What Is the Salary Potential for Someone with a Math Degree?

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If you’re considering a college degree program in math, it makes sense that salary potential would be part of the equation. Contrary to what outsiders to the field of mathematics might believe, a college education in mathematics can help you earn a lucrative, even six-figure, salary. There’s a reason why publications like Forbes, National Public Radio (NPR) and The Economist have ranked math as one of the top majors for degree value and earning potential. However, not every career you can get with a math degree is equally profitable. Some salaries pay considerably higher wages for mathematicians and statisticians than others do, and the earning potential in other jobs that require extensive math skills can range from low to high. The coursework you take and the experience you gain in college can play a part in determining how much money you will make as a graduate of a math degree program.

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What Can You Expect From a Math Degree Salary?

In general, a math major salary is above the average earning potential. After all, math is a crucial part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, which are known for their lucrative earning potential. Your exact earning potential is dependent upon a lot of factors, including your job title, the industry in which you work, your geographical location and the level of education you possess.

The Top Paying Industries for Mathematicians and Statisticians

The overall median salary for mathematicians and statisticians in 2020 was $93,290 per year, or $44.85 per hour, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s more than double the $41,950 median wage that the BLS reported for all occupations as of 2020.

In this set of occupations, your job title plays a big part in determining your salary. For math majors who go on to have the job title of statistician, the median salary in 2020 was $92,270, the BLS reported. The 10 percent of statisticians who make the most money earn upwards of $150,840 per year, while the 10 percent with the lowest salaries make less than $52,700 annually.

Mathematicians have a median wage more than twenty percent higher than statisticians, amounting to $110,860 per year as of 2020. The best-paid mathematicians reported earning more than $170,150 per year, while the 10 percent of mathematicians who earn the least make under $61,130 annually.

With such a large difference between the highest and lowest salaries, you might be wondering how to prepare yourself for a well-paying mathematician job. Your industry of employment has a big impact on how much money you will make.

Among the industries employing the most mathematicians, the highest salaries are in the professional, scientific and technical services industry, which employed 26 percent of the occupation in 2020 and paid a median salary of $121,140, according to the BLS. The 47 percent of mathematicians who work for the federal government also earn above-average wages, with the BLS reporting a 2020 median salary of $116,410. Unfortunately, academia is the lowest paying of the top employers of mathematicians, and the 17 percent of the field employed by colleges and universities reported a median salary of just $63,600.

Among statisticians, jobs with the federal government pay the best. For the 12 percent of the occupation working for the federal government, the median annual salary was $112,940 in 2020. Next most lucrative are research and development roles in the physical, engineering and life sciences industry. These jobs made up 14 percent of the statistician occupation in 2020 and paid a median wage of $102,370

Earning Potential for Other Jobs With a Math Degree

Mathematician and statistician are far from the only jobs you can get with a math degree. In fact, math majors can go on to work in a wide array of career fields, including data science, economics, software engineering, market research, financial analysis and many more disciplines. Two other occupations with a particular connection to mathematics are actuary and operations research analyst.

Actuary is the higher paying of these two careers, with a 2020 median salary of $$111,030, according to the BLS. An actuary uses advanced math skills as well as business knowledge to calculate the financial cost associated with risk, usually as it pertains to insurance, loans, investments and other aspects of the finance and insurance industry.

For operations research analysts, who use their math and analytical skills to improve an organization’s business operations, the median wage as of 2020 was $86,200, the BLS reported. Those who work in certain industries, including the federal government, can see six-figure median salaries.

Salaries for Math Majors in Business Occupations

You might also use a math degree to work in one of the business occupations, for which the overall median annual salary in 2020 was $72,250, according to the BLS. Business occupations you might pursue with a math degree include budget analyst, with a 2020 median salary of $78,970, and personal financial advisor, with a median salary of $89,330.

Other business and financial careers in which strong math skills are in demand, according to the BLS, include:

Salaries for Math Majors in Primary and Secondary Education

Another, less lucrative option many math majors pursue is education at the elementary and secondary school level. High school teachers earned a median wage of $62,870, middle school teachers $60,810 and elementary school teachers $60,660 as of 2020, according to the BLS. Public school teachers typically need to have a formal education in teaching and managing a classroom, including a semester of student-teaching experience, and to attain a teaching license or certification.

If you’re thinking of using your math major to work as a teacher in an elementary school, middle school or high school setting, you may need to double-major in education or explore alternative route options for attaining teacher certification. Due to these requirements, it’s best to consider this career path and how to prepare for it early on in your college studies.

Mathematician is a small occupation, with just 2,700 workers across America as of 2020, the BLS reported. Statistician is a considerably larger occupation, with 42,000 Americans working in this profession in 2020, but considering other math-related job roles beyond mathematician and statistician can increase your career opportunities by a great deal.

