first step. If you earn your RN from school accredited by the ACEN or CCNE, your credentials are more likely to be accepted by your NP program. Here is listing of the best ranked nursing schools in Colorado.
  2. Pass The NCLEX-RN Exam – Our practice tests  and NCLEX-RN exam study guide are just the tools you need to help you prepare for test day.
  3. Earn Your MSN or DNP – To become an NP you can either get your masters or doctorate. Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs take about 2 years while Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs take about 4 years. You will choose a population foci such as gerontology, family, neonatal when you start your program:
  4. Complete Supervised Clinical Hours – If you earn your MSN you will need to between 500-600 clinical hours depending on your population focus. To earn your DNP you need 1000 hours.
  5. Become Board Certified – Your certifying body to become an NP depends on your population foci:
  6. Obtain Licensure – Licensure is done on a state-by-state basis. Contact the Colorado State Board of Nursing for more information.
  7. Obtain a DEA Number – DEA registration is required in order to prescribe medication in Colorado. Once you are licensed, apply for your NPI number which is free. Read and follow the Colorado Board of Nursing laws for Controlled Substances.
    Then apply for your DEA registration so that you can prescribe medications.
  8. Maintain Active Certification and Licensure – Your certifying body and BON in Colorado will tell you what is required to maintain certification and licensure. Usually this requires a certain amount of continuing education (CE) credits as well as clinical practice. You may also have to fill out an application and pay a fee every 2-3 years.

Popular Online NP Programs in Colorado

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Colorado

How much time it takes to become an NP in Colorado really depends on your background. Depending on the path you take it will be 2 to 4 years of education before you can become a Certified Nurse Practitioner. If you’re already an RN it can take as little as 2 years by earning your MSN. If you are not an RN some direct entry programs are as short as 2 years as well. If you already have your MSN but are not an NP you can do a DNP program in 2-3 years and become and NP while also earning your doctorate.

Here are examples of how long it will take you to become an Nurse Practitioner in Colorado depending on what degree you are starting with:

Starting Degree

How Many Years to Become an NP

Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)

2 years
Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) 2 years

Bachelor’s in a non-nursing field 2 – 3 years

Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN)

1 – 2 years

Types of NP Programs Available in Colorado


If you are getting your MSN after having your BSN in the state of Colorado, you can expect to spend 2 years earning your degree to become NP. If you have your RN, but not your BSN, you can complete a program that is similar in length and will give you an MSN. General requirements to enter and complete your BSN to MSN program in Colorado include:

  • A 3.0 GPA or the equivalent of a B average
  • Must be licensed as an RN in Colorado
  • Complete about 50 credits of classroom work
  • Complete 500 to 800 hours of supervised clinical experience depending upon the University

Direct Entry MSN Programs

Direct Entry MSN programs or accelerated MSN programs give people who are not nurses but have a bachelors degree in something else the opportunity pursue nursing. These programs prepare you to be an NP without having you repeat non-nursing college courses that you have already taken. There are a handful of these programs in Colorado. Direct entry programs take between 2 and 3 years to complete. After the program you will be an RN and an NP. General requirements to enter and to complete your accelerated MSN program in Colorado include:

  • A 3.0 GPA or the equivalent of a B average
  • Completion of pre-requisites such as anatomy and physiology, developmental psychology, microbiology, organic and inorganic chemistry, and more
  • Complete about ## credits of classroom work
  • Complete 500 to 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience depending upon the University

MSN to NP Certificate

If you already have your MSN but are not an NP you can complete a certificate program to train you to be an NP. This may be the right path for you if you have your MSN in something like nursing education, nursing administration, or if you are a clinical nurse specialist. In general MSN to NP certificate programs take about one year and to enter and to complete your NP to Certificate program requires the following:

  • You must be an RN in Colorado to be eligible to apply for these programs
  • Typically you are not required to take the GRE again for these programs
  • You will have to submit an application with your resume, references, past transcripts and more
  • Complete 500 to 700 clinical hours depending on the school and your population focus

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

DNP programs are the doctorate level programs that prepare nurses to be NPs. In these programs you will be trained to provide nursing care at the expert level and will also be able to teach in most universities. DNP programs are becoming more popular as the entry pathway into becoming an NP.  Program length varies from 3 to 5 years depending on whether or not you already have your masters. The eligibility requirements vary a little between the BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs.

BSN to DNP: These programs are for bachelor’s level trained nurses.

