If you enjoy crunching numbers and analyzing complex problems, consider pursuing a career in math. Common math careers include actuary, mathematician, statistician, research analyst, and educator.
In this guide we explore potential career paths, earning potential, and degree options. We also provide tips and tools for launching a career in math.
Why Pursue a Career in Math?
Math careers typically involve using math, statistics, and financial theories to assess risk or solve complex problems. Successful professionals in this field have strong problem-solving, mathematical, and communication skills.
This field also offers several lucrative career opportunities if you invest the time it takes to earn a college degree. The following sections cover careers with a math degree, median salaries, degree types, and continuing education options.
Math Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 27% job growth rate for math occupations between 2019 and 2029, a rate extraordinarily higher than the average for all occupations, 4%. Many fields now rely on data, which in part explains the high demand for skilled mathematicians, analysts, and statisticians.
According to the BLS, math professionals earn a median annual salary of $90,410. If you have the passion and skills to qualify for careers in math, you may enjoy a rewarding and lucrative future.
The following table provides salary potential for several common math careers.
|Job Title||Entry-Level (0-12 months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Mid Career (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
Skills Gained With a Math Degree
Mathematicians build careers on their ability to look at complex data sets and problems, make sense of them, and order them logically toward potential solutions. Mathematicians rely on reasoning, logic, and analysis.
Math programs include skills-based learning. Students examine pure math theory and apply math concepts to real-world scenarios.
- Critical Thinking
Mathematicians must often show the steps they took to arrive at the solution to a problem or demonstrate the logic behind a procedure. Both of these processes require critical thinking skills, which are often woven into math curricula.
- Quantitative Reasoning
Quantitative reasoning involves drawing on basic mathematical skills to apply quantitative information to a problem to produce a relevant conclusion. Quantitative reasoning combines pure math with critical thinking, and many employers seek applicants with this skill.
Math educators often consider problem-solving the primary focus of math teaching. This skill uses logic to apply mathematical knowledge to everyday problems. Corporations and government agencies need problem-solvers who approach situations with precise, logical, and data-based thinking.
- Time Management
Time management is important for students, employees, and families alike. Time management analysts can save corporations massive amounts of money in lost productivity, logistics, and processes. This skill draws from both pure math and mathematical logic.
Analysis is a methodical, step-by-step approach to problem-solving. The analytical thinker breaks down a problem into small, solvable chunks and builds toward the global answer using its individual parts. Analytical thinking is foundational to solving mathematical problems and defining solutions for an employer. Most math degrees include significant coursework in analysis.
Math Career Paths
Many math career paths require specific skills. Research programs carefully to ensure you select the best one for you. To align a degree with your career goals, you should consider selecting a program that offers concentration options.
Read on to learn more about possible math concentrations, which often lead to specific career paths.
- Actuarial Science
Actuarial science concentrations can lead to careers in statistics, insurance, and higher education. The curriculum is usually designed to help students pass a national certification exam for actuaries. Coursework may include corporate finance, linear regression, economics, and property and casualty analytics. Some schools also require students to complete an actuarial internship.
- Computer Information Systems
This degree prepares students to work in management information systems by emphasizing practical learning in cybersecurity, software development, and game programming. Courses draw from information technology, software, engineering, computer languages, and network fundamentals. Some programs also include a practicum and a senior project.
- Computer Science
In addition to courses in pure and applied mathematics, statistics, and engineering, computer science concentrations cover technical topics in computer science and mathematics. Students gain computational thinking and problem-solving skills through classes such as data structures and business systems.
This concentration prepares students for careers in data science, biostatistics, and math research. Statistics concentrations usually include courses such as advanced multivariate calculus, linear algebra for applied mathematics, and probability and statistics. Some programs also require coursework in public health, epidemiology, and computer programming languages.
- Mathematics Education
Aspiring math educators must complete their state's math knowledge requirements. They typically must complete a student teaching assignment, in addition to coursework in areas such as abstract algebra, mathematical modeling, geometry, and technology in the math classroom. Math teachers in K-12 schools need a state teaching license, while math teachers in colleges and universities need a master's or Ph.D.
