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A Guide to Postgraduate Maths

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First Published:

05th October 2015

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A Guide to Postgraduate Maths

Are you good with numbers? Is your head a human calculator that never fails? Are you always the one splitting the bills in restaurants and wondering why everyone else finds it so difficult? If you’re a bit of a maths whizz, then studying a postgraduate maths qualification is perfect for you.

Contents:

What Sort of Person Would It Suit?

maths skills
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Apart from having an interest in Maths (obviously), maths qualifications would suit someone with an analytical mindset who can remain calm under pressure (the numbers won’t always add up the way you want them to).

It’s ideal for people who want to open mathematical career doors, enhance their current knowledge generally or just have more studying of a subject they enjoy, so don’t be afraid to go for it!

 

What Previous Qualifications Do You Need?

Although the requirements change based on the university and the type of maths course you want to do, ideally you need some sort of mathematical background to do a maths postgraduate. This could include qualifications like maths, physics, sciences or engineering, to name a few.

There will be some courses where you won’t necessarily need these types of qualification to get a place, although it’s likely that you’ll still need a 2:1 degree for a place on their course.

 

What Types of Maths Qualifications Can You Do?

postgraduate qualifications
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There are many different maths qualifications you can study depending on the area you wish to specialise in:

Masters
PHD
PG Diploma

 

MSC/MA/Mres

You’ll find that an MSC or MA maths degree will be a taught degree, so if you’re looking for a qualifications that’ll see you based in familiar lecture halls and graded based on coursework and exams then this might be the best option for you, especially as most MSc courses will expect you to write a dissertation.

Msc and MAs are particularly good if you’re looking to go into an academic, mathematical or research based job in the future due to both what you’re learn and how you’ll study.

 

PHD

Maths PHDs, like most PHDs, tend to have a heavier focus on you doing the research for yourself, so if you like to do the sums by yourself and want to learn something very specific, it might be worth choosing a PHD qualification.

PHD can last up to 5 years, so make sure you check with the university how long you’d be expected to study, and consider whether you’re willing to spend that amount of time on that particular subject.

If you want to study a PHD but don’t have a lot of experience in the mathematical world, taking an MSc, MA or MRes first before a PHD is recommended by some universities, and some even operate a fast track system into their PHD courses if you’ve already studied an MRes.

 

PG Diploma

This qualification is ideal if you haven’t got much time to study or want to earn your maths qualification in a short period of time, as these types of courses tend to last a year or under. These qualifications are ideal if you didn’t take a maths undergraduate degree.

 

Maths Courses

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There are a variety of different maths courses you can do at a postgraduate level, most of them will cover a mix of theoretical and practical maths, and although there can be crossovers in terms of what you learn, ultimately each different qualification will have varying degrees of intensity and different focuses and methods of teaching angles on particular topics.  

Dr Evgeny Khukhro, a senior lecturer of the School of Mathematics and Physics at University of Lincoln gives a breakdown of what you can expect when you stay maths. He says:

"Advanced studies in mathematics at post-graduate level open opportunities to participate in research in pure or applied mathematics. For these purposes, mathematical departments include in their programmes a great variety of more special subjects, providing choices leading to different specializations.

"Selection of these advanced courses usually plays to the existing strengths of research in mathematics departments. For example, at University of Lincoln, the newly formed School of Mathematics and Physics has two very strong research groups, Algebra in pure mathematics, and Computational Physics in applied mathematics."

Here’s a breakdown of just a few of the maths qualifications you can study...

 

General Mathematics

If you’re looking to study Maths as a whole subject rather than something very specific, then general mathematics is likely to suit you.

General mathematics covers various elements of mainstream maths and mathematical techniques in a more general form, including researching how they are applied and how they affect us in both abstract and logical ways.

With this course you’d cover familiar territory including topics like algebra, stats, calculus and solving formulas (but in a more broad sense than pure mathematics). You’ll also study modern mathematics so you’d be up-to-date with the latest developments, something that will be incredibly useful if you wish to have a career in maths.

The grading will be similar to pure mathematics where you’ll be taught in lectures, be graded by coursework and examinations and will probably be expected to do a dissertation towards the end of the course.

