Mathematicians

Summary

mathematicians image
Mathematicians create models to solve practical problems in fields such as business, government, engineering, and the sciences.
Quick Facts: Mathematicians
2012 Median Pay $101,360 per year
$48.73 per hour
Entry-Level Education Master’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 3,500
Job Outlook, 2012-22 23% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 800

What Mathematicians Do

Mathematicians use advanced mathematics to develop and understand mathematical principles, analyze data, and solve real-world problems.

Work Environment

Mathematicians work in the federal government and in private science and engineering research companies. They may work on teams with engineers, scientists, and other professionals.

How to Become a Mathematician

Mathematicians typically need a master’s degree in mathematics. However, there are some positions available for those with a bachelor's degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for mathematicians was $101,360 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of mathematicians is projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Businesses will need mathematicians to analyze the increasing volume of digital and electronic data.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of mathematicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about mathematicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Mathematicians Do About this section

Mathematicians
Mathematicians work with formulas to help solve problems in industry, academia, and government.

Mathematicians use advanced mathematics to develop and understand mathematical principles, analyze data, and solve real-world problems.

Duties

Mathematicians typically do the following:

  • Expand knowledge in mathematical areas, such as algebra or geometry, by developing new rules, theories, and concepts
  • Use mathematical formulas and models to prove or disprove theories
  • Apply mathematical theories and techniques to solve practical problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields
  • Develop mathematical or statistical models to analyze data
  • Interpret data and report conclusions from their analyses
  • Use data analysis to support and improve business decisions
  • Read professional journals, talk with other mathematicians, and attend professional conferences to maintain knowledge of current trends

The following are examples of types of mathematicians:

Applied mathematicians use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling, to solve practical problems. These mathematicians typically work with individuals in other occupations to solve these problems. For example, they may work with chemists and materials scientists and chemical engineers to analyze the effectiveness of new drugs. Other applied mathematicians may work with industrial designers to study the aerodynamic characteristics of new automobiles.

Theoretical mathematicians do research to identify unexplained issues in mathematics and resolve them. They are primarily concerned with exploring new areas and relationships of mathematical theories to increase knowledge and understanding about the field. Although some may not consider the practical use of their findings, the knowledge they develop can be an important part of many scientific and engineering achievements.

Despite the differences, these areas of mathematics frequently overlap. Many mathematicians will use both applied and theoretical knowledge in their job duties.

However, most people with a degree in mathematics or who develop mathematical theories and models are not formally known as mathematicians. Instead, they work in related fields and professions. In the computer systems design and related services industries, they may be known as computer programmers or systems analysts. In finance, they may be known as quantitative analysts, financial analysts, or statisticians.

Computer and information research scientists, physicists and astronomers, economists, actuaries, operations research analysts, and many other occupations also use mathematics extensively.

Some people with a mathematics background become middle school or high school math teachers.

Many people with a Ph.D. in mathematics, particularly theoretical mathematics, work as postsecondary teachers in education institutions. They usually have a mix of teaching and research responsibilities. Some may do individual research or collaborate with other professors or mathematicians. Collaborators may work together at the same institution or from different locations.

Work Environment About this section

mathematicians image
Mathematicians may work on teams with engineers, scientists, and other professionals.

Mathematicians held about 3,500 jobs in 2012. Most mathematicians work for the federal government or for private scientific and engineering research and development companies.

The industries that employed the most mathematicians in 2012 were as follows:

Federal government30%
Scientific research and development services20
Educational services; state, local, and private18
Management of companies and enterprises7
Manufacturing3

Mathematicians typically work in comfortable offices. They also may work on teams with engineers, scientists, and other professionals.

Work Schedules

Most mathematicians work full time. Deadlines and last-minute requests for data or analysis may require overtime. In addition, mathematicians may have to travel to attend seminars and conferences.

How to Become a Mathematician About this section

Mathematicians
Years of serious study are required to become a mathematician.

Mathematicians typically need a master’s degree in mathematics. However, there are some positions available for those with a bachelor's degree.

Education

In private industry, mathematicians typically need an advanced degree, either a master’s degree or a doctorate. For jobs with the federal government, candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or significant coursework in mathematics.

