ETSU Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Graduate Program: Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains answers to questions commonly asked by current and future ETSU math graduate students. The questions and answers are broken into the following categories:

  1. Mathematics or Statistics?
  2. Application Process
  3. Program Requirements
  4. Financial Aid and Assistantships
  5. International Students
  6. Thesis and Graduation

  • Does the ETSU program provide a degree in mathematics or in statistics?
    This is a program in mathematics, not statistics. The core consists of pure math classes (in particular, the Real Analysis 1 class which has a prerequisite of one year of senior level analysis corresponding to ETSU's Analysis 1 and 2 [MATH 4217/5217 and 4227/5227]). You may take classes in statistics and do thesis work in statistics, but this is a degree in "mathematical sciences" and you will take pure math classes while in the program and so will need some background in pure math before entering the program (such as a course in introduction to proof techniques, corresponding to ETSU's Mathematical Reasoning [MATH 3000]).
  • What background do I need for admission to the Math Department's masters program?
    The only formal requirements are: (1) a bachelor's degree in mathematics or in a related area, with (2) an undergraduate grade point average of 2.5 or better (on a four point scale) for domestic applicants and 3.0 or better for international applicants, (3) 3 letters of recommendation, and (4) general GRE scores. From a practical point of view, you should have taken classes in calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and proof techniques. An exposure to Real Analysis is also desirable. If you lack some of this background, then you may be "conditionally admitted" into our program. You would then be required to take appropriate remedial classes. In fact, you can take Introduction to Modern Algebra (MATH 4127/5127) and Analysis (MATH 4217/5217 and 4227/5227) for graduate credit.
  • Do I have to take any standardized tests?
    Yes. Effective Fall 2003, you must take the general part of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). However, you don't have to take the subject test. International students must take the TOEFL test (unless their native language is English) see FAQs for international students below.
  • In addition to the graduate application and GRE scores, what else must I submit for admission?
    See the School of Graduate Studies webpage for the application fee. The Graduate School also requires (1) official transcripts of all previous undergraduate and graduate work, except previous coursework taken at ETSU and (2) a personal essay addressing your areas of interest in graduate school, especially your proposed field of study, abilities or strengths you bring to the program, and your career objectives. You also need to submit three letters of recommendation.
  • What is "provisional admission?"
    Often times, an applicant may not have sufficient mathematical background to begin graduate study. In this situation, the applicant is "provisionally admitted" and required to make up the background work as soon as possible. The most common reason for conditional admission is an insufficient background in real analysis (you need the equivalent of our Analysis 1 and 2 classes - MATH 4217/5215 and 4227/5227).
  • How many hours must I take? How many hours of thesis?
    A minimum of 30 semester hours of credit is required for a degree. No less than 3 credit hours nor more than 6 credit hours of Thesis (MATH 5960) may be applied to the 30 hour total (see the Graduate Catalog for details).
  • Are there required "core courses?"
    Yes! You must take Real Analysis 1 (MATH 5210) and Modern Algebra 1 (MATH 5410). If a student does thesis work with one of the departmental statisticians then a substitution of Mathematical Statistics I (STAT 5047) and Statistical Methods I (STAT 5710) for Modern Algebra I (MATH 5410) may be approved. You must take at least one two-course sequence (see the Graduate Catalog for examples).
  • Is there any sort of "entrance exam?"
    Yes, in a sense. You are required to pass two comprehensive exams: one in calculus and one in linear algebra. The purpose of these exams is to force you to review undergraduate material so that the material is fresh in your mind. In this way, graduate classes based on this background (such as analysis, applied math, and statistics) can go more smoothly. These exams are each offered twice every Fall and Spring semester and once during Summer. You should take these exams as soon as possible (preferably during your first semester). You must take at least one exam each time they are offered (during the Fall and Spring) until you have passed both exams. A grade of B or better (83% or better) is required to pass. It is important that you pass these exams early on, since you may not register for Thesis (MATH 5960) until you have passed both tests. For sample tests and study guides, see here.
  • The graduate catalog lists "co-listed" and "graduate only" classes. What is the difference and may I take classes from both of these categories?
    Classes co-listed may be taken by both undergraduates and graduates - they are numbered 4xy7/5xy7. Graduates and undergraduates sit in the same class, but graduate students have additional requirements beyond that of the undergraduates (to be determined by the instructor). You may count up to 9 hours of these cross listed classes towards the required 30 hours for your master's degree. You may take more than 9 hours of cross listed classes (and you may have to if you need to do more remediation), but only 9 hours will count.