Economics is the real-world application of pure math to national, local, and global flows of money and resources. This concentration combines analytics and social studies with the quantitative skills native to mathematics. Economics courses include microeconomic theory, econometrics, and statistics.
How to Start Your Career in Math
If pursuing a job in math appeals to you, the next step is searching for a degree. When considering the best degree to earn, you should look into several factors, including program length, cost, and admission requirements.
It is also important to earn a degree that develops the knowledge and skills you need to qualify for positions in your field. Some entry-level positions may only require an associate degree, but career advancement often requires an advanced degree.
To research common job requirements, you can browse local listings, speak with a career advisor, and use career sites like PayScale.
The following sections explore available degrees in mathematics and associated careers.
Associate Degree in Math
An associate degree can lead to math-related jobs in accounting and education. Students who earn an associate degree can secure relevant jobs and/or transfer into a bachelor's program.
An associate degree in math also lays the foundation for a bachelor's degree in a related field like engineering, statistics, or computer science. Aspiring math teachers with an associate degree can start out as tutors or teaching assistants until they complete a bachelor's and state teaching license requirements.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Math?
- Accounting Supervisor
Accounting supervisors oversee a small accounting team. They may also take responsibility for customer service in a small company. These professionals review financial information, verify its accuracy, and prepare relevant reports for management. They also maintain extensive documentation of their team's work to comply with regulatory requirements.
- Accounts Payable Clerk
Accounts payable clerks handle payable functions for accounting firms and departments. They must be precise and accurate in their work and easily spot math errors. These professionals perform data entry, prepare financial statements, and manage vendor relationships.
- Bookkeeping, Accounting, or Auditing Clerk
Clerks work in payroll or accounting departments to maintain ledgers, deposit checks, and process accounts. Some clerks do bookkeeping for auditors or CPAs. These professionals must use basic bookkeeping software like QuickBooks.
- Teaching Assistant
Usually employed in K-12 school settings, teaching assistants work with qualified classroom teachers to provide subject matter instruction. Teaching assistants may work with small groups of advanced students or assist learners who do not meet state standards.
Tutors work one-on-one or in small group settings to teach learners. Math tutors may focus on elementary arithmetic, algebra, calculus, trigonometry, or geometry. Some tutors are self-employed, while others work for an agency or the public school system.
Sources: BLS & PayScale
Bachelor's Degree in Math
Earning a bachelor's degree in math prepares students to launch lucrative careers in actuarial science, computer engineering, and data analysis. These students develop logic, analysis, and statistics skills.
Future teachers can pursue a bachelor's in math education to prepare for state licensure as a math teacher. Schools nationwide are experiencing a shortage in qualified math educators, putting this degree in high demand. A bachelor's degree in math or math education elevates students' understanding of math from the intermediate level to an advanced level.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Math?
Actuaries perform extensive data analysis to help insurance companies reduce risk exposure. These professionals manage risk using data acquisition, synthesis, analysis, and application. Skills in financial analysis, financial modeling, and pricing can benefit an actuary's career.
- Software Engineer
Software engineers work with designers, programmers, and coders to turn different types of software into functional programs for the end user. Engineers help plot tasks, write code, test software, and document testing results.
Mathematicians conduct research to expand existing knowledge in mathematical fields such as algebra, logic, and geometry. They also perform computations and apply mathematical reasoning to problems in everyday life and work. Knowing and using programming languages can expand mathematicians' relevant skills.
- Data Analyst
Data analysts gather information, usually through surveys, to create data reports using questions and search strings. Data analysts need excellent computer skills, including knowledge of databases. They must also be able to communicate with the general public, colleagues, and managers.
- Risk Analyst
Risk analysts work in insurance companies and banks to verify clients' information, helping the company determine the level of risk in providing client services. Risk analysts must be detail-oriented, have good people skills, and understand the fundamentals of finance.
