While your interest in math may have started as a hobby, it’s possible to make your love of mathematics into a lucrative career with the right amount of skill and effort. As a math major, you’ve decided to pursue mathematics as your academic focus, and before you graduate, it’s important to know which career path you want to pursue. In this guide, we’ll break down the 10 most lucrative math-related careers and help you get prepped to start your professional life in the world of mathematics.
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Skills You’ll Need for Your Math Career
If you’ve been in love with math for a while, chances are that you already began honing the following skills years ago. If you’re relatively new to mathematics, however, the time is now to make sure that you’re up to snuff in the most desired skills and abilities for professional math-lovers:
Mathematicians who simply spew out everything they’ve learned without critical analysis aren’t worth their salt. True mathematics is always at the cutting edge of the known, and as a result, it’s necessary to be innovative if you want to be successful in your math-related career.
During school, you might be encouraged to simply absorb as much information as possible. As soon as you start on the job, however, you’ll be expected to creatively craft your existing knowledge into revolutionary new ways of dealing with the problems in your chosen career field. A mathematician’s main purpose is to solve problems, and if you can only solve problems that other people have already solved, you won’t be able to advance your career into high-earning positions.
The archetypal mathematician is an antisocial person with his or her head lost in the world of numbers. In reality, however, math-related fields reward effective communication with higher-paying positions and increased job security.
To be successful in your math career, you’ll need to learn how to express your knowledge in terms that others can understand. Whether they have backgrounds in math or not, you’ll be working with people who will need to understand the value that you’re adding to their companies. Even if you’re an absolute math whiz, you’ll lose your job or fail to advance if you’re incapable of expressing your value to your peers and superiors.
Critical thinking is one of the most obvious required attributes for math majors. Effectively analyzing complicated fields of data is one of the primary purposes of mathematics, and your value in your math-related career is directly related to your ability to critically analyze information that your peers and co-workers can’t.
Thankfully, your math studies in college will hone your critical thinking skills to a razor’s edge. For the other skills we’ve listed, you might be on your own.
How to Start Your Math Career
While you’re still in school, you should take full advantage of any available internship opportunities. Even if your internships don’t end up directly contributing to your career path, you’ll still benefit from the opportunity to understand exactly how mathematics fits into the global economy. Get as close as possible to people who are already professionals in math-related careers, and familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of your preferred industry.
If you’re lucky, a college internship will translate directly into a career path as soon as you graduate. If not, you’ll need to start applying to businesses, non-profits, or government organizations within your selected career path. As long as you have the required credentials, companies within your preferred industry will be happy to have you.
Keep in mind, however, that a mere undergraduate degree in mathematics or a related discipline won’t be enough to land a high-paying career in most of the professional arenas that we’ll cover in this article. In many cases, you’ll need to pursue an M.S. or even a Ph.D. to be considered for the lucrative career path that you want to pursue.
Physicists obviously need to understand math to do their jobs effectively. It’s practically impossible to be a physicist without having at least one degree in mathematics, and if physics is your intended career path, focusing on math for your undergraduate career is a good move to make.
What Do You Do as a Physicist?
The world of a professional physicist is anything but purely intellectual. To be a successful physicist, you’ll need to make accurate observations of the natural world and transform these observations into complex mathematical calculations.
Physicists seek to understand the operation of the physical universe. From Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking, physicists have always sought to create better and better mathematical models to understand the way the world works.
Over the last century or so, the world of physics has become much more complicated as physicists have had to grapple with the highly irrational and non-mechanistic world of quantum physics. These days, physicists with strong math skills are in more demand than ever as the international physics community seeks to create new models that effectively explain the latest paradoxes that reality has produced.
Why Math Majors Make Great Physicists
While physics is more hands-on than many other careers for mathematicians, you’ll need to bring your math skills to bear to succeed as a physicist. It could be said that physics is the art of transforming the mystery of reality into the language of numbers, so as a math-loving physicist, your ability to analyze phenomena and turn them into equations will be all-important.
Required Education to Become a Physicist
You’ll probably need to get a Ph.D. to be a physicist. Some physicists can scrape by with a master’s degree, but your chances of landing a high-paying and secure job will increase with higher levels of education.
If you decide not to get a doctoral degree on your path to becoming a physicist, you’ll need to find some way to demonstrate to employers that your value is as high as your peers’. If you aren’t confident with your ability to wow employers and succeed in interviews, your Ph.D. will serve as a shield that expresses your value so you don’t have to.
