Teaching in Montana

Big Sky Country is all about the outdoors. Whether it’s hunting, fishing, or participating in extreme sports, Montana is a rugged, awe-inspiring outdoor playground.

Despite its outdoorsy appeal, Montana needs teachers, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. The state is also experiencing teacher shortages in rural areas, especially on reservations working with Native American tribes. If you like the great outdoors, and would like an even greater opportunity to impact children’s lives, Montana might be your place to do it.

Educational Climate in Montana

Montana is big on math and science, and has been very innovative and proactive in getting kids excited about it. In fact, both Governor Brian Schweitzer (soil scientist) and First Lady Nancy Schweitzer (botanist) are scientists. Together they have created the Math and Science Initiative, to bring science to life for kids and adults all over the state.

Teaching salaries in Montana

Montana teachers are paid a competitive wage, on par with the rest of the United States. Median salaries are as follows:

  • Elementary School Teacher: $43,750
  • Middle School Teacher: $43,200
  • High School Teacher: $43,160
  • Technical Secondary Teachers: $32,970

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The governor and first lady insist on using Montana’s “big backyard” as a classroom—starting with their own backyard. Nancy Schweitzer’s garden is used for educational programs that introduce students to the science of gardening, and the science of food’s impact on human bodies. Children and parents alike also receive a roadside education, as 50 roadside markers describe the state’s geological and paleontological wonders. The governor and first lady have even introduced math and science trading cards, each with a Montana math or science fact, which they deliver when they visit classrooms.

Since 2010, Nancy Schweitzer has also presented First Lady Awards to Montana educators and organizations that inspire students to pursue careers in math and science. Several First Lady Awards are presented each year to individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses.

Another huge part of the Math and Science Initiative involves educating students about clean-energy sources, and preparing them for careers in new energy sectors—a rapidly growing part of Montana’s economy (see Montana Energy). To this end, local scientists and engineering-related businesses have been recruited, and are engaged in the education of Montana’s students.

And energy education starts early. From fourth grade through senior year, Montana kids play with electricity and electronics, experimenting with applicable engineering applications. The state-adopted A World in Motion® curriculum brings real-world engineering applications to the classroom, in an attempt to spark interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers.

Currently, Montana schools are required to meet 41 different benchmarks as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The state has steadily made yearly progress on standardized tests, bringing reading scores up to 85 percent “proficient,” and 68 percent proficient in math. Montana’s Native American and economically disadvantaged student populations are still working to meet performance standards.

Career Outlook in Montana
Montana Energy

Montana courts renewable energy companies, in an effort to become a significant energy exporter both nationally and worldwide. The state also offers tax incentives, loans, and favorable building codes to encourage citizens to reduce energy consumption and switch to alternative energy sources. Below are energy companies and organizations promoting the lucrative fields of engineering, science, math, and technology in Montana:

With the number of school-aged children in Montana slowly increasing, and many baby-boomer teachers expected to retire, the BLS projects a shortage in teachers through at least 2018. Teachers who are bilingual, or who are willing to work in rural districts, have the best opportunities to find a job in Montana.

Below are the expected job-growth rates for teachers in Montana. Clearly, technical teaching opportunities are expected to continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

  • Elementary School Teachers—6.3 percent
  • Middle School Teachers—15 percent
  • Secondary School Teachers—8.5 percent
  • Technical Secondary Teachers—44.3 percent

Generous loan-forgiveness packages are offered to those teachers willing to work at “impacted schools”—which either are rural, have a high percentage of economically disadvantaged kids, or have a high percentage of Title I students. In Montana, many of these schools are on or near American Indian reservations; teachers who wish to accept this challenge will need to become familiar with the unique educational struggles of Native American children.

What are some of the benefits of becoming a teacher in Montana?

School districts in Montana offer teachers very competitive benefits, including health insurance, dental plans, life insurance, and retirement funds. Teachers also benefit from lower interest rates and other special banking services through the Montana Educators’ Credit Union. Montana teachers sign on with the Montana Teachers’ Retirement System when they retire, after 30 years of service, or when they meet age requirements.

Montana’s loan-forgiveness program pays up to $3,000 a year, for up to four years, to teachers who are willing to work at impacted schools. A number of Montana schools also qualify for federal loan-forgiveness programs. Teachers in math, science, foreign language, or any other field where the state is experiencing a shortage can qualify for the cancellation of up to 100 percent of their student-loan debt.

Teachers may receive additional benefits by joining the various teaching organizations available in Montana. The Montana Educators Association assists in negotiation with the Montana Board of Education for teacher salaries, retirement benefits, vacation pay, and working conditions.

There are other teacher associations that provide resources for Montana teachers, including Montana Science Teachers, Montana Association of Teachers of English Language Arts, and the Montana Association of Language Arts.

Montana’s Native American tribes

Since 2006, the Montana State Legislature has appropriated $3 million each year to close the achievement gap between Native American and non-Native American students. The gap is slowly closing; however, there are still significant differences in standardized testing scores. Here are a few facts to consider:

  • More than six percent of Montana’s population, and 11.8 percent of Montana students (141,807 in all), are Native American.
  • Twelve tribes call Montana home: Salish – Pend d’Oreille, Kootenai, Blackfeet, Chippewa, Cree, Little Shell Band of Chippewa, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Crow.
  • Forty Montana school districts have Native American populations in excess of 50 percent.
  • Thirty-four of those districts did not meet No Child Left Behind standards.

How do I become a teacher in Montana?

In order to receive certification, teachers in Montana must hold a bachelor’s degree in their content area; complete an approved teacher preparation program; have teaching experience with an accredited professional educator preparation program, or one year of teaching experience in a Montana elementary or secondary school; pass a Praxis or state board test; and finish an approved Montana teacher certification program.

To find out more about which college or university programs have been approved, which courses Montana considers mandatory, and other certification information, visit the Montana teaching certification website. Teachers who achieve higher degrees increase their salaries in Montana. Teachers with master’s degrees are also eligible to move up to administrative positions, such as vice principal and principal.

Alternative routes to licensing may available to those who have applicable professional experience, hold degrees in other fields, or have a teacher’s license from another state. Visit teacher-certification.com to find out what steps you need to take in order to achieve alternative licensing.


Teaching and Learning