Choosing a Career in Math

Why Choose a Career Related to Mathematics ?

Mathematics teaches patience, discipline, and step-by-step problem-solving skills. For those with a substantial background in mathematics, many career opportunuities are available. According to Jobs Rated Almanac, a 1990 publication of World Almanac Books of New York, NY, careers that require a very strong background in mathematics were listed as the five "best" jobs. They were the following:

  • software engineer
  • actuary
  • computer systems analyst
  • computer programmer
  • mathematician

Almost all of the top fifty jobs in this "best" jobs list involved mathematical reasoning and knowledge. This list was the result of the comparison of two hundred fifty jobs classified according to the following :

  • income
  • future outlook
  • physical demands
  • job security
  • stress
  • work environment


A List of Professions

The following list briefly describes work associated with some mathematics-related professions :

Actuary Assemble and analyze statistics to calculate probabilities of death, sickness, injury, disability, unemployment, retirement, and property loss; design insurance and pension plans and ensure that they are maintained on a sound financial basis
Mathematics teacher  Introduce students to the power and beauty of mathematics in elementary, junior high, or high school mathematics courses
Operations research analyst Assist organizations (manufacturers, airlines, military) in developing the most efficient, cost-effective solutions to organizational operations and problems; this includes strategy, forecasting, resource allocation, facilities layout, inventory control, personnel schedules, and distribution systems
Statistician Collect, analyze, and present numerical data resulting from surveys and experiments
Physician Diagnose patient illnesses, prescribe medication, teach classes, mentor interns, and do clinical research; students with a good mathematics background will find themselves being admitted to the best medical schools and discover that mathematics has prepared them well for the discipline, analysis, and problem- solving required in the field of medicine
Research scientist Model atmospheric conditions to gain insight into the effect of changing emissions from cars, trucks, power plants, and factories; apply these models in the development of alternative fuels
Computer scientist Interface the technology of computers with the underlying mathematical principles of such diverse applications as medical diagnoses, graphics animation, interior design, cryptography, and parallel computers
Inventory strategist  Analyze historical sales data, model forecast uncertainty to design contingency plans, and analyze catalog displays to make them more successful; analyze consumer responses
Staff systems air traffic control analyst Apply probability, statistics, and logistics to air traffic control operations; use simulated aircraft flight to monitor air traffic control computer systems
Cryptologist Design and analyze schemes used to transmit secret information
Attorney Research, comprehend, and apply local, state, and federal laws; a good background in mathematics will help a student get admitted to law school and assist in the understanding of complicated theoretical legal concepts
Economist Interpret and analyze the interrelationships among factors which drive the economics of a particular organization, industry, or country
Mathematics professor Teach mathematics classes, do theoretical research, and advise undergraduate and graduate students at colleges and universities
Environmental mathematician Work as member of interdisciplinary team of scientists and professionals studying problems at specific Superfund sites; communicate effectively across many academic disciplines and be able to summarize work in writing
Robotics engineer Combine mathematics, engineering, and computer science in the study and design of robots
Geophysical mathematician Develop the mathematical basis for seismic imaging tools used in the exploration and production of oil and gas reservoirs
Design Use computer graphics and mathematical modeling in the design and construction of physical prototypes; integrate geometric design with cost-effective manufacturing of resulting products
Ecologist Study the interrelationships of organisms and their environments and the underlying mathematical dynamics
Geodesist Study applied science involving the precise measurement of the size and shape of the earth and its gravity field
Photogrammetrist Study the applied science of multi-spectral image acquisition from terrestrial, aerial and satellite camera platforms, followed up by the image processing, analysis, storage, display, and distribution in various hard-copy and digital format
Civil engineer Plan, design, and manage the construction of land vehicle, aircraft, water, and energy transport systems; analyze and control systems for land vehicular traffic; analyze and control environmental systems for sewage and water treatment; develop sites for industrial, commercial and residential home use; analyze and control systems for storm water drainage and storage; manage construction of foundations, structures and buildings; analyze construction materials ; and surface soils and subterranean material analysis
Geomatics engineer Once known as "surveying engineer", includes geodetic surveying : takes into account the size and shape of the earth, in order to determine the precise horizontal and vertical positions of geodetic reference monuments; cadastral surveying : establishes and reestablishes the reference monuments for the U.S. Public Land Survey System, i.e., township and section corners; topographic surveying : determines the detailed configuration or contour of the natural earth's surface and the position of fixed objects thereon or related thereto; hydrographic surveying : similarly determines underwater contours and features; land surveying : is the location of existing parcel and new land subdivision lines, road and utility rights-of-way and easement lines, and determination of the location of existing and new reference monuments, which mark property lines and parcel corners; land surveying : also involves the preparation of legal descriptions for officially recorded land ownership conveyance deeds and other land title documents; construction surveying : is the determination of the direction and length between and the elevations of reference points for fixed private and public works, as embraced within the definition and practice of civil engineering, and the labeling of reference markers containing critical information for the construction thereof; design, operation and management of advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS and Land Information Systems (LIS), as well as other sophisticated computer mapping and CAD based geospatial applications


Studying Mathematical Sciences Opens Career Options

Even if you do not choose a career in the mathematical sciences, studying as much mathematics as you can is a good way to keep your career options open. Mathematics is an excellent foundation for, and is usually a prerequisite to, study in all areas of science and engineering. Students in such areas as anthropology, sociology, and psychology, as well as law, business, and medicine, also benefit from a solid background in mathematics and statistics. It will help you to better understand science and technology and their effects on our world.
Some of the above information is generously provided by The Mathematical Association of America ( MAA ) and the Association for Women in Mathematics ( AWM ) . Find additonal information about teaching of mathematics at the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators ( AMTE 

Please e-mail your comments , questions, or suggestions to Duane Kouba at .
SOURCE: Duane, Koba. "Why Choose a Mathematics-Related Profession?" Department of Mathematics, UC Davis; August 4, 2014.