August 9, 2016
Mathematics is the study of quantity, structure, space and change. As abstract as that may seem, math is, at its core, a quest for absolutes, definitive solutions and answers. We may think of long numeric chains, seas of fractions or spreadsheets stacked with figures, but what many don't realize is that math's complex equations are in fact roads to simplicity. Believers in better, faster, smarter solutions are often drawn to math.
So, what is a degree in math, exactly? Those who go to college to pursue a mathematics degree find out along the way that numbers are just a fraction of the allure. Math can teach us how to look longer and harder for solutions - a skill applicable to any career and life in general.
We need math. Galileo Galilei used it to explain the universe. Math resolves truths and uncovers errors. It makes our work more credible. Reports, studies and research are all but discounted without quantifiable facts. Math equals proof. Math validates.
The Mathematical Association of America cites a CareerCast report ranking mathematics the best job for 2014 based on factors such as environment, income, outlook, and stress. The job of statistician was ranked third. Actuary was ranked fourth. In addition, a PayScale study reports that the top 15 highest-earning college degrees have mathematics as a common denominator.
But Psychology Today reports that most of us are in awe of math. It's slightly mysterious. It makes things look smart, including the mathematician behind the math. What is a degree in math? It's a professional pathway, and an attractive one for many reasons. It is also a unique way of seeing the world.
Whether you like mathematics or are even very good it, math is around us all the time. When you're at the department store, balancing your checkbook or doing your taxes, mathematics is a necessary skill. It can even improve your sports game.
"There's math all over the place in soccer," Southern New Hampshire University's mathematics department chairwoman Dr. Pamela Cohen told pro soccer player Calen Carr in this video. From the curve - also known as a parabola - of a kicked ball to the rigidness of playing in triangles on the field, math factors into every aspect of the game. What is a math degree to an athlete? A competitive edge on the field.
Many professions, such as engineering, medicine, physics, nurses, computer science and actuarial science, require math proficiency. Virtually all fields benefit from the analytical and problem-solving skills students learn in mathematics. Anyone entering a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career is expected to have harnessed basic and advanced math concepts.
Even professions as diverse as chefs or gardeners use math fundamentals when measuring and purchasing supplies. If you are an event planner, math will help you figure per-head costs and inventory. Seamstresses and decorators use math daily, as does anyone who works with measurements and schedules.
Many people believe math talent to be something that is inherited or are born with. Not so, say researchers. Natural ability in math only gets you so far. Hard work and good study habits are far more valuable. As such, students entering college math degree programs aren't the math-minded geniuses. Some didn't even like math growing up, says a Quartz article that looks at why some kids excel at math and others don't. The authors - economy and finance professors - make the case that something said by a grade school teacher years ago could be the reason a child is turned off to math or thinks he or she is bad at it. Some educators and parents also have a bad habit of labeling kids as either math kids or reading kids.
Are boys better at math than girls? A New York Times report reveals that there is no discernible difference in math aptitude before the age of 7. Then, starting in adolescence, some differences appear: boys score approximately 30-35 points higher than girls on the math portion of the SAT. But, within different subcategories girls outperforming boys consistently. The study also shows that even though boys do better than girls on the SAT, those scores do not predict math performance in class. Girls outpace boys in the classroom. The point is, if you think math just isn't your thing, or have math anxiety but love finding solutions, it's time to re-examine a math degree. Research proves that drive and desire, not natural ability, are the most important factors for success.
Getting an online degree in mathematics opens up a world of possibilities to you. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 27 percent growth in the demand for research analysts and statisticians, 23 percent job growth for mathematicians through 2022.*
The amount of digitally stored data will increase over the next decade as more people and companies conduct business online and use social media, smartphones, and other mobile devices - some yet to be invented. That means more businesses will seek mathematicians to analyze the large volumes of information collected. All this data will help companies grow, improve and develop new products and processes. Data analytics is also used to help businesses advertise to the right potential customers.
Mathematicians will also be needed to help information security analysts create data-security systems to protect the confidentiality and personal information of everyone with internet access.
Expect competition. Positions for mathematicians are coveted. Candidates with math degrees and a background in the field will undeniably have the upper hand. What is a degree in math at the graduate level? Added insurance. Those with strong quantitative and data analysis skills, and experience in a related discipline - such as business, computer science or statistics - is a definite addition to your resume.
An online bachelor's degree in mathematics fosters an appreciation for the role mathematics has played in society, from early times through the technological age. When you earn your BA in Mathematics online, you'll develop an advanced ability in mathematical methods, reasoning and problem solving. Online math courses prepare you for careers that are not only versatile and command high salaries, but also have a very high degree of job satisfaction.
Online math courses can give you a solid grasp of mathematics as it relates to business, natural sciences and social sciences.
Students enter online mathematics programs for many different reasons - professional success is merely one of them. Timothy McMillan '15 was hesitant to go back to school at the age of 30. McMillan was interested in more than advancing his career by earning his bachelors degree. Many students also use the program to prepare themselves to continue in any of a number of graduate programs. The bachelor-level program is good preparation for graduate programs such as MS in Data Analytics, Applied Economics and MBA degrees. Not only has McMillan fulfilled his undergraduate in mathematics degree, he is now looking into attending graduate school.
*Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.
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Timothy Woodward grew up in a small town in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in film and writing in California and an MFA in Fiction from SNHU.