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Montana boasts both natural beauty and great outdoor opportunities. The state also features some of the top online community colleges in the nation.
For those who want to attend community college in Big Sky Country, certain students can receive their schooling free. The Montana Promise Act offers those with at least 12 months of state residency and certain academic achievements the opportunity to attend community college through a unique grant program that pays for their tuition in full.
Unlike some other programs, these grants may also pay for career certifications related to in-demand careers in Montana.
Why Study in Montana?
Montana has a lot to offer, including educational opportunities, culture, and gorgeous vistas. Montana is a great state to live, work, and learn in.
The Montana Promise Act offers grants to pay student tuition at the community college level. Beyond community college, the state is home to multiple four-year universities and they make transferring from community college easy.
The state's top schools include Montana State University, with campuses in Bozeman and Billings, the University of Montana in Missoula, and Montana Tech (of the University of Montana).
The economy in Montana has outperformed the national average since 2000, and it performed better and recoveredfaster than the national average during the 2007 recession. The state's low unemployment rate also beats the national average.
The primary industries in the state are agriculture, forestry, mining, and energy production. Demand continues to grow for new housing, metals for the production of technology, and energy to power a modern lifestyle.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Montana generally falls below the national average, but not by much, with housing as the highest expense. Wages vary by occupation and location, and affordable student housing can often be found near campuses.
Some grocery items cost less in Montana than in other states. Those not already living in Montana can compare the cost of living to where they currently reside using a cost of living calculator.
Cultural and Community Offerings
Montana houses a rich arts and culture community, especially in college towns like Missoula and Bozeman. Thanks to annual events, museums, and a rich music scene, students can usually find something to love.
Many long-time Montana residents love the small town feel that can be found in even the largest cities in the state. Billings, voted one of the best cities to live in the country in 2016, offers plenty of concerts, theater, and outdoor activities right outside of students' doors. People often move to and stay in Montana because of the outdoor recreation opportunities and the friendly, down-to-earth people.
Montana possesses two unique climates. The western part of the state boasts a Pacific Northwest climate with relatively mild temperatures in both summer and winter. Mountain areas receive a significant amount of snow, making for great skiing and winter recreation.
The eastern part of the state, separated from the west by the continental divide, offers more of a high desert plains climate, with cold winters, hot summers, and a lot of wind. Most of the state stays fairly dry with relatively low humidity year-round.
Overall, most people enjoy the four seasons offered by the climate in Montana and the recreational opportunities that result.
Top Degree Programs in Montana
Featured Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Montana Employment Outlook
Montana lacks the large population growth that other areas feature. However, unemployment rates remain relatively low compared to the national average, at just over 3% as of late 2021.
Growing industries include healthcare and transportation, along with occupations in the tourist industry, with an overall annual mean salary in Montana of $47,270 according to the BLS. Occupations in business, finance, and operations management pay significantly more.
Like other states, Montana offers some in-demand professions that continue to grow in 2021.
5 Montana Jobs in Demand for 2021
Software developers create computer programs and applications. Typically, they work in offices full time, although many developers also work remotely. An associate of science in software development can help you launch a career in this field.
- U.S. Median Annual Salary: $110,140
- Job Growth Projection: 22%
Athletic trainers prevent, treat, and work to rehabilitate injuries sustained to muscle, soft tissue, and joints due to sports activity. They can work in gyms, schools, for athletic teams, or in physical therapy private practice.
This field requires an associate of science in sports medicine.
- U.S. Median Annual Salary: $49,860
- Job Growth Projection: 23%
While healthcare administration offers excellent career opportunities, healthcare technicians play a key role in medicine. Jobs like radiology technician involve direct care with patients, as well as administering and evaluating test results, and database management.
Some of these technicians earn higher wages based on their specialty and enjoy strong demand in Montana. Heath technicians need an associate of science degree in their chosen specialty.
- U.S. Median Annual Salary: $63,710
- Job Growth Projection: 9%
Occupational Therapy Assistants
These professionals assist occupational therapists in helping patients who were injured or displaced from their jobs return to work through a combination of proper training, adaptation, and education.
An associate of science degree in the field serves as the starting point for these professionals.
- U.S. Median Annual Salary: $60,950
- Job Growth Projection: 34%
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
A paralegal can influence social change and public policy by assisting attorneys with research and legal preparation for briefs, trials, and appeals. Working as a paralegal can also serve as a gateway into other growing and lucrative legal professions.
