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Mathematics: What to Expect

The Mathematics major at the University of South Carolina is a very rewarding major and a great choice for students whose career interests might not perfectly align with another degree program. As a Mathematics major, you will be exposed to challenging coursework and outstanding professors. You will also develop widely-sought after skills including the ability to logically and critically evaluate situations including developing and implementing effective problem solving strategies involving a wide range of ideas and data. As a Mathematics major at USC, you will enjoy relatively small classes with increased interaction with your professors. You can also take advantage of the Mathematics Library and the Hedberg Student Lounge, complete with a refrigerator, microwave, sink, and chalkboard. Perfect for studying in groups! You can also head to the Math Tutoring Center, which offers free tutoring to USC students.

You will choose an area of emphasis from actuarial, education, applied, or general. The actuarial and education emphases are especially popular. You may also choose to earn the Bachelor of Science with a Distinction in Mathematics. This designation is available to any Mathematics majors who completes 12 hours of additional mathematics coursework and prepares and publicly presents an approved undergraduate research project. The actuarial emphasis is a combination of mathematics, statistics, and business courses. Although challenging, these courses prepare students for the first few actuarial exams. The education emphasis prepares students to complete their certification in USC’s Master of Teaching program. In recent years, every student has successfully passed the PRAXIS II exam. Additionally, the department’s list of Knowles Science Teaching Fellowships in Mathematics recipients is growing very rapidly. These national awards provide funding for the completion of the students’ education as well as the first few years of teaching.

The following courses fulfill some of the course requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics:

  • Calculus I and II
  • Vector Calculus
  • Algorithmic Design I
  • Probability
  • Mathematical Statistics
  • Statistics for Engineers or Statistical Methods I
  • Algorithmic Design II or Statistical Methods II

Additional courses will vary based on the area of emphasis you choose to pursue. A detailed list of degree requirements can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin.

Enhancing your Experience

Study Abroad allows you to earn academic credits toward your USC degree while seeing the world! Overseas study can complement any academic program or major. In addition to study abroad opportunities offered by the University, some students have had the opportunity to get involved in Budapest Semester through St. Olaf College and Math in Moscow. While studying abroad, you will gain in-depth exposure to specific areas of mathematics not typically available to undergraduates, such as combinatorics, Galois theory, graph theory, group theory, and topology. You may also choose to intern, volunteer, or conduct research abroad. You are encouraged to visit the Study Abroad Web site for more information on opportunities to broaden and extend your knowledge and perspectives.
Student Organizations can be instrumental in helping you adjust to life on campus and network within your field. The University of South Carolina has a family of nearly 300 student organizations. As a Mathematics major, you can join the Mathematics Honorary Society, Pi Mu Epsilon or the Gamecock Math Club. These student organizations will allow you to develop both social and academic connections among fellow students and receive early access information about unique summer opportunities. You will also get the opportunity to contribute to department outreach at local schools through tutoring and math contests. In addition to joining a student organization, you can participate in annual competitions such as the Putnam Exam, Virginia Tech Regional Math Contest, Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Math Jeopardy, USC Sudoku Championship, and the USC Integration Bee. You can also seek out volunteer opportunities that relate to your major. Find a student organization on campus that interests you!
Graduate School is one of many possibilities following graduation. Many Mathematics majors further their study of mathematics at the graduate level through a wide range of Master of Science and Ph.D. programs across the country. Graduates have also been successful in other graduate programs including Economics, Law, and Medicine. Math Education majors typically pursue a Master of Teaching degree in USC’s College of Education to complete their teaching certification in South Carolina.
Distinguished Faculty can help enhance your overall academic experience while at the University. The Mathematics department has a number of award-winning faculty. In 2009 Dr. Joshua Cooper received the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. Dr. Michael Filaseta has published a number of scholarly works and Dr. Jerrold Griggs was recognized in 2009 as a Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Fellow. Both Mary Ellen O’Leary and Dr. David Sumner are recipients of the Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award.
Departmental Scholarships may be awarded to outstanding entering freshmen or current students. The Department of Mathematics offers more than ten scholarships each year.

