Explore our school listings to see if you’d like to choose a for-profit or a non-profit university. Learn how online RN to MSN programs in Colorado differ. And find out who’s willing to offer the cheapest Colorado RN to MSN programs.
While you’re in career-building mode, you may also want to browse through our sections on Colorado’s healthcare landscape and jobs for Colorado RN to MSN graduates. We’ve highlighted a number of useful resources, including local preceptor directories, job boards, salary reports, and CO nursing organizations & associations.
Online RN to MSN Programs in Colorado
You can have your pick of online RN to MSN programs in Colorado. All of the following schools welcome RNs with a diploma or associate degree in nursing, and two of them allow you to earn a BSN as well. We would caution that ASU and Aspen are for-profit institutions without regional accreditation—check out the school listings and view their profiles on College Navigator for more details. Here are a few extra points about each:
- American Sentinel University: ASU’s RN to BSN/MSN program is structured with asynchronous online courses (i.e. no mandatory log-in times). Courses are 8 weeks in length and there are monthly start dates. The university has also been investing in a number of simulations (e.g. virtual hospitals, clinics, data labs, and community experiences) and digital tools. You can read up on these in the section on Innovations.
- Aspen University: Like ASU, Aspen offers asynchronous courses with no mandatory log-in times and start dates every 2 weeks. Learning is conducted in a self-paced environment. Unlike ASU, this is an online RN to MSN program—you don’t earn the BSN along the way.
- Regis University: The BSN portion of Regis’s program is asynchronous—each class lasts 8 weeks and students can log in at any time. The MSN portion is 100% online in August, January, and May. In January, Regis also offers an option that blends virtual classroom meetings and online courses. Most graduate-level courses are taught in 8 week terms. Be sure to check the State Authorization page before applying. Due to regulatory requirements, Regis can’t offer the program in a tiny number of states.
Cheapest RN to MSN Programs in Colorado
Our ranking of the most affordable Colorado RN to MSN programs is based on per credit graduate tuition rates. So it’s a rough estimate! You’ll need to factor in the total number of credits, any additional fees, the school’s transfer policies, and prices for BSN credits. For example, ASU and Regis charge lower tuition rates on their undergraduate courses.
- Aspen University: View Tuition Rates
- American Sentinel University: View Tuition Rates
- Regis University: View Tuition Rates
Keep in mind, too, that Aspen and ASU are for-profit universities that only offer distance learning. Regis University is a regionally accredited, non-profit university with a brick & mortar School of Nursing. That means Aspen & ASU have less overhead costs.
Colorado’s Healthcare Landscape
There’s no doubt that Colorado is a relatively healthy state:
- Healthcare in urban counties is buoyed by excellent universities & hospitals in the Denver/Aurora area.
- Grades on the U.S. Rural Health Report Card for Colorado are strong (especially when it comes to primary care access).
- Death rates from cancer and childhood poverty rates are usually low.
- The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) is working hard to improve opioid safety.
- And Colorado often has the lowest obesity rate in the country.
Even the unusually high incidence of low birth weights may—in part—be attributed to the state’s soaring altitude.
The main challenge that Colorado healthcare providers have been facing in recent years is a mental health crisis. You can see this play out in the high levels of excessive drinking registered in America’s Health Rankings and stats from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Death rates from suicide and chronic liver disease/cirrhosis in Colorado are alarmingly high and firearm deaths are above the national average. In the BCBS Health Index, major depression is often the top issue of concern.
A year-long investigation in 2019 from the Gazette summed up many of the state’s issues, especially the lack of access to mental healthcare providers and the over-reliance on emergency room visits as first stops for care. In response, UCHealth launched a $100 million initiative in 2019 to embed mental health professionals in primary care offices & ERs, expand virtual care, and open an inpatient behavioral unit.
In other words, aspiring PMHNPs may find they’re sorely needed! If you’re interested nursing leadership or public health positions, you may also be able to contribute to multiple-pronged initiatives being run by the CHA, UCHealth, and other major medical organizations.
Jobs for Colorado RN to MSN Graduates
Career Outlook for RN to MSN Graduates
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps a watchful eye on job & wage data for Nurse Practitioners and Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary. We especially like the employment maps on these pages, since they allow you to compare—at a glance—regions and states.
