Math Education Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What kind job can you get with a degree in math education? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and math education master's and Ph.D. degree programs.
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Studying Math Education: Degrees and Training at a Glance

Graduate degree programs in math education are designed for current and aspiring educators, researchers and curriculum developers. Many master's degree programs in math education include coursework and practical teaching experience designed to prepare you for teaching certification. Doctoral degree programs are more rigorous, and they can prepare you to work in research and academia at the university level.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a slow 7% employment growth for high school teachers is expected from 2010-2020. However, math teachers may have better job opportunities since schools often have difficulty finding teachers for this subject. The BLS also projected a 17% employment growth for postsecondary math teachers between 2010 and 2020.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this Degree For? - Aspiring secondary and postsecondary school teachers
- Current teachers seeking an advanced degree
- People who want to work as researchers, curriculum developers or professors
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean salary) - High school teacher ($57,000)*
- Junior college math teacher ($72,000)*
- College and university professor ($77,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full time 3-5 years after master's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 10 graduate courses
- Fieldwork
- Student teaching
*Graduate project
- Roughly 70-80 credits of coursework
Qualifying paper(s)
- Teaching assistantship
- Research practicum
- Comprehensive exams
- Doctoral dissertation
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree in math or bachelor's degree with math content
- Some schools require initial teaching certification
- Bachelor's degree in math
- Teaching experience or certification
Online Availability Yes Not available at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree in Math Education

Math education master's degree programs are typically designed for middle or high school math teachers looking to advance their teaching careers or move into roles as curriculum developers and researchers. Although you typically only need a bachelor's degree to become certified, the BLS noted that some states require you to earn a master's degree after achieving certification.

Programs include significant research studies and supervised teaching experiences. Because of the immersion of teaching and technology, most programs also offer studies in teaching technologies. Master's degree programs usually culminate in a master's project or portfolio, and many programs prepare uncertified individuals for teaching certification.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some schools offer higher pay incentives for teachers with master's degrees
  • Master's degree coursework may count toward recertification requirements
  • Adults with master's degrees make up to $8,000 more per year than those with bachelor's degrees*

Cons

  • You can become a math teacher with only a bachelor's degree
  • Jobs for high school teachers are expected to experience slow job growth
  • Jobs for community college teachers are extremely competitive and may require relocation

Sources: *The New York Times.

Common Course Requirements

Master's programs can lead to a Master of Arts or a Master Science, and depending on the program, you may earn between 30 and 42 credits. Curricula may cover the fundamentals of literacy, teaching and learning and diversity. Core courses focus on the teaching of mathematics, such as algebra, trigonometry and calculus. Other possible courses include:

  • Curriculum and assessment
  • Educational technology
  • Educational research
  • Professional development

In addition to courses and seminars, you'll likely be required to complete a graduate project or portfolio; this will include presentations of your research work and teaching experiences.

Online Degree Options

Online master's degree programs in math education are available at several schools across the nation. However, some of the programs may only be open to those who are currently employed as teachers or who hold teaching certification. Programs that are available generally follow the same curricula as on-campus programs. Coursework is completed online, sometimes with the aid of media, such as videoconferencing.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

As technology advances, the field of education transforms. Educators must be able to use new learning technologies as well as teach students about technology. Although programs typically include at least one technology-centered course, you may be able to choose electives that expand on educational technology.

You can also check if your school has student organizations related to math or education. These organizations can give you a chance to enhance your mathematical skills or exercise your leadership abilities by acquiring officer positions. Additionally, you can gain networking prospects and volunteer opportunities.

Degree Alternatives

Requirements for teacher certification are extensive and a career-long process because of recertification requirements. However, private school teachers don't need to be licensed, and a math degree, rather than a math education degree, may qualify you for a private school teaching job. This degree program would still center on math, but wouldn't include the teacher education components, and you wouldn't need a teaching license to find a job.

A master's degree in math could also qualify you to work as a mathematician. According to the BLS, an average 16% growth rate is expected for mathematicians from 2010-2020. The salary of a mathematician is nearly double that of a high school teacher at about $101,000, as of May 2011.

Ph.D. in Math Education

Ph.D. programs tend to be more rigorous than master's degree programs, and research is generally the main focus. Ph.D. programs also tend to have smaller classes, and collaboration with faculty members is imperative. You can expect to choose an area of the field to focus your research. Ph.D. courses are designed to produce capable researchers and teachers, as well as curriculum developers in elementary, middle, secondary and postsecondary schools.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some schools offer tuition waivers and stipends for teaching assistantships
  • Programs often allow for some amount of customization
  • Professors at colleges and universities typically earn more than those at community colleges

Cons

  • Doctoral study can take up to six years beyond a bachelor's degree
  • Ph.D. programs require a rigorous amount of work and study
  • Jobs for tenured professor positions are extremely competitive

Courses and Requirements

Because Ph.D. programs focus mainly on research, your program may be individualized, giving you the freedom to develop your area of research. While you most likely have a certain amount of required courses to complete, you typically have the opportunity to choose some of your classes. Required coursework might include:

  • Math education research
  • Qualitative methods
  • Quantitative methods
  • Experiment design
  • Educational administration

Internships or field work provides you with practical training relevant to your chosen area of study. A doctoral dissertation, which you may be required to defend orally, is commonly how the program concludes.

Online Degree Options

This program is not available online at this time; however, some courses in Ph.D. programs are offered online. The nature of Ph.D. programs, especially with respect to research and collaboration and non-traditional course formats, necessitate on-campus learning.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Because a Ph.D. is typically a precursor to a career in research or academia, you can concentrate on achieving publication in academic journals while still in school. Furthermore, you can focus your research on educational technology since this is a prevailing issue in the field. Participating in research or teaching assistantships can provide you with additional experience; stipends or tuition waivers are often provided with assistantships.

Popular Schools

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