What Can I Do with a Degree in Mathematics?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in mathematics. Find information on mathematics careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in mathematics.


Mathematics is a technically challenging discipline and those entering the profession require years of higher education to perfect their craft. Most mathematicians are required to have a Doctoral Degree. Obtaining this type of education requires at least five years of study following the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree. In addition mathematicians must complete a Doctoral dissertation in order to finish their education. Even though extensive education is needed for mathematicians, professionals with Masters Degrees in mathematics may be able to secure jobs within the federal government. Mathematicians working in education (e.g., elementary, middle and secondary education) are only required to hold a bachelor’s degree.

The requirements for higher education in mathematics are due to the discipline’s extensive history. Mathematics is one of the oldest scientific disciplines and mastery of mathematical theory can take years to achieve. Even though mathematicians enjoy comfortable work conditions, the extent of education required for this profession coupled with the limited number of career opportunities often limits the number of professionals that directly enter the field. In many instances, professionals interested in mathematics utilize their skills in other industries such as computer science, engineering and statistics. Overall, there are more opportunities for employment and advancement in these areas.


Career options for mathematicians are limited. Many mathematicians are employed in academia as professors in the discipline. In these roles, mathematicians are able to split their time between teaching and research. Mathematics research undertaken by professionals typically involves the exploration of math theory for application to practical issues in science, engineering and economics. While education is a principle career choice for many mathematicians, professionals seeking careers in this discipline may also find employment in applied mathematics. Professionals working in applied mathematics typically work with private organizations to analyze data and create practical solutions to concrete problems. One example involves the analysis of production data to increase efficiency in operations. In these positions, mathematicians will collaborate with engineers and other professionals to create comprehensive solutions to problems facing an organization. Mathematicians may also be employed in other disciplines including finance and statistics. In these positions, professionals are able to use their math skills to solve a broad range of numeric problems.


Salaries for mathematicians will vary based on the specific area and organization in which the professional is employed. Mathematicians employed in government positions typically earn more than those working in private sector, especially those in academia. Because of the level of education that is required for mathematicians, salaries for mathematicians are quite generous overall. Median annual wages for all mathematicians was $95,105 in 2008. Professionals at the top of their careers commanded annual average salaries of $119,480 in 2008 while professionals at the bottom of the pay scale earned annual average salaries of $53,570. In general, advancement opportunities for mathematicians are limited. Because of this, salaries do not increase because of promotion in the profession. Mathematicians that work in specialized fields such as computer science, computer programming, economics or engineering may be able to advance into management or supervisory positions. This will enable these professionals to acquire higher annual salaries.

Job Outlook

Even though career opportunities for mathematicians are limited, job growth for this profession is expected to be higher than average at 22 percent through 2018. Even though this growth rate is quite high, it is important to note that mathematicians held 2,900 jobs in 2008. As such, 22 percent growth in this profession is not that significant in terms of total numbers of new positions. Growth in mathematics is being fueled by the lack of professionals entering the field overall. Mathematics is a challenging discipline that requires professionals to have an extensive amount of education. For individuals that are able to achieve a Doctoral Degree in mathematics, competition for jobs will be intense. Demand for mathematicians in the public sector (e.g., government) may decline in the coming years due to budget issues. Employment in the private sector and in applied mathematics will represent most of the growth for this profession in the coming years.

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