Skip to Content

College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Mathematics

Kinds of Graduate Degrees in Mathematics

  • Doctoral Degrees

    People with Ph.D.'s in mathematics should be able to grasp the mathematical content of problems and formulate new mathematical concepts and innovative approaches to the solutions of problems and to the development of new mathematics. They have a wide exposure to mathematics and a deep understanding of at least one part of the discipline. They have learned to talk and to write about mathematics. The largest portion of those with Ph.D.'s in mathematics hold faculty positions at four-year colleges and universities, but many also work in industry and government where there is strong demand for mathematical sophistication and creativity. (Click here for more career information.)

    Some universities offer not only programs leading to the Ph.D. in mathematics but to a Doctor of Arts (D.A.) degree, a degree specialized to those preparing to become faculty members in four-year colleges.

    To earn a doctoral degree in mathematics, most graduate schools require a a student to pass a collection of examinations (usually called Qualifying or Preliminary Examinations) in three or more fields of mathematics and to complete an original substantial piece of mathematical research and to write it up in the form of a dissertation. There may be other requirements such as coursework, seminars (in which the graduate students give presentations), and foreign languages. Generally, at least five years of graduate school are needed to earn a doctoral degree in mathematics.

  • Master's Degrees in Mathematics

    A person with a masters degree has an expertise in some branch of mathematics and is familiar with its fundamental concepts and its methods. Typically, a person with a masters degree should be able to acquire an understanding of mathematical ideas and methods across the broad range of the discipline. People with masters degrees in mathematics find employment in the public and the private sector where ever mathematical competence is needed. Some people with masters degrees hold faculty positions at two-year colleges and at secondary schools---most large universities employ several people with masters degrees in mathematics as lecturers or instructors. (Click here for more career information.)

    To earn a masters degree in mathematics, most graduate schools require the student to succeed in a sequence of coursework and to complete a masters thesis or a masters project. The program usually requires two years.

    There are several different kinds of masters degrees. The Master of Science (M.S. degree) and the Master of Arts (M.A. degree) are usually synonomous, although the M.A. degree is often seen as a stepping stone to a doctoral degree. Many universities offer masters degrees that have special emphases, such as computational mathematics or financial mathematics. There are also masters degrees tailored for people planning careers in teaching.