2020 Accredited Online Math Degrees
Online math degrees are offered at many colleges and universities and at every educational level, from associate to master's. You can browse our list of great options for an online math degree.
When you are weighing your options and researching schools, be sure to pay close attention to institutional accreditation. Accreditation is a general term for the validating of a college's credentials, by a nonpartisan organization. Because there is no specific programmatic accrediting agency for mathematics, understanding and assessing institutional accreditation is an important aspect of choosing a quality degree program.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Mathematics Degrees
Online Mathematics Degree Overview & Career Information
At the undergraduate level, math students take courses in a wide variety of math theories and applications, such as statistics, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and economic modeling. A bachelor's degree in math can lead to careers in finance, economics, computer engineering and other fields that require a strong quantitative understanding. Master's degree students complete a thesis in a chosen area of mathematics, which may be theoretical or applied; this takes the form of a research project that is overseen by the student's faculty adviser. Master's graduates can land a greater variety of jobs in research and development areas.
Mathematicians generally choose one of two specializations: theoretical or applied math. The choice of a specialization results in a greater focus on either application of mathematics or on the derivation of mathematical theory, but in both areas, mathematicians will need to be well-versed in the past study of theory as well as contemporary mathematical thought.
Many students choose to undertake an internship while completing their bachelor’s degree, to gain experience applying their coursework in a real-world setting. Because many math students expect to move on to higher degrees before seeking full-time employment, internships also help to break up long sequences of study.
Online Associate Degrees in Mathematics
Associate degree programs in mathematics introduce students to the core concepts in algebra, calculus, trigonometry, statistics, and geometry. Students will also take classes in general education subjects, such as English composition, social sciences, and fine arts. Possible topics for coursework include measurement, functions, real numbers, polynomials, integers, graphs, probability, and equations. Most associate level math programs consist of about 64 credit hours of courses and take about two years of full-time study to complete. Programs accept candidates who are high school graduates or GED certificate holders with an excellent background in mathematics. Students wishing to take an associate degree may choose whether to enroll in an Associate of Art (AA) program, which features a wider range of liberal arts classes, or an Associate of Science (AS) program, which includes more technical courses and may better prepare students to enter the workforce.
Associate degree holders in math may transfer to four-year colleges to earn their bachelor's degrees. Many associate degree holders find employment in bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing. Graduates may also work as payroll clerks, computer technicians, or insurance sales representatives.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Mathematics
Online bachelor’s degrees in math help individuals who want to prepare for a role in math education, a math-intensive career or for graduate level math study. Bachelor's degree programs usually consist of about 120 credit hours and full-time students can complete their studies in four years. During the first two years of a bachelor’s degree, students take classes in liberal arts areas, such as social science, natural science, humanities, and fine arts. This curriculum is designed to help all students to develop useful critical thinking and communication skills, as well as improved cultural knowledge. In the final two years of the program, students focus on math topics including calculus, linear and abstract algebra, statistics, differential equations, and discrete and logical mathematics, all taken in sequences of varying length. Many undergraduate math students also complete an internship related to their field of study. Because many bachelor's level math students expect to move on to higher degrees before they seek full-time employment, internships provide the opportunity to apply theoretical coursework in real-world settings.
Some bachelor’s programs offer specialization tracks in relevant quantitative areas, such as actuarial science, industrial mathematics, or systems analysis. Other bachelor’s degrees are designed to prepare math teachers for employment and include courses in curriculum design and instruction. Graduates from these programs are typically qualified to apply for state certification to become primary or secondary mathematics teachers. Postsecondary teaching, however, requires a master's or doctoral degree.
The quantitative and analytical skills of math bachelor’s degree graduates are highly valued in a number of career areas. Possible roles for graduates include actuary, operations research specialist, investment analyst, bioinformatics analyst, and statistician. Many departments within the federal government - such as internal revenue, census procedures, and defense - require a bachelor's degree or the equivalent of 24 semester hours of math coursework for their entry-level positions.
