Job Options For Math Degree Majors
Mathematicians use mathematical theory, computational techniques, algorithms, and computer technology to solve problems in a wide range of fields including economics, science, engineering, physics, actuarial science, statistics, operations research, computer science, business and industrial management, finance, chemistry, geology, life sciences, and behavioral science.
Mathematics is usually divided into the broad areas of theoretical (pure) mathematics and applied mathematics, but there is a fair amount of overlap between these categories.
Theoretical mathematicians are dedicated to advancing mathematical knowledge by developing new principles and recognizing previously unknown relationships between existing principles of mathematics. Although theoretical mathematicians focus on increasing basic knowledge without necessarily considering its practical use, it is a fact that the knowledge they obtain has played a crucial role in many scientific and engineering achievements. Many theoretical mathematicians work at universities and divide their time between teaching and conducting research.
On the other hand, applied mathematicians are focused on solving practical problems in business, government, engineering, and the physical, life, and social sciences by using mathematical theories and techniques like mathematical modeling and computational methods. Applied mathematicians start with a real-world problem, consider the separate elements of the problem, and then reduce the elements to mathematical variables so that they can analyze relationships among the variables, and solve complex problems by developing mathematical models.
Many applied mathematicians work in industrial research and development, while cryptanalysts are applied mathematicians who analyze and decipher encryption systems and codes that are used to transmit sensitive information to military, political, financial, or law-enforcement-related clients. And statisticians, actuaries, and operations research analysts, are specialists in a particular branch of mathematics.
Mathematicians often are part of interdisciplinary teams that may include economists, engineers, computer scientists, physicists, technicians, and others who also use mathematics extensively. Most of the positions formally designated for mathematicians are in research-and-development laboratories, as part of technical teams.
To be successful in their careers, mathematicians need to be able to effectively identify, analyze, and apply basic principles to technical problems. Communication skills also are important, because mathematicians must be able to interact with other people who may not have extensive mathematical knowledge or training. And mathematicians today must have computer programming skills in order to solve complex mathematical computation and mathematical modeling using computational analysis.
In most cases candidates for mathematician jobs usually need a Ph.D., though there are limited opportunities available for those with a master's degree. However, the majority of graduates who have a master's degree in mathematics actually work in related fields, such as computer science, where they function as computer programmers, systems analysts, or systems engineers.
For mathematics graduates who only have a bachelor's degree, the career options are fairly limited. One possibility is working for the federal government, which does have entry-level jobs for candidates who have at least a bachelor's degree with a major in mathematics or 24 semester hours of mathematics courses. And mathematics bachelor's degree holders who meet State certification requirements may become primary or secondary school mathematics teachers. However, in order to advance in a career and make a significant contribution to the field, it is recommended that mathematics majors do pursue their PhD degree.