As you might expect, a major hub of jobs is the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area:
- Around 55% of Colorado nurse practitioners and around 71% of Colorado nursing instructors work in this urban center. And wages for these NPs can be some of the best in the nation.
- The Denver area has one of the highest employment levels of nurse educators in the country—right up there with cities like Chicago, LA, and Dallas-Fort Worth. The presence of the University of Colorado & UD in Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora may have something to do with this statistic.
Interested in hospital job after graduation? Have a look at U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the Best Hospitals in Colorado and the ANCC’s list of Magnet Facilities in Colorado. You’ll see a lot of familiar names in both sources (e.g. UCHealth centers, Porter Adventist Hospital, Parker Adventist Hospital, etc.). And there’s plenty of choice outside of Denver!
In need of a mentor or career advice? The Colorado Society of Advanced Practice Nursing (CSAPN) maintains a Provider Directory and a Preceptor Directory. Colorado NPs have a great deal of autonomy when it comes to their scope of practice, so you could even look into running your own practice.
Hoping to work in a rural county? The Colorado Rural Health Center’s section on CPR for Providers has information on rural scholarship programs for CO healthcare providers, data on workforce shortages, preceptor resources, and a whole lot more.
Career Resources for Future APRNs
Colorado Nursing Job Boards
- CNA Career Center: Job listings for Colorado nurses, including NPs, nurse leaders, and nurse educators
- CSAPN Career Center: Job listings for Colorado APRNs
- CONL Jobs: Openings for Colorado nurse leaders & executives
- Colorado Rural Health Center: Colorado Provider Recruitment (CPR): Job listings for primary care providers in rural areas
Colorado APRN Salary & Wage Data
- Annual Mean Wages for Colorado Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: Categories can include “Nurse Practitioners,” “Nurse Midwives,” and “Nurse Anesthetists”
- Annual Mean Wages for Colorado Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary
- AANP National Compensation Survey: Available to AANP members
Colorado Nursing Organizations
State Board of Nursing
Colorado Nursing Associations & Coalitions
- National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN): Colorado Chapters
- National Black Nurses Association (NBNA): Colorado Chapters
- Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence
- Colorado Hospital Association (CHA)
- Colorado Nurses Association (CNA)
- Colorado Society of Advanced Practice Nurses (CSAPN)
Colorado Nursing Specialty Organizations
- American College of Nurse-Midwives – Colorado Affiliate (Colorado ACNM)
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association – Colorado Chapter (APNA Colorado)
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses – Colorado (AWHONN Colorado)
- Colorado Association of Nurse Anesthetists (COANA)
- Colorado Association of School Nurses (CASN)
- Colorado Emergency Nurses Association (Colorado ENA)
- Colorado Organization of Nurse Leaders (CONL)
- Colorado Student Nurses Association (CSNA)
- Rocky Mountain PeriAnesthesia Nurses Association (RMPANA)
Nursing School Overview
ASU is a for-profit university specializing in online healthcare & nursing programs. It is nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and CCNE-accredited, but it is not regionally accredited. This is something to keep in mind if you're considering a DNP or wish to apply for a job that requires an MSN from a school with regional accreditation. Thinking about tuition discounts or reimbursement? Over the past few years, ASU has developed a large number of educational partnerships with healthcare organizations around the country - check to see if your employer is one of them. Because ASU is a for-profit institution, we suggest you take a look at all the message board threads and independent reviews of its nursing graduate programs on the web - there are plenty! Overall, reviews tend to be mixed. The 8-week courses and online delivery are praised, but some ASU alumni have mentioned a lack of instructor communication and support. We'd also like to see a higher threshold for entrants - almost every other school in our listings will ask for a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 or higher.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
This accelerated online RN to BSN/MSN program is designed for RNs who want to earn a bachelor's degree on the way toward the master's. In addition to an active & unencumbered RN license, candidates must have an ASN or ADN from an accredited college or a diploma in nursing from a hospital school of nursing program (or a foreign education equivalent). ASU will want to see a minimum 2.0 GPA on any undergraduate work. You can transfer up to 90 credits into the program. The BSN portion consists of 7 baccalaureate-level nursing courses (21 credits) and 3 graduate-level nursing courses (9 credits). BSN courses include practice experiences/interactive learning assignments that are designed to satisfy CCNE requirements. Once you've tackled the undergraduate portion, you can complete the remainder of the MSN (9 graduate-level courses/27 credits) in your choice of specialty. All MSN concentrations include embedded practice hours and a final capstone. Courses are 8 weeks in length and the entire program can be finished in 3 years or less.
