CHOOSING A CAREER / OCT. 07, 2014
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How to Become a Mathematician in the US

mathematician
Emory University

Mathematicians are professionals who possess an exceptional mastery of mathematical concepts and methods. They have helped solve a variety of problems, such as determining the moon’s distance from earth.

As a subject, math is either loved or hated. If you don’t have a good math teacher, it can be difficult to wrap your arms around this subject. If you are good with numbers, enjoy analyzing data and solving real-world problems, this could be your career.

What Do Mathematicians Do?

Mathematicians fall into two categories: Theoretical and applied mathematicians. While applied mathematicians use their knowledge to solve practical problems, theoretical mathematicians focus on helping people to better understand the field.

Whichever category you fall into your day-to-day duties could include:

  • Using mathematical models and formulae to disprove or prove theories
  • Applying mathematical techniques and theories to solve practical business problems
  • Expanding mathematical knowledge in areas such as geometry and algebra by discovering new concepts, rules and theories
  • Developing statistical and mathematical models for data analysis
  • Interpreting data and reporting conclusions based on their evaluations
  • Attending professional conferences, interacting with other mathematicians and reading scholarly journals to keep abreast of the current trends.

Work Conditions

Mathematicians work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, in an office environment. Sometimes they travel to attend conferences and seminars.

When conducting research, they may collaborate with scientists, engineers and other professionals.

Salary

In 2012, the annual mean wage for mathematicians was $101,360. The following table provides a breakdown of their average salaries in various settings:

Employer

Annual Wage

Scientific research and development services

$118,030

Manufacturing firms

$116,860

Government agencies

$106,360

Colleges and Universities

$66,590

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Entry Requirements

To get started as a mathematician, you need to earn at a bachelor’s degree with a major in either theoretical or applied mathematics. These programs include coursework in areas such as:

  • Optimization
  • Computation
  • Statistics
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Differential equations and calculus.

At this level, you can qualify for employment as a high school math teacher. If you wish to teach in a public school, you must be certified by your state.

Important Skills and Abilities

As a mathematician, you need to have:

  • Strong math skills
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Critical thinking and deductive reasoning abilities
  • Active learning abilities
  • Good communication skills

Career Development

To move from classroom teaching and pursue more challenging assignments, you need to:

  • Earn a master’s degree in theoretical or applied math
  • Complete a doctoral degree – As a PhD student, you must complete research and publish and present your findings to the graduate committee.

You can also join the following professional associations to gain access to career development platforms such as seminars and training workshops:

With a master’s degree, you can be employed as an associate math lecturer in a college, university of professional school. After earning a PhD, you can become a senior lecturer, faculty head, or pursue research jobs in other settings.

Job Opportunities

Apart from the education services industry, qualified mathematicians can work in:

Useful Links

The BLS projects the employment of mathematicians to grow by 23 percent between 2012 and 2022, significantly faster than the 11 percent average for all jobs. Since the field is small, this growth will only result in the creation of about 800 jobs. So if you possess what it takes to stand out, go for it.

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