Online schools for mathematics and statistics

Mathematics and statistics may not sound like the most valuable or sought-after degrees on the job market, but the national data seem to suggest otherwise. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that some careers available to graduates with statistics degrees will see an employment increase of nearly three times the national average by 2022, and USA Today calculates that those graduating with a math degree in 2015 will collect average earnings of more than $3 million over the course of their careers.

A number of colleges and universities around the country have begun offering mathematics and statistics degrees online, which can be a blessing to aspiring students who have neither the time nor the financial resources to commit to a traditional, campus-based education. Here's a table that shows the number of schools in each region of the country that offer mathematics and statistics degrees, online as well as in the traditional classroom environment:

Region No. of schools offering maths and stats degrees No. of schools offering math and stats degrees online
Far West (CA. OR, WA, NV, AK, HI) 223 6
Rocky Mountains (ID, MT, UT, WY, CO) 56 4
Southwest (AZ, NM, TX, OK) 155 13
Plains (MO, KS, IA, NE, MN, ND, SD) 157 9
Southeast (AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, VA, WV) 344 10
Great Lakes (IL, IN, OH, MI, WI) 219 3
Mideast (PA, NY, NJ, DE, MD, D.C.) 263 8
New England (CT, MA, RI, VT, NH, ME) 99 6
Total (all 50 states) 1,516 59

Entry-level mathematics and statistics degrees

Degrees in mathematics and statistics can be found at every level of the academic system, from two-year awards at junior colleges on up to terminal degrees at the doctoral and post-graduate professional levels. Here's some information about the subjects studied when pursuing entry-level degrees in mathematics, statistics and related disciplines:

  • Associate degrees - An associate degree in mathematics is most commonly used as a springboard to a four-year degree in science, tech, engineering or math (STEM) field. The typical associate-level mathematics curriculum consists of at least three sections of calculus and some training in differential equations, as well as general education courses such as English composition and core natural science classes that typically transfer into your bachelor's degree graduation requirements. While some associate degrees in math contain statistics courses, dedicated associate degrees in the discipline of statistics itself are uncommon.
  • Bachelor's degrees - Most employers looking to fill entry-level careers in math or stats prefer candidates who hold at least a bachelor's degree. Both Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees are available, with auxiliary requirements standing as the main difference between the two — B.A. degrees focus on second language acquisition outside of the core math curriculum while B.S. degrees typically require multiple semesters of physics, chemistry or another laboratory science. B.A. and B.S. degrees are typically held as equal by employers and most graduate school admissions departments.
  • Non-degree study - If you've chosen to focus your undergraduate study on a discipline other than math or statistics, it's still possible to add some valuable knowledge from one or the other discipline into your degree plan. For example, a sequence of statistics courses can be particularly helpful for students in business, marketing, finance or communications programs, while those seeking physical science degrees may find that study of specialized mathematics helps them better synthesize the measurement and computation systems used in their field.

Most employers looking to fill entry-level careers in math or stats prefer candidates who hold at least a bachelor's degree.

Institutions that offer mathematics and statistics degrees online at the undergraduate level tend to focus on four-year plans that lead to a bachelor's degree. Most campus-based associate degree programs in mathematics replicate fairly closely the first two years of bachelor's study, so it may help to talk to registrars about their requirements for bachelor's-level work if you're looking into entry-level statistics and mathematics degrees in the online environment.

Advanced-degree mathematics and statistics programs

While a bachelor's degree is often enough to satisfy the educational requirements of entry-level jobs, applicants with advanced degrees are typically preferred for positions in academia, management and other fields of elevated responsibility. Here are the details about graduate and post-grad mathematics and statistics degrees online and on campus:

  • Master's degree programs - Programs that lead to a master's degree in mathematics or statistics are divided in a similar way to their undergraduate counterparts, with Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees each available. Distinctions between theory and application are made at the graduate level, as well — programs in pure mathematics or statistics are typically designed for students planning to apply their skills in academic channels after graduation, while those in applied math and applied statistics concentrate more on the ways in which mathematical and statistical modeling and analysis can be used to solve interdisciplinary problems.
  • Doctorate programs - Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees prepare students to study and contribute to the fields of math and statistics at the highest possible level, often confining their study to a specific branch of the discipline that they explore in great depth. Doctoral degrees may be pursued in both applied and theoretical branches of statistics and math, and the Ph.D. curriculum typically includes courses that help students develop the sophisticated research techniques necessary to compose and defend a thesis or dissertation before graduation.
  • Graduate and post-graduate certificates - Non-degree study plans in math and statistics are fairly popular at the graduate level, particularly because of the considerable value that computational understanding and knowledge of applied statistics can bring to high-level business, finance and management careers. Aspiring high school math teachers with degrees in education or a related, non-math subject may also earn certificates at this level to give them the context they need to speak confidently on the subject in the classroom.

