With strong math skills and a college education, you can qualify for some of the highest-paying jobs available. Math skills are consistently in demand across industries that use data analysis to develop business strategies and scientific breakthroughs. In the highest-paying math jobs, median salaries climb to $80,000, $90,000, $100,000 or even more.
What Are the Highest-Paying Math Jobs?
Mathematical skills – and the other competencies students develop pursuing an undergraduate math degree – are in-demand in many fields.
High-paying jobs for math majors may include high-paying jobs in financial and government agencies, consulting firms, insurance companies, colleges and universities and more.
At the intersection between mathematics and computer science is the cryptographer career path. In general, cryptography refers to the security and privacy of messages and data – but the modern field of cryptography refers specifically to computers and cybersecurity.
A cryptographer writes the computer code – and algorithms – used to protect data security online. When hackers and other cybercriminals attempt to breach data security measures and access or steal unauthorized information, the encryption programs created by a cryptographer
Average Annual Salary
The average salary for cryptographers across the United States in 2021 was $145,356, according to Western Governors University. The highest-paid cryptographers made nearly $200,000 per year, and even the 4% of the occupation with the lowest wages still earned salaries around $102,000.
2. Financial Manager
Another math role with an exceptionally high salary is financial manager. A financial manager makes financial decisions for a company and oversees the organization’s financial activities. Some of the job titles that fall under the financial manager role include treasurer, controller and chief financial officer (CFO).
For financial managers as a whole, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median salary of $131,710. The top 10% of earners in the financial manager occupation made upwards of $208,000, while the lowest-paid 10% of the field reported annual earnings below $77,040.
The management of companies and enterprises industry, which employed one in 10 financial managers, paid the highest median salary of all top employment industries at $158,820. The 15% of financial managers working in the professional, scientific and technical services industry earned a median salary of $158,770.
In the manufacturing industry, which employed 6% of the field, and the finance and insurance industry, which employed 30% of the field, financial managers earned a median salary of $131,710. For the 7% of financial managers who worked for government agencies, the median salary was $123,010.
Of course, how high a management position a financial manager holds affects their earning potential. Salary.com reported an average salary of $224,461 for treasurers, $240,082 for controllers and $420,300 for chief financial officers.
Mathematician may seem like the most direct career path for math majors, but in fact, relatively few math majors follow this trajectory. There are only about 2,000 mathematicians working in America, even though the BLS reported that there are 887,590 American workers in the mathematics field.
Mathematicians are the professionals whose job duties involve math in the purest sense. To solve problems – which may be theoretical or exist in the real world – they create mathematical equations. Testing new mathematical theories and developing mathematical rules are some of the duties that a mathematician may perform.
Mathematicians who focus on abstract math work acquire mathematical knowledge for the sake of advancing the field. Mathematicians interested in applied mathematics use their knowledge of complex mathematics and their math skills to understand, organize and quantify problems and to write and solve equations through which they can address real issues.
If you want to be a mathematician with an academic focus working at a college or university, you will likely work toward a full math professor role. Unfortunately, math professor jobs and other roles for mathematicians in colleges and universities pay significantly less than other mathematician jobs. The median salary the BLS reported for mathematicians working in colleges and universities was $61,600 as of 2021 – and these math jobs typically require a doctorate degree.
Median annual salary:
Mathematicians across the United States earned a median salary of $108,100 as of 2021, the BLS reported. The highest-earning mathematicians made more than $169,500, while the lowest-earning mathematicians earned below $61,760.
Mathematicians in the professional, scientific and technical services industry, which made up 13% of the profession, earned a median salary of $129,800. The federal government – the largest industry of employment for mathematicians, which employed 62% of the workforce – paid a median wage of $115,610. Unfortunately for the 13% of mathematicians working for colleges and universities, academia pays much less, with a median salary of $61,600.
With strong math skills, you could quantify just about anything – even risk. The role of an actuary is to calculate risk by looking at economic data and running complex calculations. Most actuaries work for either an insurance company or a financial institution.
