Math Degree: How You Can Use It & How to Pay For It

Math Degree: Is It Worth the Cost?

College is more expensive than ever, making it more important for college students to determine ahead of time whether their degree is worth the cost. Math degrees are often worth the cost as they allow alumni to pursue many lucrative careers.

Math majors can be mathematicians, but they can also pursue analytical professions. Many of those career paths lead to high-paying jobs, but some pay more than others. Salaries depend in large part on the type of math degree you have and the career path you choose.

What Is a Degree in Math?

A degree in math is one that students earn by studying various mathematical disciplines, such as algebra, calculus, statistics, set theory, and stochastics. Math majors might also study applied mathematics, which is more theoretical in nature.

Those who earn math degrees develop the analytical skills necessary to solve real-world problems. The problem-solving skills that math students learn is one of the reasons they do well in fields beyond mathematics itself.

There are many types of math degrees that can lead to an even greater number of career paths. This has led to a slate of fast-growing fields for math program graduates, some of which make a math degree well worth it.

What Kinds of Math Degrees Are There?

Students who want to pursue a math degree have options throughout the post-secondary education system, ranging from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees.

Associate Degree in Math

An associate degree in math is one that students can often complete in two years or less. These degrees are often earned at community colleges and usually require about 60 credit hours.

Associate degrees in mathematics are a great way for math majors to start their academic journey. Those who earn associate degrees in math often enroll in four-year colleges; credit hours from associate degree programs can be transferable to four-year math degree programs.

Bachelor’s Degree in Math

A bachelor’s degree in math is an undergraduate degree that provides training in both applied and core mathematics. These are generally four-year degrees requiring 120 credit hours.

Students will be expected to analyze and solve problems, construct mathematical solutions, and apply mathematical solutions to real-world problems. Students can pay for these degrees with undergraduate loans.

Master’s Degree in Math

A master’s degree in math is a graduate-level degree that may offer more specialized training in mathematics. These degrees usually take about two years to complete and prepare you for a career in either a teaching position or an industry job.

It may involve basic courses in real analysis and linear algebra. Later, you may complete fundamental courses such as probability, scientific computing, and differential equations. Students can pay for these degrees with graduate loans.

Doctoral Degree in Math

A doctoral degree in mathematics is typically a Ph.D. program that takes five to six years to complete. There might also be graduate school requirements that students must complete, plus a residency.

The curriculum for a doctoral degree might involve courses in the areas of algebra, analysis, and topology. There are also exams, a dissertation, and a thesis to complete.

Are Finance and Math Degrees the Same?

Math and finance degrees are both analytical in nature, and both math and finance majors are likely to engage in quantitative analysis as a part of their professions. Despite the overlap in skills, though, the two degrees are not the same.

Both math and finance majors might enroll in introductory mathematics courses, such as calculus I. But beyond the basic courses, the two majors usually diverge. Math majors will learn more complex mathematical theory, while finance majors’ curricula will be more focused on business.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Mathematics Degree?

One of the best things about mathematics degrees is the number of career paths that may follow. Mathematics majors can be math teachers or mathematicians, but they can also have several other types of roles.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists find ways to use new and existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in business, science, medicine, and other fields.


Physicists study the interactions of matter and energy. They might design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, lasers, or electron microscopes.


Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. This makes them essential to the insurance industry. They use mathematics, financial theory, and statistics to assess the risk of potential events.

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data, applying computational methods to solve practical problems in the areas of business, engineering, science, and other fields. They develop mathematical or statistical models to analyze data.

Mathematics College Professors

Mathematics college professors teach courses around mathematical concepts, statistics, and actuarial science. They also teach courses on the application of mathematical techniques in solving specific problems.

Mathematics High School Teachers

Mathematics high school teachers plan and teach math lessons to students in secondary education. Their primary responsibilities include grading assignments and quizzes and tracking students’ progress.

What Is the Average Salary if You Have a Math Degree?

Math occupations had a median annual wage of $98,680 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, some math majors earn more than others.

For example, actuaries have a median pay of $105,900, while mathematicians and statisticians have a median of $96,280. Not only that, but actuaries also need just a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions, while mathematicians and statisticians need at least a master’s degree.

Ways to Pay for a Math Degree

Much like other types of degrees, there are multiple ways to pay for a math degree. That includes financial aid, merit-based scholarships, 529 plans, and more.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is one of the most common ways to pay for college. Grants vs. scholarships vs. loans are three large umbrellas of federal financial aid. Grants and scholarships are both considered gift aid which students are typically not required to repay. Federal student loans do require repayment.

Federal student loans have many benefits for borrowers, such as income-based repayment (IBR) plans and public student loan forgiveness (PSLF). To apply for financial aid, students will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) yearly.

Merit-Based Scholarships and Grants

There are thousands of scholarships and grants that may be available to students pursuing a math degree. These scholarships range from amounts of just a few dollars up to covering the entire cost of college.

One of the biggest benefits of scholarships and grants is that unlike student loans, they usually don’t have to be repaid. While “merit-based” often refers to academic merit, it can be based on other criteria, such as athletics or leadership.

With so many scholarships available, you may want to leverage a combination of resources to find relevant opportunities. For example, you contact your school’s financial aid office and check with federal and state agencies. The U.S. Department of Labor also has a scholarship search tool available.

529 Plans

529 plans are college savings plans sponsored by a state or state agency. These plans are investment accounts that offer tax benefits and can cover qualifying education expenses such as tuition and textbooks.

529 plans are often opened by parents to save for their children’s future college education, but anyone 18 and over can open an account. You can even open an account for yourself and still take advantage of the tax benefits they offer.

Personal Savings

Personal savings is always an option when paying for your math degree. While it isn’t “free money” like a scholarship or grant, personal savings can help in some situations.

For example, certain expenses don’t qualify for the tax benefits of a 529 plan, such as entrance exams and test prep. You might decide to use your personal savings for non-qualified expenses and reserve your 529 for qualified expenses.

Private Student Loan

Private student loans are available from private financial institutions. You can qualify as long as you meet certain requirements, such as being enrolled in an eligible school and meeting credit and income criteria. Private student loans may offer lower interest rates for qualifying borrowers than federal student loans but may also lack some of the protections that federal student loans offer.

The Takeaway

Math degrees remain an excellent choice for anyone starting college as they are highly valued in sectors such as finance and tech, in addition to mathematics. Those pursuing a math degree can earn degrees ranging from associate degrees up to doctoral degrees.

However, college is expensive and most of us need help covering the costs. SoFi private student loans are one option. There are rate discounts, a six-month grace period, and absolutely no fees. You can even repay your student loans using rewards points.

Find out if you qualify for a no fee student loan from SoFi in just a few minutes.


What can you do with a mathematics degree?

Math degrees allow people to pursue careers not only as mathematicians and teachers but also as actuaries, physicists, and computer scientists.

What are degrees in math?

Math degrees allow students to study and apply concepts learned in mathematical disciplines such as algebra, calculus, and statistics. In doing so, students learn analytical skills they can apply in solving real-world problems.

How can I pay for a math degree?

There are many ways to pay for a math degree, including scholarships and grants, federal and private student loans, and 529 plans.

Photo credit: iStock/bob_bosewell
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