RN to MSN Programs in Colorado

According to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence, nearly 32 percent of all Colorado nurses are over the age of 55, revealing that the demand for nurses in Colorado will increase significantly over the next decade as many enter retirement. In addition to an aging workforce, the Center for Nursing Excellence also reported that population growth will require an increase of about 1,300 nurses per year.

But it’s not just the entry-level registered nurse that is expected to be in demand in coming years. In fact, the Center for Nursing Excellence reported that nurse managers in all healthcare settings are expected to play an important role in Colorado’s healthcare delivery system over the next decade. Other advanced nursing roles important to Colorado’s healthcare system are administrative nurses, who make up 17 percent of the State’s RNs, and Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs), who account for 32 percent of all primary care providers in Colorado.

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The Center for Nursing Excellence reported that 40 percent of Colorado’s 4,700 APNs are also over the age of 55. Employers will need to hire 160 to 180 APNs annually to preserve the APN healthcare provider capacity in Colorado.

There may be no better time for nurses in Colorado to work toward their Master of Science in Nursing through an RN to MSN bridge program.

RN to MSN Programs in Colorado

Some RN-MSN programs confer both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Licensed RNs in Colorado who possess a nursing diploma or an Associate Degree in Nursing are best served by completing one of these RN to MSN dual degree programs instead of separate BSN and MSN programs.

RN to MSN programs, which have gained popularity in recent years (The American Association of Community Colleges reported that there are now 166 of these programs in the U.S., with another 29 currently in development.), are designed specifically for the currently licensed RN, as these programs take into account pre-licensure education and experience for the transfer of credits. Many RNs transfer about 60 total credits upon entrance in to an RN to MSN program.

Admission Requirements

There are currently 3 RN to MSN programs in Colorado, all of which feature a dedicated online delivery of coursework. There are also many online institutions that offer RN to MSN programs, thereby expanding the number of education options for nurses in Colorado.

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Admission into an RN to MSN program requires a current and unencumbered RN license. Many programs also require at least a year of experience, a current resume, a written essay, and/or a personal interview for admission.

Students of RN to MSN programs in Colorado must complete or transfer at least 50 semester hours of required liberal arts education coursework, with a minimum GPA, before gaining admission into the program.

Coursework Requirements

In addition to completing the program’s liberal arts coursework requirements, students of an RN to MSN program must complete a set of undergraduate courses (often called bridge classes):

  • Issues and trends in professional nursing
  • Concepts and theories in nursing
  • Community health nursing
  • Essentials of nursing research
  • Health assessment
  • Nursing leadership and management

All students must also take specific core graduate courses in an RN to MSN program:

  • Healthcare systems
  • Theoretical foundations
  • Diverse populations and healthcare
  • Research design
  • Legal and ethical issues in healthcare
  • Nursing capstone

RN to MSN Specializations/Tracks

Students must choose a specialization (often called a track) for their RN to MSN program. Not all RN to MSN programs offer the same specializations, so students must ensure the program they select offers a specialization in their chosen nursing area.

In addition to a general MSN program, students in Colorado may also choose to focus their RN to MSN program on one of the following areas:

  • Nursing education
  • Administration/management
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse midwife
  • Nurse anesthetist

Additional graduate-level courses focused on their chosen specialization must then be taken to successfully complete the program.

For example, students completing their RN to MSN program in administration must complete courses such as:

  • Nursing administration practicum
  • Healthcare informatics
  • Modern organizations and healthcare
  • Healthcare finance and economics

In contrast, students focusing their RN to MSN program on nursing education must complete courses such as:

  • Issues in nursing education
  • Teaching strategies in nursing education
  • Curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation
  • Nursing education practicum


How to Become an APN in Colorado

After completing an RN to MSN program in Colorado, students must apply for state certification in an APN role. The Colorado Board of Nursing recognizes the following APN roles:

  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist

But before individuals can apply for state certification as an APN, they must take and pass a corresponding national certification examination recognized by the Board. These include:

    • American Nurses Credentialing Center
      • Acute care nurse practitioner
      • Gerontological nurse practitioner
      • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
      • Adult nurse practitioner
      • Clinical nurse specialist, child and adolescent psychiatric and mental health nursing
      • Family nurse practitioner
      • Clinical nurse specialist in adult psychiatric and mental health nursing







Once national certification is achieved, eligible candidates must apply for state certification in the appropriate APN category by completing an application and providing the Board with proof of national certification and MSN degree.

Career Opportunities for MSN-Educated RNs in Colorado

MSN-prepared RNs in Colorado, whether they are APNs or RNs in administration or education, will find professional opportunities exclusively available to MSN holders. Siomne examples include (March 2015):

  • Family nurse practitioner, family practice/urgent care: Fort Collins
  • Urological nurse practitioner: Colorado Springs
  • Nurse practitioner, urology: Denver
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner: Westminster
  • Registered nurse leader: Director of women’s and children’s services: Denver
  • Supervisor, clinical practice: Aurora
  • RN, nurse supervisor: Boulder

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