Guide to Colleges & Universities in Montana (MT)

Education in Montana

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) counts 31 colleges, universities, technical schools, career academies and other postsecondary institutions in Montana. Here’s how degree-granting colleges in Montana break down by type:

  • Public 4-year: 6
  • Public 2-year: 11
  • Private 4-year, nonprofit: 5
  • Private 2-year, nonprofit: 2
  • Private 4-year, for-profit: 0

Number of Institutions in Montana Chart

This group of 31 schools includes a handful of health, beauty and cosmetology schools. Similar to other colleges in the U.S., schools that take less than two years to complete primarily provide career training to students with specific professional ambitions and typically culminate in a certificate instead of a degree.

According to the Montana University System, 31,268 students were enrolled in Montana’s six four-year public institutions in 2015. That’s a slight decrease from the previous year but a 7.4 percent increase since 2005. Montana State’s three campuses in Bozeman, Billings and Havre have 17,332 students, with the Bozeman campus being the home to 75 percent of the total student body.

The University of Montana’s three campuses have 13,268 students, and the Missoula campus leads the way with 10,342 students. The greatest growth in the last 10 years has been experienced at Montana Tech in Butte. Montana Tech, part of the University of Montana system, grew 3.5 percent from 2013-14 to 2014-15, and it has enjoyed 32 percent growth since 2005.

Among the state’s two-year colleges, the total enrollment of 5,310 students in 2015 is down 6.7 percent from 2014, and the 2,154 students enrolled in community colleges is down 6 percent. The fastest-growing school in this group is Gallatin College of Montana State, a two-year college in Bozeman offering associate degrees and one-year professional certificates. From 13 students in 2005, it has grown to a campus of nearly 500 students in 2014-15. Gallatin continues to grow even as the other two-year public schools in the state experience 6 percent drops in enrollment.

While instate resident student numbers have been dropping at public universities in Montana, out-of-state student enrollment has jumped. At Montana State University, for example, where out-of-state students constitute nearly half of the student body, nonresident student enrollment climbed 7 percent from 2013-14 to 2014-15. At the University of Montana, nonresident enrollment went up 6.5 percent, and over the last 10 years, nonresident student enrollment at both schools has nearly doubled.

In 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Montana awarded 6,697 certificates, associate and bachelor’s degrees. Of those degrees, 75 percent — about 5,032 total — were bachelor’s degrees, and 1,418 were associate degrees. The remaining 247 were certificates of applied science. Overall, the number of undergraduate degrees awarded was up 14 percent in a decade. Montana State in Bozeman awarded 2,132 bachelor’s degree diplomas in 2013-14, which was 20 percent higher than those awarded by the University of Montana in Missoula.

The average time it takes for bachelor’s degree recipients to earn their diplomas at public universities in Montana dropped slightly since 2008-09, when the average time was 4.51 years for native, non-transfer students. In 2013-14, the average time to graduation was 4.47 years for bachelor’s degree students. Associate degree recipients, on the other hand, were taking longer; the average time to graduation in the same six years grew from 3.06 years to 3.32 years, the state reported.

Online Education in Montana

With all its wide-open, sparsely populated areas, it’s not surprising that Montana educators are increasingly offering online degree programs for students who find it inconvenient to travel to a college campus.

The Montana University System’s Online Program Inventory offers a simple online mechanism for finding a program or course at one of the state’s public colleges or universities that fits your needs. You can search by school, degree type or major. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Number of schools offering online associate degrees: 6
  • Number of online associate degrees offered: 20
  • Number of schools offering online bachelor’s degrees: 5
  • Number of online bachelor’s degrees offered: 19
  • Number of schools offering online master’s degrees: 5
  • Number of online master’s degrees offered: 20
  • Total number of public academic programs delivered at least 80 percent online: 100+

More than 9,500 people were enrolled in the Montana University System’s online programs in the fall of 2013, a 170 percent increase from 2003. Only about a quarter of those 9,549 students were enrolled solely in an online course, and nearly 80 percent of them were considered nontraditional students because they were 25 or older.

Montana State in Billings led the state in online enrollment with 2,098 students in 2013. Online students accounted for more than half of that campus’s total student body.

The University of Montana was ranked 135th in the country for the Best Online Graduate Education Program by U.S. News & World Report. Montana Tech of the University of Montana is on the list of the Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs although its actual rank was not published.

Not all types of programs are ranked by U.S. News & World Report, and many more online degrees can be earned at colleges and universities in Montana. Montana State in Bozeman, for example, has offered an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program since the fall semester of 2013. Students train to become advanced practice and can focus their studies on family practice or the psychology and mental health area.

Top Jobs and Careers in Montana

The following is a rundown of some of the top careers in Montana along with some related degrees that can help job candidates in each field stand out from the pack:

