It is common to assume that a mathematics degree is good only for those who want to teach. But there are many other careers a math major may choose from:

• Want to figure out how to design the most efficient supply routes for a business working with multiple customers and suppliers? Consider taking some mathematics classes.

• Ever thought about a career which involves identifying, measuring, analyzing, and managing risks faced by an insurance company or a large corporation? Think about a minor in statistics or an option in actuarial science.

• Want to work for a major defense contractor and build drones? Applied mathematics would be a good subject to major in.

Most occupations may not require an active use of mathematics, but success in many professions often relies on the ability to analyze a problem, break it down into its separate parts, figure out how to solve each individual subproblem, and then assemble them into a complete solution with practical results. At the end, that’s mathematics.

Mathematics majors may choose to attain higher degrees (M.S. /Ph.D.) and then consider going into teaching in a college/university, or they may pursue careers in areas that increasingly employ people with problem-solving skills and the ability to think abstractly.

Applied mathematicians work for the federal government, airlines, medical device companies, computer software firms, transportation service providers, energy systems firms, and the list goes on. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate for mathematicians is 23 percent until 2022, with a 2012 median pay of $101,360. These numbers are based on a master’s degree, although not all jobs require a graduate degree.

Actuaries manage risk and help insurance companies, financial planners, and many multinational corporations plan for the future and protect themselves from loss. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 26 percent growth in the employment of actuaries from now until 2022 and notes that the median annual pay in May 2012 was $93,680. Actuaries require only a bachelor’s degree and passing a series of exams to become certified professionals.

Graduates with mathematics degrees are well-compensated, but the salary alone cannot tell the whole story. Mathematicians, actuaries, and statisticians consistently rank high in job surveys such as Jobs Rated 2014: Ranking 200 Jobs From Best To Worst by CareerCast due to attaining levels of job satisfaction higher that those in the medical, finance, and engineering fields. The criteria that contribute to math jobs’ ranking higher in these surveys include the environment (both emotional and physical factors), income, positive career outlook, low stress encountered on the job.

Graduates of our department work in a variety of organizations. Successful graduates find employment in insurance and consulting firms, with aerospace manufacturers, with IT and cloud solutions companies.

As a final consideration, a mathematics degree has the potential to open doors into medical, law, and business schools. These professional schools respect mathematics majors for their analytical ability and versatility.

Adapted from

• Mathematicians And Their Skills Coveted In Many Occupations, Abigail Rome

• What is an actuary? from the Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society

• Where do actuaries work? from the Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society

See other resources:

• Thinking of a Career in Applied Mathematics?, SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics)

• The Best Jobs of 2014, CareerCast

• Why major in Mathematics?, Duke University Department of Mathematics

• Degrees that Pay You Back, Wall Street Journal

• Actuarial Salary Survey, DW Simpson (actuarial recruitment)