While a math major can prepare students for an actuary career, students interested in becoming an actuary may also pursue a specialized degree in actuarial science.
The median salary actuaries earned in 2021 was $105,900, the BLS reported. Actuarial science is such a lucrative career path that the top 10% of earners in the field made upwards of $206,820. The lowest-paid 10% of earners reported salaries below $63,260.
Among the top employment industries for this field, the government paid the most, with a median salary of $110,590. Only 3% of the field works for the government. The finance and insurance industry, which employed 74% of actuaries in the U.S., reported a median salary of $110,000.
Salaries in the professional, scientific and technical services industry and the management of companies and enterprises industry – which employed 13% and 4% of the occupation, respectively – paid very close median salaries of $101,600 and $101,510.
5. Data Scientist
Despite the job title, a data scientist is more a math professional than a scientist, at least compared to scientist jobs that first come to mind. The role of data scientists is to analyze data. This is another role that combines mathematical knowledge, statistical methods of analysis and the knowledge of computers needed to write algorithms that support machine learning.
Data scientists reported a median salary of $100,910 in 2021, the BLS reported. For the best-paid scientists in this career, earnings are in excess of $167,040 per year. At the lowest end of the pay scale are salaries below $59,430.
All of the top employment industries for the data scientist profession paid salaries within the range of $100,000 to $102,000. The scientific research and development services, which employed 5% of the occupation, paid a median salary of $102,750.
The 15% of the field working in the computer systems design industry reported a median wage of $102,600. For both the management of companies and enterprises industry and the management, scientific and technical consulting services – which employed 10% and 7% of the profession, respectively – the median salary for data scientists was $101,000. For the 9% of the profession working for an insurance company, the median salary was $100,360.
Statistics is a data-centric discipline of analysis. Statisticians can apply methods of statistical analysis to calculate the statistical probability of many different outcomes or events in virtually any imaginable industry. Science, medicine and business are some examples of the fields that rely upon statistical methods.
As a whole, statisticians enjoy a near-six-figure median salary of $95,570, the BLS reported. The best-paid 10% of statisticians earned upwards of $157,300 per year, but the lowest-paid 10% of statisticians reported earnings under $50,000.
In the best-paid of the top employment industry – scientific research and development – statisticians earned a median salary nearly $20,000 higher than the median wage for the occupation as a whole. This industry accounts for 14% of employment in the profession and pays a median salary of $114,770. The median salary among statisticians working for federal government agencies, as 15% of the occupation does, amounted to $114,050.
In the rest of the top employment industries for statisticians, earning potential is significantly lower. Insurance carriers employed 6% of statisticians and paid a median salary of $83,820. The 8% of the profession employed in the healthcare and social assistance industry reported a median salary of $79,060. Nearly one in 10 statisticians worked for colleges and universities, which paid a median salary of $77,750.
7. Personal Financial Advisor
An important area of finance is managing wealth. A personal financial advisor, including those with the Certified Financial Planner credential, helps clients manage, plan, save, invest and grow their wealth.
Personal financial advisors don’t make recommendations based on hunches. Rather, they analyze available financial data and past patterns to predict what will happen in financial markets.
Nearly one-fifth of all personal financial advisors are self-employed, the BLS reported. Self-employed financial advisors may also manage their own financial firms.
Earnings vary a great deal among personal financial advisors, for whom the BLS reported a median salary of $94,170 in 2021. While the best-paid 10% of the field reported earning more than $208,000, the lowest-paid 10% of the occupation reported salaries under $47,570.
Personal financial advisors who worked in the securities and financial investments industry – as 59% of the field does – earned a median salary just shy of six figures, at $99,970. The personal financial advisors employed in the remaining top employment industries earn substantially less, amounting to a difference of $20,000 to $30,000 per year.
The management of companies and enterprises industry employed just 1% of personal financial advisors but paid a median salary of $79,780. Close behind is the credit intermediation industry, which employed 15% of the profession and paid a median salary of $76,620. For the 3% of personal financial advisors working for insurance carriers, the median salary was $69,410.
