Our Research

This list features some of the best online schools in Montana. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. We included liberal arts colleges and research universities as well as small, midsize, and large institutions. Next, we compared this comprehensive list to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

We helped assure the quality and integrity of these academic programs by limiting our selections to accredited institutions. The majority of these schools are accredited by The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), a voluntary, non-governmental organization dedicated to improving postsecondary institutions. It is recognized by both the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

We evaluated each school on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

The Top 50 Online Colleges in Montana

Best Online Colleges in Montana Badge
Intelligent Pick
University of Providence
Best Research Institution
University of Montana
Best Scholarships
Montana State University
Best for Adult Learners
Montana Technological University
Best Customized Degrees
Montana State University at Billings
Best Public School
Montana State University at Northern
Most Unique Curriculum
The University of Montana at Western

Frequently Asked Questions: Online Colleges in Montana

Does Montana have good online colleges and universities?

For sure. The state offers a wealth of online educational opportunities, such as the University of Montana Western’s Online Associate’s in Early Childhood Education and Montana State University’s Online Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies. After you graduate, you may want to consider staying in Montana to complete a Master’s degree while you work in one of the state’s many growing fields. Montana is rich in graduate school options, like the University of Montana’s Online Master of Social Work or Rocky Mountain College’s Online Master of Educational Leadership.

Do online college credits in Montana cost more than in-person classes?

The answer to this question depends on which college you attend. Some schools offer discounted rates for online courses, whereas others charge an additional fee for online courses to help cover the cost of software licenses, technical support, etc. For example, if you’d like to take online classes at Montana State University, you’ll need to pay an extra “Distributed Learning” fee of $10 per credit.

Why should you choose Montana for online higher education?

From affordable community colleges to private religious institutions to top public research universities, Montana offers something for every type of online college student. One option that stands out as a particularly appealing choice for out-of-state undergraduate students is Montana State University Billings, where online tuition is considerably less than in-person tuition.

The Cost of Online College in Montana

How much does an online degree in Montana cost?

The cost of an online degree in Montana depends on which institution you attend as well as the type of degree that you decide to pursue. For example, private schools are typically more expensive than public schools, and undergraduate degrees are usually more affordable than graduate degrees. Also, you’ll probably find yourself paying more for your degree if you major in a STEM field rather than the humanities.

Regardless of the cost per credit, also consider that you may be able to save money on indirect expenses such as transportation, parking, and housing by earning your college degree online.

To give you a sense of exactly how much you should expect to pay for your online education, we’ve listed the lowest and highest rates for earning an online bachelor’s degree in Montana below:

  • Most affordable online college in Montana: Montana State University, $3,764 per semester, undergraduate, resident; $14,132 per semester, undergraduate, nonresident
  • Most expensive online college in Montana: Carroll College, $17,253 per semester

Average College Tuition Cost

Source: Education Data Initiative

How long do you have to live in Montana to get in-state tuition rates?

Typically, you will be eligible for in-state tuition rates after you have lived in Montana for one year. Some groups, such as military veterans, tribal members, and graduate fellows, are entitled to in-state tuition rates without meeting this one-year requirement.

Who qualifies for reduced tuition costs in Montana?

In 2007, Gov. Steve Bullock signed the Montana Promise Act to establish a grant program for resident students at Montana’s tribal, two-year, and community colleges. Students awarded a grant under the Montana promise grant program may receive reduced tuition for no more than two years and must maintain a GPA of at least 2.7.

A unique part of the Montana Promise is that recipients must contribute a minimum of eight hours of community service each semester. Recipients must meet admissions requirements and complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually.

College Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Grant Programs in Montana

If you don’t qualify for the Montana Promise, there are many other programs available that can help you cover the cost of college. Some of these programs are based on financial need, whereas others are awarded based on factors such as demographics or academic merit. We’ve reviewed a few of the most prominent scholarship options for you below:

Youth Serve Montana Scholarships

All Montana high school seniors are invited to apply for these volunteerism-focused scholarships funded by Reach Higher Montana, Montana Campus Compact, and the Governor’s Office of Community Service. The scholarships can only be used at one of the 17 Montana higher-education institutions that are part of the Montana Campus Compact.

Who’s eligible? A minimum GPA is not required to apply for this scholarship; however, you must have a minimum of 100 community service hours within the past year. You must also have filled out a FAFSA showing financial need.