Internship and Research Opportunities

Internships can be an important asset to your overall educational experience. Internship experiences often help you confirm your career interests, give you hands-on experience in a professional setting, help build your resume, reinforce what you’ve learned in class and can often lead to full-time employment. Likewise, pursuing professional research opportunities as an undergraduate student can also help enrich your academic experience while at the University. As an undergraduate student, you can work closely with faculty research mentors and explore a discipline that interests you. Both internship and research opportunities help you build a competitive edge in the job market.

As a USC student you will have numerous resources at your disposal to assist you with locating internship and research opportunities. The USC Career Center is the central location at USC for assisting students with internship preparation and finding an internship. In addition, be sure to visit your academic department as many programs offer supplemental internship guidance specific to your major. The Office of Undergraduate Research assists all USC undergraduates by providing research and scholarly experiences in their chosen fields.

Mathematics majors at the University have had a wide range of exciting and unique internship opportunities. Students have interned at actuarial companies, government agencies, and educational firms. Students have also gotten involved in Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs), which are offered across the country.

Student Spotlight

Research opportunities took Mathematics major, Jim Manning, from the University of South Carolina to Rutgers University in New Jersey to Charles University in Czech Republic. Jim participated in a seven week National Science Foundation funded Research Experience for Undergraduates with the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Computer Science at Rutgers University in New Jersey. At the completion of the program, he traveled to Prague, Czech Republic with a sister program. Jim spent his days conducting research in addition to attending weekly seminars with information on graduate school, math in industry, ethics in science, and research being conducted in math and other related fields. Jim had the opportunity to meet students from all over the world during his research experience. The courses he took at USC helped him throughout his research. “I had learned a lot in class that I was able to use during my program,” Jim said. “My teachers have always been willing to help with problems outside of class and talk about the research they were working on, so I had some exposure to what real research looked like before attending my Research Experience for Undergraduates.” Jim encourages current students to pursue internship or research opportunities to help prepare them for life after graduation. “The opportunity to work in an internship or have research experience is great,” he said. “If you are considering graduate school, either is a good way to get a feel for what that higher level of education and independent research is like.” During his research experience, Jim also learned a lot about the mathematics field. “I came to appreciate the broad range of application that mathematics has,” he said. “So many fields depend on mathematicians for research, software, programming and other areas that you don’t necessarily think of. I also learned that throughout a career, mathematicians have the opportunity to pursue a number of different applications, following whatever particular interests they have.”

Career Opportunities

Students completing a Bachelor of Science with a major in Mathematics will receive consideration for a wide range of jobs. Many graduates begin their careers as actuaries in banking and insurance or in government agencies or labs, such as the National Security Agency and the Census Bureau. Some graduates also go into teaching at the high school level. Starting salaries for Mathematics majors average between $25,000 and $75,000 depending on the career path they choose.

You can find more information about career options in the US Department of Laborís Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The USC Career Center offers numerous resources which provide more information about career opportunities for students in this major. Once admitted, a Career Development Coach is available to help you assess your interest areas, make decisions about your career path, and identify the experiences and skills that will help you accomplish your goals. Spur Connections will help you locate mentors from among USC alumni, employers and community members who can provide insights based on their careers and experiences. Early planning and preparation are keys to success.

About the Department of Mathematics

The Department of Mathematics offers a high-quality undergraduate experience by providing a comprehensive education in mathematics with a strong foundation in the liberal arts. Undergraduate students can choose an area of emphasis from actuarial, education, applied, or general. The Department of Mathematics at the University of South Carolina has evolved into one of the premier centers in the Southeast for mathematics scholarship and education. The Department of Mathematics is in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Points of Pride

  • The 2010 Mungo Graduate Teaching Award was given to Dr. Michael Filaseta.
  • The 2010 recipient of the USC Education Foundation Research Award in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering was awarded to Dr. Pencho Petrushev.
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships were awarded to 2010 Mathematics graduates Joseph Montoya and Bradley Setzler.
  • Mathematics major Andrea Moore was a recipient of the Knowles Science Teaching Fellowship in 2010. This is the 6th consecutive year that a student in USC’s Mathematics program has received this honor.
  • Mathematics major Jim Manning won the SIAM Award for the Best Undergraduate Talk in Applied Mathematics.
Additional Resources.
Mathematics Website
College of Arts and Sciences Website
University Career Center
Undergraduate Bulletin