Master's Degree in Math
Earning a master's degree in math can qualify students for new careers as actuaries, investment analysts, sports analysts, and teachers. Many senior management positions in technology and computer science also require a master's degree in a math-related field.
Teachers who hold a bachelor's degree can increase their earning power with a master's in math education. This degree emphasizes teaching and learning mathematics in the classroom, as opposed to mathematical theory or financial math.
A master's degree also positions math students to continue their education through a Ph.D. or Ed.D. program, both of which require significant research.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Math?
- Senior Software Engineer
Senior software engineers combine attention to detail and multitasking skills with knowledge of web coding and applied math.. These professionals lead teams that create, modify, and debug software for client applications. They also manage priorities, help the team stick to timelines, and test software.
- High School Teacher
High school teachers educate students in grades 9-12. They prepare lessons, deliver lectures, oversee projects, and grade assignments. They may also serve on faculty committees. Math teachers must hold state licensure, be deeply knowledgeable about mathematics education, and have classroom management skills.
- Senior Data Analyst
Often employed in marketing or finance, senior data analysts oversee teams that collect, organize, and analyze data. Senior data analysts report their findings to executives. A background in statistics, computer science, mathematics, and business can help prepare senior data analysts to succeed.
- Senior Project Manager, Information Technology
Information technology is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry, and senior project managers must stay up-to-date with trends and information to keep their employers' technology functional. As senior managers, these professionals often supervise teams of project managers by setting goals, assigning work, and mediating conflict.
- Senior Application Developer
Senior application developers are often senior employees, with many years of experience and a master's degree. They use programming languages to create new software and apps. The position requires deep knowledge of programming languages and design, plus leadership skills for team management.
Doctoral Degree in Math
Math doctoral students can focus on areas like computational math, applied mathematics, or math education. In pure math, students focus on solving problems, while in math education, learners often develop new ways of teaching K-12 math students. No matter the focus, a doctorate requires rigorous coursework and research.
Some positions, such as university professor or lead biostatistician, require a doctoral degree. Other roles, like chief technology officer, are easier to obtain for applicants with terminal degrees.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Math?
Postsecondary professors teach at community colleges, four-year institutions, and graduate schools. Math professors teach courses, advise students, develop curricula, and conduct research. They may also provide consulting services to industrial clients, lead teams of researchers, and make public presentations.
- Chief Technology Officer
CTOs are responsible for all technology-related decisions for their companies. These professionals usually lead teams within their information technology departments.
- Senior Biostatistician
Conducting research using biostatistical analysis, senior biostatisticians focus on the design and analysis of clinical trials. Senior biostatisticians provide complex statistical expertise to product developers, team leaders, and publications. These professionals often lead teams of statistical programmers in pharmaceutical companies. These positions usually require a doctorate.
- Lead Data Scientist
Often employed in information technology, lead data scientists help businesses solve problems by looking for solutions in the data patterns. Because they often analyze massive amounts of information, lead data scientists need advanced technological and mathematical skills. They also need leadership skills to manage a team of other data scientists.
- Financial Engineer
Financial engineers create the analytical and mathematical tools used in banks, credit unions, and mutual fund brokers. These professionals need deep knowledge of economic theory, statistics, and applied math. In the workplace, they typically work with finance and technology departments, meaning they also need extensive knowledge of computer programming.
Unexpected Careers for Math Majors
Math careers are not limited to teaching, research, and accounting, and not all math majors have to focus on statistics to find lucrative jobs. Math is a versatile major, equipping students with skills in calculation, problem-solving, and logic.
Math degrees can launch students into careers in business, criminal justice, research, and even meteorology. Even fields that traditionally employ liberal arts majors now seek graduates with quantitative methodology and data analysis skills.
Today's job market reflects an economy dependent on data, information, and precision. A bachelor's degree in math can also provide a foundation for graduate coursework in medicine, law, business, and computer science.
- Production Supervisor
Usually employed in industrial and manufacturing industries, production supervisors manage divisions within plants. They must understand logistics, leadership, productivity, and analysis. Most production supervisors hold at least a bachelor's degree in business or financial math, and many earn professional certifications.
