Online Psychology Degree Programs in Montana

| Staff Writers Modified on March 23, 2022

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For a state with a population of less than one million, Montana ranks significantly above the national average in rates of drug abuse and mental illness. These healthcare challenges fuel the demand for licensed psychologists and counselors, with the Projections Central projecting a 19% growth for substance abuse disorder and mental health counselors by 2026.

With less than a third of Montana's adult population holding a bachelor's degree or higher, expanding educational access through distance learning has become a priority in the state. Montana's 20 psychology colleges offer fully online programs, mainly at the associate and bachelor's levels.

This guide provides information about earning an online psychology degree in Montana, such as licensing requirements and salary opportunities.

How Do Online Psychology Degree Programs in Montana Work?

The severe shortage of mental health care professionals in Montana allows graduates of online and campus-based psychology programs to compete on the same footing for entry-level and advanced positions. An online psychology degree delivers the same quality education as a traditional brick-and-mortar program while offering additional flexibility.

Many schools feature fully online formats with options for part-time attendance, while others incorporate hybrid courses with face-to-face requirements. Although some schools offer accelerated programs, online degrees typically require the same amount of time to complete as traditional programs.

The state's only doctoral program in psychology at the University of Montana does not offer an online option. Montanans interested in a graduate-level online psychology degree may have to incorporate in-person residencies in their plan of study or enroll in an out-of-state online school.

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

Psychology programs vary widely in their programmatic emphasis and structure. While schools do not share a standardized curriculum, the courses below represent some common undergraduate offerings.

General Psychology

This gateway course for beginning students introduces the major theories, principles, and research methods for studying human behavior. Enrollees can explore the roots of the discipline in the natural and social sciences, approaches to human cognition, emotion, motivation, and personality, and various specializations in the field, including developmental, behavioral, and neuroscientific perspectives.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology observes the human experience through the entire lifecycle, marked by ongoing physiological, social, emotional, and cognitive changes in human growth and development from infancy through end-of-life. Degree-seekers can explore the connections between heredity and environment with an emphasis on the impact of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and culture on human development.

Clinical Psychology

Designed for undergraduates planning to pursue advanced graduate training to enter careers in clinical practice, this course introduces the principles of psychotherapy, and the characteristics of evidence-based clinical practice. Learners can become familiar with diagnostic techniques for common psychological disorders, interviewing, behavioral assessment, and the administration and interpretation of psychological test measures.

Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology studies all human behavior considered to be different from the norm and socially maladaptive. Students can learn about the etiology, symptoms, and treatment of abnormal behavior, along with the accepted criteria used in clinical practice for the classification of these mental and behavioral disorders. The course explores several manifestations of abnormal behavior, including mood, dissociative, and personality disorders, and schizophrenia.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology I-O psychology refers to the scientific study of human behavior in the workplace and applying psychological theories and principles in these settings. The course explores workplace productivity, efficiency, group dynamics, conflict resolution, and best practices to foster the physical and mental well-being of employees.

Becoming a Psychologist in Montana

Becoming a licensed psychologist, counselor, or therapist in Montana requires several steps and adherence to nationally-established licensure procedures. Whether you plan to enroll in an online or campus-based psychology program, make sure you understand the degree and license requirements for your intended career.

  • Specialize

    Montana requires at least a master's degree to enter advanced psychology positions. Students should begin early in their education to incorporate specializations that prepare them to enter advanced careers. An aspiring psychologist interested in working in the educational system might choose a specialization in school psychology. The popular clinical psychology specialization trains practitioners to treat patients with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.
  • Earn Your Degrees

    Montana requires each licensed psychologist to hold either a Ph.D. or Psy.D., and most licensed counselor positions require at least a master's degree. While the state currently does not offer a doctoral program online, several colleges and universities offer web-based undergraduate and master's degrees.

    Becoming a licensed psychologist or counselor requires a considerable time commitment. Although some distance learning programs feature accelerated formats, online degrees typically require the same amount of time to finish as campus-based programs. A bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years of full-time attendance, serves as the first step toward a career in psychology. An online master's in psychology in Montana may add two more years, and most doctoral programs take at least five years to complete, depending on dissertation and field placement requirements.

  • Obtain Licensure

    Montana has established strict procedures for licensure in psychology. In addition to holding a doctorate from a school accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), each applicant must complete 3,200 hours of supervised professional experience, including at least 1,600 hours undertaken after receiving their degree.

    Psychology licensure candidates must pass the examination for professional practice in psychology (EPPP), a national standardized test used by all state regulatory boards for psychologists. While most accredited doctoral programs can prepare graduates for content areas included on the exam, applicants can take advantage of practice tests and other readily available review materials to prepare for the exam.

