Students enrolling in master's or Ph.D. programs in mathematics typically have earned bachelor's degrees in mathematics or statistics, though a bachelor's degree in a related area that includes math coursework may be acceptable as well. Some Ph.D. programs may also require students to have completed a master's degree prior to entry. A master's degree in mathematics is designed for students looking for careers in the advanced application of mathematics. A Ph.D. in mathematics is ideal for statisticians and math teachers pursuing more advanced math careers.
A Ph.D. qualifies students to become mathematicians with various government and private agencies, though most mathematicians work for the federal government. With a master's degree in math, students can find jobs with engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, telecommunications, education and computer programming businesses. Program specialization options for students include education and teaching, statistics, computational math and computer science.
Master of Science in Mathematics
A master's degree program in mathematics teaches advanced mathematical theories, concepts and systems. Because computer technology is often used in math, many programs offer courses in computer programming and networking administration. Many courses require students to research complex math equations and use different numerical methods to solve math problems. The completion of a thesis is also required in these programs. Courses also teach students how to apply math theories to practical, real-life problems in the workplace. Typical courses may include:
- Statistical research
- Partial differential equations
- Applied mathematics research
- Probability and statistics
- Programming with numerical methods
- Mathematical data modeling
Ph.D. in Mathematics
Most math Ph.D. programs require from three to five years of study and allow students to conduct independent mathematical research studies. A mathematics Ph.D. program offers courses that are based on complex math research studies. Programs focus on a doctoral dissertation that presents students' knowledge of mathematics and specific areas of study. Most courses deal extensively with statistics and applying mathematical concepts to engineering and computer technology. While the dissertation makes up a significant portion of academic credits, other courses may include:
- Vector calculus
- Dynamic mathematical systems
- Scientific and technical computing
- Boundary value problems
- Multivariate statistical analysis
- Linear statistical models
Career Information and Employment Outlook
With a master's degree in mathematics, students can pursue careers as statisticians. There were approximately 29,870 statisticians in 2015, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Some statisticians work for local, state or federal government agencies, including the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture. Many other statisticians worked with private organizations in medical, engineering and computer technology research. The median annual salary for statisticians in May 2015 was $80,110 (www.bls.gov).
With a Ph.D. in mathematics, statisticians or math teachers can become mathematicians. Mathematicians are generally required to have a Ph.D., and a background in computer science or engineering is often preferred. There were approximately 3,170 mathematicians in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Mathematicians earned a median annual salary of $111,110 in the same year. A 21% job growth was expected for these workers for the years 2014 through 2024, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Although a master's degree is sufficient for statisticians and basic teaching positions, a Ph.D. in mathematics is required for mathematicians, postsecondary math instructors and those interested in advanced mathematical research studies. With a Ph.D. in mathematics or statistics, statisticians can also become self-employed statistical consultants.
After completing a master's or Ph.D. program in mathematics, graduates have a wide range of options available to them. Many choose to become statisticians or conduct research for a variety of different companies or institutions, with Ph.D. graduates having the most opportunity for high-level careers, such as mathematicians.