Nursing School Overview
Aspen is a for-profit university specializing in distance education. It is nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and CCNE-accredited, but it is not regionally accredited. Again, this is something to consider if you're thinking about earning a doctorate or interested in employment positions that ask for an MSN from a regionally accredited school. The School of Nursing isn't a brick & mortar institution, but you'll find biographies of key faculty on its website. One major plus of Aspen is the price - per credit tuition rates are very low, monthly payment plans are available, and military receive a discount on tuition and a waiver on fees. In addition, you'll find tons of reviews of Aspen's nursing programs on independent review sites and message boards. Generally speaking, they're positive, especially when it comes to the helpfulness and support of the faculty. One reviewer noted that the MSN was a no-frills program that would work well for strong self-learners. Because Aspen is for-profit, we also recommend you talk to your career mentors and the most recent alumni to get the fullest picture of your options.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
Aspen's online bridge program is designed to help RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN/ASN) or a diploma in nursing get straight to the MSN - no BSN is awarded in this program. Candidates should have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher on undergraduate coursework, a current & unrestricted RN license, 1 year of recent nursing experience, and at least 50 semester credit hours of liberal arts education coursework (you can make up the credits while enrolled in the program). The application will also need to include a resume. The entire program is 57 credits. You'll begin by taking 7 undergraduate bridge courses (21 credits). Some of these courses (e.g. Community Health Nursing) will include practicum experiences. Once you've passed the Bridge Proctored Exam, you can continue to the MSN portion. This consist of 12 graduate-level courses (36 credits), including a mandatory nursing practicum and capstone project. The program finishes with an MSN Comprehensive Exam. Full-time students can complete the RN to MSN program in as little as 2 years. Part-time study is also available.
Nursing School Overview
Regis is a private Jesuit university in Denver. And unlike the other programs in our Colorado listings, it's also non-profit and regionally accredited. The Loretto Heights School of Nursing is on U.S. News & World Report's radar, and you'll find plenty of data about its online MSN in the entry for Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs - Regis is usually ranked in the #132-170 range. We like the fact that class sizes are relatively small (e.g. 12 students) and faculty tend to be experienced (e.g. average of 10 years teaching online programs) and qualified (75%+ with a Ph.D. or terminal degree). You can read more about the nursing professors in the school's faculty bios. Or you can browse through independent reviews of the nursing graduate programs. We found a number on the web, and almost all of them were raves. For example, reviewers mentioned that the online MSN in Leadership in Healthcare Systems was flexible, faculty were supportive and engaged, and Regis had a good reputation in the community. This program is more expensive than Colorado's for-profit options, so you may wish to talk to your employer about the possibility of reimbursement.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
This accelerated online RN to MSN allows RNs with an associate degree or diploma in nursing to earn a BSN along the way to earning a master's degree. Applicants must have a minimum cumulative 2.75 GPA on any undergraduate work (lower GPAs will be considered on an individual basis), an active & unencumbered RN license in their home state, and certain undergraduate prerequisites (listed on the program page). 2 years of clinical practice as an RN is preferred and applicants who have graduated from a nursing program more than 3 years prior to admission should have a minimum of 1,000 hours of nursing experience in the past 3 years. The application must also include 3 recommendations, a current resume, and a personal statement. The program requires 54 credits in core studies, but these can be transferred from your previous work. Primarily, you'll be focused on the RN to BSN and the MSN. The RN to BSN major coursework is 33 credits, including 4 graduate-level courses and a Leadership in Nursing capstone. The MSN portion is 21 credits, and it includes a 210-hour practicum, comprehensive evaluation, and elective. Online courses are offered in 8-week terms and the entire program can be finished in ~27 months. However, RN to MSN students have a total of 5 years to complete each degree.