To work as a nurse in Montana, you must become a registered nurse (RN). To do so, you need to finish a minimum amount of schooling, gain on-the-job experience, and pass the NCLEX-RN.

There are two educational pathways to becoming an RN: a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BSL) reports that the annual median registered nurse income is $77,600 or $37.31/hr. Although the BLS does not differentiate between ADN and BSN-trained nurses, what degree you have DOES impact how much you can make! 

In fact, amongst the 3000 ADN- and BSN-prepared nurses we polled in our nursing salary survey,  we found that BSN nurses were earning, on average, $3.89 more per hour than ADNs!

Choosing the right nursing program can impact your career, too. Better nursing schools often have connections with renowned hospitals, and these connections could help you land a job coming out of school.

Fortunately, Montana has plenty of nursing programs with great student outcomes.

This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,

  • Reputation
  • NCLEX pass rate
  • Tuition
  • Acceptance rate, when available
  • Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible 

Our selection panel includes 4 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
  • Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
  • Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
  • Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN

Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Montana nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.

City College at Montana University Billings offers several programs that lead to high-employment fields, and nursing is no exception! This city college offers an associate of science in nursing (ADN) pathway. This two-year program is incredibly affordable, especially for in-state students. 

This city college designed its ADN program to work in conjunction with the College of Nursing at Montana State University in Bozeman. Graduates who wish to continue their studies can easily transfer into an RN-to-BSN program there. This is a great option for students who want to start their nursing careers fast and then earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) while working in the field.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 24%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $192
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $759

Contact Information:

  • Address: 1500 University Drive, Billings, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 60%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing an ADN: $58,402

 

Based in Bozeman, Montana State University (MSU) is home to 16,000 students. MSU offers two nursing program tracks: a traditional BSN, an accelerated BSN, and an RN to BSN degree completion program. If obtaining a BSN is important to you, then it is important for you to know that MSU is one of the few schools in the state that offers a fully accredited BSN program. MSU also offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. Montana residents interested in earning a BSN can do so at a relatively low tuition cost.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 73%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 6%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $243
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,141

Contact Information:

  • Address: Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 75%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $59,411

 

Montana Technological University offers a strong nursing program in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The university offers two nursing program options for students: a traditional, four-year BSN degree and an RN-BSN. ADN-trained RNs can enroll in the online RN-BSN program and complete it in as little as one year. Montana Tech also has bragging rights for having the highest NCLEX pass rate in the state!

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 89%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 7%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $245
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $892

Contact Information:

  • Address: 1300 W Park St, Butte, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 72%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $56,415

The University of Providence just hit its 90th year of excellence in Catholic-based education. Based in Great Falls, this respected private university offers three nursing pathways: a traditional BSN,  an accelerated BSN for students with a bachelor’s degree in another field, and an online RN-BSN Completion program. Although this is one of the more expensive programs in the state,  most students who attend this university receive some kind of financial aid.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 60%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $865
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $865

Contact Information:

  • Address: 1301 20th St S, Great Falls, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 67%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $100,128

 

Carroll College is a Catholic school based in Helena and is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the region. Although the university is a bit more expensive than other schools on this list, students receive an average financial aid package of over $28,000. 

The nursing programs are also well worth the cost, as the class of 2021 earned one of the highest NCLEX pass rates in the state! Carroll College offers two nursing tracks:  a traditional BSN (with three entry options) and a 15-month accelerated track BSN for students with a bachelor’s degree in another non-nursing field.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Private
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 0%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,575
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,575

Contact Information:

  • Address: 1601 N Benton Ave, Helena, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 78%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $60,325

 

Helena College’s nursing programs provide students with the education they need to thrive within various healthcare environments. The school offers one registered nursing track: a two-year ADN program. This ADN program, however, is very competitive, with only 20 new students selected for admission each semester.

If students wish to continue their education and earn a BSN, they are in luck! There are several RN-BSN programs, both in-person and online, across the state of Montana.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 20%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $89
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $296

Contact Information:

  • Address: 1115 N Roberts Street, Helena, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 59%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing an ADN: $57,318

 

Missoula College at the University of Montana is a community college that offers an ADN program. This is a 4-semester program and the university only admits 18 students each fall and spring semester, so admissions are very competitive. Upon graduation, students can continue their studies at one of the RN-BSN programs across the state.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 13%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $230
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1,132

Contact Information:

  • Address: 1205 E Broadway St, Missoula, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 74%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing an ADN: $57,318

 

Miles Community College accepts 38 students into its 5-semester ASN program annually. The selective admissions make getting into MCC more competitive but absolutely worth it.

