So you wanna be a Montanan, huh? Or maybe you’re still just teetering on the fence. Either way, you’re in the right place. We’ve put together this guide to all things Montana that’s absolutely filled with facts, history and some fun little goodies to help make your move, or your decision to move, a breeze.
But if nicknames are more your thing, you can call Montana by its nickname, The Treasure State, after its once-hidden cache of mineral reserves—including gold, silver and sapphires. In fact, there was a big gold rush here back in the mid-nineteenth century. Following this golden discovery, thousands migrated to the area near Grasshopper Creek to get in on the action. The state's also referred to as Big Sky Country, after the miles and miles of sky that’s paired perfectly with the state’s stretching plains below it.
But that big, beautiful sky isn’t the only reason 11,837 people moved here in 2017 alone. Let’s see what else Montana has to offer, starting with the job scene.
Something worth knowing about Montana is that it’s the fourth largest state in the US, but it’s only ranked 43rd in terms of population (1,062,330 people). Their massive square footage with such a tiny population puts the state at #48 in the nation for population density—so people are spread way, way out. Keep that in mind when you’re out hunting down that big game job.
Montana’s unemployment rate is currently 4.1%, which is a dead tie with the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The minimum wage is currently $8.30/hour, according to minimum-wage.org. But, of course, that’s just a a starting point and there are lots of other opportunities here.
According to our friends over at zippia.com, the current fastest-growing professions in the state include: physical therapist, foreman, construction worker, electrician, personal care assistant, plumber and mechanic. Zippia.com then goes on to call out the state’s highest-paying gigs as: OB/GYN, nurse anesthetist, surgeon, pediatrician, psychiatrist, dentist and architect/engineer manager.
If you’re looking for something totally new or you just want to know if your training will translate to Big Sky Country, don’t worry. Plenty of different skills are needed here. After all, it’s a big state and there’s no doubt a need for a specialist in whatever-you-do somewhere, right?
Whether you’re looking for a nice little starter home in Billings (Montana’s largest city) or a tiny cabin up in the middle of nowhere, there are plenty of options.
For starters, zillow.com states that the median home value in the state is currently $225,600 (up 7.9% in the past year alone) with homes currently on the market for about $320,000. But if mortgages and realtors scare you, you can always rent a house for about $1,325/month.
And if apartments are your style, don’t worry . A one-bedroom in Helena, the state's capital, goes for around $657/month, according to bestplaces.net. On the even lower end of the price spectrum, we found Billings, Great Falls and Kalispell going for between $559/month and $589/month. In Missoula, home to the University of Montana, you’ll be paying upwards of $722/month for a place.
Though cost of living is quite affordable and the state does have some new construction in the works, we’ve seen residents encouraging new Montanans to have a place to live secured before making their move out here. Apparently properties can be pretty scarce, and they go quickly—despite the sparse population.
As we’ve said, Montana is a very sparsely populated state. How sparsely? So much so that there are three times as many cows as people. That’s not even a burn either, it’s a fact. The state has been referred to as an "explorer's paradise," because of the miles and miles of "unspoiled" environment. It's interesting to note that the population only surpassed the one million mark back in 2012.
Big Sky Country is described by its residents as feeling like "one big, small town" across the entire state. There are very few large towns in the state, and they're all so far and few between that a drive between two of them is a pretty long road trip. True to the state’s whole small-town vibe, people tend to know each other around here very well.
They like to gossip and know things about each other. When locals do run into one another, they're very talkative—possibly because they haven’t talked to anyone else for a while and don’t know when the next time will be. If you like that friendly feel and everything that goes along with it, this could be the place for you.
Locals in Montana spend a ton of time outdoors—hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, skiing and more. They even have ice-climbing and ax-throwing competitions (not to be confused with ice-throwing and ax-climbing competitions). One resident described it as the "most beautiful and peaceful state in the union." Another resident said their home state as "one of the last truly wild states left."
Speaking of "wild," Montanans have to face their fair share of wildlife, even walking outside to get the Sunday paper—everything from cougars to grizzly bears and poisonous snakes. Hunting here is a way of life, and a self-protective necessity in many cases. The average household in Montana apparently holds 13 firearms—you know, in case 13 wild animals come a’chargin’.
Despite their rough, coarse exterior, locals describe their fellow residents as being very friendly—to the point that they'll wave to you as you pass on the highway. Montanans are also said to have a "live and let live" nature that’s extremely accepting and tolerant. Still, other residents stated that their fellow locals could be a bit on the stuck-up side. Like any place, though, it really all depends on who you talk to.
Now we’re going to bombard you with a bit of rapid-fire trivia, so hold on tight. To start, most of Montana was acquired during the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Remember George Armstrong Custer from your high school history books? Well, his “Last Stand” took place here along the Little Bighorn River back in 1876 when the US Army tried to move the Native Americans to reservations. Spoiler: Didn’t work out well for him and his men.
Montana is the only state in the nation to share borders with three Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan). The weather in the state tends to be extremely windy, and is considered one of the gustiest in the country.
Montana has been “designated” as one of the three "American Redoubt" states, along with Idaho and Wyoming. Basically, it's said to be a safe haven to retreat to, should the American economy ever go belly-up—or the zombie apocalypse should strike. The state was chosen due to its super-low population density and lack of natural hazards.
It's also home to approximately 100 different species of mammals, which is more than any other state in the country. The state is made up of many national forests, mountains, rivers, plains, desert areas and badlands—home to many furry critters, varmints and other sorts. There are nearly 30,000 farms in the state, and many ranches with wildlife refuges are scattered throughout the state. So yeah, you could say it’s pretty wild.
When they're not busy defending themselves from natural predators, Montanans love to eat. Stroopwafels are a big deal here. They're basically Dutch caramel waffle cookies, and they're apparently to die for. But before they’re allowed their dessert, Montanans chow down on pizza with some unique toppings—like sweet potato, bacon and chipotle sauce.
So what do people do in Montana when they're not doomsday-prepping or gazing into a gorgeous sky? Well, more than you might think, in fact.
Here are just a few local don't-you-dare-miss activities:
We could probably go on and on about this place until the Montana sky ends, but wouldn’t you rather hear from some real locals about life here? That’s what we thought. are a few pros and cons of living in Big Sky Country to help you make your decision.
Pros (as voted on by real-life Montanans):
Cons (as voted on by real-life Montanans):
For giggles, we've looked into some of Montana’s most outdated, “Huh?”-worthy laws still in existence.
Here are a few from onlyinyourstate.com:
Well, there you have it. Our friendly little guide to ‘Tana life with a side of grizzlies. While we probably didn’t tackle every single one of your questions, we hope we gave you enough to get those decision-makin' wheels a'turnin'.
It's up to you to decide if you'd like to become a Montanan—exploring miles of preserved nature, checking out super-cool ghost towns, throwing sales tax out the door, and dodging fast-running big cats.
Good luck, and don’t forget your car’s emergency preparedness kit.
NOTE: if you decide Montana isn't right for you, we've covered all the other states, too, to help you find YOUR spot. If peace, quiet and cougars aren’t your thing, have you thought about New York City?