- Operations Research Analyst
Operations research analysts need critical thinking skills, college-level math, and technology abilities to evaluate their employers' operational processes. These professionals use statistics, trend analysis, and data analytics to perform actionable research.
- Insurance Underwriter
Strong financial analysis skills help insurance underwriters assess risk, analyze payments, and determine if their companies should insure a prospective client. Starting in this field usually requires a math-related bachelor's degree, preferably in accounting or finance, plus certification or training as an underwriter.
- Fraud Investigator
Fraud investigators determine whether individuals or companies committed an illegal act for private gain with the intent to deceive and defraud the victim. These professionals must understand financial math, computer science, criminal justice, and communication to do their jobs.
Meteorologists observe and predict the weather. Weather forecasting requires strong math skills and atmospheric science knowledge, plus good communication abilities. Meteorologists must turn complex data into easily readable graphs, reports, and presentations.
How to Advance Your Career in Math
Math careers typically use tools, techniques, and theories that evolve over time, which makes maintaining your skills important. Fortunately, free online courses, certificate programs, and advanced degrees can help you stay current. You can also consider joining a professional organization to access networking and learning opportunities.
Some math careers require continuing education to maintain certification or qualify for career advancement opportunities. Requirements vary, so research your career path carefully to determine the best option for you.
Read on to learn more about math certifications, licenses, online courses, and professional organizations.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Earning a certification or license shows potential employers that you have the experience and training needed to excel in your field. Certification is typically optional, while licensure is mandatory for certain occupations, including K-12 teacher.
If you plan to pursue a career in math education, you must earn and maintain a valid teaching license. To earn a license, you must typically pass a background check, submit college transcripts, and pass Praxis exams. Exact requirements vary by state, so check your local rules and regulations.
The most popular continuing education option is to earn an advanced degree, but this requires a significant investment of time and money. You can also bolster your resume and continue learning by pursuing online courses and fellowship programs.
Pursuing fellowship programs allows you to gain professional experience and advance your research career. Some universities offer fellowships, but you can also find opportunities through professional organizations like the American Mathematical Society.
Below are several steps you can take to stay current in mathematics and advance your career.
Meeting with peers allows you to collaborate, keep up with industry trends, and find potential job opportunities. Both local networking groups and online forums can help you create successful professional relationships.
- Professional Organizations
Joining a professional organization gives you exclusive access to publications, online resources, and conferences. Some organizations also maintain job boards, offer career advice, and connect professionals with job opportunities.
- Online Courses
Completing online courses helps you to hone your skills. There are several free options, but you can also consider pursuing paid certificate programs from well-known universities.
Where Can You Work With A Math Degree?
- Software Development
Software developers use extensive mathematical logic and discrete math. Software development majors and math majors often take similar courses.
- Insurance and Financial Services
Careers for math majors in financial services include actuarial analyst, investment analyst, CPA, and private wealth manager. Students seeking these jobs can focus on financial mathematics during their programs.
- Advertising, Branding, and Sales Promotions
Math majors can employ their problem-solving skills as market research analysts for marketing and advertising firms. In these roles, they can also create algorithms that track the sale of specific products and services.
K-12 education is a consistent field, and postsecondary education is a rapidly expanding one. Schools and colleges across the country grapple with a serious shortage of qualified math teachers.
Management and business transformation consulting can be a highly lucrative field. Professionals assess client problems, design business plans, train clients in solutions, and evaluate program effectiveness. Statistics, program management, and financial planning are key skills in this industry.
An aging population, coupled with advances in life-saving technology, make healthcare one of the world's fastest growing industries. Mathematicians help develop new imaging systems, pharmaceuticals, and epidemiological mapping.
Interview With a Professional
Dr. Fisher works as a senior sales engineer for Splunk. She completed her doctorate in business with a focus in entrepreneurship at Argosy University in 2013. Her dissertation focused on women in information technology leadership. Dr. Fisher has also published in four national books. She is the CEO of Nonstop 4 the Top, which is dedicated to helping women succeed in business, technology and entertainment. She also founded the first national technical sorority, Alpha Sigma Kappa, and was Mrs. Corporate America in 2009.
