A masters degree in mathematics gives graduates career opportunities in computer programming, statistics and higher education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job possibilities for mathematicians is expected to grow 23 percent through 2020. Many schools now offer online masters degrees in mathematics, allowing students to focus on the specialization that best fits their goals.

Program Options

Online master of science mathematics programs generally offer students the option of focusing on pure or computational mathematics as opposed to applied math. Degrees in applied math -- also termed industrial math -- prepare graduates to work in research or engineering. Many schools also teach students the skills needed to become secondary or post-secondary teachers themselves. For instance, the University of Houston offers an online master of arts in mathematics specifically for those planning to teach after graduation by adding a credential to their teaching certificate or working at a community college.

Admissions Requirements

Applicants need a bachelor's degree to enter online master's programs in mathematics. Although schools accept students with B.S. degrees in areas other than math, applicants need a strong mathematics base for entry. For example, students wishing to enter the University of Washington's online master's program need to have taken two levels of calculus, differential equations, linear algebra and numerical analysis or beginning scientific computing. Applicants generally need to take the general Graduate Record Exam and have obtained a good grade point average in undergraduate work, particularly in math classes. Aurora University in Illinois, for example, requires a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.75 for entry into the distance program.

Typical Courses

Course work may focus on applied mathematics, algebra, number theory, statistics and probability. Titles for the program at Texas A&M University range from mathematical fluid dynamics to graph theory to the history of mathematics and wavelet analysis. Students in online educator programs like the one through Western Governors University, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, focus on content for the appropriate age group such as elementary, middle school or high school and may include mathematics methods courses focusing on teaching activities, curriculum development and assessment.

Research and Exams

Research requirements vary by program. For example, M.S. candidates at the University of Texas at Tyler's online program can opt to work on a research project and thesis while those at the University of Washington may do research, but cannot enroll in a thesis option. Online programs often offer alternatives to traditional testing, as well. UW lets students give a presentation or complete a take-home exam. Teaching programs such as the one through Aurora may require field experience instead of exams.