Unique Jobs for Math Majors

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Math book lying atop grid paper next to a mechanical pencil.

Some people consider a degree in mathematics a specialized degree that can only prepare you for a job researching or teaching math. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Mathematics degree holders are capable of taking on a number of unique professions using the skills they’ve learned, such as critical and analytical thinking, rational decision-making, and the ability to apply themselves to and solve a difficult problem in the workplace.

Having a math degree can prepare a person for a number of careers. This includes jobs in the field of mathematics itself and unique careers that take advantage of the specific skills math majors develop.

What Can You Do with a Math Degree?

Mathematics involves a number of subdisciplines, many of which have practical applications outside of pure mathematics. Anyone who majors in or simply learns these skills in college may be able to pursue careers that use math on a regular basis.

Ultimately, math degree holders should not feel locked into a career only in that field —  although that is a valid option. A math degree or time spent in math classrooms can prepare a person to work in a wide variety of occupations where their knowledge can be put to practical use.

Academia and Research

Advanced mathematics can find its way into research and academia in a number of other fields. Algorithms are becoming increasingly common in fields like computer science and robotics, where advanced mathematics is necessary to push our knowledge to the next level. Meanwhile, statistical analysis techniques are being used in all sorts of research, from medical studies to mass transit surveys. In almost every possible field, mathematics is essential to the future of academic research.

Accounting

Math and accounting are a natural pairing. Mathematical techniques are essential for performing basic tasks in accounting, such as adding up expenditures or calculating interest on a loan. However, more advanced mathematics can also help to develop  accounting technology, allowing accountants to look deeper into financial trends and analyze the raw data available to them.

Cosmology and Aeronautics

When it comes to exploring the universe, mathematics is at the forefront of all of our efforts. Cosmologists use advanced mathematics to create models of interstellar events. This allows us to study things like the formation of galaxies or the origins of the universe, which we are incapable of observing directly.

Meanwhile, aeronautical engineers are using mathematics to create new and more efficient air and space vehicles, capable of taking human beings and probes further out into space.

Data Science

In the information age, data is a critical part of a wide variety of fields. Thanks to the popularity of mobile phones, personal computers, and laptops, and the ubiquity of the internet, more data is being collected and recorded in more places than ever before. Everyone from the government and military to advertisers and the entertainment industry wants to be able to analyze this data to drive decisions and operations. People with a degree in data science learn how to make sense of the vast quantities of data accumulated on a daily basis and how to analyze it. The range of specific jobs and employers in this field is huge and still growing as we find more unique ways to gather and interpret data.

Education

Naturally, having a talent for communication and a passion for mathematics could be invaluable to teaching future generations. Math is an important — and often required — subject at every level of education, from kindergarten to postgraduate school, and students of all ages and backgrounds need instructors to help them advance and succeed. Math is critical for any student aspiring to a STEM career and many artistic fields. There is always a need for educators who are familiar with the principles of mathematics and can explain concepts to students in fun and exciting ways.

Engineering

In many ways, engineering is the backbone of modern society. Engineers are responsible for many of the things we take for granted in our daily lives, such as our roads, electrical systems, cars, and buildings. Each of these technological marvels was modeled and tested using mathematics before construction ever began, so engineers need a high level of familiarity with mathematics.

Finance and Banking

Financial markets involve an enormous number of transactions being processed almost instantaneously across the internet. Precise algorithms are essential to keeping all of this financial information consistent across platforms without human intervention. Algorithms can also help financial professionals or people with degrees in data analytics to analyze large quantities of information, anticipating trends in the financial sector and identifying risky investments.

Healthcare

Mathematics is everywhere in the healthcare industry. At the most basic level, healthcare professionals have to use math every day to evaluate a patient’s vital signs or determine the correct dose of a particular medication. In more advanced situations, however, mathematics and data analysis are helping doctors to analyze patient needs and streamline the ways in which they provide care.

Meteorology

Meteorologists are tasked with the difficult job of predicting weather patterns across the world. Mathematical concepts and theory allow meteorologists to look into sophisticated weather systems, and to find patterns and analyze weather phenomena in terms of their individual components. Meteorologists can then use their mathematical models to predict weather patterns, helping people to make plans in advance and even saving lives.

Travel

According to the FAA, more than 43,000 flights take to the air every day. Mathematics plays an integral in plotting the flight paths of these aircraft, ensuring the skies remain safe for travelers.

Mathematics are also important when it comes to predicting future travel trends. Airlines use this information to calculate ticket prices for future flights, taking into account factors like distance, fuel costs, and the travel habits of individual passengers.

