Careers for Mathematics and Statistics Majors

What Can You Do With Your Major?

 

 

Mathematics

A Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics can prepare you for fascinating jobs in business and industry. Most undergraduates work in the field of applied mathematics.

They use mathematical modeling and computational methods to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, engineering, and in the physical, life, and social sciences.

There are 3 main career groups for mathematicians:

  1. Industrial Mathematicians
  2. Business Mathematicians
  3. Theoretical and Advanced Applications of Mathematics

 

1. Industrial Mathematics

Applied mathematicians are found in nearly all industries: Genetic engineering, designer drugs, diesel engines, digital TV, financial markets, electric power, insurance rates, inflation statistics, computer chips, credit cards, and circuit boards all are built and maintained by mathematicians. Their job titles can vary greatly, from “Mathematician” to “Air Transport Analyst.”

Part of your preparation is gaining mathematical knowledge, tools like derivatives, probability, and matrices, as well as central themes like the art of abstraction. Another part of your preparation is to use those ideas in real applications, and find general patterns among specific problems in engineering, science, finance, medicine, and many other areas. You need to learn to see beyond basic math to understand and grasp larger applications. Some employers seek applicants with experience, so an internship or research experience is very beneficial to business mathematics students.

In addition to basic mathematical knowledge, broaden your educational background to include courses such as economics, computer technology, and business management. Good oral and written communication skills are critical; many industrial and applied mathematicians work as part of a team, write research papers or proposals, and have contact with clients or customers with non-math backgrounds. Try to find opportunities to demonstrate that you can work well with a wide variety of people.

For further exploration:

 

2. Business Mathematics

Many mathematicians find employment in business. Mathematicians’ logical, problem-solving approach makes them extremely competitive in any job that requires a 4-year degree, since all corporations and organizations need to manage money and information.

Companies also hire mathematicians to work as actuaries, financial analysts, and insurance underwriters.

Actuaries make financial sense of the future by applying mathematical models to problems of insurance and finance. Actuaries are essential employees because they determine future risk, make price decisions, and formulate investment strategies. Some actuaries also design insurance, financial, and pension plans and ensure that these plans are maintained on a sound financial basis. Most actuaries specialize in life and health or property and casualty insurance; others work primarily in finance or employee benefits. Some use a broad knowledge of business and mathematics in investment, risk classification, or pension planning.

Underwriters combine practical business sense and the opportunity to learn how cutting edge issues affect long-term risks associated with life and disability insurance. Solid negotiation skills, problem-solving ability, exceptional interpersonal skills and analytical ability to properly assess risks are vital components for a successful underwriter.

Additional jobs in business math include:

What do you need to learn to have a career in business math?

In addition to basic mathematical knowledge, broaden your educational background to include courses such as economics, computer technology, and business management. Good oral and written communication skills are critical; many business mathematicians work as part of a team, write research papers or proposals, and have contact with clients or customers with non-math backgrounds. Try to find opportunities to demonstrate that you can work well with a wide variety of people.

Some employers seek applicants with business experience, so a summer internship or related work is very beneficial to business mathematics students.

For further exploration:

 

3. Theoretical Mathematics and Advanced Applied Mathematics

Theoretical mathematicians advance mathematical knowledge by describing previously unknown relationships in mathematics. Many theoretical mathematicians are employed as university faculty, and divide their time between teaching and conducting research. A PhD is usually required.

Many applied mathematics jobs also require further study. For example, careers in signals processing, cryptology, and systems management usually require a graduate degree.

Cryptanalysts analyze and decipher encryption systems designed to transmit military, political, financial, or law enforcement-related information in code. This field is related to signal processing, which includes the detection and processing of speech, data, video, and multimedia transmissions. Commercial applications of signal processing technology include efficient techniques for secure mobile communications, and high-speed, wide-band-width multimedia signaling.