OccupationTop regionsWhy it’s hotNecessary skillsRelevant degrees
Registered nurseSouth Central Montana region around Billings and the Eastern Montana regionNursing jobs are expected to increase throughout the country at a rate much faster than average, and according to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, the outlook is no different in Montana. The state estimates openings for nearly 350 registered nurses each year through 2022.Active listening, social perceptiveness, service orientation, speaking and communication, coordinationMost nurses have either a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate degree in nursing or a diploma from a nursing program, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Heavy and tractor-trailer driversThroughout the state, but especially in the Northwest and Southwest regions, which are expected to continue to recover from the 2007 recession.The Montana Department of Labor & Industry expects to see 238 new truck driver jobs open up in the state annually over the next several years as regional trucking companies hire replacements for drivers who left to work in oil field boomtowns in eastern Montana and North Dakota.Operation and control, operation monitoring, time management, critical thinking and monitoringTruck drivers need a high school diploma and a commercial driver’s license, but many also graduate from a truck-driving school. Many jobs require special certification to handle hazardous waste.
Nursing assistantsDemand for nursing assistants will be high throughout the state, but particularly in the Southwest and Eastern regions of the state. State officials say the Southwest region of Montana has surged past the Northwest in terms of job numbers, and that growth is expected to continue for the next several years.The state is anticipating 174 annual openings for nursing assistants as Montana’s aging population seeks more medical help.Service orientation, active listening, social perceptiveness, coordination and monitoringAccording to the BLS, nursing assistants and orderlies have to complete a state-approved education program and pass a state competency exam in order to earn their certification. Many gain this training at community colleges in Montana.
Practical and vocational nursesDemand for nursing assistants will be high throughout the state, but particularly the South Central and Eastern regions of Montana. A state report concluded the South Central region of the state around Billings will have the fastest job growth in the state in coming years.About 27 percent of Montana’s workforce is approaching retirement, which will open up jobs for practical and vocational nurses to replace those who leave the workforce but also to help treat the state’s aging population.Service orientation, active listening, social perceptiveness, coordination and monitoringAccording to the BLS, licensed practical and vocational nurses have to complete a state-approved education program and pass a state competency exam in order to earn their certification. Many gain this training at community colleges in Montana.
Dental assistantsThroughout the state, although the western part of the state, with its more populous areas, is expected to lead in job numbers because of its denser population.Dental assistants are one of the top 10 jobs in Montana that require some kind of postsecondary training.Active listening, reading comprehension, speaking, critical thinking, service orientationMontana, like many states, requires dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass a state exam. Many dental assistants get this training at a Montana community college.
Accountants and auditorsThroughout the state, although the South Central and Southwest regions are adding the most jobs right now, the Southwest region is expected to pull away and lead in jobs added by 2016-22, state officials say.The state Labor & Industry department expects there to be 172 annual openings through 2020. This includes accountants and auditors who retire and need to be replaced.Active listening, mathematics, oral comprehension, written comprehension, number facility, deductive reasoning.These jobs require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or some related field, like business administration with an emphasis on accounting. Some employers prefer people with a master’s degree.
General and operations managersThroughout the stateWhile jobs are increasing across the country for top executives, growth is expected to be particularly strong in Montana, where the annual average wage for experienced general and operations managers in 2013 was $89,600.Active listening, coordination, monitoring, social perceptiveness, speaking.Managers usually have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration, public administration, law or a related field.
Elementary and secondary school teachersThroughout the state, mostly in metropolitan areasNationally, jobs for teachers are growing at a 12 percent annual rate, and Montana officials expect to see demand for nearly 250 new teachers each year. Most of those openings will result from existing teachers retiring. In 2013, elementary and secondary school teachers earned an average salary of between $47,910 and $49,480, the state reported.Instructing, speaking, learning strategies, active listening, active learningTeachers need to have a bachelor’s degree and pass state certification.

Financial Aid in Montana

The University of Montana’s in-state tuition and fees are $6,099 (2014-15), and out-of-state tuition and fees are $22,372, the most expensive undergraduate costs among all the state schools in Montana. At Montana State in Bozeman, in-state tuition is $6,801 and nonresident costs are $21,390. Graduate school tuition and fees range from $6,600 to $7,800.

Among the state’s two-year schools, tuition and fees range from a low of $3,782 for resident students at City College at Montana State University in Billings to a high of $11,792 for nonresident students at Missoula College at the University of Montana.

The private, nonprofit University of Great Falls charges $21,556 in tuition and fees for all students, and Carroll College in Helena charges $29,280. Rocky Mountain College in Billings charges $24,530 annually in tuition and fees.

Most students who go to school in Montana will want to fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA. This information is used by student aid officers in Montana and Washington, D.C., to determine student eligibility and financial need.

Montana offers a variety of grants, loans, scholarships, tuition waivers, veterans benefits and work study options for students to help them pay for college. The Montana University Systems offers a handy scholarship search tool on its website to help applicants track down potential funds or scholarships they may apply for. Some of the possibilities include the following:

  • The Governor’s “Best and Brightest” scholarship, which goes to in-state students who graduate high school with a 3.0 GPA and a 1440 on the SAT
  • The Montana STEM scholarship, for students with a 3.25 GPA and certain level of science and math credits from high school
  • The 2+2 Honor Scholarship, which provides tuition waivers to associate degree graduates who want to continue their studies at a four-year Montana college or university
Article Sources


  1. “Distance Learning Administration.” Montana University System,”
  2. “Enrollment Data and Reports.” Montana University System,
  3. “Montana Employment Projects 2013: Job Growth to 2015 and 2022,” Montana Department of Labor & Industry,
  4. “Montana jobs most in demand include RNs, truck drivers,” Great Falls Tribune,
  5. Montana University System Online Program Inventory.
  6. National Center for Education Statistics; Montana,
  7. “Outcome Metric 4: Credits and Time to Degree,” Montana University System,
  8. “Progress and Outcome Metrics.” Montana University System,
  9. “Tuition and fees,” Montana University System,
  10. “University of Montana,” U.S. News & World Report,
  11. O*NET OnLine: “Summary Report for Registered Nurses,”, O*NET OnLine: “Summary Report for Elementary School Teachers,”, “Summary Report for General and Operations Managers,”, “Summary Report for Heavy and Tractor Trailer Truck Drivers,”, “Summary Report for Nursing Assistants,”
  12. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014: “Registered Nurses,”, “Nursing Assistants,”, “Licensed Practice and Vocational Nuruses,”, “Accountants and Auditors,”, “Elementary School Teachers,”, “General and Operations Managers,”, “Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers,”

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