Students interested in a college-level math education have a lot to consider, including degree options, curriculum, timelines and graduation requirements. There is also the question of how to learn – online, in a classroom, or using a combination of both? This guide simplifies the process by doing the research for you. Students can find information on specific courses, typical programs and career prospects.
Earning an Online Mathematics Degree
There are many disciplines of study that require at least some degree of classroom instruction, laboratory work or on-site internships. However, the subject of mathematics is conducive to earning a degree in an online-only format.
Students who opt for an online mathematics school don’t study in complete isolation. Online courses encourage and facilitate interaction with peers and instructors through a variety of communication tools. Message boards, emails, chat forums, Skype and other technologies allow students to get answers to questions, discuss class material with peers or professors, and engage in group study.
Top Online Math Programs
Those with a love of numbers and number theory often pursue a degree in mathematics, giving them opportunities in accounting, research, higher education and more. An online degree can give them the flexibility they need to pursue higher education at their own pace and without having to make sacrifices in other areas of their lives. But finding the program that offers the courses and specialization they need is tough. We compiled the data to offer our list of the best colleges for math.
Students studying mathematics can choose from a wide variety of educational paths. They may pursue the general mathematics degree, or specialize by taking courses in statistics, actuarial studies, accounting, computer science and more. The associate degree program forms a foundation for various math-related careers, while the bachelor’s degree program dives deeper into those basic areas and also introduces new concepts. The master’s degree is designed for those who have a clear educational path in mind, and the potential programs reflect that variety of options. Those who seek the PhD, aiming for the peak of their profession, can leverage their skills and education in almost any career that utilizes mathematics.
Program Highlight: Online Mathematics Degree — Bachelor's
Students enrolled in an online bachelor’s degree in math will gain an understanding of how society has used math historically and up to today. They must learn how to solve real-world problems using mathematical concepts and theory, as well as how to apply their knowledge to a variety of fields, such as science and technology.
Most bachelor’s programs require 120 credit hours to graduate and include required courses like English and the humanities. Students also have the opportunity to take electives and specialize in a particular field. Coursework for online programs is provided via Blackboard or college-based proprietary software, allowing students to access information at their convenience. However, students must have strong motivation and dedication.
Online mathematics degree programs are just as rigorous as traditional campus programs. Graduates may go on to careers in education, consulting, actuarial firms, operations research or government.
Associate Degree: Online Mathematics School
The two-year associate credential is the first step toward either entering the job force or moving into a higher degree program. The first year of the associate degree typically focuses on core requirements, including English and science, as well as the basic courses needed to begin the journey through mathematics instruction. While general education classes may seem to stray from the path of a math major, they help to strengthen the communication and teamwork skills that are vital in STEM careers.
The second year of an online math degree program emphasizes classes that focus on mathematics, such as statistics, reasoning and applications. The following table includes common courses students can expect to take when pursuing an online math degree at the associate level:
Focuses on real number systems, linear equations, coordinate systems, powers and roots, algebraic operations, polynomials and factoring.
Algebra and Applications
Explores mathematical and statistical reasoning important for day-to-day life. Emphasizes percentages, probability, modeling and statistical thinking, based on examples of medical, financial and environmental decision making.
Studies trigonometric functions, vectors, measurement and approximate numbers, functions and graphs, linear equations, determinants, quadratics, variation and geometry.
Discusses problem-solving, number theory, Euclidean and Non-Euclidean geometry, infinity, probability, plus other topics like fractals, chaos and topology.
Nature of Mathematics
Bachelor's Degree: Online Mathematics School
Earning the bachelor’s degree in mathematics typically takes four years of full-time study, depending on a student’s schedule. Graduation requirements include general education courses, although a student may have already completed some of these core classes in an associate degree program. The coursework also covers more in-depth mathematical concepts. Below are some examples of the curriculum in an online mathematics degree at the bachelor’s level:
Focuses on measurement, sampling, summarizing and displaying data, inferential methods, qualitative research designs and methods, interpreting search results and research design, among other topics.
Data Analysis and Interpretation
Studies the definition of real numbers, order properties, completeness, infinite sequences, convergence, basic notions of series and convergence, functions and function limits.
Foundations of Analysis
Includes study of elementary functions, line integrals, power series, residues and poles, and conformal mappings.
Explores the development of groups, integral domains, fields, number systems and complex numbers. Covers number theory, including divisibility, congruences, primes, perfect numbers and other problems.
Explores basic notions of differential equations, solutions of first-order equations and liner equations, nth-order initial value problems and power series solutions.
Cover probability, Brownian motion, stationary and evolutionary processes, differential equations and random walk.
Examines set theory, including cardinal and original numbers, and topological properties of the real-line and metric spaces.
Focuses on congruences and residue class rings, Fermat’s Little Theorem, Chinese Remainder Theorem, one-way functions, public-key cryptosystems, digital signatures and other groups, such as finite fields and elliptic curves.
Mathematical Foundations of Cryptography
Online Mathematics Degree: Master's
An additional two years of study beyond the bachelor’s degree is usually required to complete the master’s in mathematics, although this depends on a student’s other commitments. The master’s degree can be highly specialized, depending upon the end goal of the student. For example, those who intend to teach mathematics can fill their schedule with courses that focus on mathematics for teachers, while those who want to pursue the PhD in mathematics can opt for a broader spectrum of education, ending with a master’s thesis.
Specific tracks for online math degrees vary widely by subject, school and department. The following courses are just a sampling of the core courses available for those attending graduate programs:
Explores measure and integration theory, metric space topology and elementary Banach space theory.