Online Master's Degrees in Mathematics
The master’s program in math gives students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of a particular mathematical area to prepare for a career in math or further study in a doctoral program. The master's degree requires about two years of coursework and either a thesis or a teaching practicum. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in math or another quantitative area to gain admittance to a master's degree program.
The required courses in the math master’s degree program depend on the degree focus. Common specializations include pure mathematics, applied mathematics, and math education. Pure math students take a broad range of advanced courses in areas like calculus, numerical analysis, geometry, and algebra. Applied mathematics programs are interdisciplinary and help students gain the quantitative skills to work in areas like actuarial science, finance, mathematical biology, or operations research. Those specializing in math education complete courses in instruction, and may also complete teaching practicums in the classroom. Students must complete a thesis project in an area of math theory or applied research to be awarded a math master’s degree, although some programs allow students to opt for a comprehensive examination and more coursework instead of the thesis.
Math master’s degree graduates qualify for a variety of careers in many sectors. Those interested in business may become financial analysts, market research analysts, statisticians, actuaries, operations researchers, or software developers. Others may go on to apply their math skills to particular areas of science, such as geoscience and biology. Many graduates also take up positions in the government, where they can use their knowledge of statistics and modeling.
Other online master’s degree programs specialize in math education. Many of these graduate programs also prepare students for state licensure as K-12 level math teachers. The master’s degree curriculum includes upper-level mathematics classes, as well as perspectives on math education. Common coursework topics may discuss classroom management, effective teaching strategies, diversity in the classroom, math instructional technology, and mathematics learning. Education-focused programs also require teaching practica and internships in a real classroom setting so that graduates gain hands-on teaching skills.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Mathematics
The mathematics doctorate, or Ph.D., allows students to study a wider range of advanced math topics and to undertake a research project in a specialized area of mathematics. These programs can take about five years to complete and require 15 to 25 courses, as well as the completion of a dissertation and a comprehensive exam. Applicants need an accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree in mathematics or a closely related quantitative area to quality for acceptance into Ph.D. programs. The math doctorate curriculum typically includes a few core classes, as well as many courses in the student’s area of specialization. Core classes might discuss topics such as numerical analysis, abstract algebra, or topology. Along with these courses, students choose elective courses in their focus area and complete seminars on carrying out new math research.
While coursework is a key part of the degree, math students must also develop a dissertation project as a prerequisite to graduation. This project might look into an unanswered question in mathematical biology, math education, algebra, combinatorics, statistics, or another subspecialization area, depending on the student’s interests. The student's faculty adviser helps shape and direct the research. A successful defense of the dissertation is one of the main requirements for being awarded the PhD.
Graduates of a math doctorate are qualified to become practicing mathematicians with private engineering and development firms, working alongside other scientists. Many federal government positions are open to math doctorate grads. PhD holders may also apply for faculty positions at colleges and universities to teach mathematics and conduct research. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, math PhD graduates with a strong understanding of a related industry area, such as computer science or operations research, are likely to have the best job prospects.
Online Certificates in Mathematics
There are many certification options available to math professionals. These certificates are not required for employment but can prove to be good options for anyone who is interested in networking or seeking advanced employment. The American Mathematical Society is the most popular certifying organization, requiring a series of exams and completion of a degree. There are other organizations that are more specialized, geared toward statisticians, applied mathematicians, engineers, or even women, minorities, or Europeans.
Students specializing in teaching high school math may be able to choose to take courses in numbers and operations or developing mathematical proficiency in algebra. These certificate programs give teachers the credentials they need to teach advanced-level mathematics at high schools or colleges. Students may also be able to transfer the credits earned in their certificate program to a master's degree in mathematics.
Individuals interested in applying for admission to a certificate in mathematics program must hold a bachelor's degree. Applicants need to submit the official transcripts from their prior postsecondary programs and may also need Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for consideration. Some schools set a minimum grade point average or GRE score that applicants must achieve to be accepted into a program. An 18-credit-hour program can be completed in less than one year.
