When you go to school for a math-related career, you aren’t only choosing what to major in, but also how much time you will invest in your education. Some math-related careers require nothing more than a bachelor’s degree. For others, you need to plan for more long-term schooling. In many math-related careers, you can start with a bachelor’s degree and choose to advance your education by going to graduate school later, if desired. Ultimately, how advanced an education you want to pursue is up to you, but your choice can limit what you’re able to do with the math degree you earn.
Careers With a Bachelor’s Degree in Math
Generally, if you want to be a mathematician, you need to go to graduate school. However, one major employer of mathematicians and statisticians that does not require an advanced degree is the federal government, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. To work as a government mathematician or statistician, you need only a bachelor’s degree in math or, as the BLS puts it, “significant coursework in mathematics.”
Jobs with the federal government account for 35 percent of all mathematician jobs and 13 percent of statistician jobs, according to the BLS. These roles can be lucrative, offering six-figure salaries. When they work for the federal government, mathematicians and statisticians apply their skills to matters of public policy. They may create the surveys used to gather data about a matter such as employment and analyze that data to draw conclusions. Government mathematicians and statisticians might also perform the calculations that tell government entities valuable information about pollution, water quality, public health issues and environmental issues.
If you aren’t attached to having the job title of mathematician, there are other math-related careers you can explore with an undergraduate degree. A bachelor’s degree is typically enough formal education to work as an actuary or an operations research analyst, the BLS reported. Both occupations are seeing opportunities grow at a much faster than average rate and offer high salaries.
Actuaries are concerned with calculating risk. About 70 percent of all actuaries work in the finance and insurance industry, the BLS reported. In these industries, actuaries determine risk as it affects eligibility for and cost of insurance coverage and suitability for and terms of loans.
Some operations research analysts do have a master’s degree, but entry-level positions are typically available to candidates with only a bachelor’s degree. Operations research analysts look at and interpret all data relating to the operations of an organization, whether a massive corporation or a government agency, to find data-driven ways to improve operations and solve problems.
Math teacher roles at the elementary school, middle school and high school levels, too, usually require only an undergraduate education. Students interested in teaching mathematics should look for a math education degree program or double-major in math and teacher preparation.
Just because a graduate education isn’t required doesn’t mean that these careers are easy. Actuaries must pass numerous exams to achieve certification, operations research analysts often start their careers serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and teachers must be licensed.
Jobs That Require a Graduate Degree in Math
When do you need a graduate education? Mathematician and statistician jobs in private industry often require candidates to hold a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in math, the BLS reported. A master’s degree in math can help you get started in a biometrician or biostatistician role in the field of healthcare. Work in this career might include doing the mathematical calculations to determine the severity of disease outbreaks or the effectiveness of newly developed medications.
A master’s degree can also qualify you for a job in research and development. About 17 percent of mathematicians and 11 percent of statisticians work in this field, the BLS reported. These jobs might involve developing the criteria for experiments used to test new products or product modifications and analyzing the data gleaned from those experiments. Research and development mathematicians can also work on the marketing side of product development, figuring out which promotional strategies should offer the highest return on investment and setting prices for merchandise.
If you want to work in academia, teaching advanced mathematics to college students or conducting your own mathematical inquiries with all the resources of a research university, you will most likely need a Ph.D. This career path is best for those who are true lovers of math. Despite the extensive education requirements to attain this job, this industry offers some of the lowest wages. Mathematicians who work for colleges and universities earn a median salary of just $56,320 per year, and statisticians, $70,780.
While undergraduate math programs include coursework in both abstract and applied mathematics, students at the graduate level typically choose one of these paths to focus on as they advance their knowledge of mathematics.