  • What are the classes "Supervised Teaching," "Supervised Research," and "Supervised Administration"?
    The classes "Supervised Teaching" (MATH 5019), "Supervised Research" (MATH 5029), and "Supervised Administration" (MATH 5039) are 1 credit hour classes intended for math graduate students on assistantships (who are expected to take one of these per semester). In particular, students preparing for teaching associate positions during their second year of graduate school, should register for Supervised Teaching (MATH 5019). These classes do not count towards the 30 hours of required credit for the master's degree.
  • What types of financial assistance are available?
    The Department of Mathematics and Statistics offers tuition scholarships and several types of assistantships. The stipend for the assistantships range from $8,000 to $9,800 for an academic year. There are four 12-month assistantships which pay $11,000. Tuition scholarships and assistantships come with a tuition waiver for the period of the scholarship/assistantship. Tuition Scholarships are available to first semester graduate students only (but may be renewed), cover tuition, and require the student to work 8 hours per week. Teaching Assistants are required to work 20 hours per week. Graduate Assistants who have successfully completed 18 hours of graduate study may have the opportunity to teach their own class. Preference for assignment to an assistantship is given to those applicants with GRE scores at or above the 50th percentile in the quantitative, verbal, and writing categories. Contact the graduate coordinator for more details on available positions.
  • What are the requirements to keep a scholarship or assistantship?
    Students must register for at least 9 hours per Fall and Spring semester, and 3 hours per supported summer term. Students on Math Department support must not be employed elsewhere on campus, unless special permission is given. A minimum grade point average of 3.00 must be maintained. You must also register for the 1 hour class Supervised Teaching (MATH 5019) in order to keep your assistantship (this is a rule of the School of Graduate Studies - the class does not count towards the required 30 hours for the degree).
  • How do I apply for an assistantship or tuition scholarship?
    Once you are admitted to the program, you are automatically under consideration for an assistantship or tuition scholarship.
  • What other fees am I responsible for?
    As a holder of an assistantship or a tuition scholarship, you are responsible for debt service, a post office box fee, technology fee, and Student Government Association (SGA) fees. These fees total around $1,000 (based on fall 2019). You also must pay for your books and related supplies.
  • How long may I hold an assistantship?
    The standard length of time a student may hold an assistantship is 2 years. Under extraordinary conditions, an assistantship may be renewed for one semester beyond the two year period.
  • As a recipient of financial aid, how am I evaluated?
    At the end of each academic year, the Math Graduate Coordinator will fill out a Graduate Assistant/Tuition Scholarship Performance Appraisal form (a copy is available here). The coordinator may elicit input from other department members (such as the CFAA Director and the Department Chair) when filling out these forms.
  • When is payday?
    Assuming all paperwork is processed on time (usually by the 10th day of the first month of work), assistantship paychecks are distributed on the last working day of the month. A Fall semester assistantship will pay 4 paychecks, one for each of the months September, October, November, and December. A Spring semester assistantship will pay 4 paychecks, one for each of the months January, February, March, and April.
  • What forms does a graduate assistant need to complete in order to be processed for payroll?
    Domestic students must submit: a current ETSU Employment Application, an I-9 form with copies of your social security card, a W-4 card, and an approved graduate assistant contract. International students must complete these forms along with: an international employee/student tax status questionnaire, a copy of a current foreign passport, employment authorization forms (I-20 and I-94), and any applicable tax treaties and statements. These forms are available in the Human Resources office and online here. International students should contact the International Student Advisor, Maria Costa (e-mail: of the Office of International Programs for help.
  • Can I get my paychecks directly deposited into my bank account?
    Yes - in fact, effective January 1, 1998 direct deposit must be used by all newly hired employees and re-appointments except for students and temporaries. This includes regular full-time, regular part-time, adjuncts, graduate assistants and residents. An Authorization for Direct Deposit of Pay form can be obtained from the Payroll Office.
  • How many hours must I register for to keep my financial support?
    You must register for at least 9 graduate hours per Fall and Spring semester. If you are on summer support, then you must register for 3 hours per summer term. The exception to this rule is that if you are in your last (Fall or Spring) semester, then you may register for only 6 hours, provided that you have filed an Intent to Graduate form (see the School of Graduate Studies "Forms" webpage).
  • If I am a non-math graduate student, am I still eligible for a math graduate assistantship or tuition scholarship?