The Importance of Accreditation
There is no specific accreditation agency governing the field of mathematics, but it is still important for students pursuing online math degrees to research the accreditation status of schools where they are interested in earning their degree or certification. Any institution you consider should have earned this important designation, which indicates that a school has met certain academic standards of quality. The Department of Education maintains a list of recognized regional and national accrediting agencies. Attending an institution that has been accredited by one of these agencies means you’ll be eligible for government financial aid. It will also mean your degree will be recognized by other educational institutions should you choose to transfer credits or continue your education at another institution in the future.
Students interested in preparing to become math teachers in public schools should also ensure that any teacher-preparation program they're considering has earned recognition from the board of education in the state where they hope to teach; this credential is required to earn a teaching license. TEACH.org (previously operated by the US Department of Education) has more information about the path to teaching in K-12 public schools.
What Students Will Learn in an Online Mathematics Program
The core math curriculum covers several advanced mathematics topics. Calculus, linear algebra, statistics, abstract algebra, and real analysis are commonly required classes. Other courses, such as formal logic or computer algorithms, have strong connections with mathematics and support the study of math theories. Along with the core curriculum, students may take upper-level math courses of their choosing or complete a minor in a related area. Math education students might take courses in geometry for teachers and applied math instruction, while students with a computer science minor would take courses in programming and operating systems.
Courses taken during a bachelor's degree typically include calculus, linear and abstract algebra, statistics, differential equations, and discrete and logical mathematics, all taken in sequences of varying length. Most online master's degree programs in mathematics are geared toward math education. Students can prepare to teach math at the elementary, middle school, or high school level. The master’s degree program contains upper-level mathematics classes, as well as perspectives on math education. Common coursework topics may discuss classroom management, effective teaching strategies, diversity in the classroom, math instructional technology, and mathematics learning. Education-focused programs also require teaching practicums and internships in a real classroom setting so that graduates gain hands-on teaching skills.
Degree programs in math that are not oriented toward education can usually be completed 100 percent online. Students learn new math concepts through online video lectures and tutorials. Email, instant messaging and video conferencing with instructors may also be used to aid student understanding. Programs that are designed to prepare graduates for the classroom will require some on-site work, usually in the form of teaching practicums (mock teaching workshops) and teaching work in a local school. Online programs work to accommodate online students by placing them in schools in their community.
Career Specializations for Mathematics Graduates
There is a wide variety of careers open to mathematics majors, from engineers to accountants, actuaries to economists.
Individuals who choose careers as mathematicians can focus on applied mathematics or pure mathematics. An applied mathematician collaborates with engineers, chemists, or anyone else who is in need of complex mathematical assistance. These mathematicians must be able to solve real-life, practically applicable math problems. A pure mathematician usually works in academia, creating and contributing to new mathematical disciplines, solving complex theoretical problems, and working with patterns. Pure mathematicians are relatively rare and usually have doctoral degrees that allow them to work as professors.
Additional career options for math majors include:
- Economics and Finance: Economists and financiers work with money. Economists track global economic trends to make predictions about the future of a nation's trade and commerce. Financiers help develop financial plans and make recommendations to individuals or companies about their financial futures.
- Statistics: Statisticians conduct surveys and collect statistical information, which they then interpret and apply to practical situations. Statistics professionals work in many different disciplines, ranging from politics to biology, and must be able to think logically and work accurately.
- Teaching: Students in the United States struggle with the math segments of standardized tests more than they do in any other subject. Qualified teachers with innovative and motivating approaches to math education are always in high demand.
- Theoretical Mathematics: These mathematicians construct new principles and discover previously unrecognized connections with already existing principles, expanding knowledge and establishing new theoretical foundations in subfields of math.
References
- American Mathematical Society. Accessed May 12, 2014. http://www.ams.org/home/page.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed May 12, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/mathematicians.htm.
- TEACH.org. Accessed May 12, 2014. https://www.teach.org.