The Average Salary for Math Majors in Entry-Level Roles

What about earning potential for math majors who are just starting out? In its 2020 Salary Survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported a projected starting salary of $62,488 for graduates in the class of 2020 who earned a bachelor’s degree in math and science majors. Only engineering and computer science majors report higher average starting salaries. To put this pay rate in perspective, the average starting salary for the undergraduate class of 2020 as a whole – encompassing all majors – was $55,260, according to NACE,

Bachelor in Mathematics Salary vs. Master’s in Mathematics Salary Rates

Graduate school is a common path for math majors after completing their undergraduate education. Only 8 percent of mathematicians and 15 percent of statisticians end their studies at the bachelor’s degree level, according to O*NET. Among mathematicians, 25 percent of the field reported having a master’s degree, and 50 percent of the field reported a doctoral degree as the highest level of education completed. The popularity of these advanced degrees was switched among statisticians, 65 percent of whom have a master’s degree and 20 percent of whom have a doctoral degree. Considering how common an advanced education is in these careers, students and prospective students often wonder about the differences in salary rates with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctorate.

The projected starting salary among class of 2020 graduates with a master’s degree in math and the sciences climbed to $79,717, the NACE reported. That’s a difference of more than $17,000 annually, or an increase of more than 25 percent, compared to the $62,488 starting salary for those with only a bachelor’s degree.

For doctoral students in the class of 2020, the projected average starting salary reported by the NACE was $103,083. The $40,595 difference between average starting salaries for doctoral degree holders compared to bachelor’s degree holders amounts to an increase of nearly 65 percent. Of course, earning a Ph.D. in math is neither quick nor easy, and U.S. News & World Report noted that the median length of time it takes to complete a Ph.D. program is almost six years.

There are numerous reasons for the increase in pay rates that accompanies an advanced mathematics education besides the degree itself. Candidates who hold a master’s degree or a doctorate in mathematics may already have work experience in the field that those with only a bachelor’s degree don’t have. Additionally, a master’s degree or doctorate in math can pave the way for high-paying career opportunities that generally aren’t open to candidates with only a bachelor’s degree, such as those in research and development.

To boost your math major salary at every level of study, you should pursue opportunities like internships in applied mathematics and research experiences within your university or through other organizations. Building this experience can help you cultivate the most in-demand skills and develop a resume to impress employers. 

The Best-Paying Locations for Math Majors

Where you work affects how much money you stand to make, and it isn’t only the industry in which you’re employed and the size and prominence of your organization that matters. Average salaries for the same occupation can vary a great deal from one geographical location to another.

For mathematicians, the location with the most lucrative average wage is Washington, D.C., for which the BLS reported a mean annual salary of $137,960 in 2020. Other top-paying locations for mathematicians in the United States include Washington state, New Mexico, New Jersey and Virginia. Among statisticians, the BLS reported that the state with the highest average salary is Idaho, where the mean wage as of 2020 was $117,190. Other states that pay premium salaries for statisticians include New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and California.

Actuaries earn the most money in New York, where the average annual salary in 2020 topped $150,000, according to the BLS. The next most lucrative locations for actuaries are Connecticut, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. The BLS reported that operations research analysts earn the most in Washington, D.C., with a $116,700 average salary for 2020. New Jersey, California, Virginia and New York were among the other top-paying locations for this career.

While the top-paying states for teachers differed by grade level, New York and California were among the most lucrative states for elementary school, middle school and high school teachers for 2020, according to the BLS. 

How Math Majors Can Increase Their Earning Potential

Earning the right level of education for your intended career path is one way to improve your earning potential. Most private industry jobs for mathematicians require a master’s degree, according to the BLS, so you may need to invest a couple of years in pursuing graduate study so that you can get the high-paying job you want. Among the few jobs open to mathematicians with only a bachelor’s degree are some government jobs, according to the BLS.

You might expect an even bigger increase in salary potential for having a doctorate degree, but whether you actually end up getting the return on investment that you anticipated depends on how you end up using your degree. A Ph.D. in mathematics often prepares students to work in a college or university setting, which tends to be less lucrative than work in private industry. However, if you leverage your doctoral education to secure a high-level role in scientific research and development, you are likely to make more money than you would earn in a role in academia.

Actuaries and operations research analysts often have only a bachelor’s degree, but they may require other credentials or experience. For example, actuaries must take numerous exams to achieve full professional certification, while operations research analysts often have a background that includes experience serving in the military.

You can also work toward boosting your salary through the knowledge and skills you gain as an undergraduate student. It is important for math majors to take non-math classes that are relevant to their career goals. Much of an actuary’s work requires the use of computers, so courses in computer science are recommended for math majors who are considering a job as an actuary. Life sciences, physical sciences and business are also valuable subjects of study for math majors.

A math internship can also provide valuable experience and networking opportunities that can ultimately help you get a job with greater salary potential. 

Related Resources:

Top 10 Paying Jobs That Involve Math

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone With an Operations Research Degree?

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone With an Actuarial Science Degree?

What Is the Salary Potential for Someone With a Mathematics Education Degree?

For Further Reading: 

Top 10 Paying Jobs With an Associate’s Degree