 

Pure Mathematics

Pure Mathematics involves studying maths at a deeper level than you may have before, in particular the core areas of maths itself and the abstract concepts it can create.

This may include studying vital areas of maths include algebra, geometry and analysis, as well as different types of theories including graph, number and proof theory. Chances are you’ll be doing a lot of problem solving in your work too as this course tends to focus heavily on abstract reasoning and analysis.

Your first few terms/years (depending on the qualification and university) are likely to be more lecture focused learning, but as the course goes on the research element will become heavier, including dissertations and end of year reports.

 

Applied Mathematics

Applied mathematics focuses on mathematical techniques and methods, such as numerical analysis, dynamics and mathematical modelling. This is a research based qualification that is ideal for people who want a career as mathematicians, engineers or scientists.

Often focusing on the world around you and tackling big issues, (in particular anything related to natural sciences, engineering, business and finance), you’ll explore how you can apply core maths and the latest computing software within society. Topics you may study include...

  • Combustion Theory
  • Computer Modelling
  • Theoretical physics
  • Statistics
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Mechanics
  • Waves

Although slightly similar, this course is harder than pure mathematics due to the challenges you’ll face and the techniques you’ll be expected to use.

 

Geometry

If you study geometry you’ll be focusing on the visual aspect of maths. You’ll be mainly looking at shapes, patterns, sizes, angles and positions of objects within your course (think lines, squares and circles, like preschool but harder). Topics you could end up studying include:

  • Twister Theory
  • Algebraic Geometry
  • Geometric Topology
  • Differential Geometry
  • Geometric Group Theory
  • Generalised Triangle Groups

Often paired with topology, you’re likely to be doing prediction work too.

So if you’re good at algebra and know your Pythagoras from your trigonometry, this qualification is for you. Due to the scientific nature of what you could be studying it’s helpful to have some physics knowledge, although this isn’t a compulsory skill.

 

Mathematical Sciences

This particular postgraduate qualification is more scientific and research based than some of the others. As well as studying general mathematics, you’d also study topics that wouldn’t feature in other courses as they aren’t necessary considered to be completely mathematical, and are more scientific observations with mathematical analysis.

You’ll study a combination of maths, physical sciences and social sciences, so if you’re after a mathematical career in the science world then this is the qualification for you.

With a focus on reasoning and problem solving theories, as well the technological advances this can create, topics you may study include:

  • Mathematical Biology
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Topology
  • Algebra
  • Applied and Computational Mathematics
  • Geometry
  • Quantum Field Theory

 

MathematicalModelling

No, this isn’t anything to do with LEGO (sadly) but instead focuses on mathematical languages, and in particular how you can use, translate or create that language in order to describe system behaviours and functions. You’ll learn how to create mathematical representations of these systems in order to discover how we can use them.

Basically, there’s a lot of asking “how” and “how much” types of questions, lots of problem solving, analysing and plenty of testing theories. It’s for this reason you may find your course is a mixture of theory and practical learning.

This particular subject can help you accomplish a range of things, including scientific research, testing system changes and helping you make tactical or strategic decisions. This is therefore a vital qualification for anyone looking for an engineering or science related career, as roles in these industries will often use mathematical modelling. You’ll also be able to help with scientific and technological advances so it’s definitely a qualification where you can make a difference in the future.

Things you may study include:

  • Data Mining
  • Abstraction and Scaling
  • Molecular Modelling
  • Parallel Computing
  • Artificial Intelligence Applications
  • Structures and Algorithms
  • Constructing Linear Models

If you’re interested in doing this qualification it’s worth having good problem solving skills and a degree in something numerical, or at least relevant work experience in this area.

 

Statistics

Now has never been a better time to study this particular subject as demand for statisticians is high from employers, especially in medical, government and academic industries.

Statistics qualifications are all about analysing data and creating probability or statistical theories based on your findings. You can be learning about statistics across a range of platforms including environmental, financial, functional and spatial.

Learning core theories and methods along the way, and likely to be both practical and theory based learning, topics you could end up studying include:

  • Calculus
  • Linear Algebra
  • Probability Theory
  • Statistical Computing
  • Scientific Writing
  • Data Analysis
  • Hypothesis Testing

You’ll also learn about general theories and understanding how statistical techniques work and how to apply them.