8. Financial Analyst
As the name suggests, a financial analyst analyzes financial data. There are many types of financial analysts, including:
- Investment analyst
- Financial risk specialist or financial risk analyst
- Fund manager
- Portfolio manager
- Securities analyst
- Ratings analyst
- Buy-side analyst
- Sell-side analyst
Financial analysts often look at past market data and trends and companies’ financial statements. An investment analyst, for example, often develops financial models and advises an employer’s financial team on investment opportunities that are likely to pay off.
The overall median salary the BLS reported for financial analysts in 2021, $95,570, is slightly skewed because this occupation includes two roles with median wages more than $8,000 apart. For financial and investment analysts specifically, the median wage was $91,580, while the median salary for financial risk specialists hovered a bit higher, at $100,000.
The highest-paid 10% of financial and investment analysts earned upwards of $166,560, while the highest-paid financial risk specialists made more than $171,000. Financial and investment analysts in the 10th percentile made less than $57,900, while financial risk specialists in the 10th percentile earned below $59,370.
The securities, commodity contracts and other financial investment activities industry was the highest-paying industry for both financial and investment analysts and financial risk analysts, with median salaries of $100,800 and $127,110, respectively.
For financial and investment analysts, the professional, scientific and technical services industry followed, with a median wage of $96,600. The management of companies and enterprises industry paid a median salary of $83,990, followed by the insurance industry, which paid a median wage of $81,150. In the credit intermediation industry, financial and investment analysts earned a median salary of $79,910.
The management of companies and enterprises industry is the second most lucrative among the top employment industries for financial risk specialists, paying a median salary of $102,750. In the credit intermediation industry, the median salary was $98,320, closely followed by the $98,250 median salary reported for the professional, scientific and technical services industry. Insurance carriers paid financial risk analysts a median salary of $91,770.
9. Operations Research Analyst
An operations research analyst uses mathematical modeling methods and calculations to solve all kinds of practical problems organizations face, from making pricing decisions for goods and services to coordinating the supply chain, production schedules and resource allocation.
The BLS reported a median salary of $82,360 for operations research analysts. The best-paid operations research analysts earned considerably more. For the top 10% of earners in this role, salaries were in excess of $160,850. However, the lowest-paid 10% of operations research analysts made less than $48,690.
Although the federal government employed only 6% of the field, it paid the most, with a median salary of $120,950. The 28% of operations research analysts who worked for the professional, scientific and technical services industry reported a median salary of $99,790.
In the manufacturing industry, where 5% of the profession worked, the median salary was $98,040. For the 8% of the occupation working in the management of companies and enterprises industry, the median salary was $94,070.
The finance and insurance industry, which accounted for one-quarter of the profession, paid a noticeably lower salary of $79,450.
10. Market Research Analyst
A market research analyst uses mathematical and statistical methods to analyze market data. Through their work analyzing economic trends, a market research analyst is able to help organizations make decisions on what products to offer, how to price them and how to market them successfully to consumers.
Market research analysts as a whole earned a median salary of $63,920 as of 2021, the BLS reported. The highest-paid 10% of market research analysts earned more than twice that much, with salaries above $128,320. The 10% of the operations research analyst occupation with the lowest earnings made less than $37,570.
The management of companies and enterprises industry, which employed 7% of the profession, paid the highest median salary among the top employment industries: $79,640. The 4% of the field working for the publishing industries earned nearly as much, with a median wage of $79,450. In the finance and insurance industry, where 10% of the field worked, median pay amounted to $76,650.
The median salary in the wholesale trade industry, which employed 7% of market research analysts, reported a median salary of $64,090. For market research analysts working in the management, scientific and technical consulting services, which amounted to 11% of the occupation, the median salary was $62,650.
What to Expect as a Math Major
If you want to prepare for one of the highest-paying jobs for math majors, you’re going to need to take numerous math courses. Math majors study mathematical theory, methods and applications. In the course of pursuing a four-year math degree, students are likely to study mathematical analysis, linear algebra, abstract algebra, modern algebra, multivariate analysis, calculus, number theory, differential geometry and topology.
