Department of Mathematical Sciences
Northern Illinois University

Graduate Programs in the Mathematical Sciences:

Master of Science

The Department of Mathematical Sciences offers the Master of Science degree in Mathematics with specialization in Pure Mathematics, Mathematics Education, Applied Mathematics, Computational Mathematics; the Master of Science degree in Teaching; and the Master of Science degree in Applied Probability and Statistics. The requirements for each degree are described in the latest Graduate catalog. This document is to give you some additional information on our master's program in mathematics. Graduate Catalog information on the M.S. in Teaching is available via the previous webpage under "MS in Teaching." Contact the Graduate Studies Director for more information here. For information on the M.S. degree in applied probability and statistics, please contact the Division of Statistics.

M.S. requirements   |   The Transition to Graduate Study
Teacher Certification   |   Sample M.S. Study Plans


M.S. in Mathematics

Students in this degree program choose one of the following four specializations: Applied Mathematics, Computational Mathematics, Mathematics Education, or Pure Mathematics. Our master's program is designed so that students can complete the degree requirements in 2 years of full-time study. Superior full-time students can often fulfill the degree requirements in one academic year when combined with the preceding and following summer terms.

The basic requirements are to complete thirty semester hours (10 3-hour courses) as described in the Graduate Catalog, and to pass a written Comprehensive Examination. With departmental approval, master's students may also complete the degree under the master's thesis option. The student prepares a thesis under the direction of a member of the graduate faculty and gives an oral defense of the thesis. In most cases, three hours of MATH 699 can be applied to the 30 hours required for the master's degree. The oral thesis defense also serves as the student's comprehensive examination, which replaces the written comprehensive examination that is required for master's students in the non-thesis option.


The Transition to Graduate Study

An advantage of our program is that it offers a variety of transitional courses to bridge the gap between undergraduate work and graduate-level courses but still carry graduate credit. This allows you to start your graduate career in a way that is appropriate for your ability and background. Here is a brief description of some of the transitional courses we offer in various areas. Also refer to the course descriptions given in the Graduate Catalog.

Algebra:  If you have already had a one-year sequence of courses in abstract algebra (proof-oriented courses on groups, rings, and fields), then you are probably ready for the initial graduate algebra sequence, MATH 620 and 621. If not, then you may want to start with MATH 520 and 521, transitional courses which discuss groups, rings, and fields, and allow you to develop your skills at writing correct proofs.

Analysis:  If you have already had a one-year sequence of courses in advanced calculus (including differentiation and integration of functions of several variables), with lots of attention paid to writing your own proofs, then you are probably ready for the initial graduate analysis courses, MATH 630 and MATH 632. If not, then you may want to start with MATH 530 and 531, transitional courses in advanced calculus which will give you lots of practice at writing proofs, as well as exposure to the important techniques of the area.

Differential Equations:  You have probably had one course in differential equations as an undergraduate, perhaps with a primary focus on techniques. If not, you should consider taking the NIU course MATH 336. This is a sub-transitional course (an undergraduate course) and would not carry graduate credit. The initial graduate courses are MATH 636 (ordinary differential equations) and MATH 642 (partial differential equations). The prerequisites for these courses are MATH 530 and MATH 531, respectively.
The transitional courses described above can be very helpful in facilitating a smooth entry into our program. Keep in mind, however, that a decision to begin at the transitional level will probably delay the completion of your program. If your background has prepared you for the basic graduate courses (this is something your adviser can help you to measure), then you should go ahead and take them.


Teacher Certification

Graduate students who are also seeking certification to teach at the middle and secondary school level, in addition to a graduate degree, can be accommodated through courses in methods of teaching (MATH 410 and MATH 412), education pedagogy courses offered through the College of Education, and a student teaching practicum. Note that these courses do not carry credit for graduate degrees in mathematical sciences. Full-time students in the master's program should count on an extra year to complete the added requirements for teaching licensure.


Examples of Programs of Study

Sample M.S. Study Plans provides some examples of programs of study in the 4 specializations for the M.S. in mathematics (10 courses, 30 hours). Please note that many other combinations of courses are possible. Your adviser will have up-to-date information on the semesters when particular courses are normally offered.


For additonal information on our M.S. program in mathematics, our Ph.D. program in mathematical sciences, and financial support for students in these degree programs, please contact:
Professor Jeff Thunder
Director of Graduate Studies
Mathematical Sciences Department
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
(815) 753-6775
gradprog@niu.edu or visit the graduate program web page.

Students interested in the master's degree in statistics should contact the Division of Statistics for information about their program. The Division of Statistics also has its own budget for graduate assistantships; contact the Director of the Division for details.


Director of Graduate Studies: Prof. Jeff Thunder
Email: gradprog@niu.edu


Last modified: 11/09/2016 (jt)