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If you are a math whiz interested in pursuing a career in mathematics, you have likely pondered this question: Is a degree in mathematics worth it?

The short answer is that earning a mathematics degree can lead to some incredibly successful career options, from accounting to actuarial science to game design.

What Does a Mathematician Do for a Living?

The next logical question you have asked yourself is, What is a mathematician? There are a lot of misconceptions about what mathematicians do and where they work, and pop culture like A Beautiful Mind or Pi don’t do a lot to make the life of a mathematician look attractive. But in fact modern business, government, and technology are built on mathematics. 

Here is a typical mathematician’s job description:

A Mathematician applies mathematical techniques/theories to solve every day practical problems by collecting and analyzing data. A theoretical mathematician’s job description will include the techniques needed to develop new principles and recognize previously unknown inter-relationships among math principles.

Conversely, applied mathematicians utilize mathematical modeling theories and computational methods to solve (and often design) problems that interfere in government operations, business, or engineering, among others.

Most Popular Schools with Online Mathematics Degree Programs

Math occupations had a median annual wage of $90,410 in May 2019, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $39,810.

OccupationJob SummaryEntry-Level Education2019 Median Pay
ActuariesActuaries use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty.Bachelor’s degree$108,350
Mathematicians and StatisticiansMathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve problems.Master’s degree$92,030
Operations Research AnalystsOperations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help solve complex issues.Bachelor’s degree$84,810
Source: 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2019-29 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Most Affordable Online Mathematics Degree Programs

How Do I Become a Mathematician?

Most entry-level mathematicians typically are required to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in government work. However, beyond the federal government,  mathematician positions typically require a graduate-level mathematics-related degree.

Many private industries require mathematics professionals to earn their Ph.D.; however, there are many opportunities to enter those positions with a master’s degree while earning your doctorate level.

What Can You Do with a Mathematics Degree?

The many different jobs for a mathematician include careers that range from accountants to economists to engineers, among others.

Entry-level mathematician jobs will generally require a bachelor’s level degree for government work; however, entry-level mathematician jobs in private industries will typically require a graduate degree or higher.

Most careers for math majors can be categorized as either pure mathematics or applied mathematics. Those who wish for careers for a math major in the applied mathematics sector of the industry will find mathematics major jobs that collaborate with chemists or engineers (or any other professional who needs solving complicated math problems). Applied mathematician jobs are available for those with the skills to solve real-life and practical dilemmas and problems.

Jobs for a mathematics degree major who wish to work in pure mathematics are typically available in the world of academia. Pure mathematician jobs are tasked with the responsibility of creating/contributing to math disciplines and complex theoretical mathematics problems. Jobs for a degree in mathematics at the university level typically require a doctoral-level degree to become a professor.

Consider these jobs for a mathematician:

Statistics

Statistics is often a great option for those pursuing a mathematics major jobs. Many careers for math majors in the realm of statistics will include conducting surveys to college relevant statistical information, which is then used to identify inferences and interpretations. Jobs for a degree in mathematics in statistics cross disciplines and range from biology to politics.

Teaching

Many jobs for a mathematician are available in the field of teaching. Mathematician jobs in education include teaching at the high school level, college, or tutoring jobs for a mathematics degree.

Economics/Finance

The fields of finance and economics will also offer many options for careers for a math major. Finance professionals develop financial strategies and plans. Economists are responsible for focusing their efforts on economic trends in commerce.

Theoretical Mathematics

Jobs for a mathematics degree major in theoretical math includes the development of new principles while expanding current theoretical knowledge within the many mathematics subfields.

Degree Type – Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral

Associate’s Degree in Mathematics  

Students enrolled in an on-campus or online associates degree in mathematics begin to study core mathematical concepts that include –

  • Calculus.
  • Algebra.
  • Statistics.
  • Geometry.
  • Trigonometry, among others.

In addition, students enrolled in an associates degree in mathematics online degree program will also be required to complete general education requirements. Most associate degree in math programs require the completion of 60 to 66 credits units to graduate.

Associate degree holders in math often choose to transfer to a four-year school to earn their baccalaureate degree.

Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics  

The majority of online bachelors in mathematics degree online programs prepare students for careers in government, private industry, or to move on to a graduate degree in mathematics. Typically, a bachelors in mathematics online degree program will require 120 semester units to graduate over four years.

Many online bachelors degree in mathematics programs offer students an academic concentration, which usually begins in their junior year. Most graduates from on-campus or online bachelors in mathematics degree programs are usually qualified to apply for teacher’s state certification as a primary or secondary school teacher.

The curriculum for an on-campus or online bachelors degree in mathematics program will begin with general education and then focus on relevant mathematical topics like algebra (linear/abstract), differential equations, discrete math, and statistics, to name a few.

Many students enrolled in a bachelors in mathematics online programs plan to pursue a more advanced degree but do so while they work full-time. It is noted the those interested in pursuing a postsecondary teaching career will likely need a minimum of a master’s degree.

Master’s Degree in Mathematics  

Those who wish to become educators at the university level will typically need to earn their online mathematics masters degree. Students enrolled in a master in mathematics online degree program begin to explore and deepen their understanding of a particular math subfield.

