How do you go from passionate, math-loving student to career mathematician? Let us walk you through it.
The road to a professional mathematics career can sometimes be a long and winding one, but there are many different paths to take. Mathematicians work in a variety of fields including academia, the government, and the private sector with a variety of training from an undergraduate degree, to a masters degree, and all the way to a Ph.D.
What do you need to succeed in this career? A passion for math is a great place to start! It also helps if you have an affinity for analytical thinking and creative problem-solving.
You’ll also need some technical skills. O-Net recommends that at a fundamental level, mathematicians should be knowledgeable in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications. Furthermore, it will be useful to be familiar with analytics software like Minitab, SAS, MATLAB, and others. There are many useful online resources for learning this kind of material.
A career in mathematics can lead you to all different types of fields where your skills will be a valuable asset. For example, mathematicians work as investment analysts, data scientists, software engineers, actuaries, and statisticians. With your analytic mind and love for numbers, you’ll have a wide range of job prospects.
Though a math mind is an amazing tool, perseverance and the ability to stick through difficult problems will take you far.
According to Keith Devlin, a British mathematician and author of the MAA’s Devlin’s Angle blog, a successful budding mathematician “...must stop looking at problems in terms of deciding what method to use, and just think about the concept or problem until it starts to make sense.” This might be easier said than done, but Devlin makes a great point: sometimes math is about boiling a problem down to its core and working from there.
Outside of the math itself, consider how you’ll best communicate your research findings and other topics that interest you. To succeed in this career, be sure to hone your communication skills, both written and interpersonal.