Best Colleges in Montana

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Updated on July 6, 2023
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The Montana Department of Labor and Industry projects only minimal economic growth in the coming years, with the state expected to add just 3,800 jobs annually from 2017 to 2027. The healthcare industry will account for much of this growth, adding approximately 1,300 new positions each year. Industries like mining and utilities, by contrast, should see an overall decline in employment during that period.

A college education, however, can give you an edge in a competitive job market, especially when applying for the most lucrative positions. For example, in 2017 registered nurses in Montana earned a median salary of $66,280, nearly $24,000 more than the median pay for all other occupations. Computer systems analysts in the state made even more, with a median salary of $73,760 that year.

Top 10 Colleges in Montana

  1. The University of Montana-Western - Dillon, MT
  2. Carroll College - Helena, MT
  3. Montana State University - Bozeman, MT
  4. Salish Kootenai College - Pablo, MT
  5. Rocky Mountain College - Billings, MT
  6. University of Providence - Great Falls, MT
  7. Montana Technological University - Butte, MT
  8. The University of Montana - Missoula, MT
  9. Montana State University-Northern - Havre, MT
  10. Montana State University-Billings - Billings, MT

Featured Online Programs

To help you decide where to continue your education, we have compiled a ranking of the best colleges in Montana. For each of the ten schools on this list, we provide information on things like admission requirements, courses of study, the availability of online and hybrid programs, and financial aid opportunities.

All of the colleges below hold regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Best Accredited Colleges in Montana

Best Colleges in Montana

  1. The University of Montana-Western

    Dillon, MT



    The University of Montana Western leads the state in the number of awarded degrees, percentage of completed courses, and overall enrollment growth.

    Undergraduate students at this university take just one course at a time, each lasting 18 days. Through this educational model, students develop intimate connections with their professors and classmates. They also enjoy the flexibility to participate in international study trips and research projects with faculty members.

    Programs of study at Montana Western include business and technology, environmental sciences, equine studies, and mathematics. Through the university's School of Outreach, students can also enroll in online classes supplemented by on-campus workshops.

    Freshmen applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. They must also meet one of the following academic requirements: a composite ACT score of at least 22, an SAT score of at least 1120, a high school GPA of 2.5 or above, or rank within the top half of their high school's graduating class.

  2. Carroll College

    Helena, MT



    A Catholic institution, Carroll College strives to prepare students for careers, lifelong learning, and service to others. A rich array of undergraduate programs at the college allows students to explore subjects like anthrozoology, strategic finance, public health, and international relations. While Carroll does not currently offer any fully online programs, students can earn a master of accountancy in a hybrid format.

    The college encourages all students to participate in one of 150 international exchange and service-learning opportunities in countries such as Mexico, New Zealand, and Uganda. The content of these experiences can vary significantly, with students serving as teachers, environmental advocates, and relief organization workers.

    To apply to Carroll, you must submit high school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and a personal essay outlining academic interests and professional goals. While not required, the college encourages applicants to also submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, or church leader.

  3. Montana State University

    Bozeman, MT



    Montana State University enrolls roughly 17,000 students each year, making it the largest institution of higher education in Montana. The university also generates more than $100 million in annual research funding for fields such as immunology, transportation, and land resources and environmental sciences.

    Students at MSU can choose from more than 250 majors in areas such as agribusiness management, financial engineering, and paleontology. The university also administers a fully online bachelor's degree completion program in liberal studies, along with distance education programs that lead to graduate certificates and master's degrees.

    Regardless of the program of study they choose, all students may also apply to the university's Undergraduate Scholars Program (USP). The USP provides training, funding, and administrative assistance to learners pursuing a range of creative and scholarly projects to supplement their classroom studies.

    Undergraduate admission requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and satisfactory scores on either the ACT or SAT. Graduate admission requirements vary by program, but all require a bachelor's degree.

  4. Salish Kootenai College

    Pablo, MT



    Salish Kootenai College predominantly serves Native American students through an educational experience that draws on the history and culture of the people of the Flathead Nation.

    In addition to programs in tribal governance and historic preservation, the college awards associate and bachelor's degrees in business administration, early childhood education, forest management, and social work. Certificate programs also help students develop specialized professional skills, such as bookkeeping.

    Learners at SKC benefit from a variety of support services. For example, a free tutoring program matches students with peer and faculty tutors, while the college's career services office places students in internships, apprenticeships, and job-shadow opportunities aligned with their academic and professional interests. Students can also access culturally relevant health and wellness programs.

    Applicants who have not taken the ACT or have fewer than 30 college-level credits to transfer must take a placement exam. Students who do not pass this exam may need to complete developmental courses prior to enrolling in a degree program.

  5. Rocky Mountain College

    Billings, MT



    Founded in 1878, Rocky Mountain College is the oldest college in Montana. Throughout a long history, the college has aimed to combine liberal arts education with practical career preparation.

