## Mathematician

**What is this job like?**

Mathematicians conduct research to develop and understand mathematical principles. They also analyze data and apply mathematical techniques to help solve real-world problems.

Mathematicians work in the federal government and in private science and engineering research companies. They may work on teams with engineers, scientists, and other professionals.

Mathematics is one of the oldest and most fundamental sciences. Mathematicians use mathematical theory, computational techniques, algorithms, and the latest computer technology to solve economic, scientific, engineering, and business problems. The work of mathematicians falls into two broad classes: theoretical (pure) mathematics and applied mathematics.

Theoretical mathematicians advance mathematical knowledge by developing new principles and recognizing previously unknown relationships between existing principles of mathematics. Many theoretical mathematicians are employed as university faculty, dividing their time between teaching and conducting research.

Applied mathematicians use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling and computational methods, to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, engineering, and the physical, life, and social sciences.

For example, applied mathematicians may analyze the most efficient way to schedule airline routes between cities, the effects and safety of new drugs, the aerodynamic characteristics of an experimental automobile, or the cost-effectiveness of alternative manufacturing processes.

**How do you get ready?**

Mathematicians typically need at least a master’s degree in mathematics. However, some positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree.

In private industry, candidates for mathematician jobs typically need a Ph.D., although there may be opportunities for those with a master's degree. Most of the positions designated for mathematicians are in research-and-development laboratories, as part of technical teams.

Many colleges and universities advise or require students majoring in mathematics to take courses in a closely related field, such as computer science, engineering, life science, physical science, or economics. A double major in mathematics and another related discipline is particularly desirable to many employers.

High school students who are prospective college mathematics majors should take as many mathematics courses as possible while in high school.

**How much does this job pay?**

The median annual wage for mathematicians was $105,810 in May 2016.

**How many jobs are there?**

Mathematicians held about 3,500 jobs in 2014.

**What about the future?**

Employment of mathematicians is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Businesses will need mathematicians to analyze the increasing volume of digital and electronic data.

Some information on this page has been provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

**Overview:**

Mathematicians conduct research to develop and understand mathematical principles. They also analyze data and apply mathematical techniques to help solve real-world problems.

Mathematicians typically do the following:

- Develop new mathematical rules, theories, and concepts in areas such as algebra and geometry
- Use mathematical formulas and models to prove or disprove theories
- Apply mathematical theories and techniques to solve practical problems in business, engineering, the sciences, and other fields
- Develop mathematical or statistical models to analyze data
- Interpret data and report conclusions drawn from their analyses
- Use data analysis to support and improve business decisions
- Read professional journals, talk with other mathematicians, and attend professional conferences to maintain their knowledge of current trends

The following are examples of types of mathematicians:

* Applied mathematicians* use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling, to solve practical problems. For example, they may analyze the effectiveness of new drugs or the aerodynamic characteristics of new automobiles. Applied mathematicians typically work with individuals in other occupations to solve these problems. For example, they may work with chemists, materials scientists, and chemical engineers to analyze the effectiveness of new drugs. Other applied mathematicians may work with industrial designers to study the aerodynamic characteristics of new automobiles.

* Theoretical mathematicians* identify, research, and resolve unexplained issues in mathematics. Although they often strive to increase basic knowledge without considering its practical use, the knowledge they develop has been an important part of many scientific and engineering achievements. They are concerned primarily with exploring new areas and relationships of mathematical theories to increase knowledge and understanding about the field.

Despite the differences between applied and theoretical mathematics, these areas frequently overlap. Many mathematicians, particularly those in government or private industry, will use both applied and theoretical knowledge in their job duties.

However, most people with a degree in mathematics or who develop mathematical theories and models are not formally known as mathematicians. Instead, they work in related fields and professions. Computer and information research scientists, computer programmers or systems analysts, physicists and astronomers, economists, actuaries, operations research analysts, engineers, and many other occupations also use mathematics extensively.

