Although you like math, you might be wary of choosing the subject as your college major. If you worry that there aren’t any jobs with a degree in mathematics or that the field of math doesn’t have enough real-world applications to make it a viable subject to earn a degree in, you might be pleasantly surprised. More than 177,000 Americans work in math careers, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Countless others who earn a math degree go on to work in industries such as education, legal, business, economics, finance and engineering. The job outlook for math careers is better than average, and the broad and versatile skills you learn as a math major can appeal to prospective employers in a wide range of industries.
Jobs With a Degree in Mathematics
Mathematician might be the career that first comes to mind when you think about college degree programs in math, but it’s far from the most common occupation. Only 3,100 workers in the United States have the job title of mathematician, the BLS reported. However, this small occupation currently is seeing much faster than average job growth. The BLS predicts a 30 percent rise in job opportunities compared to just seven percent growth expected across all occupations. Statistician, the occupation most closely related to mathematician, is seeing a similarly high growth rate despite being more than 10 times larger already. The BLS expects a 34 percent growth rate over a decade to add 12,600 new jobs to the existing 37,200 statistician roles in the U.S.
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Beyond mathematician and statistician, the occupations of actuary and operations research analyst are among the best-suited for math majors. Both roles apply math skills to the analysis of real-world issues: computing the financial cost of risk, for actuaries, and identifying ways to solve problems and streamline activities for operations research analysts. Actuary is the smaller occupation, with just 23,600 current workers, but the BLS expects jobs in this career field to grow by 22 percent. Opportunities will be even more plentiful for operations research analysts, who already occupy 114,000 jobs and will likely see an increase of 27 percent, or 31,300 new jobs, over a decade.
Some jobs with a math degree, like actuary and operations research analyst, require only undergraduate studies. If you aspire to be a mathematician in a private industry or academic role, instead of a government role, you may have to go to graduate school.
Top Industries for Math Careers
Graduates of mathematics degree programs find work in a wide array of industries, including marketing, entertainment, healthcare, business and even legal. However, some industries are far more likely to be among the top employers of math majors than others. For example, the finance and insurance industry employs 70 percent of all actuaries, 28 percent of operations research analysts and eight percent of mathematicians, while insurance carriers and related activities hire nine percent of statisticians. Around 22 percent of operations research analysts and 16 percent of actuaries work in the professional, scientific and technical services industry, while the related management, scientific and technical consulting services industry employs seven percent of mathematicians. The federal government is another major employer, accounting for 35 percent of mathematician jobs, 13 percent of statistician jobs, five percent of operations research analyst roles and four percent of actuary positions.
The research and development industry employs 17 percent of mathematicians and 11 percent of statisticians, while management of companies and enterprises accounts for nine percent of operations research analyst and seven percent of actuary jobs.
Earning Potential With a Math Degree
Math degree graduates have some serious income potential. Mathematicians earn a median salary of $103,010, while the median wage for those in the best-paying industries rises to $120,000 per year or more, the BLS reported. Actuary is another math role that offers a six-figure salary, with a median wage of $101,560. Statisticians earn a median wage of $84,060, but a six-figure salary is well within the realm of possibility for the 13 percent of statisticians who work for the federal government. Even the lowest-paid of the mathematical science occupations, operations research analyst, enjoys an $81,390 median salary, which is still more than twice as high as the median wage for all occupations. Like statisticians, operations research analysts who work for the federal government – about five percent of the entire occupation – are the best-paid. The operations research analysts in this industry make a median salary of $111,570 per year.
For mathematicians, one of the industries that has the most rigorous education requirements happens to be one of the least lucrative. Mathematicians who work in colleges and universities earn a median wage of just $ 56,320 per year, the BLS reported.