Several schools give students the option to earn mathematics and statistics master's degrees online, with either an applied or theoretical focus, but Ph.D. programs delivered entirely in the virtual classroom are not commonly available just yet. Graduate certificates in math and stats, particularly in applied statistics, can be found at a wide variety of institutions.

Q&A with an expert


We talked to Kelly Kutach, math strategy manager at Texas Instruments Education Technology, who gave us some professional insights on math and statistics degrees and how they relate to opportunities in the working world:

Kelly Kutach, math strategy manager at Texas Instruments Education Technology

Why would you encourage someone to consider a degree in mathematics or statistics?

Students who pursue degrees in math or statistics have opportunities to specialize in high-demand jobs in a variety of fields — from economics, business, information security, biomedical research, engineering, sports analysis, etc. So people with degrees in math have greater opportunities to apply their skills in fields that are interesting to them.

People who enjoy a challenge and solving problems will enjoy studying mathematics or statistics. They will learn how math can explain everything from winning streaks in basketball to laminar flow on an airplane wing. Math and stats majors develop unique specialties in data analysis that are not learned in other majors.

What are the most common educational paths for mathematics and statistics careers?

Mathematicians and statisticians must have a bachelor's degree in those subjects, at a minimum. Higher paying jobs require a master's degree in either math or statistics.

Some majors require a heavy focus in math — like electrical engineering or finance — so people with these degrees may be able to find careers in math and statistics.

What are some additional areas of study that math and stats students can add to their degree plan to increase their job prospects?

  1. Computer science
  2. Business management
  3. Information systems
  4. Technical writing and research methods
  5. Finance

What would have been helpful to know when you were looking into your own education?

Choosing a major is not choosing a life-path. Your major may put you on a path to a certain career, but some majors have the ability to open or close doors. Keep your mind open when choosing a major, but think about the opportunities it might open for you. Just because you major in engineering doesn't mean you will be designing circuits your whole life.

Types of mathematics and statistics careers

Not everyone who graduates with a degree in mathematics and statistics gets on the academic research track or goes directly into a career as a statistician. Here's a table of career fields that value candidates with math and statistics training, along with some employment and salary data provided by the BLS:

Occupation title National mean annual salary
Projected job growth
Total U.S. employment
Entry-level education
Actuary $110,090 26 percent 24,300 Bachelor's degree
Market research analyst $68,700 32 percent 415,700 Bachelor's degree
Financial analyst $92,250 16 percent 253,000 Bachelor's degree
Operations research analyst $82,940 27 percent 73,200 Bachelor's degree
Statistician $84,010 27 percent 27,600 Master's degree
Mathematician $104,350 27 percent 3,500 Master's degree
Mathematical science teacher, postsecondary $74,200 11 percent 63,300 Master's degree

Common misconceptions about mathematics and statistics degrees

Given how surprised most people are when they hear about the range of careers available to students who earn statistics and mathematics degrees online and on traditional campuses, it's no wonder that there are a few misconceptions floating around about the degrees themselves. Here are a few fairly common mistaken notions to watch out for:

Misconception: The lack of hands-on laboratory work means that you can find all mathematics and statistics degrees online.

Students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, the natural sciences or other disciplines with a quantitative leaning may pivot into a mathematics or statistics degree in graduate school.

  • Fact: Degrees at the bachelor's and master's level are not uncommon in the virtual classroom, but two-year degrees in statistics and Ph.D. programs in either math or stats are scarce if available at all. That said, though, many relevant courses in both disciplines may be available in the virtual classroom. If you're interested in crafting a hybrid program for yourself, where you attend some in-person classes and complete others online, it can't hurt to talk to someone in your department about your options.

Misconception: Mathematics and statistics master's programs all require a directly related bachelor's degree.

  • Fact: Students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, the natural sciences or other disciplines with a quantitative leaning may pivot into a mathematics or statistics degree in graduate school. Admission to math and stats graduate programs typically relies more on GRE scores and the completion of certain prerequisite courses than it does on the specific major concentration of your undergraduate work.