A paralegal can start with an associate of paralegal sciences degree and gain valuable experience from there.
- U.S. Median Annual Salary: $52,920
- Job Growth Projection: 12%
Popular Career Paths in Montana
Best Accredited Community Colleges in Montana
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Best Community Colleges in Montana
Situated on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, CDKC educates approximately 300 students. Founded in 1975, this Montana community college offers academic programs that include associate degrees that transfer to the University of Montana. The college also delivers certificate programs that align with the region's employment needs (e.g., mining).
Student services at CDKC include academic advising, mental health counseling, transition counseling, and an early childhood learning center that provides low-cost childcare for faculty and degree-seekers. Although the college does not offer housing, counselors help students find suitable housing near campus.
CDKC accepts applications only through the mail. Prospective students can submit either a high school diploma or GED scores. Although CDKC does not award scholarships, the school links learners to popular scholarship websites, including those that allocate funding exclusively to Native American degree-seekers.
Blackfeet Community College
From its Browning campus, BCC educates over 500 students, many of whom belong to the Blackfeet Nation. This Montana community college boasts membership in the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. BCC's six academic departments award associate degrees and certificates, with popular degrees including criminal justice and legal studies, hydrology, and early childhood education. BCC also offers academic programs in the Piikani language.
Academic enrichment services at BCC include the Federal TRIO Program, which offers academic support to first-generation and low-income college students. TRIO also provides technology support services and one-on-one counseling that helps students complete the FAFSA and research scholarship opportunities.
BCC awards scholarships to first-time degree-seekers who start a program within one year of graduating high school. These learners receive significant financial support. The college requires that scholarship recipients participate in summer science institutes, tutoring elementary school students in science topics. Finally, students ages 60 and over do not pay tuition or fees.
Programs at MCC include transfer and workforce-ready degrees. Transfer degrees satisfy the 30-credit general education curriculum the University of Montana requires for a bachelor's degree. Distance education students can select from nine entirely online programs, including an associate in general studies or a certificate in sales. Additionally, this Montana community college features five- and six-week certificate courses for working professionals.
Outside of class, learners can network by joining one of MCC's 10 student clubs and organizations. Degree-seekers with excellent grades qualify for membership in Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for students attending community colleges. Finally, Christian learners can grow spiritually with their fellow students by joining MCC's campus ministry.
Prospective degree-seekers can apply for the fall, spring, or summer semester. MCC strongly recommends that applicants submit ACT or SAT scores. All incoming students should apply for financial aid by the Feb. 1 deadline. Learners who do not qualify for scholarships can still participate in on-campus work-study opportunities.
From its Glendive campus, DCC offers both one-year certificates and two-year associate degrees. Students in transfer programs select a concentration; DCC offers over two dozen concentration options including chemistry, education, and pharmacy. Career and technical programs feature both degrees and certificates in areas such as equitation, private security, and welding technology.
DCC degree- and certificate-seekers can access tutoring resources at no additional charge. Students need only make an appointment to receive one-on-one support from a highly trained faculty member. Other student services at this Montana community college include counseling staff that help students identify and overcome challenges (e.g., homesickness, grief) that impede learning.
Recent high school graduates should submit SAT or ACT scores, although DCC prefers the ACT. In-district and in-state students pay the lowest tuition rate, while some North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming residents also qualify for reduced tuition. Degree-seekers interested in merit-based scholarships or need-based grants should apply by the Feb. 1 deadline.
Since 1984, SCC has provided educational opportunities to residents living on and around the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation. This Montana college offers 18 associate degrees in five academic subjects and one bachelor's degree in elementary education. The college's certificate programs prepare the next generation of carpenters, engineers, and rural health experts, among other professionals.
On-campus student groups include student government, the Native American Student Association, and the American Indian Business Leaders Club. SCC also provides daycare services to learners with young children. The college uses Moodle to deliver online courses, and most programs allow degree-seekers to learn in a hybrid format.
SCC accepts new learners in the summer, fall, and spring semesters. Native American students submit a Certification of Indian Blood in addition to high school transcripts or GED scores. Tribal members with financial need or academic merit may qualify for a scholarship or grant. Other financial aid opportunities do not consider applicants' racial or cultural background.