Degree candidates enrolled in a mathematics master online degree program will typically complete the degree in two years, although many online mathematics masters degree programs offer accelerated formats for students interested in earning their degree as quickly as possible.

The curriculum for a masters in mathematics online or on-campus program will depend on the exact area of study within mathematics. Those enrolled in a mathematics masters online program to study pure math will take classes in numerical analysis, discrete math, calculus, and algebra, among others.

Students who enroll in a masters in mathematics online program dedicated to applied math typically seek careers in finance, operational research, actuarial science, or math biology, to name a few. Most online mathematics masters degree programs require a thesis, or alternatively, some graduates can opt for a comprehensive final exam or a capstone project.

Additionally, a mathematics masters online or on-campus degree program can prepare students to specialize in mathematics education for students who are in grades Kindergarten through Grade 12. 

Doctoral Degree in Mathematics  

Students who earn their on-campus or online PhD in mathematics are typically vying for a professorship at the university level or to complete research in a wide range of advanced mathematics subfields. The majority of online mathematics PhD programs will require approximately five years to finish. Additionally, a mathematics PhD online degree candidate will complete a final examination and a dissertation.

At a minimum, students applying for an online doctorate in mathematics program must already possess a master’s level degree in math or a closely related field. The dissertation for an online PhD in mathematics will be designed to research unanswered questions in one of the many math sub-specialty fields. The reality is that many jobs in the federal government are available to those still enrolled in an on-campus or online mathematics PhD program.

Mathematics Program Accreditation

Accreditation is the process that is used to confirm or validate the credentials of a higher learning institution (or a degree program) by a neutral, third-party organization or agency. The federal government’s USDE is responsible for the regional accreditation of colleges and universities.

In addition, many industries offer specialized accreditation; however, specialized mathematics accreditation does not exist currently. Because there is no specialized accreditation for math programs, it is important that students understand the accreditation status of the school they intend in which they intend to enroll.

To research the best college for mathematics, students must research the accreditation statuses of those schools deemed the best schools for mathematics. The best colleges for math majors will have regional accreditation from one of the six USDE accreditation regional agencies.

Regionally-accredited best mathematics colleges will also allow students to apply for federal financial student aid. Additionally, these regionally accredited best schools for mathematics will offer students the ability to transfer credits between other accredited best mathematics colleges.

It is noted that if you are interested in enrolling in the best math majors college, it is important that the selected degree program be accredited by the CAEP – the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

CAEP

The CAEP – Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation offers a long history of accreditation for those best colleges for math educators at the primary or secondary level. The council seeks to improve accreditation value in the field of educational math.

The best college for mathematics educators will have received accreditation from CAEP. Students pursuing careers in math education are encouraged to select the best math majors college.

Mathematics Certification/Licensure

The field of mathematics offers many options of certificates in mathematics, including options that include a graduate certificate in mathematics. A certificate in mathematics is not generally required to secure a job but often is a smart option for those wanting to advance their career.

There are a variety of on-campus and online mathematics certificate programs from which to select. 

The AMS – the American Mathematical Society is one of the most popular professional organizations that offer mathematics certificates online on-campus. The AMA’s mathematics certificate online options require a number of qualification steps including, a comprehensive set of exams.  

Students interested in specializing in high school math education have the option of enrolling in many different certificates in mathematics programs.

Another online certificate in mathematics option is the Mathematics Specialist Certificate. This mathematics certification online program is designed for educators currently working in the classroom or for those who are brand new to math education and wish to specialize in primary or secondary math education. This mathematics certification online program offers the flexibility required to complete a degree as a working student.

Another type of online mathematics certificate program is the Certificate in Mathematics in Applied Math. This mathematics certification option is for those students who want to pursue additional studies in the area of math, chemistry, physics, business, biology, computer science, or finance. This certification in mathematics is also appropriate for teachers who wish to improve their mathematics proficiency.

The reality is there are many mathematics certificates and programs available for any student who wishes to improve their math skills. While many are available in traditional classrooms, there are also many mathematics certification online programs that are both affordable and easily accessible from most home computers.

Earning a mathematics certificate online is a great way to augment current degrees or previous work history/experience.

Scholarships

The cost of an academic degree will be dependent on the type of degree one seeks. One of the primary ways of defraying the cost of college is to apply and receive one of the many available mathematics scholarships. 

There are a wide variety of scholarships for mathematics designed to support a variety of student populations.  Consider these scholarships in mathematics –

The American Mathematical Society Centennial Fellowship

The American Mathematical Society Centennial Fellowship offers a scholarship for those students involved in mathematical research. Students must hold a doctoral degree for at least three years, but applications are accepted for those on tenure or post-doctoral track. This is a non-renewable fellowship, with an application deadline of December 1. 

EPP Undergraduate Scholarship Program

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration offers the EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholarship program offers students who have finished their sophomore year and are enrolled in a minority serving institution’s program dedicated to the mathematical and environmental sciences. This $45,000 scholarship for mathematics in science is available to US Citizens who are enrolled in a four-year school as a full-time student.

The American Association of University Women Fellowships (AAUWF)

The AAUW offers scholarships for women in mathematics for the past 125+ years. The AAUWF offers selected fellowships that range from $5,000 to $18,000 for those women pursuing a math degree from an accredited higher learning institution.

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