A PhD in Mathematics = Opportunity x 10

A PhD in mathematics is usually more research intensive and requires more class-time than other PhDs. For example, many PhDs allow the student to do research on their own and present papers on a regular basis so they can be evaluated by the professors. A PhD in mathematics requires attending at least two semesters of classes and seminars. According to the Harvard Mathematics Department, a person graduating with a PhD in mathematics should meet three requirements: a deep knowledge of one field of specialization within mathematics, a basic knowledge of all other math fields, and the ability to formulate a thesis that provides an original, important contribution to the field of mathematics.

Program Requirements

In order to receive a PhD in mathematics, a student must complete 72 credit units. If studying full-time, this can be done in a period of about four years. However, since most students do not follow full-time study in residence, it is possible for the program to last much longer than that. Requirements vary from one university to the next. Some will give you a maximum amount of time to complete the program (anywhere between seven and nine years is normal), while other programs are more flexible and don’t have a time limit.

Some universities, including Harvard, require PhD students to pass an exam at the end of their first year in the program. The exam tests students’ knowledge of advanced calculus, linear algebra, contour integration, elementary partial equations, probability and more. Students who do not pass the exam will not be able to continue in the program. Some programs require further exams along the way.

Other Requirements for a PhD in Mathematics

Students in a PhD program will have to show high proficiency in at least one of several research tools. Acceptable research tools include computer-programming languages, statistics, or one of several foreign languages (common languages accepted include German, Russian and French). When trying to demonstrate proficiency, the students must show how that research tool can be used in connection to math.


PhD in mathematics are expensive because of the coursework required. However, most programs also are fully funded through grants, scholarships or university stipends. If paid out of pocket, a PhD in mathematics would cost over $20,000 per year. Some universities pay the full cost of the PhD in exchange for teaching some classes or doing some other academic work. Most stipends and grants not only cover the cost of the degree, but also provide enough money to support yourself, so you can concentrate on your studies full-time.

After Graduation

A PhD in mathematics is rare and difficult to obtain, so it can open a lot of doors. According to the Medgar Evers College Math Society, the number one employer for people with a PhD in math is the NSA (National Security Agency). Many graduates also work in the academic world, as professors or researchers. It’s also possible to find a job in industries dealing with statistics, math or computer technology, since people with a PhD in mathematics are often employed to help with research and development.