If you’re considering a college degree program in math, it makes sense that salary 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 rank 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 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.
Top Paying Industries for Mathematicians and Statisticians
The median salary for mathematicians and statisticians is $84,760, but 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 is $84,060, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Mathematicians have a median wage more than twenty percent higher than statisticians, at $103,010 per year. The best-paid mathematicians earn more than $133,720 per year, while the 10 percent of mathematicians who earn the least make under $50,660 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 management, scientific and technical consulting services and scientific research and development, at $120,840 and $119,500, respectively. The 35 percent of mathematicians who work for the federal government also earn above-average wages, with a median salary of $111,990, according to the BLS. Mathematicians in the finance and insurance industry earn a median wage of $106,070. Academia is the lowest paying of the top employers of mathematicians, with the median wage for this occupation at colleges and universities at only $56,320.
Unfortunately, colleges and universities employ 16 percent of mathematicians, making this low-paying industry the one that employs the third largest number of mathematicians in the United States.
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 median salary of $101,560, 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 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 is $81,390, the BLS reported. Those who work in certain industries, including the federal government, can see six-figure median salaries.
Another, less lucrative option many math majors pursue is education at the elementary and secondary school level. High school teachers earn a median wage of $59,170, middle school teachers $57,720 and elementary school teachers $57,160, 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.
Mathematician is a small occupation, with just 3,100 workers across America, the BLS reported. Considering other math-related job roles increases your career opportunities by a great deal.
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 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. You might expect an even bigger increase in salary potential for having a doctorate degree, but in fact, a Ph.D. in mathematics usually prepares students to work in a college or university setting, which is often less lucrative than work in private industry. Actuaries and operations research analysts often have 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.