Difference Between Mathematician & Engineer

This article explores the differences between the work that engineers do and the role of mathematicians. Mathematicians may focus on practical or theoretical work, while engineers apply their knowledge and talents to designs and production.

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Comparing Mathematicians to Engineers

Mathematicians specialize in mathematics and work with complex theories and mathematical data. While some mathematicians specialize in applied mathematics, many focus exclusively on researching and proving mathematical concepts. Engineers use their knowledge to create plans for products or structures and must ensure their creations comply with regulations so that they will function as intended and be safe.

Job Title Educational Requirements Mean Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Mathematician Master's Degree $105,600 21%
Engineer Bachelor's Degree $96,440 4%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Applied Math
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Responsibilities of Mathematicians vs. Engineers

Mathematicians spend most of their time working in an office where they focus on solving mathematical problems or analyzing mathematical data. While some mathematicians may focus exclusively on researching mathematical formulas and developing new math rules, others use mathematical principles for practical purposes. They may be able to use data to project a potential problem and then determine how to fix the issue. Engineers apply their knowledge to their field of expertise. Civil engineers develop plans for new infrastructure projects, such as roads, while chemical engineers may produce special equipment that can be used with different types of chemicals. From computers to phones to cars, engineers play a role in creating a producing products used in all aspects of daily life.


Mathematicians are usually required to have a master's degree in mathematics. Many mathematicians work for the government, while others are employed by scientific research companies or academic institutions. They focus on mathematical research and may work on proving a specific mathematical theory. They also use mathematical principles to find solutions to specific issues that may be affecting a business or organization. Mathematicians primarily work in offices, although they may also present their research findings to other professionals in their field at conferences or meetings.

Job responsibilities of a mathematician include:

  • Performing mathematical computations
  • Proving mathematical theories
  • Solving complex equations
  • Determining how mathematical data can be used to address problems
  • Applying mathematical data to business operations
  • Assessing the relevant data they collect


Engineers typically begin their career with a bachelor's degree in the field of engineering they want to specialize in. Some engineers must have a license in their field, but their work environment may vary, depending on what field of engineering they specialize in. They may work as a mechanical engineer, and focus on designing mechanical equipment, or they may opt to become a civil engineer and design plans for infrastructure projects such as bridges. On a fundamental level, all engineers are involved in developing a design plan for whatever they're creating, and they then either build the product themselves or oversee the construction of their creation. Other types of engineers include industrial engineers, chemical engineers, electrical and electronics engineers, environmental engineers, and several others.

Job responsibilities of an engineer include:

  • Producing a design plan
  • Building product prototypes
  • Performing tests to ensure materials are safe or appropriate for project
  • Creating a budget for the project
  • Monitoring production to make sure design plan is followed

Related Careers

Those who are thinking about a career as a mathematician may want to consider being a statistician, since statisticians perform many similar tasks and apply statistical data to their assessments of how to improve business operations. If engineering is a field that interests you, another career option may be to work as a materials scientist, since materials scientists create the materials that are used in products.

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