Careers that Use Calculus: Job Descriptions and Requirements

Calculus provides structure for modeling and predicting systems that have change. Continue reading for an overview of career and salary info as well as career options for jobs that use calculus.

Now that every smartphone has a calculator app, people typically do not need strong mathematical skills on a day-to-day basis. Even with the assistance of computer technology, however, some professionals still need to understand complex mathematical formulas with multiple variables. The occupations covered in this article all rely on a mastery of calculus.

Essential Information

The study of calculus involves using mathematical equations to determine how objects or processes will change over time. Multiple careers use calculus to figure out information like space travel, how medications interact with the body or how to build safer structures. Students who major in applied mathematics can find entry-level work in several career fields, although those who know what jobs they'd like to pursue may wish to choose specific career-based majors that include calculus coursework.

Career Aerospace Engineers Medical Scientists Safety Engineers
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Doctoral degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements None Medical license if practicing medicine on patients Some states require licensure
Job Growth (2014-24)* -2% 8% 6%
Median Salary (2015)* $107,830 annually $82,240 annually $84,600 annually

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Aerospace Engineers

Creating spaceships, satellites and space stations requires a thorough understanding of physics and mathematics, especially calculus. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aerospace engineers use advanced mathematical equations to figure out how to build equipment that can safely travel through space. Although most calculus formulas are programmed into computer systems, engineers still perform calculations when conducting experiments. Since computers can fail, engineers must be able to solve calculus-based equations by hand.

Prospective aerospace engineers must complete a bachelor's degree, preferably in aerospace or aeronautical engineering. The degree programs can be from four to five years, with a concentration of courses in physics, chemistry and mathematics. The BLS reports that aerospace engineers earn a median annual income of $107,830, as of May 2015. Employment opportunities are supposed to decrease by 2% from 2014 to 2024.

Pharmaceutical Scientists

When analyzing how medications affect different bodily functions, pharmaceutical scientists rely on calculus to track and predict changes in body chemistry. Before beginning a drug trial, for instance, scientists must use mathematical formulas and biological research to prove that a new medication could effectively treat certain ailments, per the BLS. During the experiment, scientists would compare their calculus-based predictions with results from tests subjects.

Since pharmaceutical scientists usually conduct clinical trials on patients, the position requires both a doctorate (Ph.D.) and medical degree (M.D.), according to the BLS. Many universities offer combined Ph.D. and M.D. programs, but students can take these programs separately. A Ph.D. program in pharmaceutical or biomedical sciences, for example, includes advanced coursework in biology, molecular sciences, laboratory experiments and scientific writing. An M.D. program blends the academic Ph.D. coursework with real-world applications by having students train with patients during required clinical hours. All states furthermore require pharmaceutical scientists to be licensed as doctors. Physicians must complete an approved M.D. program to be eligible to take the licensing exam. After licensing, most states require that physicians participate in a residency-training program that can last from 1-7 years depending on medical specialty and state guidelines.

As of May 2015, medical scientists earn a median salary of $82,240 per year, according to the BLS. A growing reliance on pharmaceuticals in addition to continuing medical research should keep the job outlook for these professionals moderately strong, with the BLS predicting 8% employment growth during the 2014-2024 decade.

Earthquake Safety Engineers

To build structurally sound buildings, earthquake safety engineers use calculus to estimate what type of damage a structure would receive after an earthquake. From these calculations, safety engineers can determine the best points to reinforce a structure that could potentially decrease damage and save lives, states the BLS. Many engineers work as consultants with city planners and building-code policymakers to promote safer building practices.

As of 2016, the BLS reported that the majority of engineer positions required the minimum of a 4-year degree. Although majoring in some form of engineering - such as mechanical, civic or occupational safety - is common, many engineers hold undergraduate degrees in applied mathematics. Engineering degree programs include coursework in math, physics, chemistry, electronics and probability. Engineers who consult with businesses, the government or private citizens are usually required to be licensed by state law, per the BLS. Although each state has different guidelines, common requirements include a certain amount of engineer experience followed by passing an examination. Several engineers build up experience by working as an apprentice or engineer-in-training under the supervision of a licensed engineer.

According to the BLS in May 2015, safety engineers in general earn a median annual income of $84,600 and are expected to see a 6% increase in jobs during the 2014-2024 decade.

Aeronautical engineers, pharmaceutical scientists and earthquake safety engineers use calculus to make sound projections of natural and chemical effects on a structure or body. While aerospace engineers can expect a decline in available positions over the next decade, both safety engineers and medical scientists can expect fairly steady job growth.

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