- What made you decide to be a math major?
I became a math major because I was always naturally good at math, ever since I was a child. In fact, in second grade, I was one of the top flashcard winners, and I took calculus in the sixth grade.
Since I have always loved solving problems and working with numbers, I decided to get a math degree in college. I completed over nine semesters of calculus and many other tough classes.
- What skills did you learn while working toward your degree?
When I was working toward my math and statistics degrees, I really learned how to solve problems, reason, and think logically and creatively. The program taught me how to analyze situations and problems and then apply those skills to real-world business cases. I also learned programming and started to work with computers.
- How have these skills helped you at work?
These skills have helped me greatly in my technical job as a sales engineer. I am able to analyze situations, grasp concepts quickly, and bring solutions to real-world problems that help people and companies flourish in their businesses and overall goals.
- Do you have any tips for math majors in terms of preparing for the workforce?
The biggest advice I have for math majors is that they need to really focus on soft skills just as much as they do on technical skills. Learn as much about business as you can. The really successful math major is one who can take technical concepts and apply them to real-world situations to truly make a difference in the world.
The more well-rounded you are, the more unique you are, thus increasing your opportunities.
Resources for Math Majors
You can stay current on industry news and trends by joining a professional organization, subscribing to publications, and taking online courses. Read on to learn more about valuable resources for math students and professionals.
- Professional Organizations and Resources
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics: SIAM supports more than 20 active research focus groups. Members work in applied geometry, control and systems theory, linear algebra, discrete mathematics, and theoretical computer science. Students can join chapters to take advantage of conferences, an online job board, fellowships, internships, and prizes.
Actuary.com: Actuary.com offers a complete online library of resources for actuaries, including information on jobs, schools, recruiters, and exams. Students can search jobs, post resumes, and contact recruiters on the page. They can also learn more about actuarial exam courses and study materials.
National Security Agency - Career Information: The NSA's career page contains information about intelligence careers, benefits, diversity, cybersecurity careers, and career development. The student portal offers extensive resources on beginning a career in the NSA. Many intelligence careers require a strong academic background in math.
American Statistical Association: The ASA has focused on statistics, statistics professions, and statistics education since it was founded in Boston in 1839. The association's members come from more than 90 countries. The ASA provides publications, meetings, advocacy, accreditation, and education.
Association for Women in Mathematics: Founded in 1971, AWM serves more than 3,000 members from the global math community. The association focuses on creating opportunities for women and girls in math, plus advocating for equal treatment of women in mathematics. AWM offers a job board, prizes, grants, conferences, and lectures.
Mathematical Association of America: Composed of students, teachers, and STEM professionals, MAA seeks to build an inclusive community that offers teaching and learning resources for mathematicians. Members can participate in one of numerous MAA-sponsored competitions, as well as improve their professional knowledge and skills through webinars and events.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: NCTM boasts more than 60,000 members in 230 affiliates across the United States and Canada. The organization provides teachers with classroom resources, publishes relevant standards, and contributes to research and advocacy. NCTM members can attend webinars and research conferences, as well as apply for grants and awards.
American Mathematical Society: Founded in 1888, the AMS supports mathematical research, math education, and math professions. The society publishes research, advocates for funding, and collaborates across industries to benefit mathematics professions. The AMS offers a job board, a bookstore, and extensive publications.
Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators: AMTE serves more than 1,000 math educators. Members gain access to an annual conference and webinars. The association also publishes two journals: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, and Mathematics Teacher Educator.
- Open Courseware
Highlights of Calculus - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Taught by Professor Gilbert Strang, this course covers key topics such as derivatives and differential calculus.
Modern Algebra - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: This course examines several algebraic topics, including ring theory, group theory, and field theory.
Theory of Numbers - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: This free online course approaches numbers theory at the undergraduate level. Topics include continued fractions, irrational numbers, congruences, and quadratic reciprocity.
