Perhaps you’re considering majoring in mathematics but you’re wondering, “what can I do with a math degree once I graduate?” Great question!
Math majors offer prospective employers a range of valuable skills such as quantitative reasoning, analytical reasoning, and number sense. Math majors also tend to be detail-oriented which is an important skill in many jobs.
There are potentially lots of options for math majors! In this article, we’ll explore several math-related fields.
A financial analyst examines data and analyzes trends to make recommendations to companies that impact their decision making and investment decisions.
Financial analysts will often advise the company on investment decisions based on their findings. They create financial models to help assist the company. Math majors can make excellent financial analysts!
Analysts really need to know the field in which they specialize and must stay on top of current trends. While some financial analysts are concerned with stocks and bonds, some also use data to determine how effective a marketing strategy is.
As with most professional jobs these days, financial analysts will often need continuing education. Certifications are sometimes necessary to advance in your career but shouldn’t be necessary at the entry level.
Financial analysts typically work in banks, the insurance industry, investment firms, or financial planning companies.
In 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a financial analyst was $95,570 per year.
Of Note: Some colleges now offer degree programs in financial mathematics. Simmons University in Boston offers a financial math degree to help students prepare for careers in finance and the actuarial sciences.
Courses that are offered for such a degree include things like Multivariable Calculus, Statistics, Principles of Macroeconomics, and Financial Management.
The University of Chicago also has a degree in financial mathematics. Their program
“offers accelerated, integrated coursework that explores the deep-rooted relationship that exists between theoretical and applied mathematics and the ever-evolving world of finance. Our mission is to equip our students with a solid foundation in mathematics, and in doing so provide them with practical knowledge that they can successfully apply to complicated financial models.”
Many other colleges also have specialized degrees in financial mathematics! Some of the programs are at the graduate level but many offer the degree at the undergraduate level.
What is an actuary? Simply put, an actuary measures risk to predict future outcomes. They do this by analyzing data.
Actuaries work with numbers on a daily basis as they problem solve and analyze data. Strong math skills are essential!
However, the path to becoming an actuary can be long. With an undergraduate degree, you can enter into the field at a junior level.
Then through a series of exams and professional development courses, you can obtain professional accreditations such as an Associate or a Fellow. It’s a long road; some liken the process of becoming a Fellow in the Society of Actuaries to that of obtaining a PhD.
As such, continuing education is part of the process and part of the career. Should you pursue this field, keep in mind that early on in your career a lot of your free time will be devoted to studying for exams.
Insurance companies rely heavily on actuaries to help them determine premiums so they know how much money is needed to pay out claims. Other industries need actuaries as well!
The Society of Actuaries provides a detailed list of possible career paths for actuaries including industries such as Investments and Fund Management or Pension Planning.
In 2021, the median salary for an actuary was $105,900 per year.
A statistician is a professional who works with theoretical or applied statistics. Statisticians are valuable employees in both the public and private sector.
In the private sector, statisticians can help interpret data and make predictions to help with business strategies. In the public sector, statisticians can work in lots of different fields: healthcare, environmental projects, or even helping with the US census.
The role of a statistician can be very broad so there likely will be an area of focus for the statistician.
More specifically, on a day to day basis, statisticians develop processes for data collection, interpret and analyze data, identify trends in the data, and make strategic recommendations.
They help with the decision making for a company or organization. They also develop surveys or studies for a particular area of interest.
For example, statisticians can help scientists develop studies that will show whether or not a particular drug is effective. That’s pretty important work!
Interesting Note: Moneyball is a great movie about how statistics can be used in decision making. Based on Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, the movie stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team in 2002.
Beane made great use of baseball statistics to make decisions. Specifically, he used statistics to recognize undervalued players and he built a roster of players based on his findings.
He and the assistant general manager used statistics as they scouted prospective players – in doing so, they were able to build a strong baseball team in the confines of a limited budget. The movie effectively portrays how numbers can help on a day to day basis, and can even affect Major League Baseball!
In 2021, the median salary for a statistician was $96,280 per year.
Operations Research Analyst
Another option for a math major is the career of an operations research analyst. An operations research analyst uses math and logic to solve complex issues for companies and organizations.
According to Career Explorer,
“A company will hire an operations research analyst to improve their business practices by studying cost effectiveness, labor requirements, product distribution and other factors involved in their day-to-day operations.”
Certainly, some of the job skills of operations research analysts may be similar to those of a statistician. An operations research analyst is a narrower field, focusing on optimization and processes.
Of note: “The term ‘operational research’ was originally used in Britain during World War II to connote scientific research done to integrate new radar technologies into Royal Air Force tactics.” Credit: informs.org
In 2021, the median salary of an operations research analyst was $82,360 per year.
Database Administrator (DBA)
A database administrator is a professional who ensures that a company’s databases are functioning properly. They maintain and secure the company’s databases.
Additionally, they work with developers to help with new features and to troubleshoot when the need arises.
According to Oracle,
“The role of DBA is becoming increasingly important in today’s information-driven business environment. Throughout the world, more and more organizations depend on data to discover analytical insights on market conditions, new business models, and cost-cutting measures.”
Because businesses rely more and more on technology and data, the job outlook for a database administrator is quite good.
In 2021, the median salary for a database administrator was $96,710 per year.
“Become a math teacher,” may be common advice to math majors. Teaching math at the secondary level certainly won’t be the highest paying math-related career on this list, but it’s not without its rewards.
Teaching math to middle school and high school students can be a fulfilling career for people who have a love for learning and want to help others succeed in math. Some students struggle with math and even become anxious about anything math-related.
A successful math teacher can help students gain confidence in their math abilities and set them up for future success in their math course work.
Presumably, if you decide to enter the field of education, you already have a passion for teaching. One great benefit of being a math teacher: in addition to working with numbers, you’re also working with people.
You won’t be isolated in a windowless room somewhere crunching numbers! If you have the math skills and the people skills, teaching may be for you!
In 2021, a secondary math teacher’s median salary was $61,820 per year.
If you are interested in pursuing math for the long haul, you could become a professor.
To be a full-time professor, most schools will require a PhD in math. This can take about 5 more years of schooling beyond the undergraduate level.
In 2021, the median pay for a postsecondary teacher was $79,640. Professors’ salaries can range greatly depending on what level of professor you attain.
Full professors have the highest salaries, then associate professors, assistant professors, and finally adjunct professors, who work part-time.
Another, perhaps obvious, career path for math majors is that of a computer programmer. Ideally, if a math major minors in computer science this will open up more doors upon graduation.
A computer programmer codes! A programmer spends most of their time writing code, editing code, and fixing glitches.
Programmers typically work in office settings, commonly in computer system design or for computer service companies.
Of Note: If you’re interested in computer science, check out the 2014 movie The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.
Alan Turing, a mathematician and computer scientist, was able to decode German intelligence messages, named the German Enigma machines, for the British government during World War II. He is generally credited with developing the first modern computers.
The median annual salary for computer programmers was $93,000.
Here is a summary of the median salaries for the above listed careers:
math careers and median salaries.
Credit: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
A final word or two
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “overall employment in math occupations is projected to grow 29 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations; this increase is expected to result in about 82,000 new jobs over the decade.” That’s good news for math majors!!!
If you are a teacher thinking about switching careers, you can find 5 interesting careers for former teachers here.
About the author:
Jean-Marie Gard is an independent math teacher and tutor based in Massachusetts. You can get in touch with Jean-Marie at https://testpreptoday.com/.