    Yes! However, you must realize that the priority of the Math Department is to fund and assist math graduate students. After this has been done, and if there are still positions, then you may be considered for such a position. Even then, though, you will be expected to have the ability to tutor introductory statistics and freshman level calculus. As a consequence, non-math graduate students will not be considered for scholarships or assistantships until the very last minute.
  • As an International student, what paperwork must I do and who should I contact for help with this?
    You must have a passport and visa. These are obtained from your government and the U.S. embassy in your country (respectively). Maria Costa ( of the ETSU Office of International Programs can help you with additional paperwork, such as the I-20.
  • As an international student, what is the deadline for my application materials?
    Effective academic 2019-20: International student application materials should be received by: April 30 - fall semester; September 30 - spring semester; February 1 - summer session. The School of Graduate Studies must be notified of any change in the entering date after admission has been granted... International students admitted to graduate study are encouraged to arrive on campus two weeks prior to the beginning of classes and should contact the Office of International Programs as soon as they arrive.
  • What tests on the English language must I take?
    You must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and score 550 or better on the paper version, or 213 or better on the computer-based version. Once in our program, you must take the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) during the first two weeks of classes of your first term. Contact Dr. Yousif Elhindi (, phone 423-439-5992) of the ETSU English Department for details on taking the test.
  • How does my performance on the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) affect my assistantship duties?
    The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) is a test of assessment developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Your performance on the OPI will determine the level at which you may interact with ETSU students in fulfilling your assistantship duties. You may have (1) "High Contact" in which you are solely responsible for teaching a class, (2) "Medium Contact" in which you may run study sessions, teach labs, or tutor, and (3) "Low Contact" in which your duties will involve assisting an instructor with paperwork or research, or working in a computer lab. The category of contact is determined from you OPI score as follows:
    High Contact
    Superior or Advanced-High
    Medium Contact
    Advanced or Intermediate-High
    Low Contact
    Intermediate and Below
  • From which countries have you had international students in your program?
    The ETSU math masters program has had students from China, India, Vietnam, Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nepal, Ukraine, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
  • As an international student, are there any insurance requirements?
    Quoting from the ETSU Graduate Catalog: "All international students are required to have acceptable insurance coverage against illness and accidents. The health and accident insurance must be maintained throughout the student's enrollment at ETSU." All international students must purchase the health insurance at ETSU, unless they have a scholarship that purchases health insurance for them. Information regarding health insurance is sent with the I-20 and it is recommended that you do not purchase coverage at home, unless you are certain that ETSU can accept it. For details, see the ETSU Health Insurance webpage.
  • As an international student, must I have some demonstrated financial resources?
    Documented evidence of financial resources sufficient to support the student is required. The amount as of 2018 is around $46,000 U.S. For details, see the International Programs' estimated expenses webpage. Financial documentation may include any documentation of tuition scholarship, graduate assistantship, personal funds, etc.
    • What steps must I follow to graduate and what forms must I complete?
      A checklist of steps are contained in the Checklist for Math Graduate Students available on the web in PDF form here. All School of Graduate Studies forms can be found on the Graduate School webpage. The general steps are:
      • Pass "Calculus Comprehensive Exam" (for a study guide and sample tests, go here).
      • Pass "Linear Algebra Comprehensive Exam" (for a study guide and sample tests, go here).
      • File "Program of Study" form with Graduate Coordinator (should be done on or before completion of 12 hours).
      • Pass Analysis I (MATH 5210).
      • Pass Algebra I (MATH 5410) or Statistical Methods I (STAT 5710).
      • Take an approved sequence.
      • File the "Appointment of an Advisory Committee'' form (in your 3rd semester).
      • File "Preliminary Thesis Presentation" form with Graduate Coordinator, available here.
      • File "Application for Candidacy" form with Graduate School with a copy to the Graduate Coordinator.
      • File "Notice of Intention to Graduate" form with Graduate School with a copy to the Graduate Coordinator.
      • File "Memorandum of Oral Defense" form with Graduate School with a copy to the Graduate Coordinator.
      • File "Results of Examination - Thesis Defense" form with Graduate School, with a copy to the Graduate Coordinator.
      • Deal with the creation of an electronic version of your thesis.
    • Must I write a thesis? Traditionally, how long is a math thesis? Must the thesis contain original research results?
      Every successful Math Department masters student must write a thesis! The non-thesis masters degree was eliminated in the early 1990's. The length of the thesis is not as important as the content of it. Theses with original research results tend to be shorter (say 25-40 pages). However, not all theses contain original research. Students sometimes survey a particular research problem without contributing new results. These types of theses tend to be somewhat longer (say 40-60 pages). The topic, content, and length of the thesis are up to the student, the thesis advisor, and the thesis committee.
