Accounting Degree Overview for Montana

Updated October 6, 2022

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Montana ranks as the fourth-largest jurisdiction in the U.S. by area, but it has the 44th-largest population. As a result, Montana features vast expanses of wide-open, unspoiled nature. Publicly owned land accounts for about 30% of the state's overall acreage, including several of the country's most popular national parks, 53 state parks, and seven state forests.

Montana boasts a reputation for natural beauty, and it doubles as an excellent learning destination. A 2020 ranking placed Montana comfortably within the 20 most-educated states in the U.S., and accounting programs are particularly accessible. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 11 public and private institutions offer accounting and auditing degrees in Montana.

Montana was home to more than 3,300 accountants and auditors as of May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and Projections Central forecasts an 11.5% growth in those positions from 2018-2028. This indicates strong opportunities for accountants in Montana.

This guide offers detailed information on study programs and accounting careers in Montana. Use it to explore program options and prepare for your job search in this beautiful, business-friendly state.

Montana at a Glance

Per Capita Income$30,680
Fortune 500 Companies0
Number of Higher Learning Institutions22
ClimateAverage Annual Temperature: 42.7°F 

Annual Precipitation: 15.3 inches 
Major Sports TeamsMontana State University Bobcats, University of Montana Grizzlies
Accountants in Montana3,380

Top Montana Schools for Accounting

  • Carroll College
  • Rocky Mountain College
  • The University of Montana
  • Montana State University
  • Highlands College

Why Go to College for Accounting in Montana?

Montana ranks among the most cost-effective states for higher education, according to NCES data. The NCES notes that tuition rates for a public four-year college in Montana sat 21.8% below the national average in 2017. These savings also extended to out-of-state students, who paid an average of 7.6% less than students nationwide to go to college in Montana.

The state also offers strong employment opportunities to qualified accounting professionals. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from May 2019 indicates that accountants and auditors make up 7.23 of every 1,000 jobs in Montana. This marks one of the densest concentrations of any financial services-related professional specialization.

Labor market projections also indicate strong growth for accountants and auditors in Montana in the coming years. From 2018-2028, Projections Central forecasts faster-than-average occupational growth for accountants and auditors in the state (11.5%), compared to a national 6.4% projected growth rate for those professionals.

Education Statistics for Montana

Montana allocates a significantly above-average percentage of its tax revenues to higher education, equipping its small-yet-strong pool of public colleges with excellent resources. 

Learners undertaking traditional or online accounting degrees in Montana also join a well-educated population base. The Treasure State hosts a dense concentration of adults with college degrees, with undergraduate educational attainment rates eclipsing nationwide averages.

Higher Education in Montana

Montana DataNational Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges103,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges121,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education25.1%34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student$6,427$8,196 
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education6.3%5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree9.0%8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree 20.8%19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher10.4%12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for Montana Schools

The best accounting schools in Montana all share one critical feature: They hold accreditation credentials from recognized bodies. Institutional accreditation takes two main forms: national and regional. Prospective students should only consider offers of acceptance from schools that hold one or the other.

National accreditation usually signifies that a school maintains a primary focus on vocational, technical, or religious education, or that it operates under a for-profit structure. Regional accreditation typically applies to schools oriented toward traditional academics, and to public or private nonprofit institutions. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education since 1952, acts as Montana's regional accrediting authority

Experts usually consider regional accreditation the better option, as institutions must meet higher standards to qualify for it. Regional recognition also makes it easier for students to transfer their credits from one school to another. National and regional accreditation both extend to distance learning programs, so students looking into a Montana online accounting degree should also seek it out.

Top Online Programs

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Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Montana

Students considering a bachelor's or master's in accounting in Montana need to consider a long list of factors when evaluating their study options. The data and information in the subsections below explain general features of accounting degrees at various levels, and delve into accounting specializations you may want to consider.

The following subsections also explore key differences between traditional, online, and hybrid education formats. Students can pursue all three types of accounting degrees in Montana, as schools in the state continue to adopt innovative learning models at robust rates.

Accounting Degree Levels

Degree levels often impact student decisions on which school to attend. In some cases, colleges host particularly renowned programs at a specific level, while others may host undergraduate but not graduate programs, or vice versa.

To that end, consider the following general information about the various levels of accounting degrees in Montana:

Associate Degree in Accounting

Learners can typically earn this introductory credential in about two years, making it a good option for those seeking quick entry into the skilled workforce.

Learn More About Associate Degrees in Accounting

Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

Students aspiring to a professional designation such as certified public accountant (CPA) need to earn at least a bachelor's degree.

Learn More About Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting

Master's Degree in Accounting

In accounting professions, career-long earning potential peaks at this advanced degree level.

Learn More About Master's Degrees in Accounting

Ph.D. in Accounting

Doctoral degrees appeal to those aspiring to careers in higher education or research, and to those looking for credentials that stand out in the job market.