Contact information: [email protected] | 406-444-9077

Learn more

Montana Life Members Scholarship

The Montana Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc. awards an annual scholarship to a student who is a Montana resident and majoring in a horticultural-related field, like conservation, horticulture, parks, forestry, floriculture, greenhouse management, or land management.

Who’s eligible? Applicants must be a resident of Montana, be at least a college sophomore, and have a GPA of at least 2.7.

Contact information: [email protected] | 406-727-7633

Learn more

Reach Higher Montana: Senior Send-Off

All Montana high school seniors are eligible to apply for Senior Send-Off awards from Reach Higher Montana, a nonprofit that helps Montana residents reach their educational goals. Senior Send-Off awards include scholarships as well as equipment and prize packages.

Who’s eligible? Montana high school seniors who upload a photo or video of themselves explaining their college plans are eligible to win a scholarship or other prize.

Contact information: [email protected] | 406-422-1275

Learn more

Pride Foundation Scholarships: Northwest

Residents of Montana who identify as LGBTQ+, have demonstrated leadership skills, and have faced barriers hindering their education access are invited to apply for these awards. The Pride Foundation was founded in 1985 in Seattle and has invested more than $70 million in transformative community change, including scholarships.

Who’s eligible? Applicants must be pursuing postsecondary education at a community college, four-year college, certificate programs, vocational/technical/trade programs, law school, medical/dental/veterinary school, or graduate education.

Contact information: [email protected] | 800-735-7287

5 Fastest Growing Industries in Montana

If you still don’t know where you will attend college, it’s quite possible you don’t yet know what you will major in as well. In that case, one of the most important factors that you should consider is which industries are growing the fastest in Montana — this will make it easier to find a job, and the higher demand should also help you earn a higher salary.

By reviewing the state’s Montana Employment Projections: Job Growth from 2020 to 2030 report, we’ve determined that the following five industries will have the highest growth rates in Montana in the next eight years.

Arts and Entertainment

Expansion of film and television production in the Treasure State is driving an influx of arts and entertainment jobs. Nationally, the industries within this sector with the highest levels of employment are motion picture and video production, radio and television broadcasting, and advertising – these jobs have an average salary of $64,000. Specific jobs in this sector include reporters, camera operators, graphic designers, and technical writers.

  • Growth: 2.58%
  • Degree options: Associate in Industrial Design, Bachelor’s in Cinematography, Bachelor’s in Animation, Bachelor’s in Digital Arts, Master’s in Journalism, Master of Fine Arts, Ph.D. in Creative Writing


Per the U.S. Census Bureau, Montana is growing so rapidly that the state earned a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives based on 2020 population figures. It makes sense that with such a booming population comes a need for more professionals in the legal field. Nationally, jobs in the legal category have an average salary of $112,320. Specific jobs in this sector include lawyers, judges, paralegals, legal support workers, arbitrators, and mediators.


Because Montana is the second-fastest growing state, the population increase is creating a need for more healthcare professionals. Within this sector, the most common occupations are registered nurses and pharmacy technicians. Other occupations in this domain include dental hygienists, physicians, speech-language pathologists, and athletic trainers. The average statewide salary for all jobs in this industry is $84,360.

  • Growth: 1.63%
  • Degree options: Associate in Veterinary Medicine, Bachelor’s in Nursing, Bachelor’s in Recreational Therapy, Bachelor’s in Audiology, Master’s in Genetic Counseling, Master’s in Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Doctor of Medicine


Accomodation and Food

A growing population means more mouths to feed, which explains the projected growth in Montana’s food industry. Nationally, the industries within this sector with the highest levels of employment are restaurants, special food services, and food and beverage stores – these jobs have an average salary of $27,650. Specific jobs in this sector include chefs, food preparation workers, bartenders, school cafeteria attendants, and restaurant managers.

  • Growth: 1.26%
  • Degree options: Associate in Food and Beverage Studies, Bachelor’s in Food Industry Compliance, Bachelor’s in Baking and Pastry Arts, Bachelor’s in Culinary Arts, Bachelor’s in Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship, Master’s in Business Administration


Billings, Montana was the number one emerging housing market in the nation in July 2021, a strong indicator of projected growth for the state’s construction industry. Within this sector, the most common occupations are carpenters, construction supervisors, and electricians – these jobs have an average salary of $51,450 in Montana. Other occupations include plumbers, steelworkers, construction laborers, and operating engineers.

  • Growth: 1.16%
  • Degree options: Associate in Construction Technology, Bachelor’s in Construction Management, Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering Technology, Master’s in Construction Administration, Ph.D. in Building Construction