Theory Functions of a Real Variable
Covers infinite products, entire functions, Picard’s theorem, Riemann mapping theorem and functions of several complex variables.
Theory of Functions of a Complex Variable
Explores fundamental ideas, including homotopy and simplicial complexes, fundamental groups, covering spaces and duality theorems.
Studies modeling for applications, including ordinary and partial differential equations, stochastic models, discrete models and optimization, modeling error and uncertainty quantifications.
Covers image acquisition, enhancement, transformations, linear and nonlinear filters, image compression, segmentation and edge detection and pattern recognition.
Mathematics of Image Processing
Focuses on integration of the computer into the mathematics curriculum, focusing on problem solving through software packages.
Computers for Mathematics Teachers
Emphasizes linear programming, nonlinear programming, integer functions, analysis and application of optimization techniques.
Optimization Techniques in Operations research
Designed for students who intend to teach on the college level, includes board work, teacher-student interaction, technical support, test writing, grading policies, student needs and more.
Focuses on specialized study not necessarily included in-depth in other courses.
Includes in-depth research, mentoring and preparation for the final thesis report. Enrollment is required during each term the thesis is in progress.
Online Mathematics Degree: Doctorate
Those who want to reach the pinnacle of their profession may go on to earn a doctorate in mathematics. The terminal degree typically takes at least four year of study after completing the master’s degree, including time spent on dissertation research and defense. The timeframe for completion can vary depending on opportunities for graduate teaching or research assistantships.
While graduate programs may specialize in either theoretical or applied mathematics, some courses for the PhD may resemble those required for the master’s degree. Students can look for dual online math degree programs that lead to a master’s and a PhD, or they can opt to take PhD courses during their master’s degree study with the goal of completing the doctorate in a shorter period of time.
Career Opportunities After Online Mathematics School
Those who pursue a degree in the mathematics may choose to enter one of many career paths, including computer science, biomathematics, actuarial science, finance, teaching, statistics, medicine and other occupations. Students can begin with a basic mathematics degree and specialize their electives, creating an educational pathway to help them prepare for diverse careers where number crunching is valued. Quantitative skills are in demand in almost every industry, and math graduates may find significant flexibility in the job market. Before enrolling in a program, students should check on occupational requirements and educational qualifications. For example, mathematicians working for the government or for research institutions typically hold a master’s degree.
Here are a few examples of mathematics-related careers that students can explore after graduating:
Mathematical Science Occupations
Mathematicians and other professionals in the mathematical sciences use their expertise to solve practical problems in various fields including science, business, and management. They develop computational methods, apply mathematical theories, and develop statistical models to analyze data and come up with viable solutions. They typically share findings through reports, papers, and presentations at professional conferences.
- Median Salary: $56,120
- Median Hourly: $26.98
- Est. Growth: 13.3%
- No. Employed: 1,220
- Minimum Education: Bachelor's
College Mathematical Science Teachers
College mathematical science teachers instruct postsecondary students via courses on mathematical concepts, statistics, and actuarial science. These instructors prepare and deliver lectures, facilitate classroom discussions, and develop and administer exams and evaluation methods. Many perform independent research and publish their findings in academic papers. Like educators in other academic fields, mathematical science teachers are responsible for staying apprised of developments in their field through reading, collaboration with colleagues, and attending professional conferences.
- Median Salary: $64,990
- Median Hourly: NR
- Est. Growth: 11.5%
- No. Employed: 53,530
- Minimum Education: Doctoral/Professional
Not to be confused with mathematicians, mathematical technicians apply abstract mathematics to technological problems, namely engineering and physical science. These technicians work closely with data, processing it and converting it into terms that facilitate a solution. As the job relies greatly on math, a knowledge of mathematical formulas, principles, and methodology-plus their application in the real world-is necessary.
- Median Salary: $56,820
- Median Hourly: $27.32
- Est. Growth: 12.60%
- No. Employed: 1,150
- Minimum Education: Bachelor's
Utilizing a mastery of mathematics, mathematicians develop computational methods for solving problems across an array of fields, including science, engineering, and business. Their mathematical or statistical models have many uses: analyzing data and presenting it clearly, creating computational simulations, or solving specific problems within a company. Additionally, mathematicians may be used in designing, transmitting, and deciphering encryption codes.
- Median Salary: $101,360
- Median Hourly: $48.73
- Est. Growth: 22.7%
- No. Employed: 3,250
- Minimum Education: Master's
Operations Research Analysts
Operations research analysts apply mathematics to problem-solving in order to help senior managers, executives, and other decision-makers understand more clearly their preferred course of action. These analysts create mathematical or simulation models that display possible solutions, conflicting objectives, alternatives, and constants and variables-as well as their numerical parameters-before advising managers on which plan offers the best outcome.
- Median Salary: $72,100
- Median Hourly: $34.66
- Est. Growth: 26.70%
- No. Employed: 69,180
- Minimum Education: Bachelor's
Statisticians apply the field of statistics for use in almost any field. Their principal duties include analyzing data and identifying relationships or trends; reporting the results of their analyses, sometimes utilizing graphs, charts, and tables; creating statistical methods to solve specific problems; and ensuring that the collection of data is conducted properly. Statisticians may also be involved in designing, developing, or testing statistical software.
- Median Salary: $75,560
- Median Hourly: $36.33
- Est. Growth: 26.70%
- No. Employed: 25,570
- Minimum Education: Master's