Studying computer science in Montana allows you to enter an exciting, lucrative, high-demand career. According to CodeMontana, the state’s fast-growing technology industry means the number of jobs in the sector often exceeds the number of skilled professionals prepared to enter them. This is why the Missoulian, a Missoula-based newspaper, reports that the state’s universities are ready, willing, and able to meet the demand for students who want to attend the best computer science schools in Montana.
These institutions recognize the need to increase the number of computer and mathematical professionals in the state, which totaled 7,250 as of May 2016 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In fact, the BLS projects that employment in computer and information technology occupations nationwide will grow 13% by 2026, which is yet another reason the state welcomes students seeking to earn degrees from Montana computer science schools. Given this projected surge, the Treasure State will no doubt play a critical role in filling the more than 546,000 new jobs projected to emerge in this field nationwide by 2026.
According to CodeMontana, the state’s fast-growing technology industry means the number of jobs in the sector often exceeds the number of skilled professionals prepared to enter them.
Higher Education in Montana
Montana is home to more than 25 colleges and universities, including 16 that comprise the Montana University System (MUS). MUS enrolls nearly 50,000 learners statewide and includes schools within both the Montana State University and University of Montana networks. The state also makes two-year degrees and professional certificates available through its seven tribal colleges. For students seeking smaller schools for their computer science degree, Montana is home to private universities like Carroll College, Rocky Mountain College, and the University of Great Falls.
In addition to campus-based programs that engage students in face-to-face instruction, some of the state’s schools also offer online programs in computer science. You can earn an online computer science degree in Montana from MUS, which boasts nearly 100 online programs and more than 700 online courses each semester. The ease, convenience, and affordability of online learning attract those who need to balance personal and professional demands with their academic pursuits.
Although Montana ranks 44th in the nation for population, nearly one third of its residents age 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data. So, despite its relatively small number of residents, Montana demonstrates an appreciation for higher education.
Computer Science Careers in Montana
Careers in computer science and information technology are on the upswing across the country. The BLS projects that employment in the field will grow nearly twice as fast as the projected average growth of all occupations by 2026 (13% versus 7%). This is largely due to the increased demand for expertise in cloud computing, information security, and gathering and securely storing big data. A 2013 Missoulian article pointed out that the state offered about 400 jobs for programmers across the state, many more openings than the number of professionals equipped to fill them. Cities like Bozeman and Great Falls are especially known for their high concentrations of these opportunities. The same is true of Helena, the state capital, where graduates of online computer science programs in Montana can find well-paying employment in state agencies that require this kind of expertise to ensure statewide operations function smoothly.
Median Salary for Computer Science Careers by Degree
How Much do Computer Scientists Make in Montana?
While lower than the national average salary for the profession, computer scientists in Montana earn a good living. The hourly mean wage is more than $30, and experienced professionals can expect their earnings to increase over time.
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Computer Science Programs in Montana
Many computer science programs in Montana deliver in-person, traditional classroom instruction. For example, Montana State University awards undergraduate degrees in computer science through its Gianforte School of Computing. The program encourages critical thinking and builds problem-solving skills so that graduates are able to improve others’ quality of life through technology.
Several computer science colleges in Montana also award graduate degrees. The University of Montana and Montana State both offer master’s programs for those who would like to delve deeper into the field and pursue the next level of education.
While most computer science schools in Montana deliver in-person rather than online instruction, there is an opportunity to enroll in select courses online. This permits you the flexibility you may need to balance the demands of school with other responsibilities. Furthermore, this blended approach to your studies allows you to build even deeper connections with your professors and classmates. Examples of online classes include computer fluency, introduction to computer modeling, and web development, all of which the University of Montana offers through its School of Extended & Lifelong Learning.
The Computing Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits the computer science programs within the Montana State University and University of Montana networks. It also accredits the program at Carroll College. ABET accreditation denotes which computer science programs in Montana have met the quality standards necessary to prepare students for the modern-day workforce.