Diverse Careers for Math Majors

Individuals with math degrees or other advanced training in mathematics are situated to enter a wide variety of careers where their skills can be put to use. Below you will find information about some of the many, varied careers open to math majors, such as any additional education required, the math skills a person in that career would use, and standard salaries.

Actuary

Actuaries try to analyze the various financial risks a company might take on in a world full of uncertainty. To do their job well, actuaries use mathematics to quantify the potential benefits and drawbacks of a particular business action. By reducing these decisions to pure numbers, actuaries help companies to make sound choices.

Being an actuary requires the use of advanced techniques in statistics and financial analysis. It has also been rated as the second best job to have by CareerCast — the first being mathematician.

Education required

Actuaries will need at least a bachelor’s degree in math or a math-oriented business field, such as finance.

Math skills required

Actuaries should be very familiar with statistics, the field in mathematics that deals with measuring risk and reward amidst uncertainty.

Salary

Actuaries can expect to make anywhere between $81,000 and $136,000, depending on experience, location, and the type of employer.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers are responsible for managing the world’s skies. They plot out and execute flight plans for aircraft, and their work is necessary to keep thousands of planes flying safely every day. Air traffic controllers will need to be able to perform quick calculations related to an aircraft’s heading and speed to ensure planes can reach their destinations on time, avoid difficult weather patterns, and stay out of the way of other aircraft.

Education required

There is no hard degree requirement for air traffic controllers, although a bachelor’s degree in any field may help to satisfy work requirements. However, air traffic controllers will need to complete training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma before they can be certified.

Math skills required

Air traffic controllers should be able to interpret live data about an aircraft’s speed and heading quickly to track and plot the flight plans of thousands of aircraft each day. While much of the heavy-lifting is done by computer, air traffic controllers need a firm understanding of the underlying mathematics as well as a dynamic ability to apply the data to manage busy airports and keep flights both safe and on schedule.

Salary

In 2018, the median salary for an air traffic controller was $124,540.

Architect

Architects design buildings that are aesthetically appealing and support their own weight, so a good architect needs to have an eye for both artistry and mathematics. As an architect, you will need to calculate the weight and load-bearing capacity of various parts of a building. You will also need to use precise measurements and angles to give clear instructions to the people who end up building based on your plans.

Education required

While a math degree provides a strong and relevant foundation for architecture careers, future architects should also plan on getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree in architecture. These programs focus on the aesthetic elements of architecture, while also teaching a person how to apply the relevant engineering and mathematical skills.

Math skills required

Architects should be very familiar with basic geometry and trigonometry, as their jobs require them to plot out precise angles and form stable shapes. This mathematical knowledge should also be combined with engineering skills related to building structure. Architects may also need statistics skills to estimate the potential cost to the client for completing a project.

Salary

Architects can expect to make anywhere from $58,000 to $107,000, depending on experience, location, and employer.

Astronaut

Astronauts are on the forefront of space exploration. Famously, astronauts are the people who actually get to go up into space in rockets, shuttles, and experimental spacecraft. However, many people may not realize astronauts are also responsible for doing a lot of research while they are in space.

Education required

According to NASA, astronauts must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field. They will also need either three years of related professional experience or 1,000 hours of flight time in a jet aircraft as the pilot-in-command.

Math skills required

Astronauts should be able to perform advanced algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and ordinary differential equations. These mathematical skills may be relevant to the research they have to do while in orbit, or they may be necessary for the delicate in-flight calculations astronauts need to make to maintain orbit or perform a reentry maneuver into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Salary

Astronaut salaries are determined according to the federal government’s general schedule for pay. Depending on an astronaut’s academic achievements, experience, and duties, they can expect to earn anywhere between $65,140 to $100,701 per year. Astronauts who work for private space exploration companies may earn more or less than this.

Atmospheric Scientist/Meteorologist

Atmospheric scientists and meteorologists are responsible for measuring and studying the Earth’s weather patterns. Their work contributes to a lot of different fields and may be used by everyone from your local news channel to NASA. Meteorologists will need to use advanced mathematics to quantify the complicated systems behind the weather.

Education required

Meteorologists can leverage an undergraduate math degree to help them earn a master’s in atmospheric science or meteorology. Meteorologist can start out in the field with only a bachelor’s degree, however a more advanced degree can often open up more work opportunities.

Math skills required

Meteorologists will need a strong understanding of algebra, calculus, and trigonometry to model and predict weather systems. They will also need skills in statistics to manage the large quantities of atmospheric data they work with daily.

Salary

Meteorologists and atmospheric scientists can expect to make anywhere between $33,000 to $101,000 per year. That amount will vary depending on experience, academic achievement, and other factors affecting pay.

Biostatistician

Biostatisticians are responsible for evaluating large quantities of biological data. Their work can inform research in medicine, helping doctors to understand the kinds of conditions they need to treat and what treatment methods are the most effective across a wide population.

