A master’s in applied statistics isn’t only one of the highest-paying master’s degrees. It’s also one of the most versatile degrees, with applications in any number of industries. There’s no question that having an undergraduate background in math can be helpful for students who intend to pursue a master’s degree in applied math. However, you may still be able to pursue an applied mathematics master’s degree even if you chose a different major as an undergraduate student. What matters more than the actual title of your degree program is whether the coursework you took provides the mathematical foundation needed for graduate-level study in applied math.
Focusing on Prerequisites Rather Than Major
While the name of your college major might describe the core courses you were required to take to earn your degree, it doesn’t encompass all of the classes you completed. Universities know that applicants to graduate school have a strong mathematical background if they majored in math, but that doesn’t mean students who weren’t math majors can’t also have the math skills required to succeed in the program.
With this in mind, many graduate schools that offer a master’s degree in applied math stop short of requiring a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Instead, these schools may choose to focus on prerequisites, or courses that students are required to have taken prior to applying to or beginning the graduate school program. Common prerequisites for a master’s degree in applied mathematics include linear algebra and advanced calculus.
Individual courses in a master’s in applied mathematics program may also have their own prerequisites. For example, an introductory course in mathematical methods and modeling might require students to have taken undergraduate classes in differential equations if success in that course hinges on having a grasp of ordinary and partial differential equations.
If you don’t meet the prerequisites to get into a master’s in applied mathematics program, you may just have to add on a few undergraduate courses before you can apply to graduate school. You can do this as a non-degree-seeking student and pay per course or per credit.
Other Undergraduate Programs of Study That Lead to Master’s Degrees in Math
IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain
Mathematics, and applied math, in particular, lend themselves to other fields of study. Mathematical concepts are important for understanding information, solving problems and designing devices, systems and techniques in real-world applications. The more familiarity you have with a field to which you’re aiming to apply math principles, the better positioned you are to do so. It makes sense, then, that some students in a master’s degree program in applied mathematics come from one of these backgrounds. In fact, even undergraduate students who do major in mathematics are usually encouraged to complete some coursework in one of the fields in which they are most likely to find a job applying the mathematical principles they are studying, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The non-math backgrounds that are most widely accepted by master’s degree programs in applied mathematics include engineering, science and computer science. An undergraduate degree in any discipline of engineering, a field that focuses on the design of solutions to different types of problems, will typically help students develop the math and science knowledge needed to succeed in an applied math program.
Math-heavy sciences like physics may be the science majors that are most directly relevant to applied mathematics, but other sciences may also be a good starting point. For example, having a bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in applied mathematics might qualify you to work in the field of systems biology, bioinformatics, statistical genetics or public health.
Computer science, the field of science that deals with computation, computer systems and computer software, has a lot more in common with applied mathematics than you might realize. Not only do the fundamentals of computer science come largely from math, but many of the analytical and mathematical modeling methods used by today’s mathematicians rely on computer technology. Having knowledge of computer programming practices and specific computer programming languages is also helpful for mathematicians, according to the BLS.
Often, graduate school applicants have a chance to discuss their background in a personal statement. If your undergraduate degree isn’t in math, you may choose to highlight your math coursework, math-related work experience and relevant career ambitions.