Do you want to pursue a career in accounting? If so, enrolling in an accounting degree program in Montana is a great first step. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 3,500 accountants working in Montana, and the nationwide demand for professionals, such as financial managers, is expected to grow by 15% over the next decade.
Not only is accounting one of the most popular majors among business students, but accountants are some of the highest-paid professionals. For example, the average annual salary for fiscal managers is $134,180, compared to the national average annual wage of $51,916.
While students wishing to become a licensed certified public accountant (CPA) will need to earn a bachelor degree, there are still plenty of entry-level positions for those with an associate’s degree. However, the best way to increase your salary and job potential is to continue on to graduate school and earn a master’s or doctorate degree in accounting.
Whether you’re at the undergraduate or graduate educational level, you’re certain to find a school in Montana to meet your needs. This guide will provide a detailed look at what it’s like to go to school in Montana and how to find the best accounting program.
Benefits of studying accounting in Montana
Montana is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful states in the country. When you think about wide open plains, majestic mountains, and big blue skies, visions of Montana are likely to come to mind. Its sheer beauty, however, isn’t the only thing attracting students to the state. There are plenty of reasons why you should consider attending college in Montana, including:
Montana is a state that takes education seriously. Out of the state’s 1,068,778 residents, 32% hold a bachelor degree or higher. The state’s Montana University System is comprised of two major public universities, including the University of Montana and Montana State University, along with their satellite campuses, and three community colleges, such as Dawson Community College and Flathead Valley Community College.
Most bachelor and master accounting degree programs in the state include all the requirements needed to sit for the Uniform CPA exam. These requirements include at least 24 credit hours of accounting-specific courses, such as principles of accounting, federal income tax, and auditing, as well as 24 credit hours of business-related (non-accounting) classes, including economics, marketing, and business law.
Montana also offers very affordable college tuition rates when compared to other states. Although specific costs vary greatly from college to college, the average tuition in Montana is $7,202. This rate is $7,463 cheaper than the national average college tuition of $14,665.
Additionally, Montana has several community colleges spread across the state. These locations make it easier for students to complete a two-year program at the community college level before transferring to a four-year college or university. Since community college tuition rates are typically less expensive than four-year institutions, students can save a significant amount of money when choosing this type of educational track.
Small town feel
Despite being the fourth largest state in the country, by size, Montana has just over one million residents. Even the capital city of Helena has only 32,024 residents and the state’s largest city of Billings has a population of just 109,595. These statistics make Montana the perfect spot for students who want to attend a top-rated business school in a small, tight-knit community.
Don’t be fooled, however, most campus communities still provide plenty of activities for college students. Since college students make up a large portion of the population in these areas, there are numerous dining, shopping, and entertainment venues for students to enjoy.
The great outdoors
If you are an adventure seeker or simply enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, Montana is the place for you. Montana is home to nine national parks, including Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park as well as 55 state parks, including the Lewis and Clark Caverns and the Makoshika Park.
Thanks to Montana’s mild summer, students can enjoy plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, rock climbing, and horseback riding. Even during the cold, snowy winters, students can partake in several outdoor sports, such as skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding.
What is student life like in Montana?
Life for students going to school in Montana varies greatly based on the type of style of program and its location.
Type of program
There are various levels of accounting degree programs offered in Montana, including
To earn an associate degree, students must complete a 60-credit hour program that includes a mixture of general education classes, such as English and math, and business-related courses, including accounting, marketing, and economics. In Montana, many students start at the associate level before transferring to a four-year institution and enrolling in a bachelor degree program. When choosing this option, it’s important to make sure that every class you take will transfer to the university you plan to attend.
A bachelor degree program in accounting consists of 120 credit hours and can typically be completed in four years of full-time studies. Students can expect to take a variety of general education classes and electives along with business-related classes, such as cost accounting, federal income tax, and business ethics. If your goal is to become a CPA, make sure that the program you enroll meets the requirements for the CPA licensing test. Students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Bachelor of Art in Accounting, Bachelor of Applied Science in Accounting, or a Bachelor of Business Administration of Accounting degree.
After completing an undergraduate program at the bachelor-degree level, students can move forward to earn a Master of Accountancy or a Master of Professional Accounting degree program. Some students choose to earn a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting instead. A master’s level course can take two to three additional years of study to complete. However, some colleges offer a fast-track program that allows students o earn both a bachelor and a master’s degree in as little as four years.
Students who have earned a bachelor degree in a subject other than accounting can take a certificate program. This program includes all the courses necessary to make students eligible for the CPA exam. Depending on your specific situation, these programs could be completed in as little as a year. While you won’t earn a graduate degree, you will be able to earn your license as a CPA.
Those wishing to move into an executive-level position or who want to teach at the college level may want to complete a doctorate in an accounting program. A doctorate of accounting degree could take anywhere from an additional two to five years to complete, depending on the program.
Traditional vs online program
Traditional programs are held classroom-style at the college campus. Students are expected to attend all classes in person. In fact, some professors maintain strict attendance policies, and missing too many classes could result in lower grades.
