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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Mathematics

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Mathematics

Value
The best online master’s degree in mathematics for value is Texas A&M University, which has an 11% annual return on investment for in-state students and a 9.3% ROI for out-of-state students, according to PayScale.com. With financial aid, Texas A&M’s ROI increases to 13.4% and 10.5% for in-state students and out-of-state students, respectively. Even though Texas A&M’s programs have significant up-front costs, the university’s graduates should be able to reap the benefits of their education over time.

Flexibility
Unlike other online master’s programs in mathematics that focus on preparing students solely for careers as math educators, the University of West Florida offers a program that gives students the flexibility to choose courses that best prepare them for careers in a variety of industries, including banking, finance, or insurance, teaching at the secondary or community college level, or even for future doctoral study. Even though courses are synchronous, meaning students must log in at a specific time of day to view live lectures, all courses (with the exception of certain prerequisites) are offered after 4 p.m. CST, according to the school’s website, which helps working students better balance work and academic responsibilities. For these reasons, the University of West Florida wins the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for flexibility.

Career Support
Texas A&M University’s career center has been helping students plan for their careers and find employment since 1939. A&M’s career center has received recognition for best practices in several areas, including its career coordinator program, its mock interview program, and former student career services, and the center’s staff have been recognized for excellence in service a variety of ways, according to the university’s website. Career services include on-campus interview opportunities, internships and co-op opportunities, job search advising, access to job postings (more than 7,600 jobs were posted in 2011 alone), workshops, employee seminars, and more. Because of these outstanding resources, Texas A&M is the winner of the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for career support.

Financial Support
The University of Texas at Brownsville not only provides an affordable education, but also offers a wide array of student financial services, including an installment payment plan and emergency loans for students who have trouble paying for tuition and fees, according to the university’s website. The university has a reputation for providing generous financial aid; according to College Navigator, 97% of full-time beginning undergraduate students at the University of Texas at Brownsville received some sort of financial aid, and 88% received institutional grants or scholarships. The same type of help should also be available for graduate students. Because of the university’s commitment to removing financial barriers to higher education, the University of Texas at Brownsville wins the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for financial support.

Technology Support
University of West Florida understands that having access to effective tech support is vital when it comes to online education and gives its online students access to the Information Technology Services (ITS) help desk. The help desk is also accessible by email, phone (with extended hours on Monday through Thursday), and via live chat. ITS also offers remote desktop assistance, free software downloads, discounted computer purchase, and e-learning technical support, according to the university website. UWF is the recipient of the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for technology support.

Student Engagement
The award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for student engagement is the University of West Florida, due to its out-of-the-ordinary synchronous environment that allows online students to participate in live lectures in real-time. Student engagement can be difficult to achieve in most online programs since students rarely see their professors and classmates, but at UWF, students can receive the same level of personal attention they would receive if they were in an actual classroom while using Elluminate Web conferencing software. Students can ask questions in real-time and chat with classmates using the program’s two-way audio and video capabilities, according to the university’s website.

Disability Support
The award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for disability support goes to the University of Texas at Brownsville for having clear and concise instructions available for off-campus and online students with disabilities through the university’s Office of Disability Services. Disabled students can clearly see the procedures for providing documentation for their disability and have access to appropriate accommodations to mitigate their disability. In 2011, UT-Brownsville even hosted an Accessibility Awareness Week on campus that provided numerous discussions, events, and activities centering on people with disabilities.

Library and Research Support
The University of West Florida wins the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for library and research support because it grants UWF distance learners access to all of the university’s library services, including the library catalog, online journals, e-books, and electronic databases, according to the university’s website. Online students can simply log in to the university’s library website and access online resources remotely, or, if the online student lives 50 or fewer miles from campus, they can have library resources shipped directly to them. Last but not least, UWF offers an Online Learners Library Guide with helpful information on library resources all in one place for distance learners.

Learning Support
The award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for learning support goes to the University of Texas at Brownsville for providing 24/7 online tutoring, test proctoring, a technical support helpdesk, and an orientation for online students who may not be familiar with the university’s online platform, Blackboard, according to the university’s website. Distance learners also receive online course registration help, Blackboard tutorials and trainings, and even mobile access to their online courses.