    The state requires an additional testing step, in the form of an oral examination conducted by the Montana Board of Psychologists. A candidate must pay $275 to process their application and a $688 testing fee for the EPPP.

Other Licenses and Certifications

A licensed counselor or therapist in Montana must hold at least a master's degree in psychology or an approved field of study. Each licensed clinical social worker must complete an accredited master's in social work program to practice in the state. A bachelor's in psychology provides a strong academic foundation for the graduate programs that offer the following specialized licenses.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The LCSW requires a master of social work degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, 3,000 supervised experience hours, and a passing score on the clinical exam administered through the Association of Social Work Boards.

Marriage and Family Therapist

An MFT must hold a master's or doctorate in marriage and family therapy, psychology, or a related field, along with completing 3,000 hours of supervised experience. This type of therapist must also pass the national marriage and family therapy licensing examination.

Licensed Professional Counselor

Each LPC must complete a graduate degree comprising at least 60 credits, primarily of counseling courses. Montana requires 3,000 supervised experience hours and a passing score on either the national counselor examination for licensure and certification or national clinical mental health counseling examination.

Featured Online Psychology Bachelor's Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Salaries and Job Outlook for Psychologists in Montana

Montana faces severe mental healthcare shortages. Although one of the most sparsely populated states, Montana reports rates higher than the national average for alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide, and the state currently employs less than a quarter of the mental health providers needed to serve its residents.

In response to these challenges, employment prospects continue to expand for licensed psychologists, counselors, and therapists with specialized training in alcohol and drug abuse disorders, suicide prevention, and rehabilitation treatment. Substance abuse, behavior disorder, and mental health counselors can expect to earn an average annual salary of $45,160 in Montana, compared to the national average of $47,920.

While Billings and Missoula, the two largest cities in Montana, offer the best salaries for psychologists who specialize in clinical, counseling, and educational settings, licensed psychologists, counselors, and therapists in all fields can expect increasing employment opportunities across the state.

Montana at a Glance

Population: 1,062,305

Population Growth (2010-2018): 7.37%

Population Growth Rank: 17

Source: United States Census Bureau

Mean Annual SalaryProjected Job Growth (2016-26)
North DakotaN/AN/A
South Dakota$84,200N/A
National Average$95,61010.3%

Source: BLS, Projections Central

Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologist SalaryGeneral Unemployment RateEducation and Health Services 12-Month Employment Growth

Source: BLS

Psychology Degrees and Careers in Montana -- Frequently Asked Questions

Before choosing an online psychology degree in Montana, you should always check with your intended program for information about requirements and costs. You can find answers below to some of the most frequently asked questions about distance learning and psychology.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychologist in Montana?

Almost all advanced positions in psychology require a master's or doctoral degree, following the completion of a four-year undergraduate degree. Consequently, becoming a licensed psychologist or counselor can take up to ten years or more. Most psychology master's programs in Montana require 35-55 credits completed in two years, while a doctoral student can expect to take approximately 100 credits throughout a four- or five-year program.

Are Online Psychology Classes Hard?

Distance learners will find their online coursework as demanding and challenging as a traditional classroom. Online psychology degrees offered by accredited colleges and universities maintain the same high academic standards as their campus-based programs. While web-based programs allow you the freedom to work on your own schedule, you still must employ time management skills to finish assignments and respect deadlines.

What Skills Are Needed to Be a Psychologist?

While a bachelor's degree establishes the foundation of core theories and concepts for the scientific study of psychology, graduate programs can provide a broader knowledge base, emphasizing practice and research to prepare students for specialized careers. Psychologists in every specialty must develop cultural sensitivity and the communication and interpersonal skills necessary to work with diverse groups.

What Schools Are Best for Psychology in Montana?

Students exploring online psychology colleges in Montana can find degrees at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels, along with specializations in substance abuse and addiction, community health counseling, and school and general psychology. Choosing the best program to fit your needs depends largely on your academic interests and professional goals.

Is a BA or a BS in Psychology Better?

A BA emphasizes humanities and usually requires foreign language courses. Students who have not yet decided on a career often enroll in a BA to explore the liberal arts and sciences while also acquiring sound preparation for graduate studies in fields like psychology, social work, education, and law. A BS requires more math, science, and laboratory courses. For a degree-seeker who has already chosen their career path, the BS offers a strong foundation in research-based graduate studies in psychology and related disciplines.

