Mathematical principles and practices may be predictable, but your career options with a math degree are anything but. This degree program does more than expose you to advanced calculus and statistics. It equips you with broad skills that can offer value to just about any industry you can imagine. The top industries for math occupations range from work with the federal government to academic positions and from jobs in scientific research and development to business, finance and management roles. If you’re interested in a career beyond the traditional math occupations, it opens up an array of different industries where you can find employment in many different job roles.
Government Jobs in Mathematics
The government is one of the largest and best-paying industries for the mathematical science occupations. More than one-third of all mathematicians work for the federal government, making this industry the top employer for the career, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It is also the top employer, as well as the most lucrative employment industry for statisticians. The median salary for statisticians who work for the government, $103,630, is nearly $20,000 per year above the median salary for statistician jobs as a whole.
Government jobs also account for five percent of operations research analyst roles – more than 5,700 jobs, since this role is the largest of the math-related careers – and four percent of actuary jobs.
Careers in Research and Academia
Research and academic jobs also account for a number of mathematician and statistician positions, though they aren’t one of the top industries for operations research analysts and actuaries. Research and development jobs in the physical, engineering and life sciences make up 17 percent of mathematician jobs and 11 percent of statistician jobs, the BLS reported. They also offer some of the highest salaries. Mathematicians in these roles earn a median wage of $119,500, well above the already-six-figure $103,010 median salary for the career as a whole. Statisticians employed in this industry make a median wage of $91,610.
Colleges and universities account for 16 percent of mathematician jobs and eight percent of statistician jobs, but there are drawbacks to working in this industry. You typically need a Ph.D. to work in an academic research or postsecondary instructor role, which could mean many more years of school. Colleges and universities offer the lowest salaries of all of the top employment fields, paying a median wage of $70,780 for statisticians and just $56,320 for mathematicians, the BLS reported.
Research and development jobs for mathematicians can include testing the products being developed and analyzing consumer data to determine how to promote and price these products.
Business, Finance, Insurance and Management Jobs for Math Majors
Many graduates of math degree programs work in the field of business. Insurance and finance jobs account for 70 percent of all actuary jobs as well as 28 percent of operations research analyst jobs and eight percent of mathematician jobs. About nine percent of statisticians work for insurance carriers and related activities. The professional, scientific and technical services industry employs 22 percent of operations research analysts and 16 percent of actuaries.
Math majors can also work in management. Nine percent of operations research analysts and seven percent of actuaries work in management of companies and enterprises. Seven percent of mathematicians work in management, scientific and technical consulting.
Unexpected Industries Where Your Math Degree Matters
Some math majors use their degrees in ways that might surprise you, holding job titles or working in industries that you don’t usually associate with mathematics. For example, graduates of math degree programs have gone on to become doctors and attorneys. Their work takes them into tech firms, politics and the communications industry. The broad skills you develop when studying mathematics – like analytical, critical thinking and reasoning – can prepare you to reach medical diagnoses, formulate legal arguments, evaluate laws and solve technical and public relations problems.
Some famous actors, writers, musicians even started out by studying mathematics. While no one is suggesting that majoring in math will make you a celebrity, the reality is that your career options with a math degree are limited only by your own ambitions.
Though math isn’t known as a career path that particularly complements an entrepreneurial spirit, some math professionals are their own bosses. About one percent of actuaries are self-employed, the BLS reported.