Careers in Mathematics: Graduate School Advising Guide
Why Graduate School?
An advanced degree in Mathematics, Statistics or Computer Science is the key to a wide variety of career options. There are three types of advanced degrees: Masters (MS), Doctorate (PhD or DA), and Masters of Science Teaching (MST).
A Masters Degree usually requires two additional years of advanced courses in your area of interest, such as Applied Math, Pure Math, Statistics, BioStatistics, and Computer Science. At UIC, these courses are at the 400 and 500 levels. You must also pass the Masters Exam, or complete a Masters Thesis.
The Masters Degree opens up many doors to careers in Mathematics. For example, graduates with a Masters in Statistics find employment in industry or government, where statisticians are in demand. A Masters Degree in Applied Math or Computer Science is valuable when applying for a job in industry.
The Masters Degree is required for faculty at most Junior Colleges, such as the Chicago City Colleges, or regional schools such as Moraine Valley Community College and Triton College, to list a few schools where MSCS graduates have found employment.
The Masters Degree can also be the stepping stone towards the doctorate. Most doctorate programs require the Masters Degree before admission to the doctorate program.
The Masters of Science Teaching degree has the goal of training the student for teaching at either the elementary level (MST-elem) or secondary level (MST-sec). These are more specialized degrees, in that their curriculum is a mix of learning subject matter in math, as well as in education and teaching methods.
The Doctoral Degree is required for becoming a tenured faculty member at most four-year colleges and universities. The Doctoral Degree requires typically two to three years of advanced courses past the undergraduate degree, plus conducting a research program in some topic of specialization, leading towards your doctoral thesis. For some, the doctoral thesis is like taking a pleasant walk (the course work) and then discovering a cliff face (the thesis) in front of you which you must scale. For others, research in some field of mathematics "just happens'". Whichever it turns out for you, the doctorate is the rite-of-passage that precedes a job in academia: teaching undergraduate mathematics, perhaps teaching graduate mathematics, maybe living for your research, belonging to a community of researchers in your field, and trips to conferences throughout the US and in Europe, South America, China and Japan (at someone else's expense, of course:-)
Is a Doctoral Degree required, or even a good idea, if you are interested in a job in Industry? There is no easy answer to this question. The doctoral degree can typically take anywhere from 3 years (fast) to 6 years (slow) past your Masters Degree. This means you are in school for anywhere from 5 to 8 years past your undergraduate degree. These are years you are not being paid at a full-time wage, and still following the academic routine. Whether you are willing to make this sacrifice is a very personal decision. However, the advantage of the Doctoral Degree when employed in Industry or Government is that you are considered at the top of hierarchy. For example, a Doctorate in Statistics opens the door to jobs with the US Government, where you are doing research for some government agency, such as for the FDA. These are very high-paying and secure work positions.
Check out the list of employment for our doctoral graduates here: www.math.uic.edu/graduate/grad_people/alumni
Which Grad School?
Along with the question of whether to continue your studies in graduate school, there is the question of which grad school? There are many answers. Read on to learn more...