    • When should I submit a program of study?
      From a practical point of view, it is a good idea to talk with the Math Graduate Coordinator and prepare a "pencilled in" version of the Program of Study during your second semester. By your third semester, you should have your Program of Study pretty much finalized. The scheduling of classes, though not set in stone, is layed out according to the plan described in the ETSU Math Department Class Offerings, Even and Odd Years document (available in PDF form here) - this schedule should be helpful in planning for future classes to take.
    • Which classes should I list on my Program of Study?
      The Program of Study is only for the coursework you wish to use to fulfill the requirements of the program. You may take as many classes as you like, but the Program of Study should only include a list of 30 hours.
    • When should I select a thesis advisor and committee?
      From the beginning of your graduate studies, you should be thinking about which classes appeal to you most and which area you would like to explore in your thesis. Your area of interest will determine who should be on your thesis committee. By the beginning of your third semester, you should have some idea of the area in which you want to do your thesis work. During (or before) your third semester, you should file your Program of Study and Thesis Committee forms. In order to finish in the preferred two year time frame, you must have your thesis well under way during your fourth semester (the deadline for defending the thesis is around November 1 for Fall and March 20 for Spring).
    • Must my committee consist exclusively of Math Department members?
      No. Your committee must consist of members of the graduate faculty, but they may be from other departments. Your committee should include members of the Math Department and your thesis advisor should be a member of the Math Department (although previous students have had two "cochairs" of their thesis committee, one of which was not a member of the Math Department).
    • How many people should serve on my thesis committee?
      You must have at least three graduate faculty members on your committee (a chair and two members) - this is the most common situation. You may have four members, but more than four members is uncommon.
    • Can I change my thesis committee?
      Yes, if there is a good reason (such as unavailability of a committee member), then you may change your committee by filing a Application for Change in Graduate Advisory Committee form.
    • Once I have chosen a thesis topic with my advisor, do I just start on the research?
      Not exactly. You need to meet with your thesis committee and give a preliminary presentation of your thesis topic. In this way, the committee knows what you are working on and can critique the topic before you get too involved in the work. After the preliminary presentation, you should complete a Preliminary Presentation form (available in PDF form at here) and submit it to the Math Graduate Coordinator.
    • If I fail to finish my work the term listed on my "Intent to Graduate" form, then what paperwork must I do?
      You should contact the School of Graduate Studies and tell them that you will not be graduating on the predicted time, and you need to file an updated "Intent to Graduate" form.
    • Do I have to register for classes if I have completed the required hours, but have not finished the thesis?
      Yes. You should register for Readings and Research (MATH 5990) until you have finished (you MUST be registered the term you graduate). MATH 5990 cannot be counted towards the 30 required hours, though.
    • What word processing software should I use to write my thesis?
      There is no required software package, but you are strongly, STRONGLY, STRONGLY (get it?) encouraged to use the software package LaTeX. This is the "industry standard" for typesetting mathematics - it is used by textbook publishers, research journals, and mathematicians worldwide. Though a bit different from other typesetting software (such as Word and WordPerfect), it is much less frustrating and much more efficient to use in typesetting mathematical symbols and formulae.
    • If I use LaTeX, can I easily conform to the Graduate School's required thesis format?
      Absolutely! A sample LaTeX thesis file is available for downloaded (with input from Jason Lachniet, ETSU math masters graduate 2007, and Haley Russell, ETSU math masters graduate 2018): thesis-template2018.tex. You may download this file and edit it as you like. In fact, once you have learned LaTeX syntax and typed your chapters, your thesis becomes a "fill in the blank" task! Just paste your chapters in the sample file, insert committee member names and a few other details, and LaTeX will do the rest! You also need the etsu_thesis.cls.txt file. Download it and save it as "etsu_thesis.cls" (DON'T OMIT THIS STEP!!!) in the same directory as the template file.
    • Once my thesis is in LaTeX (or other typesetting software) and is approved by my committee, am I finished?
      No! Your thesis must be converted into PDF format and approved by the Graduate School. A checklist of steps to Graduate School approval is available here. If your thesis is in LaTeX form, then it is easily converted to PDF form.
    This webpage is maintained by Bob Gardner ( Last updated: September 14, 2021.
East Tennessee State University
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Tel.: 423-439-1000
Department of Mathematics
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Phone: 423-439-4349
Fax: 423-439-8361