Education required

Biostatisticians often have at least a bachelor’s degree in math or a math-related field. However, postgraduate degrees are often necessary for more advanced biostatistician jobs.

Math skills required

Statistics form the basis of a biostatistician’s work. If you want to become a biostatistician, you should have a strong grasp of methods and techniques in statistics.

Salary

Biostatisticians can expect to make between $56,000 and $113,000 per year, depending on the level of degree they hold, work experience, and the kind of research they’re doing.

Cartographer

Cartographers are responsible for making maps. They usually work for a variety of entities, such as atlases, newspapers, or even technology companies. U.S. News & World Report has ranked cartography as the No. 1 engineering job. As a cartographer, you will need to be able to model real-world geography accurately on maps. A high degree of precision and a strong understanding of geometry are essential skills for any cartographer.

Education required

Cartographers should have at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, as well as a combination of experience and/or further education in cartography, geology, or civil engineering. Applications for cartography can be extremely varied, but all will make heavy use of mathematical and geographic knowledge.

Math skills required

Cartographers should be extremely comfortable with advanced skills in geometry, such as how to transfer a three-dimensional region onto a two-dimensional map.

Salary

According to U.S. News & World Report, cartographers can expect to make anywhere form $50,000 to $81,000 per year. The median salary for cartographers is $63,990.

Computer Animator

Since computers are ubiquitous in the modern world, there is a constant need for individuals who can create many of the computer systems and content consumers use daily. One unexpected use for mathematical skills in the domain of computation is working as a computer animator. Computer animators will need to be skilled at both the artistic side of animation and the mathematics necessary to guide a computer program in creating sophisticated animation. Says Pixar’s chief scientist Tony DeRose: “Computer animation frequently deals with modeling objects at greater scale and detail than even physicists typically deal with in their computations.”

Education required

Many computer animators have degrees in computer animation itself. However, math degrees and graphics design degrees may also equip an individual with some of the skills necessary to become a computer animator.

Math skills required

Computer animators should be very comfortable with advanced geometry, applied mathematics, and linear algebra. These mathematical skills can be used to translate computer code into vibrant and detailed images.

Salary

In 2018, computer animators earned a median salary of $72,520 per year.

Cryptanalyst or Cryptographer

Cryptanalysts and cryptographers are some of the leading professionals in the relatively new field of cyber security. As consumers and companies use the internet to share sensitive information more often, it’s critical for cryptographers to find new ways of keeping data secure. At the same time, cryptanalysts work to decode dangerous information shared by criminal organizations and terrorists. Both of these jobs rely on the use of sophisticated mathematical algorithms to create and break security systems for the world’s data.

Education required

Cryptographers and cryptanalysts should have at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, computer science, or some related field. A more advanced degree may open up new opportunities for more sophisticated work in cryptography.

Math skills required

Cryptographers and cryptanalysts are expected to have a strong mathematical background and to be comfortable with sophisticated concepts in mathematics, such as abstract algebra, statistics, and number theory.

Salary

Since cryptographers and cryptanalysts do such important work and have such a high skill floor, they earn very high salaries. Cryptographer salaries may start at $108,000, and could reach as high as $201,500 per year.

Economist

Economists explore some of the big questions related to finance, consumer behavior, and business. To examine these questions from an objective point of view, they often use mathematics to model complex economic systems, analyze data about consumer behavior, and make predictions about the future of our economy. Economists can either work for a company, making economic forecasts and helping the company to make financial decisions; state, federal, and local governments, helping to shape policy and provide government officials with economic analysis; or universities, doing research into the field of economics and teaching the next generation of economists.

Education required

Many economists have at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, as well as at least a minor in political science or economics. However, further education in the field can prepare a person for more advanced positions in economics.

Math skills required

Economists need to have a strong background in mathematics, compared with other majors related to business. Some of the math skills necessary for the job include statistics, differential equations, calculus, and game theory.

Salary

Economists can expect to make anywhere between $44,000 and $132,000 per year. This figure may fluctuate considerably depending on the field the economist works in and the level of education they’ve achieved.

Game Designer

Game designers build and design a variety of different types of games, including video games, computer games, mobile games and applications, and board games. There are independent game designers, but typically they are contracted by entertainment or software development companies. Game designers may either design characters or landscapes, create different levels or puzzles in the game, or focus on writing code for the game. Game designers with more experience may even supervise other designers, manage projects, or test early versions of games.

Education required

This is another field where those with a  math degree will have a strong foundation, but will likely need an additional degree or further education to build a career. In addition to studying math, most game designers need to have a bachelor’s degree in digital media, graphic design, computer engineering, or computer science. If a game designer has a degree in digital media or graphic design, it will need to be supplemented with coursework related to math and computer science or engineering.