Many students, especially freshmen and sophomores, choose to live right on campus in a dorm room. Typically, these students also purchase a meal plan, so they can eat on campus as well. Some juniors and seniors choose to live in off-campus housing, but still, reside close enough to commute back and forth to college. Students living close enough to campus may be able to remain at home while going to school.
Online students, on the other hand, often remain living at home. This step can help students save money on room and board and make college more affordable. Online programs are held virtually rather than in the classroom. While some colleges hold virtual classes at the same time every week and require students’ online attendance, other schools provide students with the necessary resources, including assignments, discussion boards, and online lectures, and allow them to complete the work at a time that is most convenient for them.
Another unique feature offered b some colleges is the opportunity to take only one class at a time. Rather than taking four to five classes for 15 weeks, these students take online one class for four to five weeks. In many cases, these programs run all year long without a summer break.
Rural vs urban environment
As with many states, there is a stark difference between going to a school located in a rural area versus attending university in one of Montana’s major cities. Most of the state’s four-year colleges are located in major cities, such as Billings, Helena, and Missoula. While these cities may still be small in size in comparison to other major cities, the areas’ large student population still provides a vibrant community.
Students at an urban school will find plenty of things to do both on and off-campus, such as sporting events, clubs to join, and student-sponsor activities and events. Many of these larger universities also have a number of fraternities and sororities for students to join.
Rural areas, on the other hand, are often home to smaller universities and community colleges. While the campus itself will provide some types of activities, students will find that these rural areas don’t have the same number of shopping, dining, or entertainment venues as the major cities.
Additionally, students attending community colleges usually live at home and commute back and forth because these colleges don’t provide on-campus housing. This fact limits the number of student-sponsored events held on campus.
Whether attending online or traditional school, whether it’s your first year or you’re in graduate school, and whether you’re going to school in a rural or urban area, one thing remains the same. Students enrolled in any school in Montana will have full access to numerous student resources. These resources include help with financial aid, tutoring services, career, and academic counseling, and assistance with job search, such as resume building.
It’s important to understand what types of resources your school has available and to make full use of them. This can help you throughout your college education as well as help you find a job after graduation.
Best online accounting programs in Montana
Students looking to save money on college tuition may want to consider enrolling in an online accounting program in Montana. In fact, online schools not only offer significantly reduced tuition rates, but they also give students the freedom to continue to live at home rather than pay room and board to move on campus. Additionally, students who have family responsibilities or those who must continue to work while going to school may also prefer online programs.
Top online accounting programs in Montana
The good news is that students living in Montana have access to a number of great online accounting programs. Here’s a look a just a few.
Montana State University Billings
Montana State University Billings is a satellite campus that offers an undergraduate program that can be finished completely online. Students can earn a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting degree with a minor in marketing, management, information systems, or finance if they wish.
Penn State World Campus
Penn State University has opened its online campus to students across the country. These programs can be done completely online and do not require students to ever travel to the main campus in Pennsylvania. Programs in accounting are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduates can earn a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting or a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree, whereas graduate students can earn a Master of Professional Accounting degree.
Western Governors University
Western Governors University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and has consistently been rated as a Best Value School by the University Research and Review. The university offers lower-than-average, flat-rate tuition fees for its graduate degree programs. Students can earn a Master of Science in Accounting degree or a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in information technology management or healthcare management.
Purdue University Global
Purdue University Global offers both undergraduate and graduate programs that allow students to earn their degrees from the comfort of their own homes. The online university offers both an Associate of Applied Science in Accounting and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree. Students wishing to pursue a graduate degree can enroll in the Master of Science in Accounting program.
The school also offers a certificate program in accounting that is specifically designed for students who have a bachelor’s degree, but not in accounting. This certificate program helps students earn the credits they need to sit for the Uniform CPA exam.
University of Arizona Global Campus
The University of Arizona has also opened its campus to students throughout the country. One of the unique features of this school is that it allows students to take one class at a time, with each class lasting only five to six weeks. Many students, especially those with a busy work-life schedule, like this option since they only have to focus on only the class they are currently taking.
The university offers a Bachelor of Art in Accounting and a Bachelor of Art in Finance undergraduate programs. Graduate students, on the other hand, can earn a Master in Accountancy or a Master of Science in Finance degree.
What to look for in an online college
It’s crucial that you make sure the online accounting program you are considering is properly accredited. In order to sit for the CPA exam, the program must be accredited by one of the following:
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Commission on Colleges and Schools
- Western Commission on Schools and Colleges
- Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
You also want to check what the school’s graduation requirements are. For example, you may need to complete an internship program with a local company or organization. Make sure that you have the means, time, and ability to complete this type of program prior to enrolling in a program.
Best traditional accounting programs in Montana
Students wishing to enroll in a traditional accounting program in Montana, have a variety of options that include both private and public school options.