    Undergraduate and graduate programs at RMC cover subjects such as aviation, health and human performance, occupational therapy, and sociology. Students may also customize their learning by choosing a minor or concentration or by pursuing an entirely individualized program of study.

    RMC also prizes affordability. More than 99% of students receive some form of financial aid, with an average annual award package of $24,000 per student. The Founder's Merit Award, for example, provides $17,000 per year to first-year students with strong records of academic achievement, while the college's Trustee Scholarship offers up to $12,000 per year to transfer students. The college also offers awards to high school valedictorians, musicians, and accomplished esports players.

    To apply, you must have a high school diploma and submit either ACT or SAT scores. Prospective students with a GPA of 2.5 or below may also need to write a personal essay and submit two letters of recommendation.

  6. University of Providence

    Great Falls, MT



    A Catholic university located in Great Falls, University of Providence offers majors in fields such as addictions counseling, forensic science, and surgical technology. The university's graduate programs also provide advanced training in counseling, criminal justice, and healthcare administration.

    Students who need to balance their learning with personal and professional obligations may also choose from more than a dozen fully online associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees.

    Regardless of their major, all undergraduate students at UP take a series of core courses called "Lumen de Lumine." This foundational curriculum helps students hone critical thinking and debate skills, explore diverse subjects in the liberal arts, and grapple with ethical and theological questions. The university also encourages students to participate in an internship or study abroad.

    First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts and results from either the ACT or SAT. Graduate students typically need a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA.

  7. Montana Technological University

    Butte, MT



    Originally founded as a mining school, Montana Technological University continues to provide access to high-quality education opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The university also offers a fully online bachelor's program in nursing along with two online master's programs in industrial hygiene and project engineering and management.

    On-campus students can choose from associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in subjects such as cybersecurity and health information technology. The Butte campus also hosts an annual research and design expo, a public lecture series, and the Center for Advanced Mineral, Metallurgical, and Materials Processing.

    In addition to high school transcripts, undergraduate applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores. Generally, prospective students must maintain a high school GPA of at least 2.5 to earn admission, though the university makes exceptions for applicants with strong test scores.

    Incoming students can apply for a host of scholarships, including the Marie Moebus Presidential award, which provides both an in-state tuition waiver and a $6,000 cash supplement.

  8. The University of Montana

    Missoula, MT



    As the flagship school in the state's university system, the University of Montana educates roughly 10,000 students each year. The school features undergraduate and graduate programs in astronomy, communication studies, pharmaceutical sciences, and theater, among other fields. UM Online further extends the reach of the university, allowing students to pursue degrees and certificates on their own schedule from any location.

    Students at UM can also participate in a variety of extracurricular activities. For example, each year, the Franke Global Leadership Initiative recruits a cohort of fellows who develop the skills and mindset necessary to address international challenges. Learners in this program attend seminars and leadership retreats, engage in 12 weeks of service-based learning, and complete an interdisciplinary capstone project.

    Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. They must also take either the ACT or SAT. While UM sets specific minimum academic requirements, students can be admitted conditionally on the basis of community service, professional experience, or other extenuating circumstances.

  9. Montana State University-Northern

    Havre, MT



    Montana State University Northern equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to take on lucrative careers. One year after graduation, the average MSUN graduate earns a median salary of roughly $31,000, which is $11,000 more than the median pay across all other four-year institutions in the state.

    The university also participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange, offering the equivalent of in-state tuition to residents of 15 additional states and territories.

    Students at MSUN earn associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in disciplines such as automotive technology, civil engineering technology, graphic design, and health promotion. The university also offers nine fully online degrees programs and a diverse slate of online classes.

    Admission requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. Prospective students under the age of 21 must also share results from either the ACT or SAT.

    On top of in-state tuition discounts, incoming students receive consideration for multiple merit-based scholarships. For example, the Chancellor's Scholarship provides $2,000 each year in recognition of outstanding academic achievement.

  10. Montana State University-Billings

    Billings, MT



    Based in the largest city in the state, Montana State University Billings places a premium on civic engagement. To give back to their community and put their learning into practice, students at the university volunteer for animal welfare organizations, raise awareness of mental health issues, provide food to needy families, and plan arts and cultural activities.

    Inside the classroom, students learn about subjects like outdoor adventure leadership, political science, computer programming and application development, and nursing. The university also delivers programs in business administration, health administration, and mental health counseling.

    Regardless of whether they choose to study online or in person, students at MSU Billing benefit from personalized academic advising, tutoring and writing assistance, and career counseling. The university's Native American Achievement Center also provides support specifically to American Indian students, including scholarship awards.

    To apply as a first-year student, you must submit high school transcripts along with ACT or SAT scores. Graduate applicants generally must also submit three letters of recommendation and a personal essay.

Click here to see the best community colleges in Montana.