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Morris Kline's Why The Professor Can't Teach mentions many problems in current mathematical education in university. The author said the Doctor of Arts (D.A.) in Mathematics was created to solve these problems. But I noticed that there are only three universities that have this degree in the U.S. (even in the world). They are

  1. Carnegie Mellon University,
  2. University of Illinois at Chicago and
  3. Idaho State University.

I even heard an associate professor in CMU said they want to halt this degree. So my question is, has the D.A. degree in math been taken seriously?

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    Seems like this is answered here.
    – ff524
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 5:13
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    Kline's book is quite old, so it cannot possibly treat "problems in current mathematical education". A lot has changed in the 40 years since it was published.
    – Dan Fox
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 7:15
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    Note that teaching is not only standing in front of an audience and writing things on the blackboard. It also includes the supervision of bachelor/master/PhD theses, the design of appropriate problems for them, etc. I would personally prefer a professor who is bad at presenting (I can still read some textbooks in the worst case) over an advisor who has no idea about research...
    – Dirk
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 9:21
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    I found an article Why We Need to Remember the Doctor-of-Arts Degree in which it says " ... we should remember that during this time of prosperity there was an actual shortage of professors. The D.A. was envisioned as the solution to that shortage...."
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 15:04
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    By "taken seriously", do you mean if the degree enables holders to find gainful employment, or if it's a trendy thing to tell people about at a party, or what?
    – Nat
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 8:37

4 Answers 4

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If the NSF (National Science Foundation) doesn't recognize a degree as a Research Doctorate, for whatever reason, the holder's opportunities will be limited. For example, most colleges and universities in the US expect faculty to do at least some research at some level. The required quality varies widely.

Tenure in the US is determined by faculty committees. If one or more members of your committee doesn't accept the quality of your degree for whatever reason you will fare poorly in attaining tenure.

Finally, when you apply for grants you are expected to list your "highest" degree. If a "doctorate" isn't recognized as a Research Degree by NSF, you might need to list an MS as your highest degree. This can be devastating if you don't expect it.

For the D.A. degree, NSF recognition as a Research Doctorate ended in 2003.

Note that the above is directed to anyone who would want to pursue this degree now or in the future. Consider the above issues. However, it says nothing about the quality of the people holding the degree. Many were unfairly left stranded, unfortunately, by NSFs change of designation.

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  • The link referenced by ff524 says the DA degree was envisioned as a degree to prepare folks to teach at schools that did not require research. I taught at a 4-year liberal arts college that prided itself on being a teaching institution, yet required research for tenure and promotion. I don't think a DA would have done me much good there. Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 16:31
  • @ChrisLeary, are you saying that he degree you earn defines you (and limits you) for all time? And, a DA in some field might do research but specialize in important but not standard threads. See the wikipedia link,, also.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 16:34
  • Not at all. At least I hope not. I earned my degree in analysis, and now work in algebra. I'm also not saying a DA is not capable of doing research. What I probably should have said is don't expect to get by without doing any research at all once you land a position. There is a work (that I regarded highly, and was useful to me) on compactifications of topological spaces that was written by a DA. I probably still have it buried in a file somewhere. In any event, it was a good example of what a DA can do with strong background and appropriate motivation. Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 16:59
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    I agree with you (strongly) that DA's might do research in important but nonstandard threads. I think that there is room for exploration of many ideas in mathematics that are left unpursued because they are not viewed as deep enough or fashionable enough. To me, this is one of the drawbacks of our current publish or perish situation. Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 17:04
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So my question is, has the D.A. degree in math been taken seriously?

How seriously the degree is taken is more likely to be influenced by which university granted it than the name of the actual degree. This is especially true for uncommon degrees like a D.A. in Math

I'm going to assume you're considering a D.A. in math and are asking to find programs you'd be interested in.

I would not put very much stock in the name of the degree for the following reasons

1) The name and the umbrella college each school inhabits in a university is usually influenced by politics.

The likely scenario is when the school was created, there was some in-fighting to get the shiny new building and the new resources that school would bring. For some reason, it ended up in the Arts department. For example, the MIT Media Lab is part of the Department of Architecture, even though it has little if anything to do with it.

2) Even if the program was inspired by this book, the founding professors have likely retired or are near retirement due to age.

It's a pretty old book, and the idea hasn't seemed to gain much traction. Even if the programs were originally designed to focus on teaching, new faculty have likely been hired and put their spin on it. I highly doubt any program at a university shares that much with it's 40 (or more) year old counterpart.

3) Some professors research effective teaching methods in their own departments whatever the degree is called

Schools such as Rose-Hulman are almost completely teaching focused and award tenure based on excellence in teaching.

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Contrary to an earlier post, the DA is considered an equivalent degree to the PhD in the USA. It is also recognized by the National Science Foundation as a legit doctorate degree. The reason DA degrees are poorly understood is because there are only a small handful awarded each year in the USA. The degree was much more common in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. If you are aiming to teach in a college you will have no issues with a DA (in fact, the degree was designed for this purpose). If you want to teach in a research university you'd be better off with a PhD.

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A doctorate is a doctorate. But where you get it matters: Note that two of the three are highly regarded 'name' Universities.

Universities prize research over teaching; DoA was devised to solve a teaching shortage that no longer exists. The ratio of people with doctorates to University positions is very high. To get a tenure track university position, you need to publish. "Math is a young man's game". If you don't publish something good before 30, you never will.

That said, my friend noted that his philosophy professors at a state University were all from Harvard, and very good at teaching. His math professors were all from low-tier schools and spoke terrible English. If you take a DoA, you must learn to teach really really well.

Oh, and if you are truly curious: Look up someone who has one on LinkedIn, and pay the InMail cost to contact them.

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    While holders of professional doctorates may disagree, a research doctorate is a very different beast for other doctoral degrees.
    – StrongBad
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 23:54
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    Now I see why everyone commented, rather than putting an answer.
    – Mox
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 17:29

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