Mathematics is the language of science. Everything from biology to physics, from computer programming to economics, incorporates math in one way or another. Math is a critical component of work in a huge spectrum of fields, where it is used to make predictions, interpret data, and arrive at informed financial decisions. If you can master math, then you will know more than just the “M” in STEM. You will also have the educational foundation needed to interpret and understand the rest of the STEM subjects, which —it bears noting —often to big salaries and strong job security. Studying math opens up numerous opportunities in cutting edge scientific research, medicine, finance, technology, and (ironically) innumerable other professional prospects.
If you already know what you’re looking for, go ahead and jump to our ranking of The 50 Best Mathematics Programs in the World Today.
If you need a little more information, continue on.
Covered in this article:
- What do I need to know about accreditation?
- What kinds of Mathematics degrees are there?
- What can I do with a Mathematics degree?
- How much can I make with a Mathematics degree?
- What Professional Mathematics Associations or Societies should I join?
Let’s start with the one thing you absolutely must be sure of before you proceed: accreditation.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
The last thing you want to do is waste time and money on a degree that won’t be taken seriously by future employers. That’s why it is absolutely imperative that you make sure your school has the proper accreditation before you proceed.
As with most other higher education disciplines, accreditation is of critical importance in determining where to obtain a mathematics degree. Program accreditation is granted by accrediting agencies that are formally recognized by the Department of Education. Only accredited colleges or universities are eligible for financial aid. Moreover, accreditation typically indicates that an institution is not only maintaining its standards but that it continues to advance and remain current within its field. As you proceed in your search, you’ll find both institutional accreditation and program accreditation. The former refers to school wide accreditation and the latter refers to the accreditation conferred upon your specific discipline and degree program.
Regional Accrediting Agencies
The institutional accrediting sector is divided into regional and national accrediting agencies. As a general rule of thumb, regional accrediting agencies carry more credibility and merit. When you’re seeking out a college or university, you’ll really be looking for the stamp of approval from one of the following seven regional accrediting agencies:
- The Higher Learning Commission
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Certain fields and careers —such as law and medicine —require very specific degree program accreditations. But math is an extremely open-ended field, one where you’ll learn a set of skills applicable to a wide variety of career paths. Consequently, there is no special accrediting agency you need beyond that granted by a regional accreditation agency.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice. You can also take a look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
To learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
Now that you get the idea, let’s take a look at some of your degree options.
What Kinds of Mathematics Degrees Are There?
Math studies are usually divided into several distinct approaches: applied mathematics, which blur the lines between math and science; theoretical mathematics, which blur the lines between math and philosophy; and education-based approaches, which focus on teaching methodology alongside the math itself. How you choose to integrate math into your own studies should be shaped by your particular set of skills and interests. While each of these degrees may deal in similar foundational subject matter, your level of degree attainment will have a direct impact on the professional opportunities available to you.
Associate Degree in Mathematics
An Associate’s degree in Mathematics is the first stepping stone to a world of opportunity. With just this introductory, two-year, 60-credit program, you qualify to pursue a four-year degree in nearly any of the STEM disciplines. Your courses will provide basic education in subjects such as Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Statistics. Each of these foundational subjects applies in myriad ways to the sciences, as well as a first foot forward if you ultimately hope to become an accountant, a policy consultant, an economist, or a math teacher. While you will need more than an associate’s degree to land one of these jobs, an associate’s degree in mathematics is a great way to get started.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Calculus I through III
- Discrete Math
- Differential Equations
- Linear Algebra
- Statistics I and II
Now that you know what to look for, check out The 50 Best Mathematics Programs in the World Today.
Bachelor of Mathematics
The typical Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics will require 120 credits. This should take you approximately four years to complete, though some may wish to take an accelerated three-year program. In addition to introductory level instruction in subjects like algebra, calculus and trigonometry, you will delve into increasingly complex material. You will also have the opportunity to add a variety of specializations such as Economics, Business, Computer Science, or Probability and Statistics. The bachelor’s degree in mathematics is a fairly comprehensive course of study that will open up an array of opportunities in the job market. As a Bachelor of Mathematics, you will hold entry-level qualifications to work at the assistant level in an accounting firm, as a statistician, a political analyst, a census-taker, or in any number of positions requiring regular application of math skills. In many instances however, you will need an advanced to degree to achieve true career mobility and greater earning potential.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Vector Calculus
- Formal Mathematical Reasoning and Writing
- Analysis of Ordinary Differential Equations
- Computational Thinking and Doing
- Theory of Complex Variables
- Introduction to Abstract Algebra
- Applied Partial Differential Equations
- Theory of Statistics
What’s the Difference between a BA and a BS in Mathematics?
Overall, the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Mathematics and the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Mathematics are the same in terms of the Mathematics requirements. You will be expected to take a Mathematical core, some supporting classes from a related subject such as computer science, and the required courses for your chosen area of emphasis or specialization.
