Put Your Degree to Work: 20 Exciting Careers for Math Majors

by Editor on Mar 13, 2012

Mathematics majors have several things to look forward to upon graduation. A 2009 study showed that the top three best jobs in terms of income and other factors were careers suited for math majors. Mathematicians can opt to work indoors (actuaries) or outdoors (hydrologists). They also can work toward interdisciplinary studies to combine math with studies such as biology for careers as forensic scientists or environmental scientists. Many of the jobs in this list require at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, but some careers demand a graduate or doctoral degree. It’s your choice — even jobs that require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree make solid annual salaries.

Mathematical Careers


  1. Mathematics: The work of mathematicians falls into two broad classes: theoretical (pure) mathematics and applied mathematics. While a PhD is required for many mathematician jobs, you can also choose to obtain a Professional Science Masters. Average annual salaries for mathematicians were $95,150 in 2008.
  2. Biomathematics: Mathematical biology or biomathematics is an interdisciplinary field of study. It models natural and biological processes using mathematical techniques and tools. Many jobs involve this interdisciplinary nature, including environmental scientists, forensic scientists, statisticians, geoscientists and hydrologists. The average annual salary for the latter two professions in 2008 was $79,160.
  3. Statistics: Statisticians provide crucial guidance in determining what information is reliable and which predictions can be trusted. They work in a variety of fields such as medicine, government, education, agriculture, business, and law. A master’s degree in statistics or mathematics is the minimum educational requirement, but research and academic jobs generally require a PhD, while Federal Government jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. The average annual salary for a statistician in 2008 was $95,170.
  4. Teaching at K-12 Level: The teaching of mathematics at the K-12 level is a high-demand field and the need is expected to grow in the future. Teachers at that level who are bilingual or who are willing to teach in less desirable urban or rural school districts will have more chances for employment. Average annual salaries for kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $47,100 to $51,180 in 2008.
  5. Teaching at Postsecondary Level: At the postsecondary level, competition is expected for tenure-track positions; better opportunities are expected for part-time or non-tenure-track positions. PhD recipients should experience the best job prospects. Average annual salaries for all postsecondary teachers in 2008 were $58,830.

Computers and Math


  1. Computer Network, Systems, and Database Administrators: Jobs in this category include network and computer systems administrators, network architects, database administrators, computer security specialists, Web administrators, and Web developers, and training requirements vary by occupation. Average annual salaries for these occupations varied, too, with network systems and data communication analysts earning $71,100 per year, and network and computer systems administrators earning $66,310 per year in 2008.
  2. Computer Science: Computer scientists are the designers, creators, and inventors of new technology. A PhD is required for most jobs, and an aptitude for math is important. The average annual salary for computer scientists in 2008 was $97,970.
  3. Computer Software Engineers and Computer Programmers: These mathematicians apply the theories and principles of computer science and mathematical analysis to create, test, and evaluate the software applications and systems that make computers work. A bachelor’s degree commonly is required for software engineering jobs, although a master’s degree is preferred for some positions. In 2008, the average annual salary for computer applications software engineers was $85,430.
  4. Computer Systems Analysts: Computer systems analysts may design and develop new computer systems by choosing and configuring hardware and software, or they may devise ways to apply existing systems’ resources to additional tasks. The average annual salary for computer systems analysts was $75,500 in 2008.

Counting Money


  1. Actuarial Science: Actuarial science takes statistics, finance, and business and applies that knowledge to finance and especially to insurance. In 2008, actuaries earned an average annual salary of $84,810.
  2. Economist: Many economists specialize in a particular area of economics, although general knowledge of basic economic principles is essential. Whether working in government, industry, research organizations, or consulting firms, economists with a bachelor’s degree usually qualify for entry-level positions as a research assistant, for marketing or finance positions, or for various sales jobs. A master’s degree usually is required to qualify for more responsible research and administrative positions. A PhD is necessary for top economist positions in many organizations. The average annual salary for an economist in 2008 was $83,590.
  3. Financial Analysts: Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. Many positions require a master’s degree in finance or a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Average annual salaries for financial analysts in 2008 were $73,150.
  4. Personal Financial Advisors: Although most planners offer advice on a wide range of topics, some specialize in areas such as retirement and estate planning or risk management. Although a bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement, many financial advisors also earn a master’s degree in finance or business administration or get professional designations. In 2008, personal financial advisors earned an average annual salary of $69,050.

Other Mathematical Careers


  1. Chemists and Materials Scientists: Chemists and materials scientists search for new knowledge about chemicals and use it to improve life. Students planning careers as chemists or materials scientists should take courses in science and mathematics, should like working with their hands to build scientific apparatus and perform laboratory experiments, and should like computer modeling. The average annual salary for a chemist or a materials scientist in 2008 was $66,230.
  2. Engineering Technicians: Engineering technicians use the principles and theories of science, engineering, and mathematics to solve technical problems in research and development, manufacturing, sales, construction, inspection, and maintenance. Although it may be possible to qualify for certain engineering technician jobs without formal training, most employers prefer to hire someone with a 2-year associate degree or other postsecondary training in engineering technology. Average annual salaries vary by specialty, industry, and education.
  3. Engineers: Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems. In about twelve different categories of engineering, graduates typically enter the occupation with a bachelor’s degree in an engineering specialty, but some basic research positions may require a graduate degree. Earnings for engineers vary significantly by specialty, industry, and education.
  4. Environmental Scientists and Specialists: These individuals analyze measurements or observations of air, food, water, and soil to determine the way to clean and preserve the environment. The average annual salary for environmental scientists and specialists was $59,750 in 2008.
  5. Market and Survey Researchers: Market and survey researchers gather information about what people think. Graduates can enter the occupation with a bachelor’s degree, but those with a master’s or PhD in marketing or a social science should enjoy the best opportunities. The average annual salary for market and survey researchers in 2008 was $61,070.
  6. Operations Research Analysts: Using analytical techniques, operations research analysts help managers to make better decisions and solve problems. A bachelor’s degree coupled with extensive coursework in mathematics and other quantitative subjects usually is the minimum education requirement for a job in this field. The average annual salary for an operations research analyst in 2008 was $69,000.
  7. Physicists and Astronomers: Applicants may face competition for basic research positions due to limited funding; however, those with a background in physics or astronomy may have good opportunities in related fields, such as engineering and technology. The average annual salary for physicists in 2008 was $102,890. In that same year, astronomers earned an average of $101,300 per year.

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