Do you love math and science? If you're struggling to decide which to major in, you may not have to choose. This article describes some career choices in the field of mathematical biology.
Careers in mathematical biology give students the opportunity to use their knowledge of numbers in a lot of important ways, such as analyzing biological theories and systems. There are a lot of education options for this career. Students can major in mathematical biology or computational biology. Most jobs in this field require an advanced degree. Bachelor programs offer courses in biological cell models, biophysics and computational mathematics. Master degrees offer courses in statistical theories and stochastic processes. Students looking to get their Doctor of Philosophy in Biomathematics can expect to learn about combinational probability and biological statistical modeling.
|Career||Mathematician||Postsecondary Mathematical Science Teacher||Statistician|
|Education Requirements||Master's degree||Doctorate degree||Master's degree|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||21%||16%||34%|
|Mean Salary (2015)*||$112,560||$77,290||$84,440|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Mathematical biology can be a lucrative career for students who get an advanced degree. Below are overviews and descriptions of several career options for mathematical biology graduates.
Mathematical biology scientists can work across a spectrum of biological and informational science fields. Depending on their area of interest, they might research areas more closely associated with applied mathematics or apply their math knowledge in biology-related fields. For example, researchers may crunch numbers in string theories, apply numerical probabilities to work with cells or use computational mathematics in neuroscience research. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that mathematicians earned an annual mean salary of $112,560 as of May 2015. The employment growth for this career from 2014-2024 is expected to grow 21%.
Graduates of advanced degree programs in mathematical biology might choose to enter academia as professors. Professors who are educated in both biology and math are needed to teach college-level classes in biomathematics, as well as more specialized areas, such as computational neuroscience, mathematical physiology and population dynamics. Postsecondary mathematical science teachers earn a mean annual income of $77,290, according to the BLS in 2015. It also states that the job opportunities for this career is expected to grow 16% from 2014-2024.
Biostatistician, a position that blends the skills of a statistician with the healthcare field, also is a career possibility for those with a mathematical biology degree. Biostatistics is an advanced form of numerical-based mathematics, in which data is gathered, results are studied and processes are implemented to enact specific functions. According to the BLS, the employment growth for this career is expected to grow 34% between 2014-2024. Statisticians working in scientific research and development studies earn a mean annual income of $84,440 as of May 2015, states the BLS.
In healthcare, for example, a biostatistician might initiate a study to understand the ways a disease manifests itself in a specific medical condition. Based on the results of the study, changes that reduce the risk of disease probability might be implemented. Biostatisticians also can be found working in disciplines such as botanical or wildlife sciences, medical imaging or veterinary services.
Education Requirements for a Mathematical Biology Career
Those looking to pursue careers in mathematical biology have a few education options. Some schools provide the option to major in computational or mathematical biology. Alternatively, students can complete an undergraduate program in a biological science with a strong mathematics background. For most careers in the field, advanced education is required.
Bachelor of Science in Mathematics
These 4-year degree programs can encompass a variety of mathematics studies. Common undergraduate courses include:
- Computational mathematics
- Biological cell models
Master of Science in Mathematical Biology
These 2-year degree programs can serve as a springboard for mathematical biology careers or a precursor to further education. Typical courses include:
- Statistical theories
- Applied probability
- Stochastic processes
Doctor of Philosophy in Biomathematics
Doctoral programs often require research in various areas of biomathematics. They usually are open-ended in structure and can take several years to complete. Courses might include:
- Partial differential equations
- Biological statistical modeling
- Combinatorial probability
Many mathematicians and statisticians work at scientific research facilities. They may be part of a team of researchers exploring computational neuroscience or other branches of biomathematics. Those with a love of learning can also obtain a doctoral degree to become biomathematics professors.