Mathematician: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore a career as a mathematician. Learn about education requirements, job options, salary and potential job growth to see if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Mathematics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Mathematician?

Mathematicians use the science of numbers to solve problems in many fields including engineering, economics, data analysis and financial management. They also research and expand the current understanding of mathematical theories and principles. Mathematicians will use formulas and models to analyze and interpret data, support or disprove theories and even improve business decisions. These professionals stay up to date on current research in the field by reading scientific journals, attending conferences and interacting with other mathematicians. Mathematicians will typically specialize in applied mathematics or theoretical mathematics. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know for this career.

Degree Required Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Mathematics
Key Skills Statistics, calculus, linear algebra, analytical ability
Job Growth (2018-2028) 26%*
Average Salary (2018) $104,870*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Duties as a Mathematician?

Your duties depend on whether you're a theoretical or applied mathematician. As a theoretical mathematician, you analyze existing mathematical principles to extrapolate new principles or discover new relationships between principles. New mathematical relationships and principles are often highly abstract, but in time, practical uses are found to utilize them.

As an applied mathematician, you might model a practical problem as an equation or set of equations and unique variables, then test multiple solutions using different values for the variables. Computers are likely to be instrumental in your analyses. Your work might entail designing encryption systems, devising economic forecasts or calculating loads and stresses.

What Jobs Can I Apply For?

The supply of tenured professorships at colleges and universities where you can devote yourself to theoretical mathematics is smaller than the demand for these positions. You're more likely to find work in fields that apply theory to the solution of real world problems, such as engineering, information technology and physics. Having experience or training in these related disciplines might improve your employment prospects. You could also consider teaching at a high school or community college.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2018, the median annual salary for mathematicians was $101,900. Mathematicians employed by federal government agencies earned an average of $112,600 a year, while those who worked in scientific research and development earned average incomes of $116,280. Mathematicians employed by colleges, universities and professional schools were paid an average of $70,200 a year.

What Training Do I Need?

A master's degree is sufficient for finding a job in the industry. Master's degree programs tend to be oriented towards applied mathematics. Courses address core topics such as linear and non-linear algebra, differential equations and probability and statistics. Electives might cover computer science, data analysis or stochastic processes. Programs may offer you thesis and non-thesis options.

Ph.D. programs in mathematics are research-oriented. Programs acquaint you with the current state of the field in general while helping you acquire deep knowledge in a specialty. You develop your ability to formulate, analyze and solve mathematical problems and communicate your findings to colleagues. Topology, combinatorics and differential geometry are possible areas of specialization. Classes and seminars make up the first 1-2 years of a program. In the third year you begin researching and writing a dissertation. A doctorate may be earned in five years.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A couple similar careers that require a master's degree are statisticians and survey researchers. Both of these positions work with various kinds of data. Statisticians are similar to mathematicians in that they analyze data to solve problems in fields like business and engineering, but they specifically use statistical methods to do so. Survey researchers design different kinds of surveys and then analyze the data they collect to research a wide array of topics. Physicists and astronomers are also related careers, but require a doctoral or professional degree. These professionals examine how different kinds of matter and energy interact. They often conduct complex experiments and research projects.

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