Best Online Colleges in Montana

By Usmaan Farooqui | Updated 8/11/2022
2020 Best Online Colleges in Montana Badge

The schools on this list are Montana's best online colleges, based on tuition and alumni salaries. Heading the list is Montana Technological University, which has the highest median salary on the list at $11,413. The school offers BS programs in Nursing and Health Informatics. Fourth-ranked Montana State University-Northern has the lowest annual tuition at $6,613, and features programs in Trades Management and Community Leadership. Ranked #5, Montana State University-Billings offers more than 20 online programs.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 Montana Technological University $11,413 $91,700
# 2 #2 The University of Montana $8,130 $75,900
# 3 #3 University of Providence $25,140 $74,900
# 4 #4 Montana State University-Northern $6,613 $68,700
# 5 #5 Montana State University-Billings $12,560 $66,700
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

Online Colleges in Montana Ranking Details

For each school, we conducted manual research to provide prospective students with more details about the schools' online programs. Explore online degrees offered and accreditation information below.

#1 Montana Technological University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,413
  • Median Salary: $91,700
  • Locations: Butte
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Montana Technological University offers online certificate, undergraduate, and graduate degree programs. Undergraduate options include a Bachelor of Science in nursing completion post-licensure (BSN). Graduate degrees are offered in industrial hygiene and project engineering and management, and a graduate certificate is offered in health care informatics. MTU uses Moodle as its learning management system and OrediggerWeb as its online student management system. MTU offers classes that can be completed entirely online as well as a considerable support system for students of online and blended courses to boost student success. Resources for online students include free online tutoring and access to other forms of academic help, including Khan Academy, Merlot, and Hippocampus. A student health class is also available to online students.

#2 The University of Montana

  • Annual Tuition: $8,130
  • Median Salary: $75,900
  • Locations: Missoula
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

The University of Montana offers several degrees online, including an associate degree in general studies; bachelor’s degrees in media arts and art; master’s degrees in curriculum studies, educational leadership, public administration, and a joint master’s degree in public health and public administration (MPA/MPH). Cyberbear is UM’s platform for student information, and KPCN hosts video tutorials created for students, by students. The Mansfield Library offers checkout and shipping of print materials to nonlocal students. The Undergraduate Advising Center offers its own distance advisor, and students also have access to the online writing center and the career services center. UM, which allows students to choose a status of “distance only,” offers one of the most extensive online support programs of any Montana college.

#3 University of Providence

  • Annual Tuition: $25,140
  • Median Salary: $74,900
  • Locations: Great Falls
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

The University of Providence is a Catholic-identifying school that offers liberal education to both online and on-campus students. The university offers online undergraduate degrees in addictions counseling, criminal justice, business administration, legal and paralegal studies, and psychology, as well as an RN-BSN completion program. Master’s degrees are offered in counseling, organizational leadership (criminal justice), healthcare administration, infection prevention and epidemiology, organizational leadership (management), and nursing (nurse educator). UP uses Moodle as its online platform, and students can view video footage of live classes through the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra program. The on-campus Writing & Critical Thinking Center offers online tutoring sessions, and the school offers an online student concerns department for distance students.

#4 Montana State University-Northern

  • Annual Tuition: $6,613
  • Median Salary: $68,700
  • Locations: Havre
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Montana State University-Northern offers several degree programs that can be completed entirely online. These include associate degrees in general education and business, as well as bachelor’s degrees in community leadership, nursing, business administration, criminal justice, business technology, and trades management. Students may also seek a master’s degree in the field of education in instruction and learning. Minors in psychology, criminal justice, small business management, community leadership, business technology, marketing, and accounting are also available. MSU-Northern uses Brightspace as its online learning platform. There is an online orientation for the program called Adventures in Brightspace for first-time users, and the program includes the option to sign up for text and email notifications.

#5 Montana State University-Billings

  • Annual Tuition: $12,560
  • Median Salary: $66,700
  • Locations: Billings
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Montana State University-Billings offers numerous online degree programs, including two associate degrees in human resource management (general applied emphasis and College of Business articulated emphasis), as well as in accounting technology, business administration, and general studies. There are also bachelor’s degrees available in business administration (accounting, general business, management, and marketing), communication, health administration, public relations, applied science, and liberal studies. Graduate programs include health administration, public relations, and special education, both advanced and generalist. MSU-Billings offers an academic support center with free online tutoring as well as assistance for those registering for classes and online degree requirement discussions. Students also have access to the online library catalog.

Overview of Higher Education in Montana

Montana has the highest percentage of students that are enrolled in some form of distance education at the college level. Both public and private schools across the state offer several online classes, and many provide the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree fully remotely.

Montata's public education system — known as the Montana University System (MUS) — includes 16 colleges and universities that collectively serve over 40,000 students annually. The MUS offers both graduate and undergraduate diplomas, as well as 2-year degrees through its three community colleges. Being home to one of the country's largest native populations by percentage, Montana has a number of tribal colleges that award master's, bachelor's, and associate degrees, along with certificates in certain fields. Students also have the option to enroll in one of five private colleges spread across the state.

Many of Montana's schools provide the opportunity to learn online. Indeed, over half of the state's postsecondary students engage in some form of distance learning, and the MUS offers 121 fully online programs in various STEM, social science, and humanities fields.

To learn more about distance learning in other states, explore our comprehensive list of online colleges.

Online Schools in Montana

With colleges and universities spread across the state's massive landmass, moving to attend school in Montana can be challenging. Luckily, students can choose from many distance and hybrid learning options available to pursue their education remotely.

