What Can You Do With a Math Degree?
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Analytically-minded students with a knack for problem-solving can pursue mathematics degrees to open the door to a variety of careers.
A mathematics degree explores numbers and their relationships with space, quantities, and each other to form the basis of scientific and philosophical concepts, including physics, engineering, economics, and technology. Students looking to dissect and analyze numerical concepts may find this major a strong entry point into careers that require problem-solving, quantitative and logical reasoning, and research skills.
With such a broad field, you might ask yourself, "What can you do with a math degree?" Keep reading to find out.
Careers in Math
Students with mathematics degrees can launch fruitful careers in accounting, banking, education, and insurance. The ability to solve complex numerical equations and analyze data helps individuals identify potential problems, make important financial decisions, and conduct groundbreaking scientific research.
As a fundamental skill in nearly every industry, math degrees can lead to many career paths. The following list provides just a few examples.
Actuaries typically work for insurance companies, using math and statistics to determine the probability and risk of potential events. They apply their findings to help calculate premiums and form insurance policies.
Mathematicians use mathematical techniques to analyze data and solve problems in specific fields. They often work for government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector.
Statisticians collect, organize, and interpret data to identify trends and solve problems. They often collaborate with professionals in government, healthcare, academia, and other industries.
These professionals help organizations identify and solve problems by collecting, organizing, and analyzing data on all aspects of the business. They also advise decision-makers on available solutions.
Financial analysts study stocks, investments, and business trends, preparing reports to guide businesses and individuals in their investment decisions. They may specialize in certain industries or geographical areas.
Postsecondary math teachers use their thorough understanding of math to teach at colleges, universities, and professional schools. In addition to teaching and lesson planning, they conduct research, write reports, and publish their findings.
These professionals teach math and design lesson plans for grades 9-12. They may focus on certain areas of math, such as algebra, geometry, or calculus. High school math teachers explain fundamental math concepts in a clear, accessible way.
Middle school math teachers must connect with their students and explain concepts in an approachable manner, with students in grades 6-12. They teach and create lesson plans for general areas of math, such as pre-algebra and introductory algebra.
What Kinds of Math Degrees Are There?
Your prospective career path should dictate the level of math degree you pursue. For example, an entry-level statistician position may require a master's degree in math, while a middle or high school math teacher can typically find employment with a bachelor's degree in math.
Many schools allow enrollees to study applied math or pure math. The former focuses on using math for practical purposes in other fields, such as healthcare and business. Pure math explores math independently of its application to other fields.
Associate Degree in Math
Individuals seeking an introduction to mathematics can start by pursuing associate degrees. Over two years, students explore coursework in statistics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus to prepare for transfer to four-year universities.
This strong mathematical foundation can also help learners begin careers as loan officers, financial clerks, and executive assistants, but most math-related professions require further education.
Bachelor of Math Degree
Most professions involving math require a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years to complete. Students delve into more complex aspects of the field, such as abstract algebra, differential equations, and mathematical reasoning. They can also take elective courses related to particular fields, such as engineering, pedagogy, or finance.
A bachelor's degree in math opens doors to many lucrative entry-level jobs, such as:
- Insurance underwriter; and
- Mathematical technician.
However, individuals looking to further their careers and increase their earning potential can earn further certification or an advanced degree.
What's the Difference Between a BA and a BS in Math?
Many schools offer both bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (BS) degrees in math at the undergraduate level. Though learners in both programs take similar math course requirements, elective classes may differ. BS enrollees usually take elective science courses, while BA students take elective humanities classes.
Employers tend not to have a preference between BA or BS when it comes to math degrees. In general, however, a BS best suits individuals looking to pursue graduate degrees in mathematics or specialize in data science or engineering, while BAs apply more to prospective government and education workers.
Master's Degree in Math
A master's degree in math gives graduates an advantage over other applicants in a competitive job market. Master's-level courses also prepare learners for doctoral programs or more specialized careers, such as:
- Computational scientist; and
- Quantitative analyst.
Like with a bachelor's degree, many schools allow enrollees to pursue either a master of arts or master of science in mathematics. Credit hour requirements vary, but most programs typically require a thesis and take 1-2 years to complete.
Doctoral Degree in Math
A Ph.D. in math can take 3-6 years to complete, depending on the institution and dissertation timeline. This significant commitment delivers a terminal degree in the field, suitable for individuals looking to explore abstract, theoretical, and highly technical territories in mathematics.
Doctoral graduates can continue to work in academia as postdoctoral fellows or tenure-track professors. They may also qualify to work as high-level scientific researchers and advisors for government agencies and the private sector.
Accreditation for Math Programs
Always ensure that any prospective school maintains accreditation. Accredited schools have received certification by independent regulating bodies and meet rigorous academic standards. Most career and educational opportunities in math require a degree from a regionally accredited institution. Employers, graduate schools, and financial aid packages often require students to pursue or possess degrees from accredited institutions.
Certification and Licensure
In addition to a degree, some careers in math require further education and specialized training. These certifications demonstrate that a professional meets industry standards for certain skills.
Teaching License and Board Certification
In most states, K-12 teachers in public schools need teaching credentials. Exact requirements vary by state, but most include completing pedagogical coursework, accruing student teaching hours, and passing an exam. Elementary and middle school teachers typically take a generalized certification exam, while high school teachers take exams relating to their specific subjects.
Most teaching licenses last about five years, and renewal often depends on completing continuing education courses. These courses commonly occur in advanced degree programs.
After three years of classroom teaching experience, teachers can pursue certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Receiving this credential provides teachers with greater earning potential and opportunities to advance into administrative roles.
Actuaries begin their careers as trainees before becoming certified. In the United States, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) offers certifications for actuaries working in life or health insurance and pensions, while the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) certifies property-casualty actuaries. Actuaries can also pursue the following certifications:
- Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA)
- Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA)
- Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst (CERA) of the Society of Actuaries
- Associate of the CAS (ACAS)
- Fellow of the CAS (FCAS)
To earn associate-level certification, actuaries must complete seven exams. Employers expect students to have passed 1-2 of these exams by the time they graduate. Luckily, actuary certification does not expire, although SOA and CAS both require continuing education through training seminars.
Math Professional Organizations
Frequently Asked Questions From Math Majors
As of 2020, five of the highest-earning math careers included actuary, statistician, mathematician, operations research analyst, and financial analyst.
Jobs in math are in high demand. A math degree can help you launch a career in actuarial science, accounting, finance, engineering, or education.
Actuaries earn some of the highest salaries in math-related professions. These professionals use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to analyze the costs of risk for individuals and businesses.
Raneem is a copy editor for TheBestSchools, where she pores over content to ensure it meets high standards of clarity and accuracy. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Spanish and Near Eastern studies and worked as an educator before transitioning to editing and writing. Outside of work, Raneem enjoys practicing guitar, singing, hiking, and getting lost in foreign countries.
Header Image Credit: SolStock | Getty Images
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