Due to the nature of the modules, a degree in a similar subject (e.g. computer science, biological science, business studies etc) is a good starting point.

 

Other Options

There are many other courses you can study including,

And many more! If you’d like a full list of maths postgraduate qualifications, we can help!

 

Why Study It?

why study maths
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As well as the maths knowledge you’ll learn, these courses will teach you a range of transferable skills that you can take to both math and non-math related jobs.

You’ll learn how to be more analytical and interpret difficult data in a flash, which will improve your decision making and problem solving skills. Not to mention the obvious time management and organisational skills you’ll pick up thanks to those pesky deadlines, communication and team work skills with your fellow students,

Dr Evgeny Khukhro explains why you should study maths at a PG level perfectly when he says,

"Mathematics permeates all spheres of life. Therefore a mathematical way of thinking is valued by the society and mathematics graduates are in demand across a broad range of stimulating and rewarding careers in various walks of life as diverse as science and technology, engineering, computing, education, NHS, consultancy, business and finance, administrative bodies.

"Employers often seek graduates with good grades in mathematics irrespective of particular subjects that contributed to the degree. Many successful entrepreneurs were mathematics graduates; a good example is Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google".

 

What Careers Can I Do?

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Don’t believe the myths, these qualifications aren’t just for wannabe maths teachers. Maths is an integral part of large and key industries such as finance, medicine, engineering, science and technology, so by taking a maths postgrad, you could be helping out some major sectors, and there are a range of careers that you could use them in.

40% of maths graduates enter a business or financial role so you certainly wouldn’t be alone if you chose to go down this career path. And due to a rise in the demand for these types of roles (and the low numbers of people who are qualified to fill them), you and your qualification are likely to stand out to employers.

You can al so head into the IT industry with a postgrad in maths, as your problem solving and analytical skills makes you a perfect candidate for this sector.

These same skills can also be used for roles that require forecasting such as meteorology, logistics and transport. Basically the world is your oyster.

Or why not become what everyone thinks you’ll become...a maths teacher? There’s currently a shortage of them, particularly in secondary schools.

 

Funding

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Interested in taking a maths qualification but need some monies in order to start applying for them?

Although postgraduate funding is slightly more difficult than it was during your undergraduate years, you can still get it. Here are just some of the ways you can get funding for your maths course.

Note: Some of these options will pay for just your course, just your accommodation, just for equipment you need to buy or everything you’ll ever need to pay for. And with all of these options you need to apply for them several months before you actually start the course.

 

Professional and Career Development Loans

These are bank loans which will help fund your entire course. You’ll usually be able to borrow up to £10,000, although it’s worth enquiring with your bank to see what they offer, and the amount you’re eligible for could change depending on your credit history.

Although this doesn’t need to be paid back immediately, this isn’t like your student loan where you pay back when you earn a certain amount. While you study and the month after you graduate you don’t have to pay anything and interest will be frozen, however once this month is over it’s time to pay.

 

Research Council Grants

These particular grants are given to around 8,000 students every year, so it’s unsurprising that it’s one of the main places that PhD students apply to for funding. Although they offer grants across a range of academic subjects, the one that potential maths postgraduates should be applying for are the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

These grants will cover your tuition fees, and you can also receive a living grant, which could amount to around £14,000 in total if you’re eligible. In order to apply you need to be studying a research related Masters or PhD and you may also need to hold a first or 2:1 in your undergraduate degree.

 

Scholarships from Associations and Trusts

Depending on what maths specialism you’re studying, there are a variety of grants, bursaries and scholarships which are given by institutions, both for mathematics generally as well as particular subjects.

It’s worth contacting your university about this as they may be associated with particular scholarships and research grants, making your application seem more relevant.

 

Ask Your University

Some universities actually offer a selected number of bursaries and scholarships to their maths courses, so it’s always worth going detective on their site, or simply just giving them a call, to find out if they offer this, and if so, how to apply for it.

 

Employer Help

If you’re currently employed you could even ask your employer if they’d be interested in at least part funding your course. After all, every penny counts.

 

Working

Of course you can always work while you study to bring in some extra cash to pay for your course, or delay your place and save up money before heading to university again.

 

Check out Maths qualifications on Postgraduatesearch.

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