Types of Computer Science Degrees
There are many types of degrees students can choose when pursuing education in computer science: associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate degree. In general, further formal education within a field results in a higher salary. In addition, some positions require a certain level of degree. For instance, many research positions or teaching positions at the university level require at least a master’s or doctorate degree. The table below features descriptions and basic data about each degree type.
An associate in computer science provides students with foundational knowledge in computer languages and programming. In addition to learning about computer systems, students will emerge with general education courses usually required by four year colleges. Graduates with an associate degree qualify for entry-level computer science positions in the job market.
Average Program Length – 2 Years
Median Salary – $32,897
A bachelor’s in computer science provides students with knowledge of operating systems, a variety of programming languages, database management, and computer systems and architecture. These programs typically require 120 credit hours of coursework and a capstone project. Many employers in the industry are increasingly hiring individuals with a bachelor’s degree.
Average Program Length – 4 Years
Median Salary – $60,835
A master’s in computer science provides students with a deeper understanding of computer systems, design, and programming languages. Some master’s programs may provide specializations for those who wish to concentrate further in a specific area. Individuals with a master’s degree typically earn a higher salary upon graduation than those with a bachelor’s.
Average Program Length – 1-2 Years
Median Salary – $104,269
A doctorate degree in computer science is designed for individuals who wish to pursue research in the field. These intensive programs often require students to narrow their field of study and design and carry out a specific research project that culminates in a dissertation. Graduates with a Ph.D in computer science often go into academia as computer science professors.
Average Program Length – 4+ Years
Median Salary – $126,744
What Schools Offer a Computer Science Degree in Montana?
You can earn your computer science degree from any of the following schools, all which offer accredited computer science programs. Review the program listings for each school to determine which degree is the best fit for your academic and occupational goals. This list will help you compare programs offered by different schools and make an informed decision about which program will best meet your needs.
schools that match your search
Professional Computer Science Organizations in Montana
Joining professional computer science organizations can benefit you as a student and as a graduate. These associations help you build a network of colleagues in the field, which is especially helpful for continued learning and job hunting. The conferences these organizations regularly host keep you up to date on the latest developments in the field and expose you to a variety of computer science career options. In addition, meeting others through professional organizations can prove invaluable when it comes to exploring career opportunities.
- International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology: This organization advances interdisciplinary research through collaboration that leverages innovative methodologies. It also hosts conferences and workshops as well as publishes international academic journals.
- Association for Computing Machinery: The largest educational and scientific computing society in the world, this organization promotes the computer science profession through its digital library, array of career resources, and conferences.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Computer Society: With over 60,000 members worldwide, this organization is a networking, career development, and information resource for computer science professionals. Its members include students, researchers, academics, software engineers, and information technology experts.
Additional Computer Science Resources in Montana
- Association for Women in Computing: A student organization at Montana State University, this group welcomes everyone who supports women in computer science. It is a campus affiliate of the national organization of the same name established in 1978. The campus organization engages students in conferences to learn from experts, gives back to the local community through outreach to area K-12 schools, and offers social events like game nights.
- American Computer & Robotics Museum: Located in Bozeman, this facility preserves and houses artifacts about the information age to share with those who visit. Some of its displays include the first handheld electronic calculator in the world, an Apollo moon guidance computer, and the first-ever home video game. Admission is free and the museum is open six days each week.
- The Software Factory: Located within the Department of Computer Science at Montana State University, this development lab helps comprise a global community of software factories that leverage innovative tools and processes to generate software solutions. The products this lab helps create support research and entrepreneurship through collaboration with partners like Hewlett Packard and the University of Helsinki.
- CodeMontana: This nonprofit aims to prepare young people for careers in computer science by teaching them coding as a fundamental skill that is highly applicable to a myriad of careers. It delivers instruction to middle and high school students at no cost, allowing them to learn at their own pace. In addition, high school juniors and seniors can earn college credit by participating in CodeMontana programming.