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 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.
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.
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