Jobs for Mathematics Graduates

Many students with an interest in mathematics mistakenly believe that the only jobs open to mathematics graduates involve teaching math, either at the high school or university level. In reality, there are many interesting, challenging careers open to math majors, some of which are entry-level and some of which are highly specialized. Researching these careers can help mathematics students determine their career goals and post-graduation interests.

  1. Cryptography

    • Cryptography is defined on the Duke University website as the making and breaking of secret codes. Students who hold a degree in mathematics could be hired by such agencies as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), as well as by companies that offer everyday services to the public. According to the Duke website, “TV companies encode their signals, forcing the viewer to rent their decoding devices in order to turn the signals back into a television picture. Banks also employ cryptography in order to protect the privacy and integrity of their transactions.” Those who want to work with cryptography should study number theory, an area of mathematics that provides much of the theory behind recent advances in cryptography.

    Actuary

    • Math students interested in becoming an actuary can choose to minor or double major in a field such as finance or business. Some colleges and universities offer actuarial science programs, which incorporate courses from all of these subjects. According to the Search By Degree website, actuaries, using their knowledge of statistics, finance and business, “assess the risk of events occurring and help create policies that minimize risk and its financial impact on companies and clients. One of the main functions of actuaries is to help businesses assess the risk of certain events occurring and formulate policies that minimize the cost of that risk.” It is for this reason that an estimated six of every 10 actuaries work in the insurance industry. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree, actuaries are required to pass a series of exams before being licensed and hired.

    Mathematical Modeling

    • Mathematical modeling involves writing equations to describe the behavior of a real system. For example, according to the Duke University website, “most financial companies hire mathematicians to study financial models and make predictions based on statistical evidence." Mathematical modeling is valued in other fields, too, as explained on the Duke University website: "In physics or engineering you might be interested in how heat is dissipated through the heat shield of a space vehicle. In physiology you might want to apply the laws of fluid dynamics to describe how blood flows in vessels and what happens when blood pressure is increased. In economics you might want to predict how a strike in the automotive industry will affect other parts of the economy.” Mathematics majors are particularly well-fitted to this sort of task because of the training they have received in applying the general methods used to solve abstract problems to a large variety of real-world problems.

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