Faculty Credentials
Texas A&M University wins the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for faculty credentials/qualifications. The mathematics graduate program faculty consists of more than 80 active researchers, according to the university’s website, in areas such as applied mathematics, operator theory, partial differential equations, and algebraic geometry, to name a few. More than 80% of faculty at Texas A&M hold doctoral or terminal degrees in their field, and more than 500 are research fellows or hold a similar title, the university states. Last but not least, faculty routinely have access to professional development in teaching and instructional technology training.

Faculty Accessibility 
Access to faculty is vital when it comes to online graduate instruction in mathematics because online students seldom have the chance to meet with professors face-to-face. Texas A&M University, however, reports a student-to-faculty ratio of about 2 to 1 for its graduate mathematics program, and focuses on collaboration and mentorship between faculty and students, according to the website. For this reason, Texas A&M University wins the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for faculty accessibility and involvement.

Alumni Engagement
Texas A&M University wins the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for alumni engagement for the impressive amount of resources it offers its former students. A&M’s Association of Former Students has been keeping alumni connected since 1879. The campus itself has an Alumni Center with interactive exhibits, including a tribute wall where visitors can learn about notable alumni who have made a difference during their time at A&M and after graduation. A&M also offers job search help through Former Student Career Services. Graduate students who meet certain requirements can earn the highly-coveted Aggie ring, an ornament steeped in history, tradition, and symbolism.

New Online Student Orientation
Texas A&M University offers a handy online orientation for graduate students who are earning their degree through distance education. The orientation guide introduces students to distance learning at A&M, educates them about important resources and services available to them, includes a thorough list of expectations for graduate study, and even includes some demos in key areas like taking quizzes, submitting assignments, and participating in discussions, according to the website. For this reason, Texas A&M wins the award for best online master’s degree in mathematics for new online student orientation.

Explore a Master’s Degree in Mathematics

A master’s degree in mathematics is ideal for someone interested in the theory and technique in mathematics and its use in practical applications, or in using mathematical knowledge to identify and resolve unexplained issues. Mathematicians require communication skills and critical thinking skills to analyze and apply principles to problems, and explain their solutions to colleagues. A master’s degree in mathematics often takes one to two years of full-time study to complete, but program length varies by university.

Class Curriculum

A master’s degree in mathematics may require course work in analysis, including real, complex, functional, numerical, and Euclidean Space analysis; dynamical systems; and ordinary and partial differential equations. Course work may also include stochastic processes, approximation theory, mathematical logic, number theory, and probability theory. Mathematics master’s degree programs may be organized by the student’s area of research, such as algebra and number theory, geometry and topology, analysis, mathematical physics, or probability and statistics, either through a set curriculum or through an advisor. See below for specific course work a mathematics graduate student can expect to take:

  • Partial Differential Equations. Partial differential equations may span multiple courses and cover classical to modern physics, mathematical biology, signal processing, complex analysis, and geometric analysis. Partial differential equations may be beneficial for students with research interests in mathematical physics, applied analysis, numerical analysis, complex analysis, and differential geometry.
  • Topology. Topology may cover general topological spaces, manifolds and cell complexes, and homotopy. Advanced course work may cover differential topology, including transversality and intersection theory.
  • Numerical Analysis. Numerical analysis covers the development of numerical algorithms and their applicability and limits. Students will analyze the accuracy, efficiency, scalability, and stability of numerical algorithms.

Mathematics graduate students can expect their professors to assign problem sets related to course lecture for the majority of assignments. Students may also gain research experience in physics, computer science, numerical analysis, computational biology, engineering, and other related fields.

Building a Career

Mathematicians are primarily employed by the federal government or for scientific research and development services; 37% of mathematicians worked for the federal government while 26% were employed by scientific research and development services in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They may work in a specialization of mathematics or use mathematical techniques within their professions, like engineers, computer scientists, physicists, and economists.

A master’s degree in mathematics may also serve as a prerequisite to a Ph.D. for mathematical research and academic positions. The BLS also reports that the median pay for mathematicians in May 2010 was $99,380; the median pay for mathematical science occupations was $74,040. The BLS also reports that mathematical science occupations are expected to increase 17% and mathematician positions are expected to increase by 16% between 2010 and 2020. Factors such as location, employer, position, and experience may effect wage prospects.

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