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Mathematician: Job Outlook & Educational Requirements

Mathematicians require a significant amount of formal education. Learn more about the education and job duties to determine if a career as a mathematician is right for you.

A mathematician can be employed in various industries, so their education requirements can vary. Undergraduate and master's degrees will suffice for most government and teaching jobs in this fast-growing field, and doctorates allow for research positions in private businesses.

Essential Information

There are two main types of mathematicians: applied and theoretical. Theoretical mathematics are also known as pure mathematicians; they use mathematics to expand current knowledge and often work for universities. Applied mathematicians use mathematics to solve real-world problems in areas like economics.

The mathematician career field is expected to grow and individuals who land jobs can expect to earn good salaries. For many mathematicians, the minimum educational requirement is a master's or doctoral degree.

Required Education Master's or doctoral degree
Projected Career Growth (2014-2024)* 21% (much faster than average)
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $112,560

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for mathematicians was expected to increase 21% from 2014-2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. This expansion is due to the advancements in technology. Even with the expected job growth, the field will remain competitive. There will be few jobs available in university research due to the small number of openings for professors. Both types of mathematicians will find openings in the federal government and private industry.

Salary Information

According to the BLS, the average annual wage for a mathematician as of May 2015 was $112,560. The top-paying industries at that time were: scientific research and development; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; and computer systems design.

Mathematician Education Requirements

The degree prospective mathematicians need will vary depending on the sector they wish to work in. A doctoral degree may be required for individuals interested in working for private companies, especially on the research end. Mathematicians with bachelor's or master's degree may find work with the government.

Undergraduate programs may offer students the option of selecting a concentration in applied or theoretical mathematics. Theoretical mathematics programs focus on basic concepts, including analysis, algebra and geometry. Applied mathematics programs involve coursework in the relationship between math and scientific principles, including optimization, statistics and computation. Both concentrations require students to understand fundamental areas of math such as calculus and differential equations.

Master's programs in mathematics may offer more specific concentrations, such as computational science and scientific applications. Graduate curriculums often have coursework requirements but allow flexibility. With the approval of the graduate director or committee, students can choose courses from other departments. Many programs allow students to select a thesis, research project or coursework-only option.

Doctoral programs vary in length and include qualifying exams and original research. There are typically two qualifying exams, one in foreign language proficiency and another based on the student's interests in mathematics. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) students must complete original, publication-quality mathematics research and present it. The final step for a student to earn a Ph.D. is defending the thesis to a graduate committee.

Each degree level of mathematics contains different coursework, becoming more specified the higher you go. A bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree may be pursued, depending on where the mathematician desires to work. With an increased job growth of 21%, employment prospects should be promising.

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