Having a love for math might not be reason enough to major in the subject, but that combined with the excellent job prospects for math majors is. Earning your college degree in mathematics can prepare you for many different, and often high-paying, careers. Whether you want to work in business and finance, federal government roles, academia or manufacturing, there are many public and private sector options to consider with a background in math. Some of the job titles you might consider with a math degree include mathematician, actuary, operations research analyst and math teacher.
A mathematician uses mathematical concepts and techniques to analyze numerical information and develop solutions to real-life problems, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Together with the related occupation of mathematician, this career path can include everything from working to discover new mathematical rules to collecting and interpreting quantitative data. Mathematicians work in a number of different industries. More than one-third of mathematicians work for the federal government, compiling and analyzing data related to unemployment, environmental issues, public health matters and other serious problems. About 17 percent of mathematicians work in research and development, designing experiments and interpreting consumer data to aid in developing, testing and marketing new consumer products. Another 16 percent of mathematicians work in academia, researching theoretical math in college and university settings. Industries like finance and insurance, business consulting, healthcare and engineering, too, hire mathematicians.
In general, mathematician is a profitable and rapidly growing career. The median wage for mathematicians is $103,010 annually, the BLS reported. The salary range in this occupation is large. Median wages are near or in the $120,000 range for the top-paying industries, like management consulting and research and development, and a median salary as low as 56,320 for mathematicians working in academia. Over a decade, the BLS expects job opportunities for mathematicians to increase at a faster than average rate of 30 percent.
Mathematician might be the most straightforward career path for math majors, but it is also the smallest math occupation. Just 3,100 mathematicians are working across the United States, the BLS reported.
An actuary uses mathematical and analytical approaches to analyze data, as well. However, actuaries are primarily concerned with calculating risk and, more specifically, the financial costs of risk. Around 70 percent of actuaries work in the field of finance and insurance, using computer software and their math and business knowledge to determine what insurance premiums should be or how investments should be made, according to the BLS.
The median wage for actuaries is $101,560 per year. While actuaries don’t need a master’s degree, as many mathematicians do, they must spend years attaining professional certification. Actuary is another math occupation that is seeing rapid rates of growth. The BLS expects jobs for actuaries to increase by 22 percent over a decade.
A math degree is only one possible educational path for aspiring actuaries. Majoring in statistics or a specialized program in actuarial science can also prepare students for this career.
Operations Research Analyst
If you have an interest in the business applications of mathematics but you want to be involved in more facets of the organization’s operations besides analyzing risks, you might consider a career as an operations research analyst. These math professionals analyze data, but they take into account the many different aspects of the business, from the allocation of resources to shipping practices, the BLS reported.
The overall median wage for operations research analysts is $81,390, but among the five percent working for the federal government, the median salary is $111,570. The BLS predicts a 27 percent rate of job growth in this occupation, which means that jobs for operations research analysts are increasing at a much faster than average rate.
As the largest of the math occupations, operations research analyst already accounts for 114,000 jobs in America, and the BLS expects another 31,300 jobs to be added over a decade.
If math is your favorite subject but you don’t see yourself in a research or analytical career, you might want to work in education. Math teachers serve a crucial and rewarding purpose, educating the next generation in a subject that develops their analytical, quantitative reasoning, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
In addition to studying math at the college level, you will need some formal education in teaching to become a licensed math teacher. Some students meet this requirement by earning a bachelor’s degree in math education, rather than general mathematics. Other math teachers start out with a math degree but complete graduate coursework to earn alternate route certification in teaching, the BLS reported.
Salaries for educators vary depending on the grade level they teach. The median wages for educators are $59,170 for high school teachers, $57,720 for middle school teachers and $57,160 for elementary school teachers.