According to Data USA, the number of students earning mathematics degrees has been growing in recent years. Statistics show that in 2016 alone, 40,681 students around the country earned math and statistics degrees, which represented 6.3 percent growth. And when these students graduate, there are many careers that can help them make a good living with their education. In fact, the average annual wage for math-oriented workers is $92,635, which is a slight increase from previous years.
Continue reading for information about some of the top careers for math lovers, including job duties, minimum education required to earn employment, and salary potential.
There are many ways that people who have earned a math degree can apply their education to a career. Whether they choose to contribute to medical studies, make predictions about what consumers will and will not buy, or conduct scientific research that changes the way we think about the world, math lovers can find a variety of ways to utilize their knowledge and skills.
Below is our list of the best careers for mathematics graduates, which we created by analyzing all documented careers in the O*Net database. We compared various traits across all jobs -- including abilities, interests and work styles -- to find which careers had the most to offer to people who love math. All ten displayed careers feature average salaries of over $75,000 and are projected to see positive employment growth between 2016 and 2026.
Data displayed is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At the University of Virginia, physicists have in recent years made particle discoveries that could change the way scientists think about how the universe was created. This is nothing new: From Benjamin Franklin to Sir Isaac Newton to Henry Cavendish, these professionals have used their scientific and mathematical expertise to answer some of the biggest theoretical questions in the cosmos, while still having their feet firmly planted on the ground to develop practical solutions for real-world problems. In order to do this, physicists make scientific observations, use mathematical calculations to determine what their data means and write reports of their findings to be published in scientific journals.
In order to be successful in a physicist career, professionals need a strong foundation in linear algebra, statistics and calculus, as well as communication, analytical and critical thinking skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of physicists work in jobs related to scientific and development services, colleges and universities, and federal government agencies.
When organizations need to make an important decision, create a policy or investigate a problem, they rely on operations research analysts to crunch the numbers. In order to perform this important duty, these professionals collect, organize and analyze data from a variety of sources, such as sales histories, customer feedback and a company's computer databases. In addition, operations research analysts may be responsible for helping to create product prices and budgets, operate a supply chain and draft production schedules.
In order for those in operations research analyst jobs to do what is expected of them, they are required to have expertise in technology like archival, financial analysis, sales and marketing, and data analysis software. These professionals often gain this expertise by earning a graduate degree in operations research or business analytics, where they take classes in data mining, linear programming, analytical decision modeling and simulation modeling.
Hopeful mathematicians have many heroes they can aspire to emulate, such as New Jersey's John Forbes Nash, Jr. -- the subject of the 2001 movie "A Beautiful Mind" -- who won a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994 for his work related to game theory. Although most mathematicians are unlikely to be the subject of a blockbuster movie, their work is no less interesting or important. Generally, professionals who are applied mathematicians are responsible for conducting research that can be related to scientific, economic, governmental or business problems, while theoretical mathematicians conduct studies for academic purposes and may also teach at colleges.
In addition to earning a mathematics degree, professionals can also earn a voluntary certification to demonstrate their expertise for careers in math. For example, the Certified Analytics Professional (CAP®) credential can be earned by analytics workers who have been in the field for a minimum of five years, as well as those who have a master's degree and three years of work experience.
Biostatisticians use their mathematical acumen to answer questions related to life sciences. For example, those who work in the public health field use data to contribute to knowledge about people's health -- such as understanding the rate that a disease spreads in order to find the best medical interventions. In order to do this kind of work, professionals should have strong critical thinking, systems analysis and monitoring skills, as well as expertise with analytical, data mining and medical software. Biostatisticians may find math oriented careers in a variety of places, including medical research centers, public health colleges and medical schools. Also, many of these professionals work for government agencies, such as the National Center for Health Statistics, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In order to keep up with the rigors of the job, biostatisticians are required to be lifelong learners. To prove that they are keeping abreast with developments in the profession, biostatisticians may earn certifications like the Certified Biometrics Professional (CBP) offered by IEEE, or the Certified Clinical Data Manager (CCDM) from the Society for Clinical Data Management.
Becoming a statistician can be an excellent career for those interested in math. Statisticians apply mathematical and statistical theories to problems in the real world. These professionals use their critical thinking, science and systems evaluation skills in order to work in a variety of settings.
For example, those who specialize in economics are responsible for analyzing data that can contribute to policy decisions made by the state or federal government. Alternately, statisticians who focus on pharmacology may work at drug companies in order to research new medications and assist doctors in conducting clinical trials to test their effectiveness. Statisticians may also apply their expertise to the marketing industry, where they use calculations to help companies better understand consumer behavior and preferences. Other areas where statisticians can employ their math skills include education, agriculture, animal health and computer science.
From health care facilities to higher education, the work of neuropsychologists and clinical neuropsychologists contributes to understanding the role the brain plays in behavior, learning and emotions. These professionals use measurement equipment such as EEG, fMRI and PET in order to assess and evaluate people's brains. They may study patients with traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson's disease, Asperger's disorder, epilepsy and more. Some neuropsychologists teach college courses that may cover memory, intelligence testing and learning, while others work in a forensic setting and share their evaluations as testimony in court.
