When it comes to choosing a degree, mathematics is a pretty solid option. It underpins the working structure of numerous STEM roles, such as in engineering, finance and IT, while the ever-increasing importance of big data means that maths graduates are in demand across a wide array of industries.
To illustrate the many varied opportunities that you could pursue with a maths degree, we’ve compiled a list, so if you have a knack for numbers and want to capitalise on it, you’re in the right place.
Here are 10 potential careers in mathematics.
1. Data Analyst
As already touched upon, data is, as the saying goes, the new oil. Therefore, analysts who can make sense of raw numbers and transform them into something actionable are as valuable to companies as the data itself.
The added bonus is that companies in every industry are recruiting data analysts, so if you have a particular interest in a certain sector, you won’t be short of options.
A large part of your role will involve data cleaning, so advanced knowledge of Excel and a programming language such as Python will come in handy. You’ll also have to visualise your findings using business intelligence tools such as Power BI and Tableau. While a degree in mathematics is usually enough to secure an entry-level position, many analysts also pursue a specialist master’s degree in order to broaden their knowledge.
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Although economics is classed as a social science, mathematics forms the basis of many of its subfields, such as macroeconomic and microeconomic analysis. Statistics and, indeed, data analysis, are two particularly important areas that are prominent in economics.
In terms of employment, economists can work in a broad variety of environments, although many work in academia, government or banking. Often, this is an advisory role, where they provide analysis and insight in order to help decision makers form coherent strategies.
Generally, if you want to progress as an economist, then you’ll have to obtain a master’s degree, while if you want to work in academia, you’ll also likely require a PhD.
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Actuaries are essentially risk management experts, employed by businesses to build models that assess the probability of certain events happening or not happening.
As such, many actuaries find employment in the insurance sector, where they utilise these skills to calculate customer premiums. Increasingly, they’re also employed by banks and large financial institutions who seek their expertise when weighing up the risks of pursuing a certain strategy.
When it comes to financial risk, actuaries are the closest thing businesses have to predicting the future. This is reflected in the generally high salaries that they attract, while there are plenty of opportunities to break into financial management as your career progresses.
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4. Intelligence Analyst
If money isn’t your primary motivation, then applying your knowledge and skills to the world of government intelligence could be an option. For example, there are numerous agencies in the US and the UK, such as the GCHQ, MI5 and NSA, that are always on the lookout for maths graduates.
Your skills would generally be utilised to build, develop and maintain encrypted communications services, as well as attempt to break hostile encryptions – although, for obvious reasons, the full extent of your potential responsibilities isn’t publicly available information.
If you’d prefer a working environment that is a little more dynamic than your average 9-to-5, then a career in the intelligence services could be just the ticket.
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5. Investment Analyst
If you are driven by money, however, then investment analysis is about as lucrative as it gets, especially if you are able to secure a role at one of the world’s top banks or equity firms.
Depending on your employer, you’ll conduct in-depth market research, submitting your findings into complex financial models and providing subsequent recommendations and reports – although you’ll likely require additional training and postgraduate education to progress beyond a junior role.
You’ll also likely need to obtain a licence from a relevant regulatory body, while with experience and an impressive track record, you could eventually become a portfolio manager.
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It’s perhaps a myth that you have to be good at mathematics to be an accountant. While, of course, you will need to demonstrate a basic aptitude for numbers, the real challenge of accounting is in getting to grips with its principles and applications.
That said, if you have an affinity for mathematics, then you will likely enjoy life as an accountant, especially if you work at one of the bigger firms where the evolution of the profession is becoming more pronounced.
To become chartered, you will still need to sit a series of exams (and gain a set amount of client hours), but your in-depth knowledge of models and scales will certainly be valued.
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7. Cybersecurity Expert
In terms of professions that are highly important, undermanned and, to the detriment of many organisations, often ignored, cybersecurity is at the top of the list.
It is a field that is a natural fit for maths graduates, too, particularly where encryption technologies are concerned. Many cryptographers work in cybersecurity, developing ever-more complex ways to secure applications and communications through mathematical laws and formulas.
It’s possible to compliment your existing knowledge with a specialist master’s degree in cybersecurity, while there is also a wide range of IT certifications that can help you to further develop your career.
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If you’ve obtained a degree in mathematics, then why not become a… mathematician?
Although it might sound strange, given mathematics has been an established field for thousands of years, there’s still a wide array of problems, quandaries and questions that are yet to be solved. Mathematicians work within a given field, such as pure mathematics or applied mathematics, to develop and test laws that can then be used in real-life contexts in fields such as engineering, science or technology.
As mathematicians generally work within academia, you’ll be expected to progress to PhD level in order to have your research and studies funded. There are also financial rewards for those who can solve particular problems, such as the $1 million on offer for the Millennium Prize Problems (six of which, incidentally, still remain unsolved).
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9. Software Engineer
Although many software engineers possess a degree in computer science, it’s not necessarily a requisite, and given its intense use and application within core computer science principles, mathematics can be a highly suitable proxy.
The most important thing is to have experience and knowledge of programming languages – although, again, the core principles of programming, such as Boolean logic and algorithms, are based on mathematical laws. Therefore, if you’re comfortable and familiar with coding, then software engineering is a natural fit for maths graduates.
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As the world continues to move forward in the digital age, a STEM-driven workforce is becoming increasingly important. Therefore, the maths teachers that will introduce future generations to the principles and workings of STEM are vital.
To make things trickier, mathematics is a notoriously difficult subject to teach, meaning that good teachers are at a premium. If you are able to translate challenging concepts and topics, particularly to young people, then your services will be in high demand and, while teaching may not offer the same financial rewards as some of the other jobs on this list, it’s definitely one of the most important and rewarding.
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As you can see, a mathematics degree can take your career in a wide variety of potential directions, with many of these roles highly paid and highly sought after – and these are just the tip of the iceberg, too. Maths is such a fundamental – and invisible – part of our lives, that there is an application for a mathematics degree in almost anything, allowing you to build a career in your own image.
What other math-related jobs would you suggest? Let us know in the comments section below!