I am currently a final year undergraduate, majoring in Pure Mathematics. My aim is to become a Maths lecturer in a university. With this in mind, I need to apply Phd in mathematics in the coming year. However, I'm not the person who likes to do research (not to the extend of hate, but I would not dwell myself for the whole day just to do research) while Phd is mainly research-based.

Question: Is there any university which offers Phd in mathematics with emphasis in teaching? Also, what are the alternatives to become a lecturer in university besides applying Phd in mathematics?

UPDATE: Anonymous Mathematicians mentions 'Doctor of Arts' (DA) in his answer below. Here is the list of graduates from DA program offered by Idaho State University. Don't the data give a sense of difficulties, in such a way that it is difficult to enroll in the DA program? Also, I see most graduates end up working at university.

  • What country or countries are you looking to work in? Things may be very different from place to place. In the U.S., the academic system in math revolves around research. Even if you are looking for a position at a liberal arts college where teaching comes first, you will get that job by having an excellent vita in teaching and research. This may be only tangential to the actual question, but you should investigate the employment "hierarchy" in the country where you want to work, to see whether "lecturer" is a reasonable career goal for you in their system. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 13:19
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    "Don't the data give a sense of difficulties, in such a way that it is difficult to enroll in the DA program?" I'm not sure what you mean by that. It's a small program, if that's what you're getting at. But I've certainly seen smaller. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:32
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    What about research in math pedagogics? Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 16:49
  • PhD in teaching w/ emphasis on math does sound like a more useful path... except for schools insisting on a terminal degree before they grant tenure...
    – keshlam
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 23:52

5 Answers 5


The "doctor of arts" degree was created in the 1960's to solve this problem. It's like a PhD, but it doesn't require original research for the dissertation. The goal is to prepare students for teaching careers that do not involve research.

Several universities in the U.S. offer DA degrees in mathematics, but they have never become popular. Many people aren't even aware that such a degree exists, and those who know about it generally consider it inferior to a PhD. Even institutions that do not expect their faculty to conduct any research at all often prefer to hire candidates who have some research experience in the past, in which case they would prefer a PhD to a DA. (And many institutions require at least a little research to get tenure.)

For most people, getting a DA would be a bad idea: the time and effort required are comparable to a PhD, with worse career prospects. However, there are some narrow circumstances in which it could make sense. For example, some institutions (particularly high schools and some community colleges) don't require a doctorate at all but pay a higher salary to faculty with a terminal degree. In that case, a DA might work just as well as a PhD.

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    Regarding your first sentence: the following is a short but interesting article (especially for mathematics insiders and/or Harvard graduates): thecrimson.com/article/1961/2/18/…. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:25
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    Quoted from the article: "Recommended by the Mathematical Association of America and the American Mathematical Society, the proposal is the latest attempt to do something about the shortage of college mathematicians who have Ph.D.'s. If adopted, the plan is expected to more than double the present yield of about 280 doctors a year." Um, wow. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 14:27

"Lecturer" is a title with very different meanings in different countries.

In the US system, the title typically indicates either a part time instructor or a person who is a full time teacher but not a tenured or tenure track faculty member. In the UK and many other commonwealth countries a "lecturer" is the equivalent of an assistant or associate professor in the US.

My answer below is in the context of the US system.

Within the US system, if you want to be a "professor" of mathematics at a prestigious university then you have to be an active researcher. It is sometimes possible to earn a PhD and do some research and then move onto a career as a tenured faculty member at a less prestigious college or university while doing very little research after the PhD. However, the competition for such positions is extremely intense (hundreds of applications for a tenure track position are common) and many colleges that wouldn't have cared about research in the past can now expect to hire faculty who will be active in research. Many universities at all levels have non tenure-track positions for instructors, but these jobs typically are part time or pay very poorly and offer little job security. Finally, there are full time and permanent teaching positions at community colleges where some of the instructors may have PhD's, but its also common for instructors to have only a master's degree.