Most colleges and universities offer a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Courses usually include calculus, differential equations, and linear and abstract algebra. Many colleges and universities advise or require mathematics students to take courses in a related field, such as computer science, engineering, physics, or statistics. Candidates who have a double major in mathematics and a related discipline are particularly desirable to many employers.

Many universities offer master’s and doctoral degrees in theoretical or applied mathematics. Many students who get a doctoral degree work as professors of mathematics in a college or university, rather than work in government or private industry.

Also, holders of bachelor’s degrees who meet state certification requirements may become middle or high school mathematics teachers.

Students who are interested in becoming mathematicians should take as many math courses as possible in high school.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Mathematicians use mathematical techniques and models to analyze large amounts of data. They must be precise and accurate in their analysis.

Communication skills. Mathematicians must interact with and propose solutions to people who may not have extensive knowledge of mathematics.

Math skills. Mathematicians use statistics, calculus, and linear algebra to develop their models and analyses.

Problem-solving skills. Mathematicians must devise new solutions to problems encountered by scientists or engineers.

Pay About this section

Mathematicians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Mathematicians

$101,360

Mathematical science occupations

$76,270

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for mathematicians was $101,360 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $56,040, and the top 10 percent earned more than $152,950.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for mathematicians in the top five industries in which these mathematicians worked were as follows:

Scientific research and development services$118,030
Manufacturing116,860
Federal government106,360
Management of companies and enterprises74,980
Educational services; state, local, and private66,590

Most mathematicians work full time. Deadlines and last-minute requests for data or analysis may require overtime. In addition, mathematicians may have to travel to attend seminars and conferences.

Job Outlook About this section

Mathematicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Mathematical science occupations

26%

Mathematicians

23%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of mathematicians is projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 800 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The amount of digitally stored data will increase over the next decade as more people and companies conduct business online and use social media, smartphones, and other mobile devices. As a result, businesses will increasingly need mathematicians to analyze the large amount of information and data collected. Analyses will help companies improve their business processes, design and develop new products, and even advertise products to potential customers.

Mathematicians will also be needed to help information security analysts create data-security systems to protect the confidentiality and personal information of individuals.

Job Prospects

Because the occupation is small and there are relatively few mathematician positions, strong competition for jobs is expected. Despite the strong competition for mathematician positions, many candidates with a background in advanced mathematical techniques and modeling will find positions in other closely related fields.

Those with a graduate degree in math, very strong quantitative and data analysis skills, and a background in a related discipline, such as business, computer science, or statistics, should have the best job prospects. Computer programming skills are also important to many employers.

Employment projections data for mathematicians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Mathematicians

15-2021 3,500 4,300 23 800 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of mathematicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Actuaries

Actuaries

Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. Actuaries’ work is essential to the insurance industry.

Bachelor’s degree $93,680
Computer programmers

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write code to create software programs. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.

Bachelor’s degree $74,280
Computer systems analysts

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and design information systems solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.

Bachelor’s degree $79,680
Database administrators

Database Administrators

Database administrators (DBAs) use specialized software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records. They make sure that data are available to users and are secure from unauthorized access.

Bachelor’s degree $77,080
Financial analysts

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.

Bachelor’s degree $76,950
Market research analysts

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service. They help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price.

Bachelor’s degree $60,300
Nuclear engineers

Nuclear Engineers

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. Many of these engineers find industrial and medical uses for radioactive materials—for example, in equipment used in medical diagnosis and treatment.

Bachelor’s degree $104,270
Operations research analysts

Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help organizations investigate complex issues, identify and solve problems, and make better decisions.

Bachelor’s degree $72,100
Physicists and astronomers

Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact. Theoretical physicists and astronomers may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe. Physicists and astronomers in applied fields may develop new military technologies or new sources of energy, or monitor space debris that could endanger satellites.

Doctoral or professional degree $106,360
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $68,970
Statisticians

Statisticians

Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data and help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields.

Master’s degree $75,560
Survey researchers

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design surveys and analyze data. Surveys are used to collect factual data, such as employment and salary information, or to ask questions in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, or desires.

Master’s degree $45,050

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about mathematicians, including training, especially for doctoral-level employment, visit

American Mathematical Society

For specific information on careers in applied mathematics, visit

Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

For information on federal government education requirements for mathematician positions, visit 

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

To find job openings for mathematicians in the federal government, visit

USAJOBS

O*NET

Mathematicians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Mathematicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/mathematicians.htm (visited July 31, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014