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The age old B.A. vs B.S. question: Mathematics

  1. Aug 13, 2009 #1
    My career aspiration is to teach Mathematics at a post-secondary level. Whether it be Community College, a private university, or state university. Which would be better to go after? A B.A. or a B.S. in Mathematics? I understand that I would need at least a Master's to teach at Community College, and Ph.D. to teach at a research university. Since I want to focus on education rather than research, should I go for the B.A.? Ideally, I am up to it and would prefer to do a Bachelor's of Science but the school I am looking into close by only offers a Bachelor's of Arts. I basically need help making the determination of whether to go the extra effort not just academically for a B.S. as opposed to a B.A.

    In addition, the universities I am considering for the B.A. and their courses for the degree program are:

    Univeristy of Ill. - Springfield (online B.A. in Mathematical Sciences)

    MAT 111 Quantitative Reasoning 4
    MAT 113 Business Calculus 4
    MAT 115 Calculus I 4
    MAT 116 Calculus II 4
    MAT 121 Applied Statistics 4
    MAT 217 Calculus III 4
    MAT 302 Discrete Mathematics 4
    MAT 330 Writing Skills 0
    MAT 332 Linear Algebra 4
    MAT 336 Introduction to Differential Equations and its Applications 4
    MAT 400 Topics in Mathematics 1-4
    MAT 401 History of Mathematics 4
    MAT 403 Abstract Algebra 4
    MAT 404 Geometry 4
    MAT 405 Introduction to Topology 4
    MAT 415 Advanced Calculus 4
    MAT 416 Real Analysis 4
    MAT 420 Topics in Statistics and Probability 1-4
    MAT 421 Statistical Methods 4
    MAT 431 Mathematical Statistics I 4
    MAT 432 Mathematical Statistics II 4
    MAT 444 Operations Research Methods 4
    University of South Florida (B.A. Mathematics)

    2 lab based science courses

    MAC 2311 — Calculus I (4)
    MAC 2312 — Calculus II (4)
    MAC 2313 — Calculus III (4)
    MGF 3301 — Bridge to Abstract Mathematics (4)
    MAS 3105 — Linear Algebra (4)
    MAS 4156 — Vector Calculus (4)

    and a choice of 21 credit hours or more of the following

    COP 4313 — Symbolic Computations in Mathematics (3)
    MAA 4211 — Intermediate Analysis I (4)
    MAA 4212 — Intermediate Analysis II (3)
    MAA 4402 — Complex Variables (3)
    MAD 4401 — Numerical Analysis (3)
    MAD 4504 — Theory of Computation (3)
    MAD 5305 — Introduction to Graph Theory (3)
    MAP 2302 — Differential Equations (3)
    MAP 5345 — Applied Partial Differential Equations (3)
    MAP 5407 — Methods of Applied Mathematics (3)
    MAS 4156 — Vector Calculus (4)
    MAS 4301 — Elementary Abstract Algebra (3)
    MAS 5215 — Number Theory (3)
    MHF 4403 — Early History of Mathematics (3)
    MHF 4406 — History of Modern Mathematics (3)
    MTG 4214 — Modern Geometry (3)
    MTG 4302 — Introduction to Topology (3)
    STA 4321 — Essentials of Statistics (3)
    STA 4442 — Introduction to Probability (3)

    What do you think about these two? Would it be worth it for me to move away from the comfort of home and my boyfriend to get a Bachelor's of Science? Would that increase my chances of getting into a good Master's program? Also, should the Master's be in Mathematics as well or could it be Master's in Math Ed.?

    Thanks so much guys,
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 13, 2009 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'm in physics, not math, but I expect the situation to be similar in the two fields. Graduate schools are not going to care about the label on your degree, in itself. What counts is the courses that you actually took, how well you did in them, your letters of recommendation, and GRE scores. In physics, research experience helps a lot, but I don't know about math.

    It looks to me like you would get pretty much the same number of courses at both schools. Note the math degree requirements at UIS:


    After you've finished the intro calculus sequence, they require 32 credit hours total. USF requires 33 credit hours in math, beyond calculus. The difference is insignificant, especially considering that you shouldn't limit yourself to that number of hours if you're planning on grad school!

    Someone who knows math better than I do can comment on whether the range of elective courses is OK at both schools, but it sure looks like it to me. Both schools offer more courses than does the small college where I teach, and I know many of our math majors go on to grad school.

    My own undergraduate degree (double major in physics and math) is a B.A. from a small college, by the way.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2009
  4. Aug 13, 2009 #3
    If you want to go to grad school in math to get a PhD, you'll want classes in Algebra, Analysis, and Topology. Both schools offer this, so it seems like you could get the coursework you need at either place. For an MS entrance requirements are often less strict. Courses in linear algebra, and advanced calculus (plus a few more math electives) will often suffice.

    So what's the difference between a BS and BA? At some schools the BA requires less math and more liberal arts. At liberal arts colleges and other smaller schools, the BA is often the only thing they offer. Grad schools want you to take more math, but they don't care about the label on the degree. I've often heard that there's no appreciable difference between a BS and BA, but this isn't entirely true. Before I decided on physics grad school I applied for several jobs (I had physics and math BS degrees). A few employers actually said that they were specifically looking for a BS and not a BA. If you're sure about grad school then it doesn't matter, since admissions committees know that there's no real difference. But if you have a choice, you might as well go for the BS.
  5. Aug 13, 2009 #4
    Would you have any opportunity to do research with the online degree?
  6. Aug 13, 2009 #5
    No, there is not. I'm not sure at USF, either. Are there research opportunities for undergrads?

    jtbell and arunma -- both of your replies gave me the answers I was looking and hoping for. I greatly appreciate your input.
  7. Aug 13, 2009 #6
    I also forgot to mention that I already have an A.A. in Math, where I've completed Cal 1-III, DiffEq, and Physics with Cal I and II. I am also very interested in double majoring in Physics. I fell in love with it last semester. That is a whole 'nother post though. Thanks again guys.
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