The Best Careers for Math Majors

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects math occupations to grow 27% between 2019-2029, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations. The increasingly heavy role that big data plays in business, media, healthcare, and several other industries likely underlies the faster-than-average growth rate for math occupations. Several mathematics-based occupations, such as actuary and data scientist, use tools to analyze and interpret big data. 

At its core, mathematics is about solving problems. Many professionals rely on the application of mathematical concepts to get work done. Students can earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and/or a doctoral degree in mathematics, depending on their career goals. Similar to other professional arenas, a postgraduate degree often qualifies graduates for career advancement opportunities and higher salaries.

FAQ


  • What can you do with a degree in math?

    Graduates with a math degree can pursue roles like statistician, operations research analyst, actuary, and math teacher.


  • Are math majors in demand?

    Yes, the BLS projects mathematics jobs to grow 27% between 2019-2029, which is much faster than the national average.


  • What are the different fields of math?

    Pure mathematics includes areas like algebra, geometry, calculus, topology, and trigonometry. Applied mathematics includes dynamical systems and differential equations, mathematical physics, and probability and statistics.


  • What are the highest-paying math jobs?

    A math degree qualifies graduates for several roles with high median salaries, such as data scientist ($98,230), statistician ($93,290), and actuary ($111,030).


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Why Get a Degree in Math?

Math degrees lead to lucrative, in-demand jobs in diverse fields. The BLS projects mathematics jobs to grow 27% between 2019-2029, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations. 

Many colleges and universities offer online math degree programs. Students who choose to pursue a math degree online often end up paying less for their education, saving on some expenses that on-campus students commonly incur, like commuting and housing costs. Additionally, many schools offer tuition discounts to online students.

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Math Specializations



A specialization, or concentration, gives students knowledge and skills in a specific math arena, often qualifying them for leadership positions in those practice areas. Specializations vary by program, but the following list outlines several common math degree specializations.


  • Differential Equations and Dynamical Systems

    This specialization covers topics such as perturbation theory and averaging; dual spaces, fixed point theorems, and semigroups of operators; and invariant manifolds, normal forms, and topological equivalence. Enrollees explore the quantitative and qualitative behavior of infinite- and finite-dimensional dynamical systems. Students also learn to use various methods and tools to analyze diverse mathematical models.


  • Logic

    Students in this course review the work of pioneers in the field, including Hilbert, Gentzen, Turing, and Tarski. Courses build on fundamental aspects of logic and explore modern interpretations in the mathematical world. Learners study topics like algebraic geometry, topology, and number theory. The concentration also includes coursework on the role of logic in computer science.


  • Probability and Statistics

    Students in this concentration study stochastic framework and techniques for exploring a variety of random phenomena. The concentration includes coursework in numerical analysis, mathematical model building, modern approaches to data analysis, and statistics in natural sciences. Enrollees study topics like information compression, simulation techniques, and algorithms for sound and image processing.


What Are the Education Requirements for Math?



Students can pursue an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and/or doctoral degree in mathematics. Students can also complete an undergraduate or graduate certificate program, which usually requires fewer credits and takes a shorter time to complete than a degree program.

Associate
An associate in mathematics typically requires around 60 credits and takes two years of full-time study. In addition to general education coursework, students complete courses on topics like analytical geometry and calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and elementary statistics. Graduates can pursue entry-level jobs in areas like web development, mechanical design, and Linux system administration.
Bachelor’s
Bachelor’s in math programs are typically composed of 120 credits and take four years of full-time enrollment to complete. Typical classes cover topics like abstract algebra, theory of complex variables, vector calculus, and computational thinking. Graduates can pursue diverse roles such as cryptographer, statistician, operations research analyst, and financial planner.
Master’s
Master’s programs are typically composed of 30-60 credits and take 1-2 years of full-time study to complete. Students pursuing a master’s in math degree study topics like topology and geometry, applied mathematics and differential equations, numerical analysis, and probability. Most master’s programs require candidates to write a thesis. Graduates can pursue careers in areas like secondary education, quantitative analysis, and statistics.
Doctorate
Many schools require doctoral candidates to complete a dissertation and at least 75 credits beyond a bachelor’s degree. Doctoral program lengths vary, but they often take 3-6 years to complete. Learners may study topics like dynamical systems and ergodic theory, multilinear harmonic analysis, statistical mechanics in two dimensions, and random matrix theory. Graduates can pursue careers as postsecondary education administrators, college math professors, actuaries, and statisticians.

