Montana State University

Academics

At Montana State University, you will discover a unique university with an outstanding reputation. MSU is ranked in the top 100 research universities in the country by the National Science Foundation, and the Carnegie classification system ranks MSU among the very high research activity, "top tier" institutions in the US with over US $103 million in research and creative activity each year.

MSU offers over 100 bachelor programs, 40 master programs and 16 doctoral programs in colleges of: agriculture, arts and architecture, business, education, health and human development, engineering, letters and sciences, and nursing. The on-line comprehensive MSU Catalog is your best source of up-to-date information about the University.

Montana State University's Points of Excellence are:

  • Nationally and internationally recognized professors
  • Cutting-edge research
  • Opportunities for hands-on, active learning
  • Student-centered campus
  • Spectacular educational setting

Academics in the U.S. Classroom

Montana State University presents students with a challenging program of study that will likely be substantially different from the academic programs offered in the student's home country. Some important components of study in the classrooms at MSU are highlighted below:

*Each new student is assigned an academic adviser. This faculty member will play a key role in the student's academic career.

*Course content and assignments are carefully scheduled. Students will find the need to pay close attention to procedures and requirements announced by the instructor. Attendance, class participation, and daily/weekly assignments are a significant part of the grade earned in most courses.

*The classroom environment tends to be less formal than in most other countries. The atmosphere is generally relaxed with a good amount of discussion or exchange between professor and students. Dress is casual. Presentations by students are common in many courses.

*Emphasis is placed on creative research, even in beginning level courses. Students will be asked to draw their own conclusions, based on what they have read or experienced.

*Many courses will have "hands-on" or practical elements.

*Most courses will utilize computer technology in some form. Strong keyboarding skills are an essential skill. Computer labs and assistance are available for students in various locations around campus, but many students have a personal computer and subscribe to internet access in their residence hall room or apartment. Advisers, professors, and MSU administrative staff will use e-mail to communicate assignments or other information to students. A portal system is also widely used on campus. All MSU students are given e-mail accounts upon arrival on campus.

*In order to graduate with a bachelor's degree, students follow a specific degree program which is outlined in the University Catalog. University Core requirements as well as departmental requirements must be fulfilled. Core requirements may be completed at any time during the program of study. Departmental requirements often follow a sequential order in which earlier courses serve as the foundation for more advanced courses.

U.S. Higher Education Overview

The American system of education starts with six years of primary school followed by six years of secondary school and then various higher education options. These include vocational or technical schools that offer short-term programs of several months to two years of specialized training resulting in various types of certificates. Community or junior colleges are another option, and most offer a variety of certificate and two-year associate degree programs. Four year colleges and universities offer bachelors degrees and, in the case of universities with graduate schools, masters and doctoral (PhD) degrees. Professional schools, often located within universities, offer advanced degrees in fields such as medicine, law, and pharmacology. Any of these types of schools can be public or private, with public institutions supported in large part by government funding and taxes while private institutions rely on funding from non-governmental sources.

MSU is an example of a public university that offers bachelors degrees (4 years of study) at the undergraduate level, and then masters (1-2 years of additional study) and doctoral (4-7 years of study beyond the bachelor's degree level) degrees at the graduate level. Students can choose from many major areas of study and can change majors easily if they wish. Undergraduate programs combine approximately one year of general study in a broad selection of coursework with three years of more specialized study in the major. Most majors allow a student a good deal of freedom in the exact courses selected, and permit some entirely free choices in classes known as "electives." Graduate degree programs are much more focused and require original research.

MSU follows a semester system with two main semesters (early September to mid-December and mid-January to mid-May) plus a summer term. Some schools use a quarter system with three main quarters, followed by a summer term. Semesters are approximately 15 weeks in duration while quarters last about 12 weeks.

International students attending school on a student visa are required to maintain full-time status, which would mean attending the two main semesters or three quarters with summer term being optional. For undergraduates, full-time would mean taking at least 4 classes (or 12 credit hours) per semester, except in summer, when students are permitted to take fewer or no classes according to their own needs. In order to complete a bachelor's degree in only four years, students normally take an average of 5 classes per semester. Graduate students must take at least three classes (or 9 credit hours) during each of the main semesters to remain in full-time status. Additionally, undergraduates must maintain at least a satisfactory or "C" grade to remain in good standing at the university and graduates must maintain at least a good or "B" average.

Students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are encouraged (and often required) to obtain some practical experience in their field of study. At MSU, on-campus research jobs can provide this type of experience, and undergraduate research is required of all students before they graduate. Additionally, students who are in status with their visa requirements can get permission to work off campus for specified periods of time in jobs related to their major area of study. Formal internships are available to students in some fields of study and a year of optional practical training is permitted in a professional job in the U.S. upon graduation.