Preparing for grad school
Earning a graduate degree in the mathematical sciences or a related field can get you closer to the career you want, and it’s a rewarding and enjoyable experience in itself. This page contains general information on different kinds of graduate degrees and programs, and how to prepare for them. You should meet with your advisor or the department chair for more specific information and to formulate an individual plan.
For many careers, a master’s degree (MS or MA) is the appropriate choice. It can usually be earned in one to three years. Tuition varies widely, and many masters programs offer some level of financial support in the form of teaching or research assistantships. If you are not interested in pursuing a doctoral degree, then you might want to consider programs that offer a terminal master’s degree (instead of a master’s degree that feeds directly into a doctoral program), as this might be better suited to your needs. A Master’s in Industrial Math program is geared toward preparing students for careers in industry, and usually includes an internship and other career-specific experiences. You can usually find these programs with an internet search. A Professional Science Master’s (PSM) is a relatively new form of degree that prepares students for specific careers in industry, science, or business. The “Professional Science Masters” title is branded by the National Professional Science Master’s Association, which requires such programs to meet certain requirements. This site has a complete list of PSM programs. You might want to talk with someone who is already working in a career of interest to find out what kinds of masters degrees are recognized and recommended in that field. Some employers will hire someone with a bachelor’s degree with the expectation that the candidate will obtain a master’s degree, often with financial assistance from the employer.
In order to achieve Professional Certification (beyond Initial Certification) to teach mathematics at the high school level in New York State, candidates must obtain a master’s degree in Mathematics Education or a related field. See this website for more information. The Fredonia Mathematical Sciences Department offers a MS in Mathematics Education that leads to Professional Certification.
For some careers, a doctoral degree (PhD) is either required or recommended. To complete a PhD in the mathematical sciences, a student typically takes coursework for two to three years (often receiving a master’s degree in the process), passes one or more exams in order to demonstrate readiness for research, and then spends several years engaged in research, culminating in the publication of a dissertation. A dissertation is a lengthy document presenting new and significant results in a specialized area of the mathematical sciences. During the research phase of the program, a student works closely with a dissertation advisor, who helps the student develop research skills and monitors the process. As with master’s programs, tuition varies widely. For doctoral programs, most students receive financial support in the form of teaching or research assistantships.
Admission requirements for graduate programs vary. At a minimum, programs require a bachelor’s degree with an appropriate major or majors, and usually two to three letters of recommendation. In addition, programs might require specific coursework in college or that you take the Graduate Record Exams (GREs). The GREs, which are administered by Educational Testing Services, play a similar role in graduate admissions as the SAT or ACT does in undergraduate admission. There is a general GRE, and in addition some programs might require that you take the GRE Subject Test in Mathematics. GREs are usually taken in the summer before a student’s senior year in college or during the senior fall semester. You can find out more about the costs and timeframe for GREs here.