How Much Do Physicists Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physicists made an average of $119,580 in 2018. That translates into approximately $58 per hour. As you gain acclaim in your field and get better physicist gigs, you could end up making more than $170,000 per year.
Math majors become mathematicians when they love math so much that they never want to step outside academia. In an economy in which automation and AI is threatening so many careers, the demand for mathematicians will continue to grow until at least 2026.
What Do You Do as a Mathematician?
Mathematicians live in a professional world of pure numerical analysis. While the problems that mathematicians are related to the physical world, a mathematician’s job description doesn’t usually involve making actual physical observations. Instead, mathematicians deal in abstractions, and they try to solve the most complicated numerical relationships in existence.
Some mathematicians choose to go beyond the purely intellectual and dedicate themselves to solving real-world problems. These number gurus are called applied mathematicians, and they generally solve complex problems related to business, government, or engineering.
Theoretical mathematicians, on the other hand, entirely focus on abstract issues. These types of mathematicians do contribute to the evolution of human society, but they do so by increasing our knowledge of how the world of numbers and the physical world interrelate.
Why Math Majors Make Great Mathematicians
While it’s obvious that getting a degree in math is the right choice if you want to be a mathematician, it’s also obvious that being a mathematician isn’t the only thing you can do with a math degree. To be a professional mathematician, you’ll need to love numbers for themselves instead of for what they can do in the world.
Being a mathematician is something like being a professional musician; you’ll need to have talent and absolute dedication to make a difference in the world of theoretical mathematics. Applied math is slightly different, but you’ll still need to immerse your head in a world of numbers to make yourself valuable in the applied mathematics market.
Required Education to Become a Mathematician
According to Study.com, you can become a government mathematician with only an undergraduate degree. You can also use a BS in mathematics to become a high school math teacher.
If you want to secure a lucrative position within a growing company, on the other hand, you’ll need a more competitive degree. The math field is getting bigger every year, and private businesses are on the lookout for applied mathematicians who have master’s or doctoral degrees in math.
While you could easily stop after you graduate with your four-year degree and call it good, further education is the best way to start on a career path that will truly pay off. Unless you’re a true math genius, you won’t go from a janitor to a Nobel laureate on talent alone. You’ll need to position yourself carefully by getting the type of education that potential employers value.
How Much Do Mathematicians Make?
According to U.S. News, the average mathematician made $103,010 in 2017. With a little bit of on-the-job experience, you could easily make as much as $130,000 per year in your mathematician career.
3. Aerospace Engineer
If you’ve always loved the Apollo missions but you don’t want to become an astronaut, a career as an aerospace engineer might be right for you. As an aerospace engineer, you’ll be on the front lines of designing new spacecraft, aircraft, and missiles that will keep your country competitive and your industry evolving.
What Do You Do as an Aerospace Engineer?
Aerospace engineers devise new systems for keeping objects in the air better for longer. Like all engineers, aerospace engineers are tasked with creating brand-new ideas from scratch; the creative aspect of mathematics really comes to bear in this field.
Using math and physics, aerospace engineers devise new fuselages, wings, engines, and other components for flying craft. They devise tests for these inventions, and they determine how their creations will be integrated into actual flying machines. Aerospace engineering is often a field of tireless trial and error, so if you’re frustrated easily, you might want to choose a different career.
Why Math Majors Make Great Aerospace Engineers
You need a solid grasp of math to succeed as an aerospace engineer. While you’ll spend a lot of time as an aerospace engineer simply tinkering with rockets, you’ll need to understand how numbers relate to the real world to figure out better ways to keep those rockets in the air. Aerospace engineers work for government agencies like NASA, and they also work for prestigious aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Required Education to Become an Aerospace Engineer
You can get an entry-level aerospace engineer degree with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. Your employer might provide further education, or you might want to consider enrolling in a five-year program that includes both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.
How Much Do Aerospace Engineers Make?
According to the BLS, aerospace engineers made an average of $115,220 in 2015. If you attain seniority at a major corporation like Lockheed, you could end up making more than double that annual salary.
Money is just numbers with value attached, so math majors naturally make for great economists. If you’re a highly analytical math nut, economics is right for you.
What Do You Do as an Economist?
Being an economist is one of the most robotic directions you can take in your math career. Market analysis is almost 100 percent analytical; by watching markets, you determine how they are likely to move.
As an economist, you might work at a think tank and research the economy for policy reasons. On the other hand, you might work for a business and help your superiors improve their profits.