Attending MCC is an affordable path to becoming a working registered nurse, as the school boasts an 80% NCLEX pass rate and 100% job placement rate. The program’s curriculum encompasses several vital nursing subjects like pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, and clinical experiences.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 34%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $151
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $280

Contact Information:

  • Address: 2715 Dickinson Street, Miles City, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 63%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing an ADN: $47,260

 

Montana State University-Northern offers two nursing pathways: an ADN program and an RN-BSN completion program. First-time nursing students must start by completing the ADN portion before continuing their education with the RN-BSN degree. Nursing students in either program are encouraged to meet with advisors at the beginning of each semester to confirm plans of study to ensure they complete requirements efficiently.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 22%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $289
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $819

Contact Information:

  • Address: 300 W 11th St, Havre, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: $66,461

 

Despite its small size compared to other schools in Montana, Salish Kootenai’s nursing program graduates more Native American RNs than any other school. This university offers two ways to enter its four-year BSN program: apply as a freshman or apply as a transfer student. They also offer an RN-to-BSN program for ADN-trained nurses.

School Information:

  • Public or Private? Public
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Percent Enrolled Online: 0%

Tuition:

  • In-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $141
  • Out-of-State Tuition Per Credit Hour: $285

Contact Information:

  • Address: 58138 US Highway 93, Pablo, MT
  • Website

School Success:

  • Retention Rate: 50%
  • Median Earnings 2 Years After Completing a BSN: N/A

>> Show Me Montana Nursing Programs

Keep in mind that colleges and universities reserve the right to change tuition rates at any time. The yearly tuition rates listed here will vary for each student depending on various factors including,

  • Transfer credits
  • Completed competency exams
  • Amount of credits taken per year
  • Financial aid awards

Check with the specific school for current tuition rates.

Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

  • Montana RNs earn an annual mean wage of $73,610 annually, which is lower than the national average of $77,600.
  • Montana employs 9,640 nurses, which is more nurses per total worker than the average state. 

While the national mean wage for nurses is $77,600, Montana has a relatively low cost of living, so the lower wage extends further than in other states. Montana also has a higher mean wage than neighboring Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

According to the BLS, Montana has a location quotient of RNs of .95. Any number larger than 1 means that more nurses are employed per 1,000 workers than the national average. This data essentially means that Montana has an average number of nurses per capita.

After reviewing potential colleges and nursing programs, you’ll probably be interested in a few options. Before jumping in and sending applications, here are some steps you’ll want to follow to increase your chances of getting accepted into your program(s) of choice:

Contact each school’s admissions offices. The admissions office runs admissions, and they can tell the difference between a good and subpar application. If you have any questions about what you need to do to get accepted to the school, contact the admissions office. 

Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. Just because you’ve been accepted to a college doesn’t mean you’ve been accepted into the nursing program. Get connected with someone working for the nursing program to find out any requirements. 

Submit your application(s). Once you’ve learned more about each school’s admissions process and gotten in touch with the nursing school, the final step is to gather your materials and submit your application(s). 

In your application, be prepared to submit:

  • High school transcript (GPA)
  • ACT and/or SAT scores
  • College entrance essay(s)
  • Letter(s) of recommendation

>> Show Me Montana Nursing Programs

No two schools are alike, and you may find yourself struggling to pick between two (or more) schools. Fortunately, as long as each school is accredited, there is no “wrong” choice. Focus on picking the best school for your personal wants and needs.

Here are things to consider when comparing schools:

  • Tuition cost and cost of the nursing program
  • Type of school (public or private)
  • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
  • Cost of living on-campus or in the area
  • Distance from home
  • School and nursing program acceptance rate
  • Time it takes to complete the program
  • Distance from clinicals
  • Program outcomes (NCLEX pass rate and job placement)
  • Accreditation (regional and programmatic)

Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation  

Accreditation is a way for colleges to verify their academic quality. The best accreditation a school can earn is regional accreditation, and the regionally accrediting body for Montana is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. On top of regional accreditation, the best programs (including nursing programs) have programmatic accreditation. 

The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are

If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation. 

Montana is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), a group of states that have standardized licensure. This means that becoming licensed is relatively straightforward, so long as you studied at an accredited school. 

Along with becoming NCLEX-RN eligible, you’ll need to:

  • Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
  • Submit fingerprints and pass a criminal background check 
  • Pay an application fee and complete an application on the Montana Board of Nursing website

With plenty of mountains and wide-open spaces, there are few places in the U.S. like Montana. While the wages earned by nurses in Montana aren’t the highest, the low cost of living and high employment rates make Montana a great place to enjoy a nursing career. There are plenty of quality nursing programs in Montana, and if you’re from the state you can take advantage of in-state tuition. As part of the eNLC, licensed nurses in Montana can easily move to most other states. 

References:

BLS

Best Places

Montana Board of Nursing



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