This may be an unexpected job on a list of 10 math careers. However, neuropsychology utilizes several key components that may appeal to math lovers. Statistics is critical for collecting data, transforming it into understandable measures that can be compared, and analyzing that data in order to draw conclusions. And the investigative, deductive and analytical thought processes used in neuropsychology can be a fascinating application of mathematical concepts to real world problems.
Molecular and cellular biologists study how cells and organelles function. Some of the specific job duties of these professionals include creating and executing experiments related to cell and molecule behavior, as well as interpreting and reporting on the results. Other work includes maintaining lab records, supervising technicians, and maintaining equipment, lending their position something of a management role.
Molecular and cellular biology can involve many different types of laboratory protocols, such as cloning, gel electrophoresis, DNA sequencing and RNA purification. Various kinds of scientific software may also be utilized, for example Minitab, MathWorks MATLAB, and Textco BioSoftware Gene Inspector. Math is not the primary focus of these intellectuals, but it regularly becomes useful at different points in the experiment process -- using calculus to translate real-world questions into solvable problems, or statistics to estimate the interaction of genes, or geometry to track the reaction of molecules.
Financial analysts play an essential role in the financial health of businesses and individuals. Their advice helps clients make informed decisions about what to do with their assets. This is a huge responsibility that requires strong analytical, decision making and problem solving abilities in addition to math skills. It can be a surprisingly tense career, as huge amounts of money can hang on your decisions, but this can also make your actions feel both exciting and rewarding.
Armed with this expertise, financial analysts may work as fund managers, risk analysts, portfolio managers or ratings analysts. They may find employment at insurance companies, banks, securities firms and pension funds. Some financial analysts also choose to earn professional certifications, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), the Financial Risk Manager (FRM®), the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA®) or the Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA)®.
Geneticists are biologists who are concerned with genes as they relate to things like heredity, birth defects, mutations and disorders. Because scientific calculations are a crucial part of genetics, these professionals are often required to learn calculus and physics, and their careers may involve these and other branches of math to varying degrees.
There are two professional paths that geneticists can take: laboratory geneticist and genetic counseling. Laboratory geneticists perform and interpret tests in order to determine if someone has a genetic disease, while genetic counselors are responsible for helping families discover inherited medical conditions and birth defects that may affect any children they have.
Both kinds of geneticists may find employment in a variety of settings, such as doctor's offices, hospitals, medical laboratories, and colleges and universities. In addition, some geneticists are self-employed and work for organizations on a contract basis.
Financial quantitative analysts -- also known as equity structurers and financial engineers -- are responsible for researching financial products to help people and businesses better choose investments, manage risk and save money. By creating financial models to simulate values, risk, movement and other factors, these professionals are able to predict macroeconomic market movements and advise their clients accordingly. Specific job duties include determining the effectiveness of financial products in order to make recommendations to clients, drafting reports and documents, and performing risk analysis about different financial products.
In order to do these things, quantitative analysts must be able to understand and apply upper-division mathematical concepts. They also make use of their critical thinking and problem solving skills, in connection with programs such as SAS, C++ and MathWorks MATLAB, to make their predictions.
There are many opportunities for math enthusiasts to find employment around the country, but the District of Columbia, New Jersey and Virginia are particularly good for professionals in math-related careers. Below is a discussion of what each location has to offer.
For more information about these locations and the educational opportunities that are available to train for math-related careers, click the links below. In addition to relevant state information, each page also provides data on out-of-state options, which can help you connect to an online college in these math-oriented states even if you don't live nearby.
According to the Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP), one of the largest sectors in Washington, D.C. is data science and analytics -- an area that has several math oriented careers to pursue. Between data analytics companies, government agencies, health care organizations and technology companies that need professionals who can collect and analyze data in order to solve problems, D.C. is a great place for math graduates to pursue a career. In fact, the WDCEP reports that by 2020, the data analytics field in the city is expected to grow by over 50 percent.
Is data science not your preference? D.C. is also the home of many professional services companies, creating many opportunities for math lovers who are more interested in accounting, auditing and finance jobs.
For more information on education and careers in Washington, D.C., see our state page.
New Jersey has thriving life sciences, health care and financial services industries, so people in math careers can find various opportunities for employment. For example, according to Choose New Jersey, Inc.:
Read more about careers and colleges in New Jersey on our state page.
With 37 Fortune 1,000 companies headquartered in the state and numerous others that include data centers and organizations in the life sciences industry, Virginia is a hotspot for careers in math. For example, people who are interested in using math for medical research may be able to work for companies such as SRI Shenandoah Valley, LifeNet Health, Inova Center for Personalized Health and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Also, according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Northern Virginia is the top metropolitan area for data centers. As such, math experts may be able to find jobs at companies like Amazon Web Services, Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation and RagingWire.
See more details about online colleges in Virginia and the careers they can lead to on our state page.
Interested in pursuing one of the math-oriented careers on this page, or perhaps taking your math career in a different direction? See our guide to online colleges for mathematics and statistics to learn about the best online colleges for the field, what an online math degree program may entail, and more.