In finance, they may be known as quantitative analysts or statisticians. Other industries may refer to them as data scientists Some workers, such as statisticians, actuaries, and operations research analysts, are specialists in a particular branch of mathematics.

Some people with a mathematics background become middle school or high school math teachers.

Many people with a Ph.D. in mathematics, particularly theoretical mathematics, work as post-secondary teachers in education institutions. They usually have a mix of teaching and research responsibilities. Some may conduct individual research or collaborate with other professors or mathematicians. Collaborators may work together at the same institution or from different locations.

**Work Environment:**

Mathematicians held about 3,500 jobs in 2014.

Mathematicians typically work in offices. They also may work on teams with engineers, scientists, and other occupations.

Most mathematicians work full-time. Deadlines and last-minute requests for data or analysis may require overtime. In addition, mathematicians may have to travel to attend seminars and conferences.

**Education and Training:**

Mathematicians typically need at least a master’s degree in mathematics. However, some positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree. Holders of bachelor’s degrees who meet state certification requirements may become middle school or high school mathematics teachers.

Students who are interested in mathematics should take as many math courses as possible in high school.

In private industry, mathematicians typically need an advanced degree, either a master’s degree or a doctorate. For jobs with the federal government, candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or significant coursework in mathematics.

Most colleges and universities offer a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Courses usually include calculus, differential equations, and linear and abstract algebra. Many colleges and universities advise or require mathematics students to take courses in a related field, such as computer science, engineering, physics, or statistics. Because mathematicians often work with data analysis software, computer programming courses may be particularly beneficial for students.

Many universities offer master’s and doctoral degrees in theoretical or applied mathematics. Many students who get a doctoral degree work as professors of mathematics in a college or university.

**Skills to Develop:**

Analytical skills: Mathematicians use mathematical techniques and models to analyze large amounts of data. They must determine the appropriate software packages and understand computer programming languages to design and develop new techniques and models. They must also be precise and accurate in their analysis.

Communication skills: Mathematicians must interact with, and propose solutions to, people who may not have extensive knowledge of mathematics.

Math skills: Mathematicians use statistics, calculus, and linear algebra to develop their models and analyses.

Problem-solving skills: Mathematicians must devise new solutions to problems encountered by scientists or engineers.

**Job Outlook:**

Employment of mathematicians is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 700 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The amount of digitally stored data will increase over the next decade as more people and companies conduct business online and use social media, smartphones, and other mobile devices. As a result, businesses will increasingly need mathematicians to analyze the large amount of information and data collected. Analyses will help companies improve their business processes, design and develop new products, and even advertise products to potential customers.

Mathematicians also will be needed to help information security analysts create data-security systems to protect confidential information of individuals and businesses.

Because the occupation is small and there are relatively few mathematician positions, strong competition for jobs is expected. Despite the strong competition for formal mathematician positions, many candidates with a background in advanced mathematical techniques and modeling will find good job opportunities in other, closely related fields.

Those with a graduate degree in mathematics, very strong quantitative and data analysis skills, and a background in a related discipline, such as business, computer science, or statistics, should have the best job prospects. Computer programming skills also are important to many employers.

**Earnings:**

The median annual wage for mathematicians was $105,810 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $54,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $160,310.

Mathematician - Wikipedia overview

Mathematics - Sloan Career Cornerstone Center guidance page

Mathematicians - Bureau of Labor and Statistics outlook

Greatest Mathematicians - The 100 greatest mathematicians of the past

Famous Mathematicians - List and biographies of famous mathematicians

AWM - Association for Women in Mathematics student page

American Mathematics Competitions - MAA sponsored competitions

National Society of Black Engineers - Scholarships, competitions, programs

Aspire to Inspire - NASA women working on cool projects in STEM fields

MAA - Mathematical Association of America student page

AMS - American Mathematical Society student page

NAM - National Association of Mathematics website