Top Montana Nursing Schools and Programs

September 29, 2021 · 6 Min Read

Top Montana Nursing Schools, Colleges & Degree Programs. Montana is expecting a nursing shortage that is significantly affecting the ability to deliver good quality nursing care within the state. Various specific problems exist in the state that all need to...

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Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 52 of Montana’s 56 counties have a shortage of health professionals, while 10 counties are without any physicians at all. While nursing serves as the largest part of Montana's healthcare workforce, the state’s demand for nurses continues to grow.

Online nursing programs in Montana prepare students for licensure, addressing the growing demand for qualified nursing professionals statewide. This guide covers four types of nursing education: registered nurse (RN), certified nurse assistant (CNA), licensed practical nurse (LPN), and nurse practitioner (NP) programs. Read on to learn more about online program options, salary and employment trends, and Montana nursing licensure requirements.

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Montana?

Students seeking an online nursing program in Montana can take advantage of many state-based tuition assistance and scholarship programs. Many of these initiatives offer renewable, need-, and merit-based tuition waivers and assistance for students attending Montana schools. Montana also boasts lower in-state tuition rates than neighboring states like Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Montana expects nurses to remain in demand with the highest level of projected need in the coming years. The vast majority of the state remains medically underserved, demanding an influx of qualified nursing professionals to fill gaps in healthcare services.

Featured Online Programs

How to Become a Nurse in Montana

All nursing school graduates across the U.S. complete a similar process to become licensed in their respective states. However, it is important to consider the requirements and procedures specific to Montana if you intend to work in the state after earning your online nursing degree. For example, graduates of RN programs in Montana must pay a $100 application fee to the Montana Board of Nursing and an additional $200 to take the NCLEX-RN examination.

  • 1. Choose the Path That's Right for You

    Choosing what type of nurse you want to be is the first step toward finding the right nursing program in Montana. All candidates need an associate degree in nursing (ADN) to take the NCLEX-RN licensing exam and become an RN. While an ADN only takes about two years to complete, graduates must earn additional credentials to advance beyond introductory nursing positions. Advanced nurses like RNs and NPs must hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and a master of science in nursing (MSN) degrees, respectively. Online RN-to-BSN programs in Montana allow associate degree-holders to earn a BSN in 2-3 years. Candidates who plan to teach postsecondary nursing courses must earn an MSN or a doctor of nursing practice.
  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    It is important to decide if you want to pursue a nursing degree online or on campus. Earning a degree from one of the many online nursing schools in Montana can provide the flexibility candidates need to work full time while obtaining a degree. On the other hand, some on-campus RN, MSN, or BSN programs in Montana offer fellowships, internships, and other useful practical experience. All online nursing degrees include clinical components that must be completed near a student’s place of residence. Make sure to research the specifics of any potential program to learn about their prerequisites and internship and fellowship guidelines and requirements. On-campus and online BSN programs in Montana typically take about four years to complete. Most RN programs in Montana take about two years. However, some accelerated nursing programs in Montana allow students to earn a degree much faster than usual.
  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Graduates from nursing schools in Montana must pass the NCLEX-RN examination to pursue nursing licensure.The exam's length varies based on the test-taker's performance and ends automatically once the computer determines with 95% certainty that the candidate is or is not qualified to become a nurse. The NCLEX-RN lasts for six hours, at most. While a traditional or online nursing degree prepares candidates for the exam, most students need to study outside of the classroom and familiarize themselves with the test format. After passing the exam, candidates may apply for Montana nursing licensure.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Montana

All prospective nurses need some level of postsecondary education to practice in Montana. Each type of nursing holds different education requirements, with more advanced roles requiring more schooling. Earning a degree from an online nursing school in Montana offers students a flexible, accessible, and sometimes faster path to a nursing career.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Montana?

Courses in online nursing programs vary based on many factors, including degree level, individual program requirements, and any available specialization options. The following courses are commonly offered in BSN-level professional nursing preparation programs.

Pharmacology for Nursing

Students examine clinical practice applications for both pharmacology and pathophysiology, building on foundations in chemistry, anatomy, and nutrition. Coursework explores pharmacotherapeutic methods in nursing.

Pediatric Nursing

This class explores childrens' health and wellness within a family context, incorporating skills and knowledge from nursing care and the humanities. Students learn about various aspects of health promotion, disease prevention, and illness management in children.

