Top Montana Nursing Schools and Programs
Review some of Montana's top nursing programs and the process of earning a degree, becoming licensed to practice, and finding employment in the state.
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With many affordable nursing programs boasting an almost 90% National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate, nursing schools in Montana can prepare nurses for success.
This guide explores how to become a nurse in Montana, the salary and job outlook, and the best nursing programs in the state. Keep reading to learn more about the top nursing schools in Montana.
The Best Nursing Schools in Montana
Learn more about the top accredited nursing schools in Montana and explore the best program options for prospective nurses.
Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nursing schools in Montana, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.
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How to Choose a Nursing Program in Montana
Prospective students should research an institution's tuition, program length, and financial aid options. Applicants should also verify the institution's nursing accreditation status and review NCLEX pass rates, both of which can indicate program strength.
Why Become a Nurse in Montana
Montana nursing programs offer the fifth lowest average tuition rate for in-state residents, according to a 2020 report by CollegeScorecard. When coupled with an NCLEX pass rate of 89.1%, Montana makes a great state for students to become either a registered nurse (RN) or an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
The state is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). As part of the NLC, Montana and 36 other states have agreed to a set of rules and procedures that all licensed RNs must follow.
Being part of the nursing compact makes it easier for nurses to qualify for a license in Montana with minimal paperwork. Nurses with an NLC license also do not have to pay license renewal fees, and they can provide telehealth nursing care to patients across state lines.
Salary and Job Outlook for Nurses in Montana
With an average annual salary of $70,530, RNs in Montana earn just under the national median of $75,330, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nurse practitioners (NPs) fare slightly better, earning an average yearly salary of $114,370, slightly more than the national median of $117,670.
Montana's cost-of-living index is 94, compared to the U.S. base index of 100. Therefore, a nurse's salary in Montana can stretch farther.
Montana also expects an increase in the demand for nurses. According to Projections Central, the state could see a 10.4% increase in employment, higher than the growth rates for all occupations.
The highest-paying areas in Montana for nurses are located in some of the state's most populated regions. These include Billings in the southeastern portion of the state and Great Falls, centrally located northeast of Helena.
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Steps to Becoming a Nurse in Montana
The state RN licensing requirements in Montana are similar to those in other states, which includes completing a state board-approved nursing program, passing the appropriate certification exam, and completing a background check.
Both RNs and APRNs must satisfy continuing nursing education requirements to maintain their license and continue working as a nurse in the state.
Both degrees prepare students for the required NCLEX-RN exam, and both qualify graduates for RN licensure in Montana. Students must complete an approved program at an accredited institution and submit official transcripts to the Montana Board of Nursing for verification before taking the exam.
Montana RN licenses are valid for two years and expire on December 31 of every second year. During each two-year period, RNs must complete at least 24 hours of approved continuing education, which is one hour per month of licensure.
Montana joined the NLC in 2015. Nurses in the state may apply for a multistate license allowing them to practice in other compact states without getting additional licensure.
However, nurses shifting their primary residence from another nursing compact state to Montana must apply for a Montana license.
An APRN must hold two distinct licenses to practice: an APRN license and a valid RN license. Nurses need a graduate-level nursing degree from an accredited program to pursue APRN licensure in Montana. This includes approved master's and doctoral-level degrees.
Generally, these programs require applicants to already hold a valid RN license for admission. Students fulfill any required clinical training during the program.
Candidates for NP licensure must earn certification from a board-approved national NP certifying body. While each certifying body maintains different requirements, applicants should hold a graduate degree from an accredited NP program and pass an exam.
Montana APRNs may practice as one of the following, depending on their education and certifying body: certified NP, certified nurse midwife, certified registered nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist.
NPs must renew their licenses every two years and meet RN license requirements, including 24 hours of continuing education.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing in Montana
How long does it take to become a nurse in Montana?
The length of time it takes to become a nurse in Montana depends on the academic path. If enrolled in an associate nursing program, students can become licensed to practice within two years. A bachelor's nursing program takes four years to complete.
A master of science in nursing program typically takes two years to complete when enrolled full time after earning a bachelor's and gaining two years of clinical experience.
Does Montana need nurses?
According to a report released by Montana's Department of Labor and Industry, nursing worker shortages continue to persist throughout the state. With approximately 18% of RNs planning on retiring or leaving the field within the next few years due to the strain of COVID-19, Montana will continue to need nurses for the foreseeable future.
What is the salary range for nurses in Montana?
According to the BLS, half of all Montana RNs earn salaries ranging between $59,410 and $80,510. The average annual RN salary is $70,530. To increase their salary, nurses can expand on their education, focus on specialties, or switch practice settings.
Is Montana a Nurse Compact State?
Yes. Montana joined the NLC in 2015. Nurses in the state may earn multistate licenses allowing them to practice in other compact states. Nurses moving to Montana from other compact states must apply for primary licensure in Montana.
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