Mathematics - Computational

Computational mathematics involves working with computer simulations and models to solve complicated problems. Read about undergraduate and graduate degree programs in this field, and explore some careers you could pursue with an education in computational mathematics.

Is Computational Mathematics for Me?

Career Overview

Computational mathematics is the application of mathematical equations and computer models to create simulations that represent real-world problems in business, industry and science, with the development of computable solutions being a main goal. As a computational mathematics specialist, you'll work with numbers, equation rules, graphic representation and other data, utilizing the computer as a tool to solve complex issues. You can design new algorithms as well as developing the software necessary for their implementation.

You may pursue a job in any field that requires computational simulation and mathematical modeling, such as computer science, biology, engineering, medicine and economics. Work is available in private industry and with the government. As part of your duties, you might collect data to implement models in areas such as gene sequencing, climate change or stock pricing trends. In the field of research, you may develop models to help solve multifaceted problems, from human disease to environmental issues. Job options include computer scientist, mathematical analyst, actuary, software engineer and systems analyst.

Employment

Computational mathematics is used in a variety of industries, making it difficult to predict exact salary and career information. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2012, computer and information research scientists earned a median annual wage of $102,190 (www.bls.gov). Software developers earned a median salary of $93,350 that year, and computer systems analysts earned median annual pay of $79,680. Mathematicians earned a median annual salary of $101,360.

Employment growth of computer and information research scientist jobs is projected to be average, with an increase of 15% predicted from 2012-2022, per the BLS. Software developers are expected to see job growth of 22%, and computer systems analyst jobs are predicted to increase 25% during that same decade. The job outlook for mathematicians is expected to be good, too, with employment predicted to increase by 23% between 2012 and 2022.

How Can I Work in Computational Mathematics?

Education

Degrees in computational mathematics are offered from the bachelor's to the doctoral levels. If you're interested in working as a computer scientist or mathematician, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) will typically be necessary. In a bachelor's degree program, you may expect to take classes such as calculus, discrete math, linear algebra, probability and applied statistics. Classes in physics, chemistry, biology and imaging science may also be part of the program. In some degree programs, you'll concentrate your studies in either engineering or computer science. A degree program may prepare you for entry-level mathematician jobs with the government, in addition to some computer science jobs.

According to the BLS, master's degree and Ph.D. programs in mathematics open many more job opportunities for graduates. A master's degree program will help develop your skills in applied mathematics for work in industrial and scientific environments. You'll typically take classes in mathematical analysis and numerical methods while focusing extensively on mathematical modeling. Expect to take classes in linear, discrete, differential and stochastic models. A Ph.D. program works on building your research abilities, and it is generally required for a career in computer science or teaching at the college level. Typically, you'll be required to pass written and oral exams as well as writing and defending a dissertation.

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