Research in Nursing

Using the research process, candidates examine and evaluate existing research in the nursing and healthcare fields. This course outlines the skills needed to understand and interact meaningfully with healthcare data and research.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Montana is home to a variety of nursing programs that prepare students to work as CNAs, LPNs, RNs, and NPs. Some Montana schools offer fully online or hybrid nursing programs, allowing students to complete coursework with no or minimal on-campus requirements. Online students generally complete clinical practice requirements at a site local to their homes.

The length of an online or hybrid nursing program in Montana varies according to many factors. Some schools offer accelerated degree paths that allow students to finish more quickly. However, students who enroll part time generally take longer to complete their nursing programs.

Online programs offer greater flexibility, allowing students to maintain their current jobs while earning a degree and advancing their careers. These programs may include asynchronous course delivery, which allows students to complete work on their own schedule, or synchronous course delivery, which may require students to log on at certain times to attend classes through video conferencing.

Online nursing programs hold the same admissions requirements as their on-campus counterparts, and students graduate with the same degree.

Nursing Licensure in Montana

Montana’s Board of Nursing regulates all nursing licensure and practice in the state. This excludes CNAs, who must earn their license through the state’s Department of Public Health and Human Services and register with the Montana Nurse Aide Registry. RNs, LPNs, and NPs must follow all Board-mandated licensing guidelines.

Montana joined the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) in 2015, an agreement that allows nurses in the state to hold multistate licenses and practice in other NLC states. Montana also grants NPs full practice status, allowing them to practice without a collaborative agreement with or supervision from a physician.

Each type of nursing license holds different requirements. The section below further outlines each type of nursing license in Montana.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

The table below details licensure requirements for different nursing licenses in Montana. For more information, check directly with the state nursing board.

Certified Nurse Assistant The process for becoming a CNA in Montana differs slightly from other nursing positions. This entry-level position does not require a formal license or license application process through the state’s Board of Nursing. Instead, applicants must complete an approved training course and register with Montana’s Nurse Aide Registry, regulated by the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Montana offers certifications for CNAs and home health assistants. Both must complete an approved training program with a curriculum covering topics in resident and patient rights, communication, patient personal care, and basic anatomy and physiology. CNAs must complete at least 16 classroom training hours and sit for the state’s knowledge and skills exams. Home health aides must fulfill additional curriculum requirements in areas like using medical equipment in the home, home safety, disposal of medical supplies in the home, and home management. CNAs and home health aides must renew their certifications every two years to remain on the registry.

Montana Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Approved CNA training program
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in training program
  • Exams: CNA Skill & Knowledge Tests
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years
  • Continuing Education: CNAs must have worked and been paid in the two-year renewal period. Home health aides must complete 12 hours of continuing education
Licensed Practical Nurse The Montana Board of Nursing regulates all licensing and practice for LPNs. The Board requires prospective LPNs to complete an approved training program designed to prepare for LPN licensure. This generally includes earning a diploma from an approved institution. Any required clinical practice often takes place within the program itself, and the Board requires no additional clinical experience for initial licensure. Upon completing the approved program, prospective LPNs must apply to take the NCLEX-PN. The diploma program prepares students for this exam, and the test's website offers additional study and preparation materials. LPNs must renew their license every two years. All LPN licenses expire on December 31, and candidates must complete 24 hours of continuing education in each two year period. Montana LPNs qualify for a multistate license through the NLC, allowing them to practice in other compact states.

Montana Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Approved practical nurse training program
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in training program
  • Exams: NCLEX-PN
  • Renewal Frequency: Every two years on December 31
  • Continuing Education: LPNs must complete at least 24 hours of continuing education every two years
Registered Nurse RNs in Montana must complete a formal, Board-approved nurse education program. While many nurses choose to earn an associate degree in nursing, others pursue a bachelor’s. 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 Board 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, constituting one hour per month of licensure. Montana joined the NLC in 2015, and nurses in the state may apply for a multistate license allowing them to practice in other compact states without acquiring additional licensure. However, nurses shifting their primary residence from another compact state to Montana must apply for a Montana license.

Montana Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Associate or Bachelor’s in Nursing
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in training program
  • Exams: NCLEX-RN
  • Renewal Frequency: Licenses expire on December 31 every two years
  • Continuing Education: RNs must complete a minimum of 24 contact hours of continuing education during each licensure period
Nurse Practitioner Referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) in Montana, NPs must hold two distinct licenses to practice: an APRN license and a valid RN license. Nurses must earn 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, and 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 generally must 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.

