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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 an important discipline 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.

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. Also, there are many strategies to study math that can aid your educational journey.

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.

The role of a mathematician was ranked among the best jobs for 2021, according to a CareerCast report, based on factors such as environment, income, outlook and stress. Other roles that a mathematics degree can help you get are statistician, ranked third, and actuary, ranked ninth.

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.

Tim McMillan and the text Tim McMillanAlthough 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."

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:

Do Employers Like Math Majors?

Whether you like mathematics or are even very good at 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.

Many professions, such as engineering, medicine, physics, nurses, computer science and actuarial science, require math proficiency. In addition, virtually all fields benefit from the analytical and problem-solving skills students learn in mathematics. Therefore, anyone entering a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (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 are an event planner, math will help you figure per-head costs and inventory. Sewists and decorators use math daily, as does anyone who works with measurements and schedules.

I Love Math. Now What?

Getting an online degree in mathematics opens up a world of possibilities for you. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 33% growth in demand for mathematicians and statisticians through 2030, and, in 2020, they made a median salary of $93,290.Infographic with the text BLS reports mathematician and statistician jobs are expected to increase by 33% through 2030

According to The Conversation, the amount of data created, captured, copied and consumed globally is projected to rise 530% 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.

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. Strong quantitative and data analysis skills and experiences in a related discipline – such as business, computer science or statistics – are a definite addition to your resume.

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. Students entering college math degree programs aren’t math-minded geniuses.

Many children don't like learning math, according to an Oxford Learning article that looks at some of the reasons that kids may not like math and the 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 reassures 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 suggests 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.

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

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