Mathematics is a somewhat unique major, in that it teaches you a series of very specific skills which can be applied to a broad range of subjects and disciplines.
People interested in Math can go on to work in fields as diverse as statistics, accounting, research science, and programming, among others. Those interested in pure Math can even go on to get a Master's or PhD, working purely with theoretical problems and making strides in field at large.
But with all these different ways this major can be applied across so many diverse industries, it can be tough to settle on a single one.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Mathematics Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
Hard skills for Math Majors vary by industry, but can often be summed up by just writing down the names of all the classes you took in college (like linear algebra or real analysis). Much of understanding Math is just understanding concepts, and having a thorough understanding of these concepts is what will allow you to recycle and combine them into ways that will help you in the future, either in your chosen industry or in the Math field itself.
Soft skills tend to be more data-driven, involving your ability to quickly read and comprehend large amounts of data as well as come up with creative solutions to difficult problems.
Let's take a closer look at what this means for Mathematics in particular:
Critical Thinking and Analysis
Pattern rcognition and data analysis are essential for anyone with a Math degree or working in a Math-related field. Whether you're working with Math in a practical application or in a more theoretical context, the ability to read and comprehend massive amounts of data will make or break your ability to do your job effectively.
Contrary to what you might think, creativity is extremely important when it comes to Math. You'll often need to solve problems with increasingly abstract solutions, and being able to think outside the box when it comes to problem-solving will allow you to think of better and more efficient solutions to problems.
Some just getting started in the Math field assume that they'll get to work totally alone, surrounded by little else than a whiteboard, some markers, and endless data. In fact, it's very likely you'll be working with some sort of team, and in order to work effectively with others you need to have some understanding of how to translate your skills and work experience into something that your other less-mathematically-minded coworkers will understand.
As with many other majors, when it comes to internships in the Math Major, your mileage may vary.
There are industry-specific internships available, which are excellent if you already know how you'd like to apply your math skills to a particular career or if you'd like to explore what some of those applications might look like. But the math field is so huge that many of these internships can feel very specific, applying the same set of math skills to different problems.
For the more research or data-minded Math Majors, there's also government or organization positions available with groups such as the Department of Energy, the National Security Agency, the American Mathematical Society, and the National Science Foundation.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
Mathematics is one of those skills that is necessary regardless of what sort of business you're in. Whether its in keeping your books straightened out, analyzing and utilizing large amounts of data, or just generally approaching problems from an analytical perspective, Math Majors can fit within a variety of different roles.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Mathematics Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Actuaries help with financial projections and managing long-term profitability for companies, identifying potential risks and suggesting ways to circumvent them. This takes a high level of Mathematical expertise in subjects like statistics and calculus, perfect for someone who majored in Mathematics.
Software Engineers apply the principles of engineering to the field of software design, designing and developing software for a variety of computer programs, applications, and systems.
Programmer Analysts identify the requirements of clients, then help to develop programs designed to meet these requirements. Their exact involvement with the programming process depends on individual position, and can range from supervisory to programming it themselves.
Widen Your Skillset
If you plan on using Math to go into a particular field, it would be a good idea to either double major or to learn industry-specific skills on your own time.
While many jobs require an advanced understanding of math, few of those deal purely with math and nothing else -- for the most part, you're going to need to have some kind of knowledge of the field in which you're entering.
To understand how you need to apply your math skills, you have to understand the context. If you're in a field that involves sales, you need some understanding of how markets and economics work. So when you're thinking about what you're doing next in the math field as far as finding a job goes, keep in mind that you're going to need some non-math skills in order to make yourself useful outside of an academic setting.
Alternatively, Specialize Further
If you're a pure Math Major already, odds are its because you enjoy the thought of working purely in the theoretical realm on problems that interest you. In this case, you should make sure that you've considered going on to get additional education.
Math is often seen by workers as more of a skill than a vocation. This means that it can be tough to find a job in the work force by studying only math -- however, it also means that those interested in pure math alone should absolutely consider going into research or academia rather than entering the workforce traditionally.
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Master's degrees are used in one of two ways -- to get a leg up in your field of choice, or to prepare yourself to move on to a PhD program. The precise usefulness of a Master's degree varies widely by field -- for them, the biggest factor is often just the level of prestige held by the school you attended, but other factors can be important as well. PhDs in math are extraordinarily intensive, and usually lead to a PhD candidate becoming either an educator, a researcher, or some combination of the two.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with Mathematics degree normally consider:
Master's in Mathematics
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics)
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
The AMS is a professional organization dedicated to furthering the field of mathematics both in the US and the world at large by providing membership benefits such as conferences, meetings, publications, and opportunities for both networking and continuing education.
Another professional organization, this one devoted to the field of math education. The NCTM offers many of the same membership benefits as the AMS, including continuing education opportunities, meetings, conferences, and publications.
Enter "Mathematics" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Mathematics Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.