However, distance learning may come with unique challenges in The Treasure State, where internet connectivity is less reliable and accessible when compared to other parts of the country. Nevertheless, online programs can be a suitable option, especially for students who work full- or part-time, have family obligations, or are unable to relocate.

What to Look for in an Online Program

Applying to college can seem like a daunting task — especially for first-time students who are weighing their future options. However, with proper preparation, it's possible to select a school and program that aligns with your personal and professional interests. Below is a list of what to look for when considering an online program.

Accreditation

Accreditation signals that a college or university meets national standards for academic excellence and ensures that you will receive a quality education, whether you choose to learn online or in-person. While there are many types of accreditation, it's best to enroll in a Montana school that has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, an organization that assesses educational benchmarks in several states.

Affordability

Selecting a program that's affordable based on your unique financial circumstances can help guarantee your ability to earn a degree. It may also increase your return on investment once you graduate and enter the workforce.

Degree Options

Degree levels and programs vary considerably across Montana's universities, community colleges, and tribal schools. Some provide a wide range of subject area options at different educational levels, while others are more limited in their offerings. It's therefore important to choose an institution where it's possible to pursue the degree that best suits your future career goals.

Learning Formats

Selecting a program where the learning format fits your schedule is important, especially if you work, provide family care, or have other obligations. There are many options available in Montana's schools, including fully online, fully in-person, and hybrid programs. Depending on your unique situation, it's important to pick the learning format that best suits your needs.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, popular 4-year degrees in Montana are awarded in a wide range of subjects. Given that farming is one of the state's largest industries, it's not surprising that these subjects include the agricultural sciences and agricultural management. Perhaps reflecting the fact that thousands of tourists visit Montana's national parks each year, degrees in natural resource conservation as well as parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness are also common choices.

At the master's level, students largely graduate with degrees in education and health services. This may be because occupations in these fields typically require a graduate education, and the two sectors are expected to add a significant number of jobs in the future. (Note, this data includes both online and in-person degree programs.)

Cost of Online Colleges in Montana

At $6,967, the average cost of tuition for in-state students is lower than the national average in Montana and among the cheapest in the country. By contrast, out-of-state students pay $25,239, which is slightly below the national average for similar learners. In most cases, attending school online may be more affordable because students can save on additional fees and costs such as relocation, on-campus housing, and transport. For example, while distance learners pay some fees at Montana State University, they usually avoid charges for using on-campus facilities such as buildings and sports fields.

Online students should remember that they may face other, out of pocket expenses that are not included in a school's fee structure. For instance, they may have to invest in a reliable laptop, secure reliable internet access, and purchase textbooks. In cases where the school doesn't provide extensive online support, they may also have to secure cloud and storage services.

Financial Aid for Online Students in Montana

Attending a college or university can be expensive, especially if you need to take out student loans. However, Montana residents can take advantage of state financial aid programs that are designed to increase access to higher education. These include:

MUS Honor Scholarship
This scholarship is awarded in the form of a tuition waiver program that can be renewed for a maximum of eight semesters. Students who have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 and are enrolled at an eligible Montana campus can receive tuition funding worth up to $20,000.

Montana STEM/Healthcare Scholarship Program
High school students in Montana who plan to enroll in a STEM or healthcare field at a state university can apply for this renewable scholarship, which provides $6,000 in funding over four years. To be eligible, students must have a minimum 3.25 GPA, have completed college coursework in math and science, and plan to study full time.

Gianforte Trade and Technology Scholarships
Full- and part-time students enrolled in a technical or trade focused program can help fund their education with this scholarship. To apply, students must demonstrate financial need and take a minimum of six credits. They can receive up to $4,000 in aid over the course of their enrollment.

Montana Online College Career Outlook

With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, Montana's most GDP-rich industries include financial services, government, healthcare, and education. These sectors typically require a postsecondary education for employment, so workers with a bachelor's or higher degree are well-positioned to secure a job in Montana's most valuable industries after graduating. With strong manufacturing and construction sectors, associate degree holders also have a favorable job outlook. Given this, it makes sense that a large proportion of the state's college graduates — 69% — work in Montana soon after graduating.

Looking to the future, Montana's economy continues to grow with roughly 5,750 jobs projected to be created annually through 2030. A majority of these opportunities are expected in sectors that typically require a college degree, such as healthcare and education, or those where a postsecondary education can increase earning potential, like construction and food services. Overall, college graduates can expect a bright career outlook in Montana — especially if they have an associate or bachelor's degree.

FAQs About Online Colleges in Montana

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's Degree in Montana?


Online bachelor's degrees in Montana require 120-124 credits and are designed to be completed in four years of full-time study. However, this can vary from person to person. For instance, students who are taking classes around a busy work schedule may take a few additional semesters to finish. On the other hand, those who are transferring previously earned credits or are enrolled in an accelerated program may earn their degree in less than four years.

How Hard Is Online College?


Generally speaking, online students complete the same coursework as their in-person peers, so their degree requirements are no harder than for on-campus programs. However, distance learning can be challenging when it comes to scheduling time to make progress toward your academic goals. Earning a degree online requires considerable self-discipline and motivation, and can therefore be difficult for students who require a more structured learning environment.

Can You Do Online College at Home?


Technically speaking, it's possible to do online college from any location — such as your home, a library, or coffee shop — as long as you have a reliable internet connection. That being said, you should try and complete coursework in a convenient setting, where it's possible to spend as much time as you need.

Does Montana Have Good Online Schools?


Online schools in Montana that are accredited are comparable to other institutions in different parts of the country. However, some Montana universities may have strengths in particular subject areas. For instance, if you're interested in studying agriculture, Montana State University and the University of Montana are both good options.

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