While it’s easy to think of math as an abstract subject of study filled with numbers, letters and symbols, there are plenty of real-life applications for mathematical concepts. In fact, many math careers are part of this field of applied mathematics, rather than theoretical or “pure” mathematics. One field where the application of mathematical principles and methods is highly valued is business. It is often a smart choice for math majors to take at least a minimal number of business courses, if not complete a full-fledged concentration, major or business internship, because having a thorough understanding of business can open up many career opportunities.
Business Courses for Math Majors
The most important classes for the major, or core courses, are naturally math-focused. Most bachelor’s degree programs in math require studies in abstract and linear algebra, calculus and differential equations, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Beyond that, students take other math classes, courses in the liberal arts and life sciences, and elective courses in subjects that interest them personally or professionally.
Some colleges suggest or require that math majors take some business coursework, even to the point of completing a minor in business to make the degree more marketable in the private industry setting. A minor in business might include classes such as Tools and Concepts in Accounting & Finance, Practice & Applications in Accounting & Finance, Legal and Ethical Environment of Business, Human Behavior and Organizations, Marketing-Operations Fundamentals and Statistical Analysis of Business Data.
Even if you don’t pursue an official minor or specialization, it makes sense to take any business courses that relate to your intended career path – and a lot of business subjects are relevant to many math-related careers. Depending on which job you would like to do with your math degree, your college may recommend courses in the theory of interest, business finance, financial accounting, operations research, macroeconomics and macroeconomics. Completing an internship in a math-related role with a business component or for a finance or insurance firm can also help you prepare for future career success.
For students who are highly interested in both fields of study, there are interdisciplinary degree programs in mathematical business.
Business-Related Math Occupations
With a math degree and a foundation in business, you can take on a number of fast-growing and high-paying careers. Many mathematicians find work in the business world, applying their knowledge of mathematical techniques to the task of analyzing and solving business problems, the BLS reported. Many of the eight percent of mathematicians working in finance and insurance and the seven percent working in management and consulting services are among these math professionals who apply their skills to business. Mathematicians earn a median wage of $103,010 and are enjoying a much faster than average rate of job growth at 30 percent, the BLS reported.
The other major math occupations recognized by the BLS, actuary and operations research analyst, both work primarily in the field of business. Among actuaries, who use their math background to calculate the cost of risks, 70 percent of workers find employment in the finance and insurance industry, analyzing the numbers behind insurance and loan applications. Professional, scientific and technical services and management of companies and enterprises are other main employers of actuaries. Actuary careers are about as lucrative as mathematicians’, with a median wage of $101,560. This career, too, is growing at above-average rates, with the BLS predicting a 22 percent increase in jobs over a decade.
More than one-quarter of all operations research analysts also work in the field of finance and insurance, with another 22 percent working in professional, scientific and technical services and nine percent working in both the manufacturing industry and management of companies and enterprises. No matter which industry they work in, operations research analysts assess data to answer all kinds of business questions and improve the operations of their organization. Everything from determining the layout of a retail store to adjusting a company’s shipping practices can fall under the domain of an operations research analyst.
While some schools offer specialized degree programs in actuarial science or operations research, many professionals employed in these two occupations come from a general science background or from another quantitative field of study.