How Much Does a Math Degree Cost?



According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of tuition and fees for one year (2019-2020) at in-state public institutions is $9,349 for four-year universities and $3,377 for two-year colleges. Tuition and fees for private four-year and two-year schools amounted to $35,807 and $16,898, respectively. At the postgraduate level, enrollees at in-state public colleges paid $12,171 in tuition and fees, while students at private institutions paid $27,776.

Students can often save money by earning a math degree online. For instance, online students often save on some of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting costs. Many schools also offer tuition discounts to online students. Additionally, online learning often gives students the flexibility to continue working while pursuing their degree.

Students can also offset their education costs by pursuing financial aid opportunities, like scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study programs.

How Much Do Math Majors Make?


Graduates with math degrees can pursue lucrative, in-demand roles. For example, the BLS reports that operations research analysts, who typically need a bachelor’s in math or a related field, earn a median annual salary of $86,200, which is much higher than the median salary for all occupations. The BLS also projects jobs for these professionals to grow 25% between 2019-2029.

Mathematicians and statisticians with a master’s degree earn a median annual salary of $93,290 and enjoy a 33% projected job growth rate between 2019-2029. Math professionals with a doctoral degree who work as computer and information research scientists earn a median income of $126,830. The BLS projects a 15% job growth rate for these professionals.

Career and Salary Outlook for a Math Degree



Math majors can pursue careers in diverse professional arenas, including the four listed below. Some positions require advanced degrees, but bachelor’s-trained math professionals also enjoy a variety of professional options.


  • Actuaries

    Most actuaries work in the insurance industry. Using mathematics, finance, and statistics principles, they identify, analyze, and mitigate the cost of risk and uncertainty. They employ different business strategies and instruments, such as investments, pension plans, and insurance policies, to help clients limit risks and increase profitability.


  • Mathematicians and Statisticians

    Professionals in this arena use mathematical and statistical tools and techniques to solve problems in fields like healthcare, engineering, business, and energy. They gather, analyze, and interpret data that help clients meet their objectives and goals.


  • Financial Analysts

    Financial analysts may review and recommend portfolios, analyze business trends relevant to their client’s business, and examine financial records to determine value and veracity. They also help clients identify local and global investment opportunities and stay abreast of laws and regulations that impact their industry.


  • Postsecondary Teacher

    College professors typically develop course outlines; plan lessons, activities, and assignments; and work with colleagues to develop new and modify existing programs. Postsecondary teachers may also head extracurricular groups or activities related to their subject expertise.


Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Actuaries $108,350 18%
Mathematicians and Statisticians $92,030 33%
Financial Analysts $81,590 5%
Postsecondary Teacher $79,540 9%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certifications and Licensure for Math



Many math professions do not require licensure or certification. However, math professionals can pursue specialized credentials to demonstrate their expertise and qualify for advanced roles in the field. The following list outlines several common credentials for math professionals.

Graduate Statistician


The American Statistical Association administers the GStat credential based on a review of an applicant’s educational and professional portfolio. Applicants must hold a master’s degree in statistics or a closely related field. The GStat qualifies holders to apply for the accredited professional statistician credential.

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Open Certified Data Scientist


A globally recognized certification in data science, this credential demonstrates skills in business data analysis and implementation. Applicants must submit written applications and undergo peer interviews.

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Certified Enterprise Risk Analyst


The Society of Actuaries administers the CERA credential. Candidates must pass a series of exams on topics including mathematical statistics, investment and financial markets, and short-term actuarial mathematics.

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Resources for Math Majors


  • American Mathematical Society AMS offers many resources for undergraduate and graduate math students, including awards and fellowship programs, a career center, and mentorship opportunities.
  • American Statistical Association ASA members gain access to an exclusive job board, professional development programs, fellowship opportunities, and online and onsite networking events.
  • Mathematical Association of America MAA members include pure and applied mathematicians, computer scientists, and undergraduate and graduate math students. Members gain access to many professionals resources and networking opportunities.
  • Society of Actuaries SOA members gain access to industry publications, tools, and other resources that can help them in their practice, including a multiemployer plan metrics calculator and an actuarial toolkit.

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