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Best Nursing Schools in Montana for 2024

Here, you can find a comprehensive guide to the best nursing schools in Montana. We’ve spotlighted many of Montana’s top nursing programs (some with online options), what you can expect to make as a nurse and financial aid options.

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Like many states, Montana needs more nurses at every level — from licensed practical nurses to advanced practice nurse practitioners. For example, from 2020 to 2030, the registered nursing field in Montana is estimated to grow by 10.6%, and the nurse practitioner field by a whopping 53.7%. If you want to help meet this demand, Montana has a variety of nursing programs, whether you have no prior healthcare training or are already a registered nurse. And best yet: Factoring in 21 key metrics, Montana was recently named the eighth-best state in the nation for nurses.

This guide provides insight into the types of nursing schools in Montana, including both traditional on-campus and hybrid programs. Keep scrolling to find the best online nursing programs in Montana going into 2024.

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About the ranking

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Base Methodology for EduMed’s Best Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS. 

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted. 

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

Institutional Aid – Percent of full-time undergraduate students who are awarded institutional grant aid, as self-reported by the school.

Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# School Name Type Tuition Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 University of ProvidenceGreat Falls, MT Private not-for-profit $$$$ 2

The University of Providence offers various nursing programs at both the baccalaureate and master's levels. That includes the Traditional BSN, Nursing RN to BSN and MSN Adult Gerontology programs, among others. There's also an accelerated BSN program that lasts only 12 months and combines online and on-campus courses with in-person skill labs and clinical immersions at one of two locations in Montana. Students are expected to relocate to or reside in the greater Anchorage or Lewiston areas.

Program Highlights:

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 54 credits
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $1,002 per credit
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: CCNE
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
8/1
Online
Student %
100%

Inside Insights: Nursing Schools in Montana

Below we spotlight three popular nursing schools in Montana. Read on to discover what students just like you look for in a nursing program.

Montana State University (MSU)

The Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing at Montana State University features five campuses with the latest simulation technology in Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Kalispell, and Missoula. Its online programs include the Doctor of Nursing Practice, RN to MSN, and Certificate in Nursing Education. There are also traditional, on-campus nursing programs, including a BSN, accelerated BSN, traditional MSN, and post-graduate psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certificates. The traditional BSN program consists of eight semesters and typically takes four years. The final two years include various clinicals that take place at healthcare facilities that are also located at one of five Montana State University campuses. The accelerated BSN program takes about one year to complete, as incoming students will already have a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than nursing.

University of Montana

Students interested in Montana nursing programs can enroll in the Associate of Science in Nursing program at the Missoula College of Nursing. This is a four-semester program that requires the completion of 72 to 73 credits. The ASN program is open to students from all backgrounds. However, those with licensed practical nursing credentials may take a modified curriculum to reflect their prior training. They will receive extra admission application “points” based on their real-world healthcare experience. In addition to completing an admission application, interested students must choose between a fall or spring admission, undergo an interview, and complete (or be taking) the necessary prerequisites. The Missoula College Registered Nursing Program is very competitive; only 18 students are accepted each semester.

Salish Kootenai College

The Salish Kootenai College Nursing Department embraces the Native American culture and prepares graduates to provide culturally congruent care, though it’s open to both Native and non-Native students. It offers two registered nursing programs in Montana, beginning with a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing program; Salish Kootenai is the first tribal college in the United States to offer the four-year BSN, and students apply to this program toward the end of their sophomore year and complete their junior and senior years as BSN students. Second, there’s the direct-entry BSN program, designed for students who start their nursing training during their first year of college. This is a cohort-based program, with all students progressing together at the same pace. Students must take the National League of Nursing Pre-admission Exam before applying to the direct-entry BSN program.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Montana

No matter your prior education or healthcare experience, a variety of nursing schools in Montana are available and specifically designed to fulfill your needs. This means you have options ranging from pre-licensure training to RN programs in Montana all the way up to doctoral-level education — and everything in between. Below is a broad overview of what Montana has to offer.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Montana

ADN Programs

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program (also called an Associate of Science in Nursing or ASN) is ideal for students with no prior healthcare experience who want to become a registered nurse as quickly as possible. Most ADN programs last just two years, which allows individuals to sit for their NCLEX-RN exams two years sooner than if they enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. An ADN is the standard, entry-level degree to start a nursing career.

Examples of Montana Nursing Schools with this Program

Montana State University – Northern

Miles Community College

Traditional BSN Programs

The traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program consists of about 120 credits and takes most full-time students about four years to complete. In addition to learning about core nursing skills and knowledge, BSN students will take more theoretical and research-oriented classes. Therefore, a BSN degree is best for students who don’t have a nursing background but plan on taking on additional clinical and/or supervisory responsibilities as a registered nurse.

