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Difference Between Mathematician & Accountant

Mathematicians and accountants use different types of mathematical skills for different purposes. This article explores the type of work that mathematicians and accountants do, and compares their duties.

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Comparing Mathematician to Accountant

Accountants and mathematicians may both perform calculations with numeric data. Mathematicians are typically required to have a graduate degree, while accountants can enter their profession with a bachelor's degree. In addition to higher education requirements, mathematicians have higher salaries and better job prospects. Their career may involve more of a focus on theoretical research, while accountants do practical tasks, such as updating financial data and calculating tax payments.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Mathematician Master's Degree $105,810 21%
Accountant Bachelor's Degree $68,150 (for accountants and auditors) 11% (for accountants and auditors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Mathematicians vs. Accountants

Mathematicians are mathematical professionals who perform research and may also apply mathematical theories to try to find a solution to a problem. Their work can involve performing calculations, gathering data, analyzing information and forming conclusions from that data. Accountants do not research theories. They use their mathematical knowledge to update and review financial documents and ensure that they are accurate. They also calculate figures for specific purposes, such as determining how much money employees are owed on their paychecks or how much money a company or individual needs to pay in taxes. Both mathematicians and accountants need to pay close attention to details to ensure accuracy when performing calculations.

Mathematician

Professionals working as theoretical mathematicians may spend their career developing new mathematical theories or focusing on research that might contribute knowledge to the field as a whole. Others, known as applied mathematicians, may identify issues relevant to product production and use mathematical principles to help identify or calculate relevant data. For example, they may use math formulas to test new pharmaceuticals or help designers study a car's aerodynamics.

Many mathematicians work for the government, while others work in scientific research or are employed by colleges or universities. Mathematicians are usually required to have a master's degree, and those who want to work for postsecondary institutions will need a doctoral degree. Although it's common to think of mathematicians as needing strong math skills, they also need to be good at communicating with others, since they need to be able to present their research to people who do not have the same level of understanding of mathematical principles.

Job responsibilities of a mathematician include:

  • Studying mathematical concepts
  • Testing theories to determine if they're correct or not
  • Creating mathematical rules
  • Collaborating with other professionals working on their project

Accountant

Accountants primarily work with financial figures. A bachelor's degree in accounting or a similar discipline is required, and certification can be an advantage when seeking employment. They typically work in an office and usually have standard business hours, but there are times in the year that overtime may be required. Accountants can play an important role in ensuring a company makes its payments on schedule. Some specialize and work as public accountants, which can involve working on investigations related to financial crimes. Others may specialize as government accountants or management accountants.

Job responsibilities of an accountant include:

  • Meeting with clients or employers
  • Modifying accounting systems to ensure their efficiency
  • Supervising bookkeeping staff
  • Recommending strategies to improve company finances
  • Writing reports

Related Careers

Anyone thinking about a career as a mathematician may also be interested in working as an actuary, since they apply mathematical formulas to determine financial risks. Another option for those considering a career as an accountant is to pursue work as a budget analyst, since budget analysts also assess financial data and make recommendations to organizations about how to manage their finances.

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