Introduction to Mathematical Thinking - Stanford University: This 10-week class introduces mathematical thinking in the context of professional problem-solving. The ideal student is a freshman in college. More advanced learners can take an eight-week version of the course.
Open Access Journals
Proceedings of the AMS, Series B: This free, peer-reviewed journal reports on research activity in both pure and applied mathematics. Shorter articles appear in the open source version of this journal, while longer ones appear in the subscriber's version.
The American Mathematical Monthly: This journal explores topics such as linear algebra, Pascal's Theorem, and the Cuoco Configuration.
Bulletin of Mathematical Sciences: This free, peer-reviewed journal covers topics such as classical analysis, number theory, representation theory, and harmonic analysis. The Bulletin publishes three issues annually.
Journal of Mathematics: This peer-reviewed, open access journal publishes original research and reviews of current scholarship in mathematics. Articles discuss topics such as metric divergence measures in credit scoring, convergence theorems, and diffeomorphisms.
Journal of Mathematics and Statistics: This peer-reviewed journal publishes international research in applied mathematics. Recent articles have explored the law of large numbers, solutions for variational inequalities, and the theory of complex probability.
The College Mathematics Journal: This journal serves educators who specialize in undergraduate mathematics. The journal publishes articles, problem sets, and media reviews.
Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality: Noted researcher and physics professor Max Tegmark offers up his theories on mathematics and the universe. Readers learn about complementary sciences such as cosmology, quantum physics, and philosophy.
Essential Calculus: Early Transcendentals: Author James Stewart breaks down early transcendentals in calculus. Each major concept is illustrated through easily understood definitions. Thoughtful problem sets help students apply their new knowledge.
Mathematics for the Nonmathematician: Designed as a math textbook for liberal arts majors, this book delves into mathematics in the context of history and culture.
Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics: Mathematics professor William Dunham examines noteworthy mathematical theorems throughout history. Historical anecdotes accompany step-by-step proofs of each theorem.
Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data: Author Charles Wheelan takes a humorous look at statistics and mathematics. He explains raw data and related tools in plain English.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid: This Pulitzer Prize-winning book has been a bestseller for 20 years. Author Douglas Hofstadter delivers mathematical proofs for Godel's Theorem of Incompleteness, Escher's art, and Bach's compositions.
Online Industry Magazines
Mathematics Magazine: Published by the Mathematics Association of America, this magazine is issued five times per year. The magazine strives to make complex mathematical topics accessible.
Applied Mathematics and Optimization: This periodical reviews current research in applied mathematics. Recent topics include Kirchhoff and Euler-Bernoulli equations, linear multivariable regulators, and the limit theorem.
Analytics Magazine: This bimonthly publication examines math used for practical applications in business.
Plus Magazine: This magazine's website provides podcasts, puzzles, and downloadable books that reinforce mathematical concepts.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is math a good major?
Yes. A math degree opens the door to several unique career opportunities. Additionally, there is a growing need for skilled mathematicians, analysts, and statisticians. If you have an analytical mind and strong mathematical skills, earning a math degree may be right for you.
- What is a math degree good for?
Math degrees help students develop in-demand skills in data analysis, statistics, and calculus. Graduates with a math degree can pursue careers in insurance, accounting, business, research, and education. Most positions involve using mathematical or statistical techniques to solve complex problems and help organizations make strategic business decisions.
- What jobs require good math skills?
A few common careers for a math major include actuary, mathematician, data scientist, operations research analyst, and software engineer. Math majors can also find rewarding career opportunities in education. Many different jobs require good math skills, so graduates can apply their knowledge in a variety of fields, including finance, economics, education, engineering, and business.
- What are the highest paying math jobs?
According to the BLS, math professionals earn a median annual salary of $90,410, meaning most jobs in the field pay well. Actuaries and statisticians earn particularly high salaries. The most lucrative industries for math professionals include oil and gas extraction, computer manufacturing, securities and commodities, and aerospace manufacturing.