Math majors will also be exposed to methods for applied mathematics. As part of their bachelor’s degree studies, a math major may also complete a minor or elective coursework in an area of interest, such as business or computer technology, to help them develop a knowledge base that will help them in an applied mathematics career.
Other Majors to Consider If You’re Good at Math
Math degrees aren’t the only options for students with strong math skills. If you want to apply your knowledge of mathematical concepts and equations to real-world issues, it might make sense to pursue a bachelor’s degree in an area relevant to the career path you plan to pursue.
If you want to become a cryptographer or work in another role in cyber security, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science may be the right choice. Computer science and mathematics have more in common than many people realize. In fact, mathematical principles inform the computation theories and methods of statistical analysis that are critical parts of bachelor’s degree studies in computer science.
In a bachelor’s degree program in computer science, students typically take classes in data structures and algorithms, computer programming, computer architecture, systems programming and computational science and theory.
If you want to use your knowledge of mathematical equations to design solutions to real problems, a career as an engineer may appeal to you. Engineers work in numerous disciplines – mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering and electrical engineering, to name a few – and find employment in environments like engineering firms, technology companies, government agencies, colleges and universities and other settings.
Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering take enough math courses, along with basic science courses, to develop a strong math and science background that they can apply to work in engineering design.
The area of business that is most closely related to mathematics is finance, which revolves around the management of wealth. Students who pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance typically study corporate finance, investment analysis, futures and options, securities analysis and portfolio management, international finance and financial management.
What Level of Education Do You Need for the Highest-Paying Math Jobs?
For most of the highest-paying math jobs, at least some level of college education is required. The BLS lists actuary, operations research analyst and data scientist among the math jobs with a bachelor’s degree required. A bachelor’s degree is also considered the entry-level education needed for many business jobs for math majors, such as financial analyst and personal financial advisor.
Although professionals with strong math skills and a relevant bachelor’s degree can do well in a variety of career roles, there are some positions for which a bachelor’s degree alone may not be enough. Some professionals working in math jobs go on to pursue a graduate degree, such as a master’s degree, or to earn a doctoral degree like a PhD.
Generally, a master’s degree is most likely to come in handy when you are pursuing a high-level role in research and development or in management. Some of the master’s degree programs that may be of interest include mathematics, business administration, finance, computer science, data science and engineering.
You don’t have to go for your master’s degree straight after completing your bachelor’s degree program. Many students apply to entry-level jobs for math majors after graduation, through which they gain experience and on-the-job training that can help them plan their career trajectory.
For some of the highest-paying math jobs, work experience and on-the-job training are sufficient preparation for advancement on their own, while for other roles, having a master’s degree can be invaluable.
The Most In-Demand Skills for Math Majors
Any math job requires strong mathematical skills, but there are specific related skill sets that can prove valuable in a high-paying math career.
Most of the math jobs on our list involve at least some analytical component. Having strong analytical skills is valuable not only for jobs that revolve around analysis specifically but also for jobs that involve any sort of strategic decision-making.
Whether you’re using methods of statistical analysis or simply applying logic and reasoning to better understand and solve problems, your analytical skills are essential to success in a math career. Due the need to analyze not only mathematical equations but also how to apply mathematical methods to real-world problems, math majors develop excellent analytical skills in the course of earning their bachelor’s degree or advanced degrees.
A math major solves problems, but the types of challenges they overcome aren’t limited to arriving at the answer to a tricky equation or figuring out the value of a variable. The business, financial, risk, cyber security and other problems that are the focus of math jobs are often best addressed in similar ways, such as organizing a problem logically, analyzing each aspect and modeling solutions.
Studying math equips students with strong problem-solving skills – and that’s a skill set that almost every job requires.
Interpret Financial Reports
It takes only basic arithmetic skills and accounting knowledge to prepare financial statements, but making meaning out of financial reports is much more challenging. With their thorough grasp of mathematical concepts and theories, math majors are well-suited to make meaning and glean insights out of financial and economic data.
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