Examples of Montana Nursing Schools with this Program

Montana Technological University

Salish Kootenai College

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated BSN programs are similar to traditional BSN programs in terms of what students are expected to know when they graduate. However, as its name implies, accelerated BSN programs can be completed far more quickly. To achieve program completion in two years or less, most accelerated BSN programs are designed for those who already have an associate or bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.

Examples of Montana Nursing Schools with this Program

Carroll College

University of Providence

Nursing Bridge Programs in Montana for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN programs are designed for licensed practical nurses who want to become registered nurses but don’t want to have to relearn many of the topics covered in their LPN training. Instead, LPN bridge programs recognize the education and hands-on experience already achieved by LPNs, saving them time and money by expediting the path to a higher degree and, ultimately, the RN title.

Examples of Montana Nursing Schools with this Program

University of Montana

RN to BSN Programs

RN to BSN bridge programs are designed for working RNs who have an associate degree and now wish to earn further education with a BSN degree. Many of these RNs will need to secure a bachelor’s degree to qualify for certain jobs or to make it easier to pursue a graduate nursing degree.

Examples of Montana Nursing Schools with this Program

Salish Kootenai College

University of Providence

RN to MSN Programs

RN to MSN bridge programs are similar to RN to BSN programs in that they’re designed for current RNs who want to take the next step in their careers, but they need a more advanced degree to do so. But instead of earning a BSN, the RNs will be working towards a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. This graduate degree is usually required for advanced practice nursing positions.

Example of Montana Nursing School with this Program

Montana State University

Advanced Nursing Programs in Montana

MSN Programs

There are two main types of MSN programs, both of which allow graduates to take on teaching, advanced practice, and managerial roles in nursing. The standard MSN program is designed for BSN-prepared students, while the direct-entry MSN program is designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree but are in a field other than nursing.

Example of Montana Nursing School with This Program

Montana State University

University of Providence

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

Doctoral nursing programs are the pinnacle of nurse training and education. However, DNP and PhD programs differ dramatically in what they offer their graduates. DNP programs offer more hands-on training and leadership development. Therefore, it’s ideal for practicing nurses who want advanced clinical and management skills. PhD programs focus more on research and theory. As a result, it’s an ideal degree for future nurse educators at the postsecondary level.

Examples of Montana Nursing Schools with This Program

Montana State University

Post-Graduate Certificates

These graduate programs offer tailored skills and training without requiring students to spend the time and money for a full degree. Post-graduate certificates are intended for nurses who already have the degree they want but still need formal training to shift into a specialized area of nursing practice.

Examples of Montana Nursing Schools with This Program

University of Providence

Montana State University

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Montana

Even though nursing is an inherently hands-on profession, you may be interested in securing your degree from one of the online nursing programs in Montana. To effectively combine classroom instruction with practical learning from in-person training, many online nursing programs offer a hybrid format.

These hybrid nursing school curriculums allow students to complete some coursework online but obtain hands-on training through in-person clinicals, internships, or practicums. For added convenience, many online Montana nursing programs let students choose where they complete these experiential learning requirements. Often, students who are working as RNs while in school can complete these requirements at the same place where they work.

One consideration for students looking for online nursing programs in Montana is whether it has any on-campus requirements, such as labs or intensives. If so, these are typically held during the weekends. Another consideration for online nursing programs is whether the online coursework must be completed at set times (synchronously) or on the student’s own schedule (asynchronously).

Montana State University – Northern

Montana State University – Northern’s Department of Nursing offers an RN to BSN track that can be earned full-time in three semesters or a part-time degree plan that must be completed in five years. Almost all classes are offered online and scheduled innovatively to meet the needs of adult, non-traditional learners, with two in-person clinicals that can be completed in the student’s geographic area. This means most RN to BSN students maintain their jobs and residences and can attend classes without moving to the university setting. Students who want to split their nursing education into two parts will appreciate Montana State University – Northern’s program offerings as they’re designed to complement each other. Specifically, graduates from the ASN program can seamlessly enter the RN to BSN program whenever they’re ready to learn leadership, advanced clinical practice, and community health knowledge and skills.

Flathead Valley Community College

Flathead Valley Community College may be one of the smaller postsecondary institutions in Montana, but it offers more nursing program options than many of the much larger Montana universities. Students can choose from Certified Nursing Assistant, Registered Nurse, and Practical Nursing programs. The RN track results in an Associate of Science degree upon graduation and consists of 73 credits, which most students complete in two years. Although the bulk of the core nursing credits must be completed on campus or through hands-on clinicals, many of the general education and prerequisite courses can be completed partially or fully online. For example, the College Writing I course is a blended class with both face-to-face and online learning components. In contrast, the College Math for Healthcare course can be completed 100% online.

