Mathematicians

Summary

mathematicians image
Mathematicians create models to solve practical problems in fields such as business, government, engineering, and the sciences.
Quick Facts: Mathematicians
2014 Median Pay $103,720 per year
$49.86 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 3,500
Job Outlook, 2014-24 21% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 700

What Mathematicians Do

Mathematicians conduct research to develop and understand mathematical principles. They also analyze data and apply mathematical techniques to help 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 at least a master’s degree in mathematics. However, some positions are available for those with a bachelor’s degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for mathematicians was $103,720 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of mathematicians is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Businesses will need mathematicians to analyze the increasing volume of digital and electronic data.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for mathematicians.

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 conduct research to develop and understand mathematical principles. They also analyze data and apply mathematical techniques to help solve real-world problems.

Duties

Mathematicians typically do the following:

  • Develop new mathematical rules, theories, and concepts in areas such as algebra and geometry
  • Use mathematical formulas and models to prove or disprove theories
  • Apply mathematical theories and techniques to solve practical problems in business, engineering, the sciences, and other fields
  • Develop mathematical or statistical models to analyze data
  • Interpret data and report conclusions drawn 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 their knowledge of current trends

Some mathematicians apply theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling, to solve practical problems. These mathematicians, sometimes known as applied mathematicians, typically work with individuals in other occupations to solve these problems. For example, they may work with chemists, 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.

Other mathematicians may study theoretical or abstract concepts in mathematics. Sometimes called theoretical mathematicians, they identify, research, and resolve unexplained issues in mathematics. They are concerned primarily with exploring new areas and relationships of mathematical theories to increase knowledge and understanding about the field.

Despite the differences between applied and theoretical mathematics, these areas frequently overlap. Many mathematicians, particularly those in government or private industry, 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, for example, they may be known as computer programmers or systems analysts. In finance, they may be known as quantitative analysts or statisticians. Other industries may refer to them as data scientists.

Computer and information research scientists, physicists and astronomers, economists, actuaries, operations research analysts, engineers, 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 conduct 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 and scientists.

Mathematicians held about 3,500 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most mathematicians were as follows:

Federal government 30%
Scientific research and development services 16
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 13
Finance and insurance 7
Manufacturing 5

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

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 at least a master’s degree in mathematics. However, some positions are 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. Because mathematicians often work with data analysis software, computer programming courses may be particularly beneficial for students.

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.

Also, holders of bachelor’s degrees who meet state certification requirements may become middle school 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 determine the appropriate software packages and understand computer programming languages to design and develop new techniques and models. They must also 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 2014

Mathematicians

$103,720

Mathematical science occupations

$80,270

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for mathematicians was $103,720 in May 2014. 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 $54,830, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $157,090.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for mathematicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Manufacturing $121,670
Scientific research and development services 115,480
Federal government 107,440
Finance and insurance 89,810
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 57,300

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

Job Outlook About this section

Mathematicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Mathematical science occupations

28%

Mathematicians

21%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of mathematicians is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 700 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 also will be needed to help information security analysts create data-security systems to protect confidential information of individuals and businesses.

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 formal mathematician positions, many candidates with a background in advanced mathematical techniques and modeling will find good job opportunities in other, closely related fields.

Those with a graduate degree in mathematics, 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 also are important to many employers.

Employment projections data for mathematicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Mathematicians

15-2021 3,500 4,200 21 700 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

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 2014 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 $96,700
Computer programmers

Computer Programmers

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

Bachelor's degree $77,550
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 $82,710
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 $80,280
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 $78,620
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 $61,290
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 $100,470
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 $76,660
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. Some physicists design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers.

Doctoral or professional degree $109,290
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

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

See How to Become One $70,790
Statisticians

Statisticians

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

Master's degree $79,990
Survey researchers

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct 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 $49,760

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 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, 2016-17 Edition, Mathematicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/mathematicians.htm (visited February 10, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,540.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,547.