The difference between the degrees is a simple one. The Bachelor of Arts requires additional humanities classes and is not science-intensive while the Bachelor of Science is science-intensive an includes additional laboratory requirements.
Now that you know a bit more, check out The 5 Best Online Bachelor in Mathematics Degree Programs.
You might also want to check out The 20 Best Online Master in Supply Chain Management Degree Programs or The 50 Best Mathematics Programs in the World Today.
Master of Mathematics
A Master’s Degree in Mathematics can take a lot of different forms, and as such, the degree requirements can vary significantly, from a minimum of 24 credits up to 90 credits or more. This degree will typically take one to two years, however slower part-time tracks are often available. There are also programs that can bundle your undergraduate and graduate degrees into a single, accelerated five-year program. This is something you’ll want to determine as you pursue your bachelor’s degree. If your program makes this option available, it could be a great way to save money. Your master’s degree program will most often provide you with an opportunity to focus on your chosen area of specialization. This is the point at which your career ambitions and coursework should intersect. A Master’s Degree in mathematics could qualify you for any number of well-paying jobs from actuarial work and quantitative analysis to civil engineering and business planning. If you pair your degree program with the proper teaching courses, your master’s in math could also qualify you to sit for a teaching certification in your state.
What Courses Will Will I Take?
- Analysis I and II
- Modern Algebra
- Numerical Analysis
- History of Mathematics
- General Topology
- Theory of Functions of Real Variables
- Metric Spaces
What’s the Difference between an MA and an MS in Mathematics?
Similar to the Bachelor’s degrees, the difference between the Masters of Science and the Masters of Art in Mathematics is a small one. The MS track will require slightly more challenging and science based courses while the MA will focus on more liberal arts courses. An MS may focus on Mathematics in relation to Scientific Computing or Finance, whereas the MA might be a good choice if you plan to pair your focus on Mathematics with education coursework.
PhD of Mathematics
The PhD in Mathematics is the most in-depth and advanced degree in the field. It typically takes at least five years to complete, which includes two years of coursework and three years spent on your dissertation. Only those interested in making advances in the field should considered a PhD as this is a deeply research-intensive program. This degree is usually mandatory for anyone interested in becoming a tenured professor and is of value for those who intend to ultimately work in a research capacity, or in the development and assessment of public policy. The PhD also grants a significant advantage in the job market over students with a Master’s degree.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Real Analysis
- Complex Analysis
- Differential Topology
- Differential Geometry
- Advanced Numerical Analysis
- Applied Ordinary/Partial Differential Equations
- Set Theory
- Mathematical Logic
If you’re not sure where to start on your program, check out The 100 Best Online Colleges for 2018–2019 or The 50 Best Mathematics Programs in the World Today.
Depending on your area of concentration, we might also recommend taking a look at The 20 Best Online Bachelor in Computer Science Degree Programs or The 50 Best Engineering/Technology and Computer Science Programs in the World.
What can I do with a Mathematics degree?
Your Mathematics degree can be the key to an array of intriguing and well-paying Careers in Mathematics. Here are a few of the top careers in your field:
- Operations Research Analyst
- Budget Analyst
What kind of salary can I earn with a Mathematics degree?
As degree programs go, mathematics is certainly among the more lucrative. If you have the skills and the patience to advance through your degree program, you could have a chance to earn a fairly comfortable living. The Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights the annual salary for some of the top jobs in your field:
- Mathematician and Statistician: Median Salary, 2016—$81,950
- Actuaries: Median Salary, 2016—$100,610
- Operation Research Analyst: Median Salary, 2016—$79,200
- Quantitative Finance: Median Salary, 2016—$81,760
- Accounting: Median Salary, 2016—$68,150
- Mechanical Engineer: Median Salary, 2016—$84,190
- Civil Engineer: Median Salary, 2016—$49,980
Are There Professional Mathematics Associations or Societies I should join?
Professional Associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for Mathematics associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
American Mathematical Society: A national and international outreach supporting mathematicians through a variety of means including publications, research, scholarships, education, meetings, and advocacy.
American Statistical Association: Currently the largest association for statisticians, this group encourages ethical use, proper application, and comprehensive education of the statistical science.
Association for Women in Mathematics: This not-for-profit entity encourages and supports women in all areas of the mathematical sciences by promoting equal opportunities.
Benjamin Banneker Association: A free resource providing additional mathematics practice in numerous areas as well as information on other supportive entities.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: For those looking to teach mathematics to others, this is a powerful resource providing information on publications, research, advocacy, classroom resources, conferences, professional development, and more.
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics: Encourages strong communication and positive interactions between mathematicians and other scientific communities.
Society of Actuaries: Provides advice and leadership strategies to Actuaries in an effort to improve financial outcomes for clients.
Now that you know a bit more about how to earn a Mathematics degree, jump to the 100 Best Online Colleges for 2018–2019 or check out The 50 Best Mathematics Programs in the World Today and find the best school for you!