When choosing the right Montana college for your bachelor's degree - whether it's a campus-based school or an online school — it's important to have as much information as possible about the institutions you're considering. State-based financial aid programs can help ease the burden of paying for school, for example, and knowing how the job market might look when you graduate can help you prepare for the post-graduation job search.
If you're currently enrolled in one of Montana's community colleges, take note: the Montana University System has several measures in place to help you make a smooth transfer into a university program. You can ask your advisor for details, and there's a link to more information at the end of the page.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Montana
The best colleges in Montana have diverse degree options that can put you on the path to a new career. They are accredited, often offer online courses and have support services that promote student success. Based on a methodology considering graduation rates, retention rates, tuition, program prominence and more, these are the best Montana schools. Check out the best community colleges in Montana when you're through here.
Montana State University is one of the top universities in Montana and a popular choice for state residents. With more than 16,500 students enrolled, it is the largest of the Montana universities and draws students from all 56 counties.
Part of what makes MSU one of the top colleges in Montana is its diverse degree catalog. It has ten colleges and schools offering a range of undergraduate and graduate programs. One of its fastest growing colleges is the Gallatin College which offers associate degrees, certificates and other workforce readiness programs. MSU is also notable for strong graduation and retention rates.
The university's location in Bozeman provides access to both outdoor recreation and cultural events. Montana State University was founded in 1893 and is a public institution.
Another of the best universities in Montana can be found in Missoula. As the state's second largest city, Missoula is home to the flagship campus of the University of Montana. Offering breath-taking views and a world-class education, UM draws more than 13,000 students from around the globe.
At the University of Montana, there are 13 colleges and schools. These offer undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in fields such as the liberal arts, visual arts, business, law and journalism. The university's Missoula College also offers two-year technical degrees and career-focused education programs.
UM earns its spot among the best universities in Montana by offering affordable tuition and generous financial aid. It offers a number of fully online degree programs and has a strong graduation rate.
The University of Montana Western is another good choice for those looking for the best Montana colleges. Founded in 1893, UMW is part of the University of Montana System and known for its unique approach to higher education.
Montana Western says it's the only public school in the country to offer the Experience One program. This method of learning has students enroll in a single course at a time and helps provide an intensive experience designed to foster greater retention of the subject material. The University of Montana Western offers degrees in fields ranging from business to natural horsemanship.
UMW is also known for its affordable tuition, professional faculty and numerous research opportunities. Its campus is in Dillon.
Those looking for online colleges in Montana may want to consider Montana State University Billings. Not only is it one of the best Montana colleges in general, but it also offers an assortment of online associate, bachelor's and graduate degrees.
Meanwhile, traditional degree programs are available on its campus in Billings. These cover subjects such as allied health, education and business. In addition to more common degrees, there is the opportunity for unique majors in fields such as outdoor adventure leadership.
MSUB ranks high for affordable tuition, diverse degree offerings and flexible learning options that include online courses along with night and weekend classes. Like other best schools in Montana, this institution has a long history, and Montana State University Billings was founded in 1927.
Students seeking a smaller learning environment might find Montana State University Northern is a good fit for their needs. Located in Havre, MSU Northern enrolls fewer than 1,500 students, but its small size doesn't stop it from being one of the top Montana universities.
Northern opened its doors in 1929 and has since grown to become a comprehensive center of higher education. It offers more than three dozen majors and confers associate, bachelor's and master's degrees as well as certificates. The most popular programs at MSU Northern reflect diverse interests and include nursing, business and diesel technology.
As a public institution, Montana State University Northern is known for affordable in-state tuition rates. Approximately 80 percent of its students receive some form of financial aid.
Carroll College is another of the top Montana colleges. The private institution was founded in 1909 by the Catholic Diocese of Helena. Today, it offers a faith-filled education to students from a variety of backgrounds.
More than 1,300 students are enrolled at Carroll, and the school gets high marks for the value of its degree programs. Its available majors include some less common options such as anthrozoology, theology and ethics and value studies. As one of the best schools in Montana, the college also has strong graduation and retention rates.
Located in Helena, Carroll College offers its students access to biking, hiking and skiing in the nearby area. Dozens of service events and campus ministry programs are offered throughout the year as well.
Although its formal name is Montana Tech of the University of Montana, this institution goes by the shortened moniker of Montana Tech. Known in its early years as the Montana State School of Mines, the university can trace its roots back to 1900.
Originally founded as an academy to educate engineers and other mining industry personnel, Montana Tech has grown into a robust academic and technical destination. The school is home to four colleges and schools as well as the Montana Bureau of Mines & Geology. Those looking for online colleges in Montana will find several graduate degrees and certificates through the Digger Online division.
