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What is a Degree in Math and Why is It Important?

A degree in math is a professional pathway for those interested in solutions and solving real-world problems. It's necessary to study because many roles require a basic or advanced understanding of mathematical concepts.
A person with a degree in math, writing equations on a dry erase board.

Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

This article was updated on Oct. 5, 2023, with contributions by Ashleigh Worley.

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 many don’t realize that math’s complex equations are, in fact, roads to simplicity. As a result, believers in better, faster, more innovative solutions are often drawn to math.

We need math. Galileo Galilei used it to explain the universe. Math resolves truths and uncovers errors, making our work more credible. Reports, studies and research are all but discounted without quantifiable facts. Math equals proof. Math validates.

What Kind of Degree is a Math Degree?

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.

Mark Gruen with the text Mark Gruen"Mathematics degrees are important and relevant today because of the direct and indirect application of mathematics to various fields of study," said Mark Gruen, an associate dean of global campus mathematics at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

While learnings in this program can be applied to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, the skills you may gain can also translate to other areas. Gruen said, "Math is all around us, from the data we see in the news to our own personal finance, and everywhere in between."

A bachelor's degree in mathematics fosters an appreciation for the role of mathematics in society, from early times through the technological age. When you earn your Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Mathematics online, you may develop advanced mathematical methods, reasoning and problem-solving skills. Online math courses may prepare you for careers that are versatile, command high salaries and have a high degree of job satisfaction.

Find Your Program

Online math courses can give you a solid grasp of mathematics related to business, natural sciences and social sciences. Additionally, they can help you become proficient in communicating about math, both orally and in writing. Finally, you can learn how complex and real-world problems can be solved using mathematical concepts by adding an applied mathematics concentration.

Students enter online mathematics programs for many different reasons — professional success is just one of them. Many students also use the program to prepare themselves to continue their education in a graduate program.

The bachelor-level program is good preparation for graduate degrees such as:

Are Math Degrees Worth It?

A blue infographic piece with the text BLS reports mathematician and statistician jobs are expected to increase by 30% through 2032Getting an online degree in mathematics can open up a world of possibilities for you. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 30% growth in demand for mathematicians and statisticians through 2032, and, in 2022, they made a median salary of $99,960.*

Candidates with math degrees and a background in the field may have an advantage over those who don't. According to BLS, entry-level mathematician and statistician positions may be available to those with a bachelor's degree. What is a degree in math at the graduate level? Added insurance. BLS said that a master's degree is typically required for a career in math or statistics.

Possessing a master's degree in math lets employers know that you have a solid grasp of mathematics, as well as related skills. Strong quantitative and data analysis skills and experiences in a related discipline — such as business, computer science or statistics — are a positive addition to your resume.

Tim McMillian in a police uniform with text: Tim McMillianAlthough Tim McMillan '15 was hesitant to return to school at 30, he did it to advance his law enforcement career. "I was starting to move up the career ladder — getting a little older and more mature — and I knew the opportunities a degree could open up for me as I progressed throughout my career," he said.

McMillan chose to study math because it challenged him, and he quickly realized how valuable the coursework was. "I began to see how mathematics was applicable to my job," he said. "Data analysis, applied statistics and applied mathematics are being used throughout the country and progressively in law enforcement agencies, and I wanted to be on the forefront."

What Can I Do With a Mathematics Degree Now?

Today, math is around you 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.

"One of the exciting options for those who complete a degree in mathematics is the broad career options available," said Gruen.

He noted a few roles that mathematics majors might consider include:

  • Data analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Economist
  • Financial analyst
  • Operations research analyst
  • Statistician

Many other professions require math proficiency too, such as engineering, medicine, physics, nursing, computer science and actuarial science. In addition, virtually all fields benefit from the analytical and problem-solving skills students learn in mathematics. Therefore, anyone entering a STEM career is expected to have harnessed basic and advanced math concepts.

Even chef or gardener professionals use math fundamentals when measuring and purchasing supplies. If you're an event planner, math will help you figure per-head costs and inventory. Tailors and decorators use math daily, as does anyone who works with measurements and schedules.

According to Gruen, the skills learned in a mathematics degree are highly transferable to other fields that may be less focused on math. Some of these skills include:

How Useful is a Math Degree?

A math degree can be highly useful depending on your interests and career goals.

Take data analysis, for instance: "As industries rely more and more on data, the need for individuals with the skills that a mathematics major has developed also grows," said Gruen. "Additionally, technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are built on mathematical principles, where the mathematics major has insight into how the technology functions and makes decisions."

According to The Conversation, the amount of data created, captured, copied and consumed globally is projected to rise 430% by 2025. That means more businesses will seek mathematicians to analyze the large volumes of information collected. 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.

Gruen recommends choosing electives related to the careers that interest you and suggests courses like data analytics and programming. He said, "While data analysis and programming are part of a well-rounded mathematics curriculum, having additional skills in these areas is essential for most technical careers."

You Don’t Have to be a Mathlete

Many people believe math talent is a born trait or inherited. Not so, say researchers. Natural math ability only gets you so far. Hard work and good study habits are far more valuable.

And there are many strategies to study math that can aid your educational journey. You don't need to be a math-minded genius when you enter college. Students entering college math degree programs aren’t math-minded geniuses.

"Learning mathematics (and learning more generally) is not about filling our brains with information but is experiential and learned through practice," said Gruen. "Exploring mathematics and engaging in the problem-solving process is what yields the important skills that come from earning a mathematics degree."

According to an Oxford Learning article, many children don't like math, and the piece explores the reasoning behind that and offers potential solutions. The report makes a case that one reason children can dislike the subject is because math requires making many mistakes, so children may think they are bad at it. However, Oxford Learning suggests that if children get discouraged, a solution is to reassure them that making mistakes is just part of the learning process and that this lesson applies both in the classroom and in life.

Do Chromosomes Have Anything to Do With It?

Are boys better at math than girls? A Scientific American article notes there is no discernible difference in math aptitude in preschool and elementary school. Then, starting in adolescence, some differences appear: Boys often score higher than girls on the math portion of the SAT and other exams that aren't directly connected to their curriculum. 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.

If you think math 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 critical factors for success.

Discover more about SNHU's bachelor's in mathematics: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you'll learn and how to request information about the program.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.

Rebecca LeBoeuf Blanchette ’18 '22G is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Ashleigh Worley '22 is a writer and student at Southern New Hampshire University, currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.