If you decide to pursue a math degree, you will need to develop logistical and analytical skills that you will put to use in solving very complex equations in order to understand and describe real-world phenomena ranging from the sub-atomic to the galactic in scope.
In general, mathematicians work to develop simplified models that can be used in solving complex engineering and related fields. They also develop and test theorems to describe new phenomena as they are discovered.
And some mathematicians spend their lives working to find solutions for unsolved mathematical problems. In many cases, as technology advances, mathematicians are able to expand their field because they are now able to do calculations that were simply impossible previously. As a result, mathematics has applications not only in related fields like technology, engineering, computing, and science, but also in areas you might not necessarily expect like business, government, medicine, and social services.
In broad terms, mathematicians are generally classified as either applied mathematicians or as theoretical mathematicians, though there is some overlap between these categories.
Applied mathematicians often work in business or government using applied theories to solve real-world problems like traffic flow optimization, increasing engine torque in hybrid car design, developing insurance mortality tables, or predicting the spread pattern of a disease outbreak. Job titles for these mathematicians may include statisticians, research analysts, finance analysts, operation analysts, actuaries, etc.
Meanwhile theoretical mathematicians are frequently employed by university or private research departments to develop new theories that may eventually be used to model real-world phenomena so that they can be understood and controlled.
Career Outlook for Math Degree Graduates
The career outlook for mathematicians in general is good in spite of the economic recession of the past few years, and in fact job openings have held steady or risen slightly for many mathematical positions. Simply put, as our world becomes more and more computerized, more and more data is being generated which requires more and more trained mathematicians to analyze it.
Meanwhile, math teaching positions at the high school level or higher continue to need more applicants, and there are generally open positions in the federal government, government and educational research centers and scientific development centers, business management and engineering consulting services, and architectural, accounting and actuarial services. However, competition for top-paying positions remains very competitive with far more applicants than openings.
With the exception of teaching jobs, in most cases mathematicians form part of a collaborative interdisciplinary research team that also includes other scientists like chemists and physicists, as well as engineers and sometimes public administrators or business professionals.
Your choice of career will determine what educational course you will need to follow as you pursue your mathematics degree. For example, a bachelor’s degree will only prepare you for entry level jobs in most cases, while a doctorate degree will be needed if you want to work conduct research, or teach in a college or university setting. And if you have very specific career plans like becoming a statistician, then not only will you need to obtain an advanced degree, but you will also need to specialize in that field in addition to taking general mathematics courses in differential equations, calculus, algebra, etc.
Keys to Success for Math Degree Graduates
In order to build a successful career, there are certain skills that you will need to acquire. Surprisingly, communications skills are the top of the list, along with problem-solving abilities and critical thinking. If you consider it logically, you can see where all three of these are important. Critical thinking enables a mathematician to identify problems in need of solutions, and then problem-solving abilities are essential in order to formulate and test possible answers to the question at hand. Finally, communication skills are needed to interact with others both in terms of brainstorming to find possible solutions and then to share those solutions with the others on the research team and beyond.
In the field of mathematics, as in other areas, salaries are dependent on the level of training as well as on the specific job held. Mathematicians with doctoral degrees working as research and development scientists for private enterprises are generally the highest paid, with government employees and business consultants earning slightly less. And mathematicians who specialize in architectural and engineering-related work usually earn more than university teachers and lecturers, though they have less job security.
Specialized Mathematics Degrees
Even though there are many jobs in the mathematics-related fields, finding a top-level position is difficult unless you have an advanced degree and/or specialized training in a particular mathematical sub-category.
Some specialties include applied mathematics and statistics, both of which generally require at least a master’s degree or doctorate. Actuaries are another sub branch of mathematics that uses statistics mathematics combined with financial theory in order to analyze and calculate risks and uncertainty with regard to business financial planning. Mathematics graduates with a bachelor’s degree can usually find an entry level actuary position, though an advanced degree will open more career opportunities.
Other specialties that are available to job seekers with only a bachelor’s degree include information technology, which is a recent specialty that requires mathematical analysis and calculation of storage and power. Meanwhile financial analysts monitor the financial status of a business and make recommendations for investments and budgeting. And market research analysts are experts at analyzing the market conditions and population demographics so that businesses can optimize their sales and revenues. Finally, operating research analysts study business or government problems from a mathematical standpoint and test new solutions that are found based on their research.