The mathematics and statistics fields are actually some of the oldest sciences around and are considered the building blocks for many other industries and disciplines. While the common vision of a math major's career might be that of someone scribbling complicated formulas on a whiteboard, careers in math are actually highly variable, ranging from actuaries to financial analysts to survey researchers to economists. Whether your intention is to immerse yourself in your own research or to work with scientists in related scientific fields, such as engineering or computer science, chances are that earning a degree in mathematics can help you on your way.
Best Online Colleges for Mathematics and Statistics in 2018-19
We used a wide range of data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to compile our list of the five best online colleges for math and statistics. You can read more about the data points and methodology we used to create our list at the bottom of the page. We hope this list can help you select an accredited school that meets your educational goals and financial considerations.
Mayville State University
Cerro Coso Community College
University of Massachusetts-Lowell
Chadron State College
Degree Overview: Mathematics and Statistics
Students with an interest in facts and figures can hone their skills by enrolling in online programs for mathematics and statistics. In these programs, students take classes that help them prepare for specialized careers as actuaries, statisticians and mathematicians, among others. For information on some of the possible classes and skills that math programs provide, continue reading this section.
Online Mathematics & Statistics Courses
Online education for mathematics and statistics offers students many options of courses they can take. Below is a sample of some of the classes that may be available in math departments, depending on which college students choose.
- Algebra: One of the building blocks of mathematics, elementary and intermediate algebra coursework cover different aspects of this expansive subject. Elementary algebra consists of topics such as word problems, linear equations, polynomials and rational and irrational numbers, while abstract algebra includes more complex concepts such as symmetry groups, geometric constructions, counting theorem and polynomial equations.
- Calculus: Similarly to the different levels of algebra, introductory calculus focuses on fundamental theories of the subject such as derivatives, antiderivatives, rate-of-change interpretations, applications and power series. More advanced calculus courses might cover inverse trigonometric functions, partial derivatives, Green's theorem and multiple integrals.
- History of math: This class focuses on math from a historical perspective and the way different areas of math — such as algebra, geometry, probability, trigonometry, statistics and calculus — have developed over time. Students in this course can study seminal theories in each kind of mathematics and how these theories have evolved in order to better understand where mathematics may develop in the future.
- Actuarial math: Students who are considering becoming an actuary after graduation can become familiar with the type of math that is required through these courses. Specific topics may include annuities, loans, stocks, bonds, cash flows, assets and liabilities, capital budgeting, investment income and valuation.
- Probability: In its simplest form, probability can be as straightforward as a coin toss; when used to its fullest, probability can practically see the future just by looking at the present. Probability classes may cover random variables, integration theory, stochastic simulation, joint distributions, random experiments, expectation and limit law.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Students who earn online mathematics and statistics degrees are obviously looking to gain strong math skills. However, there are many other useful skills that math majors can acquire through their coursework, including the following.
- Problem solving: Mathematics professionals must use preexisting data and formulas to devise new theories and hypotheses that can provide solutions to real-world problems. Whether their work is being put to use in a business, engineering or scientific environment, a mathematician needs strong problem solving skills.
- Analytical: Math programs are designed to teach students how to identify patterns in large amounts of data — often with the help of various machines and programs built for this very purpose — and interpret what those patterns mean. Understanding how to plug what may appear to be a shapeless mass of numbers into formulas and computer programs in order to make sense of it is an integral part of a mathematical career.
- Communication: People in math-related fields must know how to communicate about complex theories. Although their colleagues will likely understand such concepts, mathematics professionals also need the ability to explain mathematical ideas to those without this specialized knowledge — not only for the sake of their (usually) less-mathematically-informed friends and family, but for the sake of communicating their theories to mathematicians of other mathematical fields; scientists hoping to utilize their theories in experiments; and journalists looking to report their theories to the general public.
Mathematics and Statistics Career Outlook
A fast-growing industry with a lot of potential for growth across a variety of industries, mathematics is likely to be a reliable career with opportunities in areas that are of interest to you. This time-honored field is one well worth considering.
A common question in high school math classes is, "What's the point?" A mathematician understands exactly what the "point" of mathematics is: to make our lives better and more efficient.
- Theoretical mathematicians are concerned with pushing mathematics to its limits, discovering new equations and solving seemingly impossible problems. They conduct research using complex math and algorithms, analyze data and develop new mathematical concepts in areas such as algebra and geometry.
- Applied mathematicians apply those theories and equations to real-world problems, utilizing calculations to perform tasks that range from plotting the course of businesses to testing the aerodynamics of planes.
As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, many mathematician careers start with a master's degree. However, some mathematicians get their start with a bachelor's degree.
Statisticians are masters of manipulating data. They collect information with surveys, polls, questionnaires and other forms of research, organize that information into charts and reports that make it comprehensible, and then apply their understanding of sampling and probability to draw informed conclusions about their findings. These professionals are instrumental to solving problems in healthcare, business, engineering and an array of other fields; only through their work can the scope of problems and situations that span our entire globe be understood and tackled.
Most statisticians work for the government or for research organizations, although many others work for insurance companies or colleges and universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most statistician careers begin with a master's degree. However, some entry level careers can begin with a bachelor's degree.
Actuaries weave together math and statistics to help businesses price their products and predict their profitability. Using statistical data and other numeric values, they aim to help businesses anticipate profit and loss, death, sickness and even natural disaster. A common place to find actuaries is in the health insurance industry, where they calculate how best to price premiums so they cover anticipated medical costs while still turning a small profit. If you ever wanted to determine the amount of money that should be paid out for the insurance claim "Struck by a duck," this is the career for you.
Because of the nature of their work, almost two-thirds (71 percent) of actuaries work in the finance and insurance industries. Actuary careers typically begin with a bachelor's degree, and some careers require special certification.
In the space between statisticians and actuaries, the financial analyst works. By assessing past and present trends in economics and finances, these professionals plot the best course for their clients' investments, from an individual's savings to a business' assets. Part historian, part economist, part businessperson and part mathematician, a financial analyst must think quickly and act responsively, always predicting and advising to the best of their ability.
Most financial analyst careers begin with a bachelor's degree, notes the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, a master's degree may be required for advanced positions.
Information is one of the most valuable tools any person or organization can have, and surveys are a key way of gathering that important data. When presented with a topic that needs to be understood in more detail, a survey researcher goes to work: designing a survey and its attendant methodologies using statistics; adjusting for potential errors and biases in the data with complex formulas; summarizing the findings into charts and graphs; and evaluating the results to see what could be done better next time. Although no individual piece of data can tell the whole story, a collection of survey responses can be used to note trends and help us understand people better.
As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, most survey researcher careers begin with a master's degree or Ph.D. However, a bachelor's degree is common for certain types of entry-level positions. Either way, employers prefer to hire candidates with plenty of experience performing research, analyzing data and using statistics.