Fort Peck Community College
Located in northwest Montana, FPCC serves Assiniboine and Sioux Reservation members as well as other in-state residents earning an associate degree or certificate. The university's certificates include options in diesel technology and truck driving. This Montana community college delivers AA and AS degrees that transfer to four-year schools and AAS degrees that teach in-demand vocational and technical skills.
FPCC engages with the local community by providing agricultural services to tribal members. The college also offers continuing education courses in diverse topics such as hazmat training and grant writing. Finally, FPCC provides tribal language courses free of charge and offers specialized software that allows users to type in the Dakota language.
Prospective students can apply for the fall or spring semester. Incoming learners interested in college-funded scholarships and grants need only submit one financial aid application. Financial aid advisors work closely with students to explore federal and private scholarship opportunities.
Serving the Crow Indian Reservation since 1980, LBHC provides open enrollment to any applicant who submits a high school diploma or GED scores. Students planning to transfer to a four-year school can select from five AA programs and three AS degrees. Popular majors include Crow studies, liberal arts, and information systems. This Montana community college also offers seven certificates for in-demand areas such as agriculture and highway construction.
At LBHC, degree- and certificate-seekers benefit from valuable student services. The First-Year Experience Program focuses on academic success skills (e.g., note-taking and time-management skills). Also, learners can visit the Student Success Center to explore tutoring resources and research internship opportunities in the local community.
LBHC accepts new students in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. The Community Outreach Program recruits tribal members by hosting informational seminars. The college awards scholarships in the spring and fall semester. Scholarships require a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. The American Indian College Fund provides tribal members with additional financial aid opportunities.
Flathead Valley Community College
FVCC features five types of academic programs: AA and AS for transfer, AAS, certificates, certificates of applied science, and certification training. Transfer degrees at this Montana community college include agriculture, wildlife biology, geology, and theater arts. The college features a unique Teacher Academy wherein K-12 public school teachers can earn college or professional development credit over the summer.
The Honors Program at FVCC provides academically gifted students with small class sizes and interdisciplinary education. Degree-seekers take at least one honors course each semester. Outside of class, learners receive a tuition scholarship, one-on-one mentoring, and access to exclusive academic and library resources.
FVCC accepts transfer credits and awards credit based on incoming students' Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate scores. The college accepts scholarship applications throughout the year. However, incoming degree-seekers should submit a scholarship application between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15; awards may run out in the latter part of the year.
Helena College University of Montana
Over 1,400 students attend Helena College for its extensive selection of associate degrees and certificates. Incoming students select a program from 13 academic areas, including education, healthcare, and law. E-learning at this Montana community college features both entirely online and hybrid courses. Also, many on-campus courses use e-learning software to give students an enhanced educational experience.
The Student Support Center at Helena College provides 10 valuable services, including one-on-one academic and transfer advising. Degree- and certificate-seekers not planning to enter a bachelor's program can attend a career workshop or submit a resume for review. Additionally, both online and on-campus learners can receive tutoring at any time of day.
Prospective students applying as freshmen either submit ACT scores or take the ACCUPLACER assessment. Helena College reviews transfer credit on a case-by-case basis; the school does not set a minimum GPA for transfer credit. Additionally, incoming learners may qualify for one of 40 college-funded scholarships. Each scholarship opportunity requires a separate application.
Great Falls College Montana State University
An excellent option for prospective students planning to transfer to MSU, Great Falls College MSU delivers AA, AS, and AAS programs. Other academic opportunities include an associate in nursing and professional certificate programs. All transferable degrees satisfy the University of Montana core curriculum, which allows students in bachelor's-completion programs to focus on a major.
Great Falls College MSU also boasts a resource that no other Montana community college on this ranking offers: a virtual career coach. First, learners take a career assessment to determine their career goals. They use these results to build a resume, which a campus advisor can critique. Finally, this service provides specialized career-search tools for veterans.
Applicants may submit high school transcripts or GED scores. Great Falls College MSU also requires all new students to provide FAFSA results, complete an online orientation, and meet with an advisor. Degree-seekers who need financial aid can apply to up to two dozen annual scholarship opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in Montana
Community college in Montana costs an average of $4,139 per year for in-state students and $8,788 for out-of-state students.
No. While college is not free in Montana, students can get free tuition for community college through the Montana Promise Act grant program.