If you are considering earning a degree in mathematics, the next question is: what can you do with a degree in mathematics? Here is a basic list of careers for math majors.
Financial analysts review the financial sheets of businesses to estimate their future earnings, study macroeconomic trends to project the business’ future earnings and pinpoint products with the greatest profit margin and determine those with the greatest losses. Those who can do quantitative analysis are hired by the private equity industry.
Mathematical models have been the basis of a number of financial products and have been used to design financial products like mortgage backed securities. Mathematical modeling has more mundane uses like building climate models based on historical data to predict the weather next week or study trends in traffic today to determine what solutions could be implemented to prevent massive traffic jams in ten years.
Mathematical modeling is increasingly integrated with the life sciences field. The mathematical modeling of individual cells or entire organisms is increasingly done in the digital world, allowing experiments to be done virtually instead of on live animals.
Actuarial are paid to review the claims history and demographic data of insurance companies. They study the trends in the customer base increases in life expectancy and rising disability rates and then project the impact on the financial outlook of the insurance pool. Actuaries do the in depth analysis that leads to falling life insurance rates as life expectancy rises. Actuaries calculate the costs of changing insurance regulations and price health insurance plans accordingly. Insurance firms like State Farm and Farmers’ Insurance are the primary employers of actuaries.
Accounting can be done with a business degree or a math degree with a number of accounting specific courses that teach generally accepted accounting practices and how to use major accounting software applications like Turbotax and SAP’s financial models. Accounting is more than simply tracking expenses, generating invoices and collecting receipts. It also involves determining the taxes owed per quarter (and paying them), determining payroll for thousands of employees, properly routing 401K contributions and processing wage garnishments.
It is common practice today for programmers to earn a degree in computer science or information systems. Programmers used to earn degrees in mathematics. Those with a mathematics degree and coursework in programming languages like SAS (Statistical Analysis Software), Python and SQL will have ample job opportunities.
Operations research analysts are the people who plan the maintenance schedules, travel schedules and crew assignments for the airport to minimize downtime, maximize throughput and minimize delays. Operations research analysts work with Fedex and other shipping companies to plan the shipping of millions of packages to maximize throughput and minimize delays. These planning operations involve millions of linear algebra equations solved via computer with a variety of constraints, such as manpower and money. While operations research itself is typically taught in the industrial engineering or business department, math majors can find employment in the planning, logistics and operations research departments of many large firms. The primary employers in this field are transportation firms like airlines and shipping companies and shipping services like Fedex and UPS.
One of the primary sources of employment for math majors is in the educational field. Teaching kindergarten through twelfth grade requires at a minimum a bachelor’s degree in education and a minor in math. Dual degrees in education and mathematics allow you to work in K-12 education or the private sector. A master’s degree is a minimum to teach college level mathematics, whether at a junior college or 4 year university.
Math majors with coursework in statistics can find work as statisticians. While the Census Bureau is a major employer for statisticians, they aren’t the only ones. The federal government takes surveys of business owners, the unemployed and others to generate regularly snapshots then expanded to estimate the true state of the economy. The government performs studies on individual household spending to determine how much needs to be allocated to those on SNAP / food stamps and calculates the cost of living based on a basket of goods to determine whether or not Social Security payments will rise with the cost of living.
Statisticians are regularly employed by survey companies to determine which products are most appealing to the targeted audience or which consumers would be most interested in a potential product. Market research is one of the most lucrative employment fields for someone with a degree in mathematics; business pays well for the service, there is constant demand because businesses don’t want to develop a product no one will buy and will pay to better market existing products to the most profitable demographic groups.
Cryptography is the process of hiding information and decrypting it. During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the federal government hired math majors to decrypt Soviet communications. Today, cryptography is much more mainstream. Someone working in cryptography may work for the CIA or NSA decoding encrypted messages, implement stronger cryptography for banks to protect financial transactions or work for the police breaking the layers of secrecy surrounding child porn file sharing networks.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of careers for math majors, but it is a good starting place for those considering what to do with a math major.