Balancing Out the Montana “Mountain Tax”

Editor’s note: Make It Missoula is collaborating with the Missoula Job Service to help people find local jobs so that they can move home to Missoula or continue to call Missoula home.

We’ll be regularly posting both job listings and job hunting and interview advice. Be sure to watch the Make It Missoula Facebook page for new job listing announcements.


Choosing to live in Montana can be both bitter and sweet.

Many Montanans—and Missoulians in particular—talk about the “wilderness tax” or “mountain tax.” These terms describe the differences between the wages we earn here in the west and those we could earn in another state for the same job.

In short, we take a sizeable pay cut to reside here amidst the mountains and forests.

You can't put a price on Montana's wilderness.

While it is true that the wages here are low—Montana is one of the lowest income states in the nation according to census reports on both household and individual incomes—other factors make living in Missoula worth the lower pay:


  1. Lower Crime Rates. In comparison to many other states, Montana is a safe place to live. The most recent census found Montana has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the nation.
  2. Higher Education Levels. Missoula’s level of education is higher than the rest of the state and the nation as a whole. For instance, 16% of Missoulians over the age of 25 have attained a graduate or professional degree as compared to 10.4% of the nation and 9% of the state. These highly educated individuals help make Missoula a vibrant and innovative place to live.
  3. Proximity to Nature. As a Missoula resident, you are close to trails, forests, wildlife refuges, and rivers. For example, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness—only 4 miles north of Missoula—offers opportunities for day hikes, camping, and wildlife sighting. Twenty-five miles south of Missoula you can enjoy the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to muskrats, herons, bald eagles, and red foxes.
  4. Sense of Community. From concerts at Caras Park to the Missoula Marathon to our unique documentary film festivals, Missoula inspires a sense of community often lacking in urban areas.

Although we may earn less by choosing to live in Missoula, think of the things we gain.

Perhaps the view is worth it all!


Looking for a job in Missoula? Be sure to check out our Missoula Job Listings.  Be sure you “LIKE” the Missoula Job Service Facebook Page for daily post on job opening. You’ll also find Missoula-area information on Job Hunting ResourcesJob Hunting Tips, Job Interview Tips, tips for writing Cover Letters and Resumes.


Jennifer Lodine-Chaffey was born in Missoula and received an MA in History from the University of Montana in 2006. She currently works as an Employment Consultant at the Missoula Job Service, an organization that offers programs and services to assist employers and job seekers alike. Those looking for employment can view job openings on our job board, website, and social media outlets. Employment Consultants provide résumé reviews, conduct practice interviews, and offer skills testing.

The Job Service also provides a self-service area where job seekers have access to phones, a fax machine, a copier, and computers. Our qualified staff also offers business consulting services, including employee recruitment and retention assistance. Additionally, we provide financial support for businesses looking to train both new and current employees.

We are here to help our community!