The typical career path is for students to complete a strongly research oriented PhD program and then (after one or more post docs or visiting assistant professor positions) to attempt to find a tenure track position at a reputable university. Most of these students end up either leaving the field entirely or end up in teaching oriented position at a lower ranked college or a community college. A relatively small number of PhD's end up with tenured faculty positions at research universities. However, the system still very much requires students to complete a research oriented PhD before "settling" for a teaching position.

If you're not seriously committed to research and you really do just want to teach mathematics, then I would discourage you from entering a PhD program. Rather, you might consider an MS program that has a good track record of getting its graduates into community college teaching.

I should also mention that there are PhD programs in "Mathematics Education", but the focus in such programs is typically on education more than mathematics. Graduates with PhD's in math ed are highly employable in the US right now. Typically, they are hired to supervise developmental, remedial and lower level courses (up to say the level of calculus) while regular tenure track faculty teach higher level courses.

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    I should have mentioned that there are also PhD programs in "Mathematics Education", but the focus in such programs is typically on education more than mathematics. Graduates with PhD's in math ed are highly employable right now. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 6:46
  • So your point is tenure track position is a harder to get compared to teaching position?
    – Idonknow
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 7:29
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    Of course a PhD in Mathematics Education still requires research, but of a very different nature to the research for a PhD in Mathematics.
    – Tara B
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 10:54
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    This cannot be overemphasized: "Many colleges that wouldn't have cared about research in the past can now expect to hire faculty who will be active in research." This is particularly the case for most public "regional" campuses in mathematics. They will expect excellent teaching and quality research - perhaps not as much as would be expected at an R-1, but more than just a paper or two. And these are programs that don't give a doctorate and may not give a master's! On the other hand, there are still campuses that focus only on teaching - but it takes investigation to tell which. Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 13:13
  • It sounds like the type of research one could do as a math ed PhD may be what OP is looking for, though. Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 19:22

I am not allowed to comment, yet, so I will post here. I attended NCTM (National Council for Teachers of Mathematics) in 2012 in Philadelphia. It was a great experience, and learned a whole lot about new ways to teach. The main focus is on the public schools, but coming from a community college, I still found applicable material.

One of the talks that I attended was on choosing a Doctorate program in Mathematics Education. The main take-away was that you will need to do a lot of research into schools that will pay you to do your doctorate, and whether you get a PhD or an EdD won't really matter, as long as you do it well.

Additionally, if you are interested in "getting your feet wet," many community colleges (like mine) hire students with Bachelor's degrees in Math, or a related field, as adjunct faculty. I did this for three years, while earning my Master's degree. It helped me refine my teaching, as well as prepare myself for the community college students, and how different they are from University students.

After working at my college for three years as a full-time faculty member, I'm not sure that I would enjoy going into a University, except into researching Education. Our community college has a fairly heavy emphasis on Education research, and encourages faculty to "play" with different pedagogical ideas.

Good luck!

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    If you are teaching in high school, I think it's quite right that an EdD versus PhD will not matter: if anything, the former may convey more applicable skills (e.g. many high school principals have EdDs). Teaching tenure track at a four-year college or university is unlikely with an EdD. Note that there are certainly PhD programs in math education (and the better ones are highly research focused). I don't know enough about the community college circuit to say how viable an EdD is, but I certainly know math PhDs who are taking jobs there, and the market is rather poor. So...check it out. Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 6:30
  • I'm guessing you will be able to teach in Education Departments, or anywhere that you are working on educational research, rather than mathematical research. Either way, find information!
    – ABrown
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 20:38

There is a whole field of research called Mathematics Education. Some mathematics departments have groups devoted to it. Doing research in this field is nothing like doing research in pure mathematics; it is more like sociology. Perhaps you would be interested in doing a PhD in this field? Then you would still have the qualifications to become a mathematics lecturer.

Edit: sorry, I just noticed that this was also discussed in the comments to another answer. You might also consider the field of ethnomathematics.


One alternative is to slightly drop where you aim to teach. In Quebec you can apply for positions at CEGEPs with just a masters (reference), and half of the students are at the same point in their education you would be teaching as an instructor in a US university. In the UK the same level positions exist at sixth form/further education colleges, but you'd need a teching qualification. There are probably equivalent positions in other countries too.

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