Why Math Majors Make Great Economists
Economics is pure nerdy math but with the added benefit of being all about money. If you don’t want to analyze the physical world and you’d prefer to stay in the office, crunching numbers for a major corporation or think tank might be just the thing for you.
Required Education to Become an Economist
According to Study.com, you’ll probably need at least a master’s degree to get a good job as an economist. While it might be possible to secure an economist gig with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to prove to a potential employer that you’re more valuable than competing applicants with more education.
How Much Do Economists Make?
The BLS reports that economists made around $104,340 in 2018.
Actuaries help insurance companies set rates. If analytical math is your thing, you can make a decent salary as an actuary.
What Do You Do as an Actuary?
As an actuary, you’ll manage risk and set rates for an insurance company. Actuaries analyze various types of statistics and research clients to protect an insurance company’s bottom line.
Why Math Majors Make Great Actuaries
Being an actuary is pure number crunching. Your ability to analyze complex data will get you ahead in this field.
Required Education to Become an Actuary
You only need a bachelor’s degree to become an actuary.
How Much Do Actuaries Make?
The BLS said that actuaries made an average of $101,560 in 2018.
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Statisticians identify trends by analyzing data. People who are interested in why things happen in the world make great statisticians.
What Do You Do as a Statistician?
As a statistician, you’ll develop improved data collection methods, and once you’ve collected data, you’ll interpret it to determine trends.
Why Math Majors Make Great Statisticians
While determining which data collection methods to use might not be your forte as a math major, your data analysis skills will prove valuable to any corporation or government agency.
Required Education to Become a Statistician
You can secure an entry-level statistician job with a B.A., but you should pursue an M.S. if you want to make more right off the bat.
How Much Do Statisticians Make?
According to the BLS, statisticians made an average of $84,060 in 2018.
The field of cryptography has changed a lot since the days of the Navajo Code Talkers, but the core principles of this field remain the same.
What Do You Do as a Cryptographer?
As a cryptographer, you’ll determine new ways to encrypt and decrypt data.
Why Math Majors Make Great Cryptographers
A lot of the work of a cryptographer is pure data analysis. However, this field also requires a lot of creativity, which makes it perfect for an adventurous math major.
Required Education to Become a Cryptographer
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or mathematics to start your cryptography career.
How Much Do Cryptographers Make?
According to Study.com, cryptographers made an average of $112,560 in 2015.
8. Financial Analyst
Also known as quantitative financial analysts, financial analysts help finance companies reduce their risks and boost profits.
What Do You Do as a Financial Analyst?
As a financial analyst, you’ll create complex mathematical models that improve the operation of a bank or another type of financial institution.
Why Math Majors Make Great Financial Analysts
Financial analysis blends data analysis and creativity to become the engineering equivalent of the financial field.
Required Education to Become a Financial Analyst
You’ll need a master’s degree to get a good job as a financial analyst.
How Much Do Financial Analysts Make?
BLS reports that financial analysts made $85,660 on average in 2018.
While neuropsychology might not seem like a math major’s first pick, this career path involves plenty of statistics and data analysis.
What Do You Do as a Neuropsychologist?
As a neuropsychologist, you’ll use mathematical models to further knowledge of the structure of the brain and understand learning, emotions, and other aspects of human consciousness.
Why Math Majors Make Great Neuropsychologists
If you’re considering making psychology your minor, you have the type of temperament to make a great neuropsychologist. These professionals use their data analysis skills to better understand people and why they do the things they do.
Required Education to Become a Neuropsychologist
You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience to land a good job as a neuropsychologist, and you’ll get preferential treatment when you have more education.
How Much Do Neuropsychologists Make?
According to the BLS, neuropsychologists made an average of 94,650 in 2018.
Astronomy is more than just gazing at the stars. You’ll need to make complicated mathematical calculations to understand the relationships between cosmic bodies.
What Do You Do as an Astronomer?
Astronomers observe the heavens, and they use these observations to make models of the cosmos. As an astronomer, you may even use your knowledge of space to solve practical problems down here on Earth.
Why Math Majors Make Great Astronomers
Astronomy requires detailed calculation and data analysis. If you want to contribute to human understanding of the cosmos while flexing your value as a mathematician, astronomy might be right for you.
Required Education to Become an Astronomer
To get started in your astronomy career, you’ll need to get a bachelor’s degree in astronomy.
How Much Do Astronomers Make?
The BLS tells us that astronomers made an average of $100,590 in 2017.