  • You must be a licensed Colorado nurse and have had a GPA of at least 3.0 (B average) or better.
  • The BSN to DNP programs will take about 5 years depending on the university.
  • Your application will need to include GRE scores, letters of recommendation, previous transcripts, and more.
  • You will need to complete 1000 hours of supervised clinical experiences.
  • Some programs will require you to have nursing experience.

MSN to DNP: These programs take into account that you are already a nurse trained at the master’s level. Depending on the program you may be required to already be an NP in Colorado.

  • All programs will require you to have your Colorado RN license.
  • These programs will take between 2 and 3 years to complete.
  • Like the BSN to DNP programs you need to submit an application with letters of recommendations, past transcripts, and more.
  • You do not have to take the GRE however, as it is assumed that you already had to take it for your MSN.
  • At the end of your DNP education you will not only be an NP but you will also have completed the highest level of clinical nursing education available.

Where Do Nurse Practitioners Typically Work?

As an NP the world is at your fingertips. You can work in a variety of settings and will have the flexibility throughout your career to change it up. Here are some examples of where you may work.

  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP: Cardiology,  neurology, emergency departments, intensive care units, medical surgical units, military settings, and more.
  • Adult Gerontology Primary Care NP: primary care clinics, nursing homes, correctional facilities, college health, occupational health, military settings, and more.
  • Family NP: Primary care clinics, community health, urgent care, college health, occupational health,  military settings, dermatology, shelters, and more.
  • Neonatal NP: neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), emergency departments, labor and delivery units, and more.
  • Pediatric Acute Care NP: Emergency departments, specialty units in children’s hospitals, urgent care.
  • Pediatric Primary Care NP: community health centers, schools, children’s hospitals, private practices.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health NP: outpatient therapy, inpatient psychiatric units, partial hospitalization units, nursing homes, and more.
  • Women’s Health NP: Community health centers, women’s prisons, private practices, urogynecology practices, adolescent health, and more.

Colorado Nurse Practitioner Practice Authority

Prescriptive AuthorityBoard of NursingLegislation Information
Full privileges after 1,000 hours with “provisional prescriptive authority”Colorado Board of NursingColorado Nursing Laws

Campus and Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in Colorado

University Offered asCity/State
Regis University-Choice Campus, Hybrid, OnlineDenver, CO
Colorado State University-Pueblo CampusPueblo, CO
University of Northern Colorado Campus, Hybrid, OnlineGreeley, CO
Colorado Mesa University – Traditional Campus, Hybrid, OnlineGrand Junction, CO
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs – Traditional Campus, OnlineColorado Springs, CO

NP Program Costs in Colorado

Nurse practitioner programs vary in price depending on the school; however, they usually fall within the following ranges:

• RN to MSN nurse practitioner program: $22,000 – $235,000
• BSN to MSN nurse practitioner program: $19,000 – $1750,000
• Direct entry MSN nurse practitioner program: $23,000 – $220,000
• BSN to DNP nurse practitioner program: $27,000 – $255,000
• MSN to DNP nurse practitioner program: $18,000 – $170,000
• Post-master’s certification nurse practitioner program: $9,800 – $84,000

Online Nurse Practitioner Schools

Programs in

NP Salaries in Colorado

CareerOneStop projects that demand for Nurse Practitioners in Colorado will grow 30 percent in the next 10 years. On average graduates from Colorado accredited nurse practitioner schools earn more than $100,000 annually.

Here are the average Salaries for NP specialties in Colorado.

Nurse Practitioner Title

Average Annual NP Salary

Adult Gerontology Acute Care


Adult Gerontology Primary Care $85, 163

Family Nurse Practitioner

$91, 573


$108, 804

Psychiatric Mental Health

$101, 577

Pediatric Acute Care $91, 906
Pediatric Primary Care $86, 916
Women’s Health$90, 981

Popular Online Nursing Programs for Colorado Nurses

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Nurse Practitioner Schools in Colorado


Regis University-Choice

  • 3333 Regis Blvd, Denver, CO - 80221-1099

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner

University of Northern Colorado

  • Carter Hall - Rm 4000, Greeley, CO - 80639

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner

Colorado Mesa University – Traditional

  • 1100 North Avenue, Grand Junction, CO - 81501-3122

Family Nurse Practitioner

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs – Traditional

  • 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO - 80918

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner

Source: American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Colorado Organizations for Nurse Practitioners

National Organizations for Nurse Practitioners

Since it is such a popular career path there are multiple resources and organizations available for you to utilize as you gather more information:

Take the next step toward your healthcare future with online learning.

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Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.