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How to Become a Mathematician in 5 Steps

Mathematician training generally includes a bachelor's and master's degree program in mathematics, as well as additional training in related areas. Learn how to become a mathematician and what these professionals do.

How to Become a Mathematician

Mathematicians apply a wide range of mathematical techniques to solving real-world problems in various fields. Aspiring mathematicians usually need at least a master's degree in the field of mathematics, as well as some additional training in related areas. Below, we outline 5 steps for becoming a professional mathematician.

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

Although most mathematicians need at least a master's degree, there are some entry-level positions available for those with a bachelor's degree in math, such as working for the federal government. Most master's degree programs also require students to hold a bachelor's degree prior to admission.

Bachelor's degree programs in mathematics are available as Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Often these degree programs are available in online formats and may cover course topics in areas like:

  • Calculus
  • Linear algebra
  • Differential equations
  • Real analysis
  • Logic
  • Probability

Step 2: Mathematician Training in an Additional Subject

Most undergraduate programs in mathematics encourage and include the opportunity for students to take coursework in a related field. This helps prepare students for graduate programs in another field and/or applying their mathematics skills to a particular career field. Students are often encouraged to take additional coursework in areas like:

  • Physics
  • Computer science
  • Statistics
  • Business
  • Engineering

Step 3: Other Mathematician Requirements

It is also very important for mathematics students to learn how to use data analysis software. This may require students to take additional courses in computer programming to learn how to use this software that helps manage and analyze data.

Step 4: Master's Degree

Master's degree programs in mathematics typically begin to focus in on a particular field of mathematics. For example, students wishing to become a math teacher may pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree in mathematics, while students wishing to focus their studies in business may pursue a Master of Financial Mathematics (MFM). General degree programs in mathematics are typically offered as a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS).

Master's degree programs in mathematics are usually on-campus programs that may require a thesis or final comprehensive exam. Some general mathematics programs may offer various areas of emphasis, such as math education or industrial and applied mathematics. Coursework at the master's level may include topics in:

  • Mathematical models
  • Algebra
  • Number theory
  • Geometry
  • Variables
  • Discrete mathematics

Step 5: Doctoral Degree

While it is not typically required, students wishing to pursue careers in mathematical research or teaching mathematics at the postsecondary level may need to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Mathematics. PhD programs in mathematics are usually on-campus programs and typically require a dissertation. These programs may take 4 to 5 years to complete and generally include additional responsibilities, such as research and/or teaching assistantships.

What Does a Mathematician Do?

Mathematicians are needed in many different fields, including healthcare, business, and engineering, to analyze numbers and data sets to try and help solve a range of issues and problems. Other mathematicians may focus their efforts on research and discovering new mathematical theories or educating the next generation of mathematicians. Although some job duties may depend on the type of mathematician, in general, these professionals perform job duties like:

  • Determining the data needed to answer a problem
  • Creating experiments, surveys, and other techniques to collect data
  • Utilizing or making mathematical models to analyze data
  • Using data analysis software
  • Reporting findings in papers or reports
  • Applying results to problems or the decision-making process