Operations research and operations management describe the application of advanced mathematical techniques to help make better decisions within organizations. Operations research analysts help determine better ways to coordinate money, materials, equipment, and people by applying analytical methods from mathematics, science, and engineering. They solve problems in different ways and propose alternative solutions to management, which then chooses the best course of action that will meet the goals of the organization.

What do you need to learn to have a career in theoretical mathematics?

Part of your preparation is gaining mathematical knowledge, tools like derivatives, probability, and matrices, as well as central themes like the art of abstraction. Another part of preparation is experience using those ideas in real applications, experience in finding the general patterns among specific problems in engineering, science, finance, medicine, and many other areas. You will need to learn to see beyond the basic math to larger applications. Research experiences or internships as an undergraduate will be important for admission to graduate study.

If you plan to pursue a career in military cryptology or with government contractors, try to keep a spotless personal and work history; background checks and drug testing are common.

For further exploration:

 

Typical Tasks of Mathematicians:

Applied mathematicians might:

  • Analyze the most efficient way to schedule airline routes between cities.
  • Calculate probability that a smoker will collect on life insurance in the future.
  • Determine the aerodynamic characteristics of an experimental automobile.

Possible job titles for Industrial mathematicians:

Advanced engineer
Computer consultant
Computer programmer
Cryptologic mathematician
Development engineer
Military officer
Mathematics analyst
Programmer
Promotional consultant
Research scientist
Software engineer
Specialist
Systems analyst

 

 


Statistics

Statistics has been described as the science of learning from data. It includes everything from planning for the collection of data and data management, to end-product activities such as drawing conclusions from data and presentation of results.

The world is becoming more and more quantitative and data-focused. Many professions depend on numerical measurements to make decisions in the face of uncertainty. Using statistics, many businesses make projections from small samples to larger processes—for example: forecasting sales in business; predicting the effectiveness of new drugs; or determining insurance rates.

What kinds of jobs do Statisticians get? What do they do?

Statisticians use quantitative abilities, statistical knowledge, and communication skills to work on many challenging problems, such as:

  • Estimating the safety and studying the economics of nuclear power plants and alternative energy sources (at a utility company or the Department of Energy)
  • Evaluating the environmental impact of air, water, and soil pollutants (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • Designing and analyzing studies to determine if new drugs and medical devices are safe and effective (Pharmaceutical company, or Food and Drug Administration)
  • Estimating the unemployment rate in the United States (at the Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Analyzing consumer demand for products and services (at a consumer marketing firm, corporation, or consulting firm)
  • Designing studies for and analyzing data from agricultural experiments to increase productivity and yield (agribusiness)

Because statistical specialists are used in so many work areas, statisticians often have very different job titles. For example, a person using statistical methods on economic data may have the title econometrician, while statisticians in public health and medicine may hold titles such as biostatistician, biometrician, or epidemiologist.

Some statisticians also work in business as actuaries or budget analysts, where they apply their statistical knowledge to problems of insurance and finance.

The American Statistical Association has a large online resource of career material for further exploration.

What do I need to learn to prepare for a career as a statistician?

Mathematical ability and problem-solving skills are important traits for anyone planning a career in statistics. Prospective statisticians who hope to work in manufacturing or finance should broaden their educational background to include courses outside of statistics, such as economics, computer technology, and business management. Good oral and written communication skills are very important. Many statisticians work as part of a team, or have contact with clients or customers with non-mathematical backgrounds.

Although there are career opportunities for statisticians with a BS, many professionals hold either a Masters degree or a Ph.D. For this reason, individuals interested in statistics should give careful consideration to graduate study. Research the different jobs available at the BS, MS, and PhD levels as a part of choosing your major.

At MSU, you can major in Statistics or you may also want to investigate Computational Mathematics.

Resources for further exploration:

Possible job titles:

Actuarial Analyst
Actuarial Technician
Biostatistician
Biometrician
Computer Programmer
Mathematical Statistician
Operations Research Analyst
Programmer
Research Mathematician
Research Scientist
Statistician