The accredited programs at Montana Tech come at an affordable price. Its campus is in Butte.
Formerly known as the University of Great Falls, the University of Providence is another of the best universities in Montana. It features a low student-faculty ratio, dozens of degree programs and virtually all its students receive some form of financial aid.
The school was founded in 1932 when the Catholic Bishop of Great Falls, Sisters of Charity of Providence and Ursuline Sisters came together to form the Great Falls Junior College. Since then, the school has expanded to become one of the top Montana colleges and transformed into a university.
The University of Providence has developed into one of the state's robust online colleges, offering many online degree programs. While its educational offerings have changed over the years, the school retains its original Catholic identity and mission.
Rocky Mountain College makes the list of top Montana colleges thanks to its affordable tuition, generous financial aid and solid graduation and retention rates. The school prides itself on offering quality academics intended to help students develop a sense of responsibility and stewardship.
Three institutions merged to make the current RMC, and their heritage dates back to 1878. During its history, the college has been influenced by the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ. Today, Rocky Mountain College continues to embrace a Christian identity, and spiritual life programming plays a prominent role on its Billings campus.
When it comes to academics, RMC offers a First-Year Experience to help freshman succeed. There is also an Honors Program, internships, ROTC and more.
Among the top colleges in Montana, Salish Kootenai College has a unique history and mission. Founded in 1977, SKC is focused on providing higher education services to Native American students both in Montana and from across the United States. In particular, the school works to maintain the culture of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Peoples.
While the majority of those enrolled at SKC are Native American, students from any background are welcome to attend. Those who do should find a small learning environment of approximately 800 students. The size of Salish Kootenai College makes it ideal for opportunities for personalized instruction.
SKC offers certificates, associate degrees and bachelor's degrees in two dozen academic departments that include nursing, education and tribal governance and administration.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Montana
Knowing what degree programs are the favorites among Montana students can help you better understand the academic climate in the state. Check out this list of the top bachelor's degrees in Montana.
In-Demand Careers in Montana
Getting that first job out of school can be a difficult task for some recent grads, but knowing which industries are likely to have the highest demand for new talent can help you focus your search. Here's a rundown of some of the hottest careers for Montana residents.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||34.2%||1,760||$88,190|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||33.5%||120||$35,880|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||31.9%||6,710||$25,890|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||29.9%||180||$77,520|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||28%||280||$53,870|
|Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers||27.6%||470||$26,180|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||26.8%||70||$37,620|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||26.1%||120||$47,020|
|Reservation and Transportation Ticket Agents and Travel Clerks||26%||500||$29,100|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||26%||470||$33,460|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||24.3%||1,470||$57,130|
|Physical Therapist Aides||23.1%||150||$28,900|
|Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||22.8%||3,720||$32,940|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||22.4%||1,090||$47,630|
|Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers||22.2%||510||$43,590|
|Healthcare Social Workers||22.1%||550||$50,740|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Montana
State-based and federal student aid programs can help Montana students offset some of the cost of college. Montana's STEM Scholarship Program provides up to $3,000 for eligible students who declare majors in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and health care. Also, The Governor's MERIT Scholarship is a $2,000 annual award given to one high-achieving student from each Montana high school.
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- Montana University System (MUS)
- Montana GEAR UP Program
- MUS Transfer
- Reach Higher Montana
- Montana Guaranteed Student Loan Program (MGSLP)
- Achieve Montana 529 College Savings Plan
- Montana Higher Education Student Assistance Corporation
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- MSU at a Glance, Montana State University, Accessed May 2018, http://www.montana.edu/marketing/about-msu/
- About the University of Montana, University of Montana, Accessed May 2018, http://www.umt.edu/about/
- Why UMW, The University of Montana Western, Accessed May 2018, https://www.umwestern.edu/why-umw.html#umw-tabbed-research-opportunities
- About the University, Montana State University Billings, Accessed May 2018, http://www.msubillings.edu/geninfo/aboutMSUB.htm
- About Us, Montana State University Northern, Accessed May 2018, http://www.msun.edu/aboutmsun/factsfigures.aspx
- About Carroll, Carroll College, Accessed May 2018, https://www.carroll.edu/about
- About Montana Tech, Montana Tech, Accessed May 2018, http://www.mtech.edu/about/
- History, University of Providence, Accessed May 2018, https://www.uprovidence.edu/about/history/
- History of RMC, Rocky Mountain College, Accessed May 2018, https://www.rocky.edu/about-rocky/HistoryOfRMC.php
- Salish Kootenai College Fast Facts, Salish Kootenai College, Accessed May 2018, https://www.skc.edu/skc-fast-facts/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Scholarships, Montana University System, accessed June 12, 2017, https://mus.edu/Prepare/Pay/Scholarships/