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My ultimate goal is to teach undergraduate level mathematics, that is, classes such as calculus and differential equations, as well as introductory proof-based courses like linear algebra, abstract algebra, and real and complex analysis. Why? I just love to teach people who are interested in learning math, and I have the strong belief (it's more of a certainty) that all interested mathematics students can appreciate and find the joy to learn any of these core classes if they receive the right approach. I am willing to teach like this patiently because I like it and I'm willing to devote to it. I feel very comfortable teaching math.

I am receiving a bachelor's degree in mathematics from UC Berkeley in May 2016. Needless to say, I like math a lot and I am excited to learn math at a higher level in grad school.

My question is, given that my goal is to become a math educator and obtain a secured job, do I need to pursue a PhD in mathematics?

I know that the whole idea in getting a PhD is to do original research, but to be honest, this is not the exciting part for me to go to grad school. This is merely secondary for me. I would even say it is tertiary since I am more enthusiastic about studying more math and being a graduate instructor. I know community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and even some universities hire lecturers (whose only job is to teach). Should I get into a master's program to achieve my dream job instead?

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  • I have removed the parts of this question asking where to apply (because we don't answer questions like that here; see the help center) and asking if age matters (because it's been done to death here; see age.)
    – ff524
    Sep 27, 2015 at 5:30
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  • I don't know about other accreditation agencies, but SACS generally requires only 18 graduate hours in a field to teach (and sometimes with less, given life experiences — normally IMLE, for fine arts instructors). Accreditation agencies will set the bar minimum for teaching accredited coursework; individual institutions, of course, are free to raise the bar. Sep 27, 2015 at 22:48
  • The OP mentioned liberal arts colleges, so let me comment that at the liberal arts college where I work, tenure track faculty definitely need to have a PhD and even most visiting faculty. I know of two cases where a tenure track faculty member's spouse, who only had a master's degree, was able to teach, but usually not upper level electives. It's best to get the PhD. You need to understand these things deeply to be able to teach them well. Mar 30 at 22:59

2 Answers 2

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At least in the US, if you want to teach calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra, and are also willing to teach lower-level stuff (e.g., algebra stuff like quadratic equations and trigonometry) you can likely do that at a community college, which means you might not need a PhD. If you really want to teach abstract algebra and real analysis you probably could not do that at a community college, which means you'd probably need a PhD.

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I think your question is really "which universities will hire instructors without a doctorate?" This depends strongly on the country in which you want to work, and the type of university you want to work at. In some countries and at some universities, there are regular faculty who have only a master's degree. But in many cases (e.g., at typical four-year institutions in the US), you will be automatically disqualified, or may qualify only for a part-time or adjunct position.

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  • Don't forget community colleges. See Can you teach at a community college with a master's degree?
    – ff524
    Sep 27, 2015 at 6:07
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    @ff524: Right, but don't forget the OP said "My ultimate goal is to teach undergraduate level mathematics, that is, classes such as calculus and differential equations, as well as introductory proof-based courses like linear algebra, abstract algebra, and real and complex analysis." At most community colleges I'm familiar with, the highest level math course taught would be either calculus or differential equations, the majority of the teaching would be at the precalculus level, and being able to teach the highest level courses is positively correlated with having a PhD. Sep 27, 2015 at 6:15
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    @PeteL.Clark I think that you should write another answer including this information, since the OP specifically mentioned community colleges as a possibility.
    – ff524
    Sep 27, 2015 at 6:16

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