Mathematicians apply mathematical techniques to help solve real-world problems. You can find mathematicians in nearly all sectors, including education, health care, engineering, and business.
If you’re good with numbers and think this might be the career for you, there’s plenty to learn about mathematicians. Here, you’ll discover more about the job, the type of education needed, average salary, daily tasks, and more.
There might not be a career out there as varied as that of the mathematician. Jobs in this field can range from computer programmer to a high school algebra teacher. From Thales of Miletus, the first true mathematician, who lived from 624 to 546 BC, to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, this field also has some incredibly well-known names in its history.
There are mathematicians who explore and develop new theories and those who apply theories and techniques to solve problems. In this age of increasingly innovative technology, it’s also a field that continues to grow.
Education and Experience Needed
If you’re interested in becoming a mathematician, you might find some positions with the federal government that only require a bachelor’s degree. However, if you’re going into the private sector, most positions require at least a master’s degree in statistics or mathematics, and some could even require a doctorate.
Almost all colleges and universities offer a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. In this degree program, you can expect to take courses that include abstract algebra, calculus, and differential equations. Some programs will also require you to take courses in a related field, such as statistics, engineering, or computer science. Additionally, since mathematicians frequently work with data analysis software, you might find a lot of benefit in taking some computer programming courses.
If you need an advanced degree, you’ll find many universities that offer master’s and doctoral degrees in applied or theoretical mathematics.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2016 the median annual wage for mathematicians was $105,810. Although the lowest 10 percent of mathematicians earned under $54,890, the highest 10 percent were able to earn more than $160,310.
The top-paying industry — management, scientific, and technical consulting services — had a median annual salary of $121,180, while colleges and universities had the lowest at $54,840. Other top industries for mathematicians include research and development companies, the federal government, and finance and insurance companies.
Average Duties and Tasks
Mathematicians use mathematical theories and techniques to solve practical problems for businesses every day. They usually work with people in other occupations to solve these problems, so they must be good at communication and working in groups.
For example, some mathematicians will work with chemical engineers to determine the effectiveness of new medicines, while others will work with industrial designers to study the aerodynamics of new vehicle design.
No matter what type of problem they’re working on, mathematicians first have to collect data. Once they have the data they need, they’ll use specialized statistical software to create their analysis and look for trends and relationships. Once they’ve completed their analysis, they’ll present their findings to their clients or other team members.
They’ll create charts, graphs, tables, and reports to help showcase what they found. They’ll also discuss the limitations of their data to make sure people don’t come to inaccurate conclusions.
Since mathematicians work in so many different fields, their average duties can vary significantly, depending on their industries. For example, mathematicians who work at a college or university could teach, but they could also study abstract or theoretical concepts in mathematics.
They can work on identifying, researching, and resolving unexplained issues in mathematics, or they can explore new mathematical theories to share with others in the field. On the other hand, mathematicians who work for the government could help determine the number of people living with a certain disease or figure out the number of endangered animals living in one area.
You can take advantage of advancement opportunities with a career in mathematics, especially if you have an advanced degree. Some mathematicians move on to become managers, supervisors, or directors of research. If you have a doctoral degree, you can go into the education field and become a professor at a college or university.
Theoretical or applied mathematicians can become an expert in one particular area, such as computing, geometry, or algebra, and begin publishing their work in professional journals. Mathematicians who do this in the private sector often get rewarded with high salaries.
If you’re thinking about becoming a mathematician, this information should give you a better understanding of the positions available and what you can expect when you enter the field.