Montana Licensure Requirements

  • Education: Master’s or doctorate in nursing
  • Additional Clinical Hours: Mandated by an approved certifying body
  • Exams: National certification exam administered by an approved certifying body
  • Renewal Frequency: By December 31 every two years after initial licensure
  • Continuing Education: NPs must complete 24 continuing education hours in each two-year licensing period

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Montana FAQ

What Nursing Field Makes the Most Money? Earning potential varies according to education, experience, and employer. However, more advanced roles often require more experience and education, and tend to pay more, as demonstrated in the above salary table.
Can Someone Become a Nurse in Two Years? Yes -- Montana requires RNs to graduate from an approved nursing preparation program, which includes two-year associate programs. Earning a BSN requires additional education and more time.
How Should I Choose What Nursing Field to Go Into? That depends on your individual interests, career goals, and education. Each nursing field requires a different type of education and training. Montana needs professionals in all nursing subfields to meet the state’s growing shortage.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Nursing School in Montana? Admission to nursing schools in Montana is very competitive, as most programs currently operate at capacity. However, the state needs qualified program applicants to admit and educate to meet healthcare needs.
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.

Montana Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

The Montana Hospital Association reports a continuing demand for qualified nursing professionals as the state’s nursing shortage grows. They contribute this shortage to a variety of factors, including an aging state population, nursing programs operating at capacity and experiencing a lower number of qualified applicants, and noncompetitive salaries for nurses in the state.

Salary and job growth depend on many factors, and no education level or degree guarantees earnings or employment. However, according to state salary data outlined below, certain nursing positions tend to offer higher average pay than others. This data may change in the coming years as Montana attempts to alleviate its nursing shortage, and as more qualified nursing professionals enter the field. These tables represent average earnings, and do not represent guaranteed wages.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Montana, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $29,110 12.3%
Licensed Practical Nurse $43,770 9.6%
Registered Nurse $67,450 18.5%
Nurse Practitioner $103,510 37.3%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

  Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Idaho $27,400 $44,280 $67,110 $102,600
Wyoming $30,910 $46,790 $67,360 $116,030
South Dakota $26,820 $38,630 $58,340 $100,690
North Dakota $33,990 $46,410 $65,740 $106,200

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant

Jobs for CNAs in Montana are projected to grow much faster than the national projected growth rate for all CNAs. CNAs often work in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. As the state’s aging population continues to grow, so will the demand for these professionals. CNAs in Montana make more on average than those in neighboring states like Idaho and South Dakota, earning around the national average rate.

Licensed Practical Nurse

LPNs in Montana work in a variety of care settings, including long-term care facilities, private physicians' offices, and hospitals. Different workplaces and employers may offer these nurses varying wages. However, Montana LPNs tend to earn more than those in nearby South Dakota, with a median annual wage just under the national rate. LPNs in Montana may obtain a multistate license, allowing them to potentially earn more in other nearby compact states.

Registered Nurse

The projected job growth rate for RNs in Montana substantially surpasses the national rate, as the state deals with a growing nursing shortage. Currently, RNs in Montana earn more on average than their counterparts in the Dakotas, although their average yearly salary still falls below the national average for all RNs. As the state continues to educate qualified nursing professionals to meet healthcare needs, salaries for RNs may fluctuate.

Nurse Practitioner

As the most skilled and educated nursing profession, NPs tend to earn more on average than RNs and LPNs. Montana NPs earn a median annual salary of $103,510, which falls below the national average for NPs. However, the projected job growth rate for Montana NPs exceeds the national rate by more than 10%; possibly due to the shortage of physicians in the majority of counties in the state. NPs in Montana enjoy full practice status, and may prescribe medication and act as primary care providers.

Nursing Resources for Montana

  • This association provides advocacy and professional development for licensed professionals across the state. Members gain access to continuing education, scholarship opportunities, and awards.
  • This organization aims to improve primary care access, emphasizing patient-focused, affordable care. Members can participate in education and training, a job board, and a variety of specialized programs.
  • The Montana Board of Nursing regulates all nursing practice and licensure in the state. RNs, LPNs, and APRNs must apply for licensure through the Board. The website offers online license renewal and verification.
  • Current nursing students and recent graduates may join the Montana Student Nurses’ Association. Members gain access to networking opportunities, volunteer and outreach programs, career development, and a job board.
  • This organization serves certified registered nurse anesthetists in Montana, a specialized group of practicing APRNs. Members may attend a yearly conference, earn continuing education units, and take advantage of networking opportunities.

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