Invest in Your Nursing Education: Financial Aid in Montana

Nursing is one of those rewarding fields where, as long as you graduate and pass any necessary licensing exams or certifications, you’re likely to obtain lucrative employment. But getting there can be expensive. Luckily, any of the common forms of financial aid are available to nursing students, such as grants, student loans, fellowships, and scholarships (some explicitly designated for nursing students). There are also some specific types of financial aid, such as the federal HRSA Nurse Corps Scholarship Program, which will help you pay for your nursing degree if you agree to work at a healthcare facility with a shortage of healthcare professionals. For prospective nurses who want to work at a state hospital or prison, there’s the Montana Institutional Nursing Incentive Program, which is a loan reimbursement program.

Step-by-Step Guide: RN Licensing in Montana

As its name implies, registered nursing is a regulated profession, which means RNs will need the necessary certifications and/or licensing to practice. The applicable regulations exist at the state level, so if you’re thinking about becoming an RN in Montana, you’ll find these requirements at the Montana Board of Nursing. The general requirements for becoming an RN are similar for most states. There are two primary methods of becoming an RN in Montana. The first is “licensing by credentialing,” which means becoming an RN in Montana because you’re already an RN in another state. The second is “licensing by examination,” which refers to passing the NCLEX-RN exam and completing other steps, which we’ll discuss below.

Step #1: Complete an Approved Registered Nursing Program

Before becoming an RN in Montana, you need the necessary formal training. You can get this training by graduating from an RN program that’s been approved by the Montana Board of Nursing. You can confirm which programs have this approval through the Montana Board of Nursing. Generally, if a nursing program has programmatic nursing accreditation, it also will be approved by the Montana Board of Nursing.

Step #2: Complete the RN Application and Pay the Necessary Fees

Applying for an RN license in Montana through the examination pathway will cost $100. You must also complete the application and provide supporting documentation, such as your nursing school transcripts.

Step #3: Register (and Pass) the NCLEX-RN Exam

After submitting your application to the Montana Board of Nursing, they’ll send you an ATT or Authorization to Test. This makes you eligible to register to take the NCLEX-RN exam with Pearson VUE. It costs $200 to take the NCLEX-RN, and after passing the test, your scores are sent to the Montana Board of Nursing.

Step #4: Pass the Criminal Background Check

To complete this step, you’ll need to submit your fingerprints. You can do this with your local participating law enforcement agency or with the Montana Department of Justice. You can complete the fingerprinting requirement while working on your application to the Montana Board of Nursing. However, the Montana Board of Nursing must have your completed RN application within six months of them receiving your fingerprinting results.

Step #5: Complete Continuing Education Requirements

Every two years, RNs must complete 24 contact hours’ worth of continuing education. This requirement applies to newly minted RNs, although these requirements are prorated to reflect that a new RN may not have had a license for the entire 24-month continuing education reporting period. There’s also no limit to how many continuing education classes you can take at one time. This means you can space out your education over several months or take them all in a more compressed timeframe.

RN Employment Forecast in Montana

Compared to other professionals, the demand for RNs in Montana is strong. However, the job outlook for Montana RNs slightly lags behind the national average. Like most other states, the need for new RNs will be higher in metropolitan areas compared to the more rural areas. But unlike many other states, Montana’s urban areas don’t have as many people, and therefore, there will be fewer employers hiring new RNs. All that being said, Montana needs more nurses, as evidenced by Montana Department of Labor and Industry data that shows Montana RNs have an unemployment rate of just 1.2%. In other words, if you have a current RN license, you should have no problem finding a job as an RN in Montana.

Employment Projections for RNs in Montana

New Jobs
(2020-2030)
Job Growth Rate
(2020-2030)
Average Annual Openings
(2020-2030)
Montana1,13010.6%700
United States371,50012.1%210,400

Source: Projections Central

RN Salary Range in Montana: How Much You Could Make

According to Sperling’s Best Places, the cost of living in Montana is equivalent to the national average. This proportionality also translates to expected salaries, as the lower percentile and median salaries for Montana RNs are close to the national average. However, the earnings potential in Montana for RNs falls behind at the higher percentiles. The average annual salaries of Montana RNs are almost identical to those of neighboring states like Idaho, Wyoming, and North Dakota.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Montana

10th Percentile50th Percentile
(Median)
90th Percentile
Montana$60,320$75,000$97,260
Billings, Montana$60,890$75,000$100,990
Missoula, Montana$60,410$76,090$98,140
United States$59,450$77,600$120,250

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

Montana Nursing Resources