Careers in Mathematics

Mathematics professor teaching

Through the study of mathematics, students develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills. There are career opportunities in all sectors of business and industry for individuals trained in the mathematical sciences, which include computer science and statistics. A mathematics background is also excellent preparation for entry into several of the professions as well as for graduate work in many areas.

Okay. So what can you do with a degree in mathematics? Actually, just about anything. No really, we mean it -- for pretty much any list you can make of aspects you'd like in a job (dress up? just jeans? work with people? work on your own? etc.), there's some mathematical career that's right for you. One of the reasons that mathematically-trained people are needed in almost every field is that we are known for our excellent problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Furthermore, according to the Jobs Rated Almanac by Les Krantz, many of the most desirable careers (see a cool summary and a long list and the 1999 top-ten lists) are technical in nature and require some expertise in the mathematical sciences.

Career Opportunities

Actuarial Mathematics

The application of mathematics, particularly probability and statistics, to the insurance industry. For more info, check out Be An Actuary. Here is also an actuarial job search site and an actuarial info and jobs site. There's a local company which deals with worker's compensation (in fact, they do it for XU). Here's their home page. Some of their positions are actuarial in nature and require passing actuarial exams, but others require a strong math background and don't require actuarial exams.

Applied Mathematics

Often this means working on problems in physics, chemistry, and engineering from a mathematical perspective. For more info, check the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics' career site. Most government jobs, such as with Sandia, Argonne, or Oak Ridge National Labs, NASA, or the Jet Propulsion Lab, NIST, or the Department of Agriculture are within applied mathematics. Some positions at the National Security Agency are applied mathematics and some are pure mathematics.


The application of mathematics in the health sciences. It's an up-and-coming field, and some say it's the next big trend within mathematics.


The application of statistics in the health sciences. Here's an overview of biostatistics careers and the University of Washington and Emory biostatistics careers pages.

Computer Science

A high level of mathematical ability and background is needed.

Financial Mathematics (or Mathematical Finance)

Mathematics used on Wall Street, for mortgage backing, financial derivatives, and stock market analysis. The U of Edinburgh has a good description of the field; here's a book list. The field is fairly new, and there are lots of professional master's programs springing up (see google and google).

Law or Medicine

A major in mathematics is a good preparation for law or medical school.

Operations Research

The application of mathematics to problems of optimization, especially in the field of business. For more info, check out the INFORMS Career Booklet on Is a Career in Operations Research/Management Science Right for You?

Research Mathematics

The study of mathematics for its own sake. Just about any mathematics faculty member will be more than happy to chat with you about this. As a career, this almost always requires graduate school; to investigate the possibilities, think about doing something during the summer.


The study of methods for collecting, classifying, analyzing and making inferences from data.


At all levels. Here's Education World's state certification listings, and UKY's state certification search for secondary school teaching. To teach at the community college level, you should get a Master's degree (either in mathematics or a Master of Arts in Teaching); to teach at the college level, you should get a Ph.D. (in mathematics, mathematics education, applied mathematics, or statistics). Here's an annotated list of K - 12 math sites.

Technical Writing

This includes everything from science reporting for periodicals to writing documentation for computer software to editing textbooks. For more info, check out Careers in Technical Writing. Here's a technical writing jobs site. Also check out this mini-biography of Allyn Jackson, who is a technical writer with the American Mathematical Society. (Not in the mini-bio: she's trained in modern dance as well...)

What about Graduate School?

Lots of opportunities are available to those with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. In some fields, such as biostatistics, financial mathematics, or operations research, a professional master's degree is preferred (or at least qualifies one for a higher salary). In research mathematics, a Ph.D. is required. Keep in mind: graduate school in the mathematical sciences is often free. Most Ph.D. programs in pure mathematics have financial support available in the form of tuition waivers plus a research stipend or a part-time teaching/grading job. This is also true for Ph.D. programs in statistics, applied mathematics, computer science, and operations research. Financial support for master's degrees varies wildly from field to field and sometimes from school to school; it's rarely available for pure mathematics, but is much more available for applied mathematics, statistics, financial mathematics, and biostatistics.

Further reading

The Xavier University Career Services Center assists students in their search for employment by offering individual career counseling sessions, by conducting an annual workshop series on interviewing and resume; writing techniques, and by maintaining a current educational, vocational and employer information resource center. Each year over 100 corporate representatives from national and local companies visit the Xavier campus and conduct over 1,000 interviews for full-time seniors and graduate students. Internship and part-time and summer job referral service is also a function of the office of career and leadership development.