Misconception: Mathematics and statistics degrees offered online take less work to complete than their campus-based counterparts.

  • Fact: It requires a considerable force of will to propel oneself through school when not bound by a strict class schedule, and the motivation necessary to keep your focus doesn't come naturally to everyone. Online education can be a great option for students who might be challenged financially or time-wise by the demands of a traditional degree plan, but it's wrong to think of it as an easy way to get a degree.

How can I enroll in an online mathematics and statistics degree program?

To learn more about mathematics or statistics degrees online, browse the listings below and reach out to an institution that looks like it might be right for you. Talk with a registrar, an admissions representative or an enrollment counselor, make sure that the school and program meet regional accreditation standards and take the next step toward a valuable degree and a rewarding career.

1. The 5 Highest Paying Degrees of 2015, USA Today, Erika Rowes, February 2, 2015, accessed November 12, 2015, http://college.usatoday.com/2015/02/02/the-5-highest-paying-degrees-of-2015/
2. College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed November 12, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
3. School pages, accessed November 12, 2015: Mathematics, Associate in Arts Degree, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, https://www.eicc.edu/future-students/our-programs/as-math.aspx; Associates Degree Mathematics, Allegany College of Maryland, http://www.allegany.edu/x246.xml; Mathematics Associate Degree, Monroe Community College, http://www.monroecc.edu/academics/majors-programs/stem/mathematics-associate-degree/; BA/BS Requirements, Statistics, University of Minnesota, http://www.stat.umn.edu/ugrad/bachelors.html; Online B.S. In Mathematics Program, Indiana University East, http://www.iue.edu/online/programs/bs-math.php; Mathematics, Bachelor of Arts Degree, University of Nevada, Reno, https://www.unr.edu/degrees/mathematics/ba; B.A./B.S. in Mathematics, The University of Arizona, http://math.arizona.edu/academics/undergrads/requirements/majors; Statistics Courses for Non-Degree Students, Colorado State University, http://www.stat.colostate.edu/statprostudents/statdistance/statnondegreecourses.html; Non-Degree Study, Department of Mathematics, New York University, http://math.nyu.edu/degree/non-degree_study.html; Master of Science in Applied Mathematics, University of Washington, http://www.appliedmathonline.uw.edu/; Master of Statistics, North Carolina State University, http://online.stat.ncsu.edu/online-programs/online-masters-degree-program/; Master of Arts in Mathematics, University of Houston, http://www.mathematics.uh.edu/graduate/master-programs/master-of-arts/index.php; Master of Science Mathematics, Emporia State University, http://www.emporia.edu/mathecon/programs/master-of-science-mathematics.html; Master of Applied Statistics, The Pennsylvania State University, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/applied-statistics-masters/overview; Online Statistics Degree, Texas A&M University, http://online.stat.tamu.edu/programs.php; What is Applied Mathematics?, Brown University, http://www.dam.brown.edu/documents/WhatisAppliedMathematicsPresentation_000.pdf; PhD Requirements, Statistics, University of Minnesota, http://www.stat.umn.edu/grad/phd.html; The Statistics PhD Program, University of California, Berkeley, http://statistics.berkeley.edu/programs/graduate/phd; Ph.D. in Mathematics, University of California San Diego, http://www.math.ucsd.edu/programs/graduate-program/phd-mathematics/index.html; Doctoral Program in Mathematics, Ohio University, http://www.math.ohiou.edu/programs/graduate/doctoral-program; Doctoral Program, Department of Statistics, Stanford University, https://statistics.stanford.edu/academics/doctoral-program; Non-Degree Seeking Graduate Students, Purdue University, http://www.stat.purdue.edu/academic_programs/graduate/nondegree.php; Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics, Penn State World Campus, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/applied-statistics-certificate/overview; Graduate Certificate in Mathematics, University of South Florida, http://math.usf.edu/grad/certif/; Online Programs in Applied Statistics and Data Analysis, Colorado State University, http://www.online.colostate.edu/topics-of-study/statistics/
4. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed November 12, 2015: Actuaries, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/actuaries.htm; Market Research Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/market-research-analysts.htm; Financial Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm; Operations Research Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/operations-research-analysts.htm; Statisticians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/statisticians.htm; Mathematicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/mathematicians.htm; Postsecondary Teachers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Postsecondary-teachers.htm
5. May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed November 12, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

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