Learn More About Ph.D.s in Accounting

Accounting Concentration Options

Concentrations afford learners the chance to attach valuable specializations to their undergraduate or graduate credentials. They also enable candidates to launch highly targeted job searches and match employer needs with appealing precision.

Traditional and online accounting degrees in Montana support a variety of concentration options. The following specializations hold particular value for those seeking to launch accounting careers in Montana: 

Environmental AccountingEnvironmental accounting applies the principles of accounting and auditing to questions of environmental impact, especially as they relate to commercial activity. Given Montana's vast expanses of unspoiled wilderness, ecological stewardship ranks as a high priority for many of the state's businesses and organizations. 
Public AccountingPublic accounting focuses on core skills including financial auditing, financial consulting, and tax preparation. These versatile, essential proficiencies remain in high demand, creating career flexibility for professionals who hold them.

Explore More Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

In Montana, online accounting degrees enjoy growing popularity among learners, especially in the age of COVID-19. The information below explores the various program formats available in the state.


Many people still prefer the interactivity and physical presence of the traditional classroom. The on-campus experience also features the kind of rigid scheduling many learners need to stay focused and optimally productive. Montana's vast natural beauty also makes it a popular draw for campus-based students who enjoy the outdoors.

Online Programs

Increasingly popular among both schools and students, online learning offers excellent flexibility. Colleges typically configure online programs to function asynchronously, meaning that students can engage with lectures, class content, and assignments on their own schedules. This makes online learning ideal for busy people with outside professional or personal commitments.

Online accounting degrees in Montana cover the same information and learning materials as their in-class counterparts. The vast majority of schools do not specify whether a learner studied in class online in transcripts and diplomas, making online study a risk-free alternative. 

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs blend virtual and traditional learning formats to varying degrees. Unlike fully online programs, hybrid degrees require an occasional on-campus presence. They mainly appeal to those seeking to balance the interactivity of the traditional classroom with the flexibility and scheduling benefits of online learning.

Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education

Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education CoursesEnrolled in Some but Not All Distance Education CoursesNot Enrolled in Any Distance Education Courses
Montana Students8.8%16.3%74.9%
United States Students16.3%18.4%65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

By most metrics, Montana offers atypically affordable higher learning opportunities. Average in-state and out-of-state tuition fees both rank below nationwide benchmarks, as do the costs of attending a private college.

Even so, many learners require some form of financial assistance to cover the costs of their schooling. Financial aid takes many forms, including non-repayable scholarships, fellowships, and grants, along with public and private loan programs. The following sections examine the costs of accounting degrees in Montana in more detail, considering the location-specific factors that influence them.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in Montana, 2017-2018

Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$6,783$9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$23,678$25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year)$24,953$30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$3,631$3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$8,482$7,971
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

While many private schools charge fixed tuition fees regardless of residency, most U.S. public colleges maintain different rates for in-state and out-of-state learners. The theory behind these policies holds that local residents contribute to the state's higher education system through their taxes, thus entitling them to preferred rates. 

Yet in-state tuition rates remain available to some out-of-state learners, mainly through reciprocity agreements. These compacts extend in-state tuition benefits to students from bordering or adjacent jurisdictions within the region. For instance, Montana belongs to the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Western Regional Graduate Program, which both extend tuition discounts to residents of 16 western states and U.S. jurisdictions.

Montana's Cost of Living

Cost of living exerts a significant impact on student budgets, and should rank among the key considerations a learner makes when evaluating possible study destinations. World Population Review gave Montana a score of 106.9 as of 2020, indicating that living in the state costs about 7% more than the U.S. on average (where the average index score is 100).

However, utilities in Montana scored an 83.9, meaning they cost approximately 14% less than the national average.

Other School Selection Criteria

Beyond the aforementioned state-specific considerations, would-be students must also take many other factors and criteria into account when selecting a school. Depending on the learner's preferences and objectives, examples may include:

  • School Size

    Larger schools tend to offer more resources, while smaller ones typically host more intimate, community-oriented learning environments.
  • Student-to-Teacher Ratio

    Smaller class sizes often give students more opportunities for individual attention and one-on-one interaction with their instructors, both of which can greatly enhance a program's educational value.
  • Post-Graduation Placement Rates

    Colleges that do a particularly good job of preparing students for the professional world tend to have higher post-graduation placement rates. This statistic tracks the percentage of students who find a job or enroll in another education program within a short time frame after completing their initial degree.
  • Earning Potential for Graduates

    With accounting degrees in Montana, employers sometimes place higher value on alumni of particularly renowned or prestigious schools. Thus, attending a desirable school can boost an accounting professional's earning potential and job access.
  • Admission Standards

    Learners may also prefer schools with more demanding or more accessible admission standards. Schools with stricter standards tend to have sparkling reputations and high levels of prestige. Alternately, students may prefer the lower-pressure environment of a more inclusive school, particularly if their test scores or academic transcripts create a barrier to attendance elsewhere.
  • Explore Our Rankings For the Best Accounting Programs at Each Level

    Careers for Accounting Graduates in Montana

    A nationwide analysis from 2019 ranked Montana's economy in the top half of the country, placing it 22nd among the 50 states. Montana fared particularly well for its economic growth projections, which landed the state in 15th place.

