What Does a Mathematician Do? (How to Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Whether it's chemistry, physics, engineering, computer programming, or astronomy, mathematics lies at the foundation of every field of science. Professionals in almost every domain encounter calculations and mathematical problems regularly, and this is where the role of a mathematician is vital. Understanding a mathematician's job requirements, skill set, and educational qualifications can help you pursue this career. In this article, we answer the question "What does a mathematician do?", highlight their important skills and salary, and provide a how-to guide for becoming a mathematician.

What does a mathematician do?

The answer to "What does a mathematician do?" depends on the type of mathematics they specialize in. A mathematician can have various duties depending on their chosen career path, level of education, and area of expertise. Some of their most common applications are:

Problem-solving and innovation

Many mathematicians use their knowledge to solve mathematical queries and contribute new theories and principles. Mathematical studies allow humans to expand their understanding of the universe and make breakthroughs in science, technology, astrophysics, engineering, and other areas. Some mathematicians work for companies and organizations to solve problems and improve processes. For example, mathematicians may use mathematical principles to develop new technologies or analyze trends in data. They can even predict future events or outcomes based on mathematical patterns and probabilities.

Education and research

Some mathematicians choose to work as teachers at schools, colleges, or universities. They may teach students how to develop skills that focus on their specialized subjects and discuss the latest discoveries and theories. Many mathematicians choose to work as independent researchers so that they can implement new mathematical models, theorems, and data to find solutions and patterns, and many continue their work beyond the field of mathematics. These mathematicians may use their knowledge to develop new theories and principles or solve previously unsolved problems. Mathematicians can also pursue careers in government agencies, research and development (R&D), and management.

Formulating strategies

Many companies and organizations need employees to assess existing policies and risks with mathematical probabilities. For this reason, many mathematicians find employment with businesses, agencies, and organizations to help with plans, policies, or decisions. Mathematicians can work as financial analysts who calculate risk probability in different investments. They help companies make sound business decisions by using mathematical standards to predict stock prices or customer behaviour. Some companies use statistical samples to determine the success of products or services. Many organizations use mathematical models to design computer algorithms, while others use their help to design aircraft, automobiles, and weapons systems.

What is a mathematician?

A mathematician is a professional who uses their extensive knowledge of mathematics to solve mathematical problems. They work with numbers, quantity, model, data, structure, space, and change. Mathematicians explore these concepts by examining real-world objects and abstract ideas. By employing high-level thinking and principles of arithmetics, geometry, and statistics, they can solve even the most complicated mathematical problems.

How to become a mathematician?

Studying mathematics can help you develop analytical thinking, logical reasoning, and problem-solving skills, which are important for a career as a mathematician. Here is the step-by-step guide on how to become a mathematician:

1. Strengthen math skills in high school

Students who want to study mathematics in college can take advanced math courses in high school focus and strengthen their math skills. High school students can also join math clubs and competitions, where they can compete with other students from different schools to solve mathematical problems in a fun environment. Mathematics courses may include pre-calculus, trigonometry, statistics, calculus, and algebra. Most colleges and universities require students to take these courses before pursuing a bachelor's degree in mathematics.

2. Obtain a bachelor's degree in mathematics

A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum educational requirement for many entry-level positions as a mathematician. A bachelor's degree in mathematics is a four-year program that helps prepare students for a career as a mathematician. In many colleges and universities, the first two years of the program cover general education to help students develop well-rounded skills and prepare for their major mathematics courses. A bachelor's degree program includes algebra, calculus, geometry, probability, statistics, set theory, and topology. This helps ensure that graduates are knowledgeable in fundamental mathematics concepts and theories.

3. Pursue a master's degree in mathematics or a related field

Many colleges and universities encourage their students to pursue an M.S. degree before entering the job market because it can give them a competitive edge. A master's degree in mathematics can enable students to get into more specific areas like pure or applied mathematics, statistics, actuarial science, and computer science. Students can also choose courses based on their interests to show depth to their field knowledge. For example, students interested in teaching mathematics can pursue courses in education to receive certification. A master's in mathematics isn't a requirement in most professions, but it can improve your career prospects significantly.

