Sometimes students who choose to major in mathematics wonder, “What kind of job can I get with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics?” Indeed, studying mathematics for one’s major is different from, say, pursuing a degree in engineering or accounting: engineering majors are trained to be engineers, and accounting majors are trained to be accountants. Math majors have both a wider array of options and a long track record of success in finding great jobs in diverse fields.
There's a company in West Michigan (let’s call them WMMM) that has hired a large number of undergraduate math majors who studied at the university where I work. Upon graduation with a bachelor’s degree, WMMM recruits them for a wide range of positions: data analytics, forecasting, programming, human resources, and more. WMMM often devotes up to a full year to train new employees for particular jobs. In recruiting and information sessions, they tell our current students that the company is more interested in hiring raw human capital than in hiring for specific technical skills.
A few years ago, one of the company's recruiters stopped by my office one day and said, "Thank you for all of the fantastic math graduates you send our way. We love them!" I asked, "What makes them so good for you?" The recruiter answered immediately:
"First, they're creative and independent thinkers and problem-solvers. When we have an issue we are trying to understand or a new problem we are working to solve, they bring great ideas to the table. Second, these math alumni are outstanding communicators, both orally and in writing. We are really impressed with how they are able to articulate technical and complex ideas in clear and comprehensible terms, whether in written reports or aloud in conversation. And finally, we never have to tell them to work hard."
I think those three reasons sum up both the value of an undergraduate major in mathematics, as well as goals to which every rising professional should aspire: be a more creative thinker and problem-solver, become a better communicator, and be a tenacious worker. Mathematics helps everyone get better at all of those things, and if people describe you in those terms, great things await you in your career.
You can learn more about the undergraduate math major by exploring pages on MAA's website, reading a great MAA book on the subject, or by talking to a mathematics professor at a college or university near you.
Matt Boelkins is a Professor of Mathematics at Grand Valley State University.