Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

What Can I Do with a Math Degree?

5 minute read

In the intricate tapestry of academic disciplines, mathematics stands as an eternal pillar of logic and precision. A mathematics degree is not merely a certificate of academic achievement; it is a passport to a world of diverse and intellectually stimulating career opportunities. From the abstract realms of pure mathematics to the practical applications in various industries like operations research or labor statistics, the journey with a mathematics degree is an odyssey of analytical prowess and problem-solving mastery. 

If you're a high school student searching for an undergraduate program that will lead you toward math occupations, this is a great place to start your career exploration. Here, we will show you the many careers with a math degree that you can dive into after college.

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1. Academia

The most conventional path in math careers is entering academia. This could be a career as a researcher or a professorship at a University. In this realm, mathematicians play a vital role in advancing the ongoing discourse of mathematical knowledge, either navigating the uncharted territories of pure mathematics or engaging in interdisciplinary studies. For those drawn to intellectual challenges and the allure of a substantial financial reward, there exists the tantalizing opportunity to tackle the Millennium Prize Problems. Successfully solving any of these profound mathematical problems comes with a prestigious award of $1 Million, offered with no questions asked! Beyond the Millennium Prize, the mathematics community also recognizes other significant awards such as the Abel Prize (awarded by the King of Norway) as incentives for mathematicians to push the boundaries of knowledge and contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of their field.

2. Applied Mathematics, Data Science, and Analytics

In the age of big data, mathematicians are in high demand in the field of data science. The ability to extract meaningful insights from vast datasets is a skill that mathematicians hone during their academic journey. Roles in data analysis, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are common destinations for mathematics graduates. Numerous universities are currently providing dual course options that seamlessly integrate data science and mathematics. This innovative approach ensures that students graduate with a versatile skill set, well-suited for a diverse range of career opportunities in this rapidly evolving field. For instance, Stanford University offers a joint program in Data Science and Mathematics, preparing students for the intersection of these two critical domains. This dual-course initiative is designed to meet the soaring demand for data scientists and research analysts. The significance of this skill set is underscored by the fact that virtually every Fortune 500 company has roles specifically dedicated to data science, emphasizing the indispensable role of these interdisciplinary skills in the contemporary job market.

3. Actuarial Science and Insurance

The intricate calculations involved in risk assessment find their experts in mathematicians specializing in actuarial science. These professionals play a crucial role in the insurance industry, employing mathematical models to evaluate and manage risks, set insurance premiums, and ensure the financial stability of insurance companies. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) has an entire conference and journal proceedings dedicated to this field of expertise. 

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4. Computer Science and Programming

Mathematics and computer science share a symbiotic relationship. A mathematics degree provides a solid foundation for coding and algorithm development. Many mathematicians find themselves working as software developers, contributing to the design and implementation of algorithms that power our digital world. This could include helping develop machine learning algorithms that power AI tools like ChatGPT or Bard, or work on Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technologies, which has created a niche for mathematicians. The cryptographic principles underlying these technologies require a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Mathematicians contribute to the development and security of digital currencies and decentralized systems. Polygence Mentor, Nolan integrates these tools into his daily research activities, creating engaging projects that employ a fun gamified approach to teach students!

5. Engineering, Physics, Economics, and Finance 

Mathematics is the language that describes the fundamental principles of the physical world, and this extends to collaborative efforts with various scientific teams. For instance, Princeton University's fluid mechanics team employs mathematical frameworks in their research, spanning a diverse range of topics from aerodynamic shape optimization to microfluidics. Mathematics acts as an indispensable tool in understanding and solving complex problems, contributing to broader societal issues such as energy, health, and the environment. As a math major, you can become a financial analyst and work with numbers head-on. From theoretical models to numerical simulations, mathematicians play a pivotal role in unraveling the underlying physics that govern phenomena across a vast spectrum of Reynolds numbers, bridging the gap from cells to submarines and impacting fields as diverse as aerodynamics and environmental science.

6. Mathematics Education

For those passionate about sharing the beauty of mathematics, a career in education is a fulfilling option. Mathematicians can become teachers at various levels, from primary schools to universities, inspiring the next generation of problem solvers and critical thinkers.

7. Entrepreneurship and The Power of Abstraction

The entrepreneurial spirit is not foreign to thinkers with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. The ability to analyze and solve complex problems makes mathematicians with applied math expertise well-suited for entrepreneurship. Whether founding tech startups, consulting firms, or analytical service companies, mathematicians bring a unique perspective to the world of business. Some famous mathematicians turned entrepreneurs include James Harris Simons, who founded Renaissance Technologies, a highly successful quantitative hedge fund, and John C. Mather, a Nobel laureate in Physics, who co-founded ChromaWay, a blockchain technology company. Beyond the specific career paths, a mathematics degree instills in individuals a powerful ability to think abstractly and approach problems with clarity and precision. The skills developed during a mathematics education are highly transferable and sought after in the professional landscape.

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Where do mathematicians lurk?

The organizations below provide resources, publications, and networking opportunities for mathematicians, offering guidance for those exploring diverse career paths with a mathematics degree.

  1. American Mathematical Society (AMS)

  2. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)

  3. International Mathematical Union (IMU)

  4. Mathematical Association of America (MAA)

  5. Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA)

Conclusion: Beyond the Numbers

In the vast landscape of career possibilities, a mathematics degree unlocks doors to limitless opportunities. Mathematics is often described as the language of patterns, and math majors fluent in this language possess a toolkit that extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. Whether navigating the abstract realms of pure mathematics or applying analytical skills to real-world challenges, mathematicians are architects of precision and clarity. The pursuit of a mathematics degree is not just an academic endeavor; it is a transformative journey that equips individuals with the tools to unravel the complexities of the world with a math career, one equation at a time.