How to Become a Mathematician
Mathematician Careers & Degrees

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If you’re skilled at mathematics and would like to use your skills to solve problems and develop new theories, then you might like to become a mathematician.

To broadly define the field, there are two different types of mathematicians.

Theoretical mathematicians work with hypotheses and abstract theory.

They work in colleges and are usually employed as professors.

Applied mathematicians use their skills to solve problems.

They work within engineering, computing, or are employed by state and federal governments.

You will need to have strong academic skills to become a mathematician, along with a good work ethic as you’ll need to complete quite a bit of education in this area.

Most importantly, you’ll need to have a real passion for mathematics and numbers.

Education Requirements to Become a Mathematician

If you’re in high school and would like to become a mathematician, then you should start taking as many math courses as you can.

You should aim to be at a pre-calculus level before you start college.

Getting a tutor can be helpful, as it will allow you to advance through advanced work quickly.

Look for a college that offers an advanced mathematics program.

You will need to complete a four year degree program in advanced mathematics.

An second option is to take a degree in mathematics, and then a postgraduate course in advanced mathematics.

A bachelors degree in advanced mathematics will allow you access to an entry level role in applied mathematics.

The best opportunities will go to those with a postgraduate degree such as a masters.

To work as a theoretical mathematician you will need to complete a PhD.

Most are employed as college professors, where a doctorate degree is the minimum requirement to work at this level.

If your goal is to work in this field, you should complete a four year undergraduate degree in advanced mathematics.

You’ll then need to move into doctoral studies.

You might also like to complete some graduate teaching work while you are studying.

Mathematician Job Description

A theoretical mathematician is employed by a college as a professor.

They will spend a good part of their time teaching classes and working with their students.

They will also spend time working on their own theories, and increasing the knowledge base of mathematics we have.

Theoretical mathematicians are not really concerned with the real world applications of their work.

However, it is often the work that they do that allows advances to be made in fields like engineering, architecture, and finance.

An applied mathematician is employed in an area like government, engineering or finance.

They might use their knowledge of mathematics to help design a building or a bridge.

They could develop software for new computing programs with formulas they produce, or they might work completing a census and compiling data.

The work of an applied mathematician is very varied, these professionals are found within many different fields.

Mathematician Salary and Career Path

When you become a mathematician, you could find yourself working in many different workplaces.

A theoretical mathematician will nearly always work in a college.

They will start out as a graduate teacher or research assistant, and as you gain experience, you would have more opportunity to conduct your own independent research and work towards tenure.

Applied mathematicians are employed by all kinds of companies.

Many will start in entry level or trainee roles, then move into more advanced positions as their skills grow.

Some will eventually move into supervisory or management positions.

Many who work in applied mathematics work under different job titles, such as computer systems analyst or engineer.

Their jobs are very much centered around the principles of mathematics.

When you become a mathematician, you can expect a median salary of $91,000 a year.

There is strong growth predicted in all fields of mathematics in the future.

Some similar roles to that of mathematician include:

  • Math teacher
  • High school teacher
  • College professor
  • Computer systems analyst
  • Computer programmer
  • Engineer

For further information on careers in mathematics, take a look at the American Mathematical Society.

Working as a mathematician can be very challenging.

If you’re passionate about math then this career is a great opportunity to do a job you really love.

Whether you are interested in the abstract principles of math, or the real world application of its theories, becoming a mathematician might be perfect for you.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$107,280
$58K
$76K
$107K
$127K
$162K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
California$106,540
Colorado$122,630
District of Columbia$134,190
Florida$83,890
Illinois$116,850
Maryland$115,090
Massachusetts$74,310
Michigan$78,860
Nevada$84,610
New Jersey$121,040
New Mexico$124,870
New York$119,200
Ohio$87,900
Pennsylvania$84,750
Texas$76,980
Virginia$117,810
Washington$131,110

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $134,190.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $134,190
Washington - $131,110
New Mexico - $124,870
Colorado - $122,630
New Jersey - $121,040
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Mathematicians, OCC Code 15-2021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a mathematician do?

Mathematicians are specialists who use high-level mathematics to understand the relationships between existing mathematical principles, develop new principles, and solve various problems.

The typical duties of a mathematician usually include developing computational methods and computer codes; expanding mathematical knowledge by developing new principles; creating models to resolve practical problems in engineering, business, government, and other sciences; recognizing previously unknown relationships between known mathematical principles; comparing inferences derived from models with experiments or observations, and so on.

Mathematicians can work in a wide range of spheres – in private science, in engineering research, in government science, etc.

These specialists, in most cases, work together with scientists and engineers.

A mathematician can also work in post-secondary education; in such a case, the specialist can be a teacher and a researcher simultaneously.

QuestionHow much do mathematicians make?

On average, a mathematician can make a little less than $102.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $57.000 and $161.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

Mathematicians that work in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Washington, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level mathematician can expect to earn $27 per hour, while specialists with years of experience can make $77 per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a mathematician?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, engineering, physical science, computer science or a related field, in order to become a mathematician.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you can go for a master’s degree ($6.000-$22.000 per year).

Those who want to teach in universities should have a doctorate degree ($36.000-$49.000).

QuestionWhat is the demand for mathematicians?

Between 2016 and 2026, the mathematician job market is expected to grow by 29%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a lot faster than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

Due to the fact that it is a small occupation, there will be only around 800 new jobs created.

Different businesses would need mathematicians to analyze the increasing volume of electronic and digital data.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a mathematician?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree should be enough to apply for jobs with the federal government; in case you meet specific certification requirements, you can become a middle or high school teacher.

A master’s degree will typically take you 2 years to obtain, while a doctorate degree will require 4-7 years.

You would need these degrees, if you want to become a professor of mathematics or work in the private industry.

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