Becoming an RN in Montana

If you have a strong academic background and a caring, people-centered disposition, you may want to consider a career in professional nursing. Montana has a high need for professionals with these skills, particularly in rural and frontier counties. You can begin the journey by selecting a nursing program at the associate (ADN) or baccalaureate (BSN) level.

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After graduation, you will need to sit for a licensing examination. You have up to three years to pass the NCLEX exam, but of course most candidates will want to do so right away. You can work under a temporary permit for up to 90 days while waiting for test results (provided you do not need a second try at the exam).

If you have already taken a nursing program in another municipality, you are eligible for licensure in Montana. If the program has been approved by the board of another U.S. state, the process is relatively simple. If you have already been licensed elsewhere, you will apply by endorsement.

If your nursing program was in another nation, you will need to have your credentials reviewed by CGFNS. Depending on where the program was located, you may also need to pass the TOEFL.

RN Career Pathways

Montana schools have an articulation plan that allows licensed practical nurses to transition easily to professional nursing status. In some cases, it takes as little as two additional semesters. Actual program length depends on prerequisites, full-time status, and the policies of the particular institution.

Students who have a first degree in a field other than nursing may want to look into accelerated BSN programs. Such programs are year-round and may also include more units per semester to reduce the number of semesters. At the University of Montana-Bozeman, the accelerated program is completed in 16 months (as opposed to 29).

Registered Nursing Career Outlook in Montana

Montana should have high need for new nurses for years to come. Part of the reason is population growth. According to Montana’s Rural Healthcare Workforce Report Overview 2009, the state has been projected to see 21% growth in the decades between 2000 and 2020. AHEC data shows an increasing gap in demand between the years 2010 and 2020.

Nationwide, the nursing shortage has been mitigated somewhat by recession. However, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing suggests this is a temporary situation. Nurses tend to return to the workforce or put off retirement when economic situations worsen in their family. While it makes the hiring process a bit more challenging for new graduates, it doesn’t offset changes in demographics.

The demand is different from region to region. New graduates who don’t have obligations in a particular area of the state may want to consider relocating to a rural community that is having difficulty attracting healthcare professionals.

The Application Process

Since nursing is such an in-demand profession, and since it’s important that people who begin programs finish them, admission requirements can be surprisingly high. Policies vary from school to school, but even at the ADN level, you may need to submit references and sit for a proctored essay test. This is the case at the UM College of Technology. At Miles Community College, decisions are made on the basis of educational performance and aptitude (along with technical competencies and good legal standing. Both programs require a GPA of at least 2.75.

Requirements get even steeper in more demanding programs. The University of Montana-Bozeman admitted their first cohort to the accelerated second degree BSN program in 2010. There were 60 applicants, but only 16 were accepted, at least at the onset. (Some additional candidates were placed on a wait list.) The initial review included a personal statement and references as well as academic indicators; 26 (a little less than half) were selected for interviews.

Associate & Baccalaureate Degree Programs Approved by the Montana State Board of Nursing

Montana State University- Bozeman
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
115 Sherrick Hall
Bozeman, MT 59717

Carroll College
Bachelor Degree Nursing
1601 North Benton
Helena, MT 59625

Montana Tech of the U of M- Butte – ADN
25 Basin Creek Road
Butte, MT 59701

Miles Community College
Associate Degree RN
2715 Dickson Street
Miles City, MT 59301

Salish Kootenai College
Associate Degree RN
PO Box 117
Pable MT 59855

U of M- Helena- Technical College – ADN Program
1115 North Roberts Street
Helena, MT 59601

Montana State University- Northern- ADN
PO Box 7751
Havre, MT 59501

U of M Missoula- College of Technology- ADN
909 South Avenue West
Missoula, MT 59801