Accreditation for Online Psychology Programs in Montana

When selecting an online program, always ensure that it's accredited by a reputable agency. In Montana, most of the finest universities carry accreditation through one of the seven regional accrediting agencies spread throughout the nation, like the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

In general, regional accreditation is considered more prestigious and granted to nonprofit schools, while vocational and technical programs are accredited nationally. All of these agencies must meet the standards of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. Both sites maintain databases where students can easily check the status of any school. The best psychology programs also hold accreditation by the APA.

Psychology Internships and Fellowships in Montana

Many students pursuing an online psychology degree in Montana use internships and fellowships to complete their required field experiences. Internships tend to be short-term positions that a student can take to sample a career, and they're often unpaid. Fellowships, on the other hand, are usually specific projects undertaken with universities or research labs, and they're often underwritten by grants and offer a stipend. Regardless, both programs make for great ways to start accruing hours toward licensure.

Learners pursuing an online psychology degree in Montana can find opportunities for internships and fellowships throughout the state in urban and rural areas, as well as in government, university, and private settings. These placements provide valuable research training and clinical experiences working with children, Native Americans, veterans, and other underserved groups.

Western Montana Mental Health Center

WMMHC is the largest mental health provider in Big Sky Country, with centers in 15 counties providing services to both children and adults. Specialties include chemical dependency and child counseling.

Billings Clinic

With more than 3,000 employees, the sprawling Billings Clinic boasts the most extensive team of mental health workers in the state to serve clients from Montana and Wyoming. Billings has a psychiatric center and a behavioral clinic, in addition to providing telepsychiatric services and hospital consultations.

Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery

On the campus of Montana State in Bozeman, the center specializes in the mental health problems afflicting the nation's rural places. Research projects have included youth intervention, brain imaging and depression, non-opioid treatments for chronic pain, and online cognitive behavioral therapy.

Montana State Hospital

MSH is the state's official psychiatric facility, offering in-patient psych services to individuals with serious mental illness, as well as addiction counseling, educational programs, and group therapy.

Montana Healthcare Foundation

While not strictly a research center, MHCF provides funding for mental and behavioral research projects in the state, especially among children and native populations. The foundation also actively addresses staffing shortages in mental health care across the state.

Professional Organizations for Psychologists and Mental Health Professionals

Professional associations have become increasingly important as psychology expands in specialties and licensing areas. Practitioners, educators, researchers, and students join these organizations to stay updated about new developments in their field, licensure changes, and legislation affecting professional practice. Distance learners can take advantage of reduced membership rates to receive information about internships and scholarships, networking events, and employment opportunities.

Scholarships for Online Psychology Degree Programs in Montana

Stephen T. Marchello Scholarship

This annual scholarship helps a Montana or Colorado student who survived childhood cancer.

  • Amount Offered: Varies and may be renewable
  • Scholarship Deadline: March 15
  • Eligibility Requirements: Recipients will be judged based on transcripts, test scores, and need.
American Indian Education Fund Scholarships

This annual grant goes to undergrads with critical financial need at the University of Montana, Montana State, and their affiliates.

  • Amount Offered: Up to $2,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: April 4
  • Eligibility Requirements: Each candidate must be of native blood and attending an accredited two- or four-year college, university, or technical school on a full-time basis.
Montana Western Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship helps students pay for tuition at the University of Montana Western (UMW).

  • Amount Offered: $500
  • Scholarship Deadline: January 15
  • Eligibility Requirements: Each applicant must be enrolled at UMW.
UM Presidential Leadership Scholarship

Created through the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana (UM), this scholarship helps one outstanding UM student over four years.

  • Amount Offered: Varies
  • Scholarship Deadline: The first Friday in December
  • Eligibility Requirements: A candidate must attend UM and demonstrate academic excellence.

Find Online Psychology Degree Programs in Montana

The discipline of psychology leads to many rewarding career paths, requiring highly trained and licensed specialists. This database of all accredited online psychology degrees in Montana can help you choose the best program for achieving your academic and professional goals.

Explore Psychology Careers

Mental Health Initiatives in Montana

National survey data made available by Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services reveal the serious mental health care challenges facing the state. Montana's suicide rate has grown to twice the national average. Montana ranks 43rd overall in the U.S. for the prevalence of mental illness and the corresponding access to treatment services.

The state government and privately-funded organizations have recently begun to develop initiatives to expand addiction treatment and rehabilitation services and increase the number of licensed psychologists. The state's strategic plan to address substance use disorder provides a roadmap to reduce drug overdose deaths, decrease the number of Montanans abusing substances, and increase the number of residents in treatment or recovery.

The Montana Healthcare Foundation has announced a call for proposals to fund three areas of mental health treatment: an integrated behavioral health plan to coordinate physical and mental health care, a substance use disorder prevention and treatment program, and an initiative focusing on pregnant women to reduce neonatal and newborn drug exposure and perinatal complications.

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