    KPMG, one of the "Big Four" accounting firms, maintains an office location in Montana's largest city, Billings. Montana's economy, known for its traditional focus on agriculture, energy, forestry, and mining, continues to diversify. For example, a growing number of technology companies call the Treasure State home. These trends bode well for the prospects of skilled financial professionals and credentialed accountants, who remain in high demand across all industries and sectors.

    Top-paying destinations for accountants in Montana include the cities of Great Falls and Missoula, along with the West Montana nonmetropolitan area, according to the BLS. Read on for further information about employment trends and specialized accounting careers in Montana.

    Select Accounting Careers in Montana

    Credit Counselor

    These professionals provide advice and resources to clients seeking to reduce their debt loads and use credit more responsibly. Aspirants can enter this career track with a two-year associate degree, making it an appealing and well-paid option for professionals with this level of educational attainment.

    Cost Estimator

    Cost estimators help businesses and organizations manage their resources and control their project-related expenses. They generate accurate, detailed estimates of the amount of funding, human resources, and other assets needed to complete specific projects. Entry-level educational credentials usually include a bachelor's degree.

    Budget Analyst

    The job of a budget analyst includes evaluating organizational finances to identify priorities, opportunities, and potential risks. Employers usually favor candidates with specialized master's degrees when seeking to fill budget analyst roles.

    Montana Employment Trends

    Projected Job Growth for Accountants

    3,490 Employees2018
    3,890 Employees2028
    Montana 11.5% increase
    1,424,000 Employees2018
    1,514,700 Employees2028
    National 6.4% increase
    Source: Projections Central

    Curious about other accounting jobs? Explore more here

    The information in the chart above reveals several important trends for people considering accounting degrees in Montana. First, in terms of sheer numbers, accountants, auditors, and bookkeeping and auditing clerks enjoy access to a robust job market. Also, remember that Montana has a relatively small population, which somewhat distorts job numbers that may seem unusually low.

    Financial management represents one potential professional path that balances strong opportunity with high earnings. A relatively dense concentration of financial managers enjoy well-paid employment in Montana, with average annual earnings that comfortably exceed $100,000.

    However, on the whole, accounting professionals earn less in Montana than elsewhere in the U.S. Tax examiners and collectors buck this trend, with salaries that compare more favorably to the national average.

    Montana Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

    Even though job-seekers with accounting degrees enjoy a rich variety of career opportunities, the CPA designation remains one of the most popular options. Every state maintains its own unique set of certification guidelines and criteria for becoming a CPA. If you plan to work in Montana, you should familiarize yourself with the state's requirements as early as possible.

    In general, Montana maintains a relatively relaxed set of eligibility guidelines. Candidates do not need to meet any age, citizenship, or residency requirements to sit for Montana's CPA exam, so long as they meet all other criteria. These include:

  • 150 hours of education (including a bachelor's degree)
  • At least 24 semester-hours of accounting education beyond basic or introductory levels, including at least one course in each of the following areas: auditing, financial accounting, management accounting, and taxation
  • At least 24 semester-hours of education in business courses not directly related to accounting
  • At least 2,000 hours of professional experience in an accounting capacity, completed within fewer than 12 months of the examination date
  • Candidates must also pass the AICPA Professional Ethics Examination to complete Montana's CPA credentialing process.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Accounting in Montana

    Is accounting a good career in Montana?

    In 2019, accounting-related careers combined to account for about 2.7% of all jobs in Montana, according to the BLS. This high rate indicates very strong employment prospects for qualified professionals.

    How much do accountants earn in Montana?

    Accountants and auditors working in Montana earn mean annual salaries of $66,170. This exceeds the statewide mean for all professions by 45.8%.

    What accounting jobs are there in Montana?

    In terms of volume, bookkeeping and auditing clerks, accountants and auditors, and financial managers represent the most common accounting-related professions in Montana. Many other opportunities exist in smaller numbers.

    Can I get an accounting degree in Montana?

    Yes. Many of the state's 22 accredited higher learning institutions offer accounting degrees in Montana. Learners willing to consider nondegree certificate and diploma programs enjoy access to even more opportunities.

    Does Montana have online accounting programs?

    Yes, and the COVID-19 pandemic will likely continue to guide larger numbers of learning opportunities online as postsecondary institutions seek more ways to offer a safe yet effective educational experience.

    Montana Accounting and Education Organizations

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