Montana is home to two public universities, including:
University of Montana
The University of Montana is a public research college that serves students in the western portions of the state. The university as a whole has had more Rhode Scholars (27) than nearly any other campus in the country. Its College of Business accounting programs is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Former students have completed internships with major companies, such as Pixar, Boeing, Microsoft, and Nike. The school offers a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting degree program as well as a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree programs.
The university has five satellite campuses, all of which have an accounting or bookkeeping program. Many students start their educational track at one of these satellite campuses and then transfers to the University of Montana’s main campus.
- Missoula College University of Montana
Degrees/certifications: Associate of Accounting A.A.S., Certificate of Accounting Fundamentals
- University of Montana Western
Degrees: Associate of Applied Science in Business; Bachelor of Applied Science in Business (concentration in accounting), Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (concentration in accounting)
- Montana Technological University
Degrees: Associate of Science in Accounting (Highland campus); Bachelor of Applied Science in Accounting; Bachelor of Science in Accounting
- Helena College University of Montana
Degrees: Associate of Applied Science in Accounting Technology; Certificate of Applied Science (CAS) – stackable programs
- Bitterroot College University of Montana
Certification: Bookkeeping certification program
Montana State University
Montana State University is the largest higher education institute in the state. As a public research university, it offers both undergraduate and graduate-level programs in accounting. The school’s Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship is considered one of the best business programs in the state. Undergraduate students can earn a bachelor degree in accounting, while graduate students can earn a Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) degree.
Montana State University has several satellite schools that offer accounting degree programs, including:
- Gallatin College Montana State University
Degrees/certification: Bookkeeping certification; Associate of Art in General Studies (transfer program); Associate of Science in General Studies (transfer program)
- City College at Montana State University Billings
Degree/certifications: Certification in Applied Science in Accounting; Associate of Applied Science in Accounting Technology; Associate of Art in General Studies (transfer program); Associate of Science in General Studies (transfer programs)
- Montana State University Northern
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a minor in Accounting
- Great Falls College
Location: Great Falls
Degree: Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
Montana also has a number of private colleges and universities that are not part of the Montana University System. These schools include:
Carroll College is one of the top private colleges in the state. It offers a fast-track program for students that allows them to earn both a bachelor and a master’s degree in just four years. Students spend three years of full-time studies working towards earning their bachelor degree in accounting and strategic finance before moving forward to earn their Master of Accountancy (MAcc) in just one additional year.
Rocky Mountain College
Rocky Mountain College allows students to earn their master’s degree in accounting in as little as five years. Students choosing this educational track will spend three years completing the bachelor’s degree program in business management and accounting and then an additional two years earning their Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree. The college also offers a bachelor degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting for those students that do not wish to pursue a master’s degree.
Apollos University offers programs in business administration with a concentration in accounting at all levels. Students at the undergraduate level can earn an Associate of Art in Business degree or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree. Graduate students on the other hand can work towards their MBA (Master’s of Business Administration) or Doctor of Business Administration degree.
Unlike some other states, Montana has a number of community colleges spaced throughout the state. This allows students to attend their first two years of college at a campus that is closer to their hometown. Due to the high number of students wishing to transfer their credits to a four-year institution, most of Montana’s community colleges offer associate-level programs in general studies.
This broad degree means that students don’t have to declare a major during the first two years, but instead work toward completing their general education requirements. If you decide to take this path, be sure to take as many business-related courses, especially entry-level accounting classes, during this two-year program. This step will reduce the risk of delaying graduation due to prerequisite requirements.
Dawson Community College
Degrees/programs: Associate of Art in General Studies (transfer program); Associate of Science in General Studies (transfer program); transfer program with a concentration in accounting
Flathead Valley Community College
Degree/certification: Certification of Applied Science; Associate of Applied Science in General Studies (transfer program); Associate of Science in Accounting Technology (transfer program)
Miles Community College
Location: Miles City
Degree/certification: accounting certification; Associate of Applied Science in Accounting Technology; Associate of Arts in General Studies (transfer program); Associate of Science in General Studies (transfer program)
Things to look for in a traditional accounting program
The most important thing to consider when selecting a traditional accounting program is accreditation. You want to make sure that the college maintains accreditation from a respected organization, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Programs and specialties
Make sure that any school you are planning to attend has the type of accounting degree program you want. For example, if you are looking for a bachelor degree program, don’t look for a school that only offers an associate-level program, unless that degree can be transferred to a four-year institution.
Additionally, if you want to obtain your graduate degree program as quickly as possible, you may want to find a college that offers a fast-track program. These types of programs allow you to earn your master’s degree in accounting in as little as 4-5 years.
Another factor you want to consider is the graduation requirements for the program. First, if you’re planning to sit for the Uniform CPA exam, make sure the program you enroll in meets the requirements for this test (25 credit hours of accounting-specific courses and 25 credit hours of business (non-accounting related) courses).
Secondly, many colleges require students to complete an internship prior to graduation. Ask about this type of requirement and make sure you are able to complete this requirement despite work or personal responsibilities.