Math skills required

Game designers need to be familiar with game theory and computer science or engineering. They also need to be able to apply their theoretical mathematical knowledge in practical ways when designing computer or video games.

Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wages of software designers (a group inclusive of game designers) in 2018 was $105,590 per year. However, the median annual wages of multimedia artists and animators in 2018 was $72,520. Actual pay will vary depending on the degree earned and level of experience.

Healthcare Data Analyst

Healthcare data analysts organize, manage, analyze, and interpret large amounts of data to provide insights and information to healthcare providers and administrators. Their work allows other healthcare professionals to improve the quality of their care, optimize their operations, and reduce costs. Essentially, healthcare data analysts look at data from a variety of different sources and interpret it so others can make informed, data-driven decisions about providing healthcare. They usually share their findings through visualizations, like graphs or charts, and reports. Healthcare data analysts work for all sorts of healthcare organizations, including local community health centers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and state and federal governments.

Education required

Healthcare data analysts need a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, statistics, biostatistics, data science, health information management, or a related field. Depending on the organization, additional certification or education may be required or recommended.

Math skills required

While a background in mathematics is important, healthcare data analysts need a strong understanding of and familiarity with statistics. Additional skills related to computer science may also be useful.

Salary

Healthcare data analysts can expect to earn anywhere from $46,000 to $96,000 per year. The average annual salary of a healthcare data analyst is $67,377.

Quantitative Sports Trader

Quantitative sports traders analyze the sports market, develop betting strategies, and use their analyses to make real-time wagers. They are often employed by a larger organization and work with individual clients, typically from firms in the information, technology, financial services, and computer software industries. Sports traders must closely follow their chosen sport, team, and players to compile odds, adjust prices, and monitor bets.

Education required

Though a degree may not be a necessity to find employment in this field, most quantitative sports traders have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, statistics, or a related STEM field.

Math skills required

Sports traders must be very comfortable with advanced mathematics, with a special focus on statistics. Programming experience or computer science knowledge may also be needed.

Salary

Sports traders can expect to earn anywhere from $15,500 to $147,500 per year, though the annual national average is $59,124. Factors affecting compensation include profits earned on bets, experience, and place of employment.

Roller Coaster Designer

Roller coaster designers and engineers come up with roller coaster designs for manufacturers and suppliers. They must plan every part of the coaster, from the course it takes to the screws used to hold its different pieces together. Roller coaster designers must also consider how different factors will affect the coaster and ensure it is safe.

Education required

Roller coaster designers can start out with a math degree, and will also likely need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, such as civil, electrical, electronic, mechanical, or structural engineering. Additional licensure, such as a Professional Engineering License, may also be required. Because this field can be competitive, aspiring roller coaster designers may want to consider either dual bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree, or even both, though this may not be a requirement.

Math skills required

Most branches of engineering have a heavy emphasis on mathematics, including calculus and statistics. Courses in design, physics, and computer engineering can also help prepare students for a career in roller coaster design.

Salary

Different types of engineers earn different salaries. According to the BLS, the median wage of civil engineers in 2018 was $86,640 per year; for electrical and electronic engineers, it was $99,070; and for mechanical engineers, it was $87,370. Earnings can vary greatly depending on experience, professional licensure, and the employer.

Software Engineer

Software engineers code, design, develop, maintain, test, and evaluate computer software, mobile applications, and operating systems. They either work for an organization as an internal employee or are contracted by outside organizations, such as startups and software or tech companies. The BLS expects the need for software engineers to grow by 24% from 2016 to 2026, and, as demand grows and technology continues to develop, there may be additional opportunities to explore software engineering.

Education required

Software engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, mathematics, software engineering, or a related field. Depending on the organization, a master’s degree in a STEM or related field may also be required.

Math skills required

A broad range of math skills may be required, or at least helpful, for a career in software engineering. Software engineers should be familiar with calculus, concrete mathematics, geometry, graph theory, linear algebra, set theory, and statistics.

Salary

Software engineers can expect to earn anywhere from $71,000 to $145,000 annually. The current average pay for software engineers is $103,035 per year.

You aren’t destined to become a mathematician or math teacher if you choose to obtain a mathematics degree. The invaluable skills and concepts learned from majoring in mathematics will prepare you for work in a number of different fields. Your knowledge can be used in countless jobs, and you will be able to apply your mathematical expertise to virtually any career you choose.

 

Recommended Reading:

Which Bachelor’s Degrees Have the Highest Earning Potential?

Getting Ready for Graduate School: Resources and Tips

What to Do After Graduating From College

 

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