4. Attain a Ph.D. in mathematics

A doctorate in mathematics can allow students to study more complex mathematical concepts. This advanced degree can teach students the required skills to become highly qualified mathematicians. A Ph.D. is an asset for research and academic-related opportunities. The length of the program depends on the student's chosen area of specialization. A Ph.D. program also requires students to conduct research that contributes to the advancement of their field of study. If you want to teach mathematics at a college or university level, a Ph.D. is a prerequisite.

5, Get a job as a mathematician

After completing a bachelor's, master's, or Ph.D. program in mathematics, students can find employment as mathematicians. They may apply as mathematicians in private and public companies, academic institutions, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and research laboratories. Many sectors use mathematical skills, such as finance, banking, insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, health care, and technology. Some prefer to get industrial training for a specific period and then apply for or move up to a managerial position.

Related: 20 Jobs in Math to Explore

Important skills to become a mathematician

Mathematicians usually possess various skills and qualities that enable them to complete their daily tasks successfully. Some of these skills include:

Critical thinking

Mathematicians deal with complex computations and planning proofs that require strong critical thinking skills. With these skills, a mathematician may identify the information required for their work, collect relevant data, evaluate all solutions, and find a logical conclusion. Mathematicians may develop critical thinking skills during their education by encountering and solving challenging problems.

Related: Why Critical Thinking is Important in the Workplace

Communication and interpersonal skills

Mathematicians work in teams and with other scientists, engineers, researchers, and mathematicians. Communicating well with others is vital to collaborate on projects and share knowledge. With strong interpersonal skills, they can understand the views of others, work effectively as a team member, resolve conflicts if any arise, and help bridge communication gaps.

Related: How to Improve Your Skill Set and Keep Skills Current

Analytical skills

Mathematicians apply systematic methods to solve complex queries and discrepancies. Analytical skills like mathematical reasoning and computation, data analysis, and strategic thinking may help mathematicians solve difficult problems. Mathematicians may develop analytical skills while studying mathematical problems in high school and college.

Computer skills

Computer skills can improve efficiency in a mathematician's job because they can allow them to conduct research, search online search databases, and create graphs and charts using software like Excel or statistical software packages like Stata. They can also help mathematicians solve equations, plot graphs and charts, and evaluate mathematical models. A computer is a powerful tool, and mathematicians who know how to use one can solve problems faster and more efficiently.

Problem-solving

Mathematics is about approaching problems with innovative methods and logical reasoning. A mathematician may identify the problem and use the most effective techniques to provide solutions. With strong problem-solving skills, they can determine whether a solution works in a situation, derive solutions with accuracy, and communicate their findings clearly to others in a reasonable amount of time.

Quantitative reasoning

With quantitative reasoning skills, mathematicians can apply statistical methods to decide on the best course of action. They may use these skills to understand variability in data, identify trends in data sets, and make accurate decisions confidently. These skills can set them apart from professionals in other fields, as not every subject teaches quantitive reasoning the way mathematics does.

Passion for math

Mathematicians love doing mathematics, and they use these skills regularly. People with passion for their career usually work with enthusiasm, curiosity, and determination to resolve problems. Many mathematicians enjoy their work and find satisfaction in problem-solving and collaborating with others to contribute to the advancement of mathematics. A passion for mathematics can also motivate them to stay up-to-date with the latest research in their field.

Attention to detail

Mathematicians' work involves complex data, so being attentive to detail is also important. When taking notes during meetings, proofreading results before submission, and identifying errors in the work of others, attention to detail is crucial. Mathematicians with this skill may readily identify inconsistencies or contradictions, keep accurate records of their work, and follow instructions accurately.

Average salary of mathematicians

Most finance mathematicians work full-time hours. The national average salary for a mathematician is $100,968 per year. Their salary may vary depending on the company that the individual works for, their location, and their level of experience.

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