Careers in Mathematical Sciences

One of the benefits of studying mathematics is the variety of career paths it provides. A 2009 study showed that the top three best jobs in terms of income and other factors were careers suited for math majors. Another recent survey shows that the top 15 highest-earning college degrees have a common element: mathematics.

Some Popular Career Choices:

Actuarial Science
Computer Science: See personal profile below.
Operations Research

How do I get there?

Below is a sampling of degree programs. Contact information for advisor below.

  • Mathematical/Computational Science Disciplines
  • Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
  • Statistical and Actuarial Sciences
  • Computational Mathematics/Science
  • Operations Research
  • Computer Science
  • Computer and information Sciences
  • Financial Mathematics
  • Bioinformatics/Computational Biology
  • Applied and Experimental Sciences

Other Academic Disciplines

  • Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
  • Atmospherics, Space, and Planetary Science
  • Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Biotechnologies
  • Biostatistics
  • Business and Management Sciences
  • Cell Biology, Biophysics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Genetics
  • Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Epidemiology and Public Health
  • Financial Engineering
  • Geosciences /Geology
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Materials Science
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Neuroscience
  • Nuclear Science and Engineering
  • Petroleum Engineering
  • Physics and Mathematical Physics
  • Software Engineering
  • Systems Engineering
  • Theoretical and Applied Mechanics

Profile from a Professional

Making a video game is an odd mixture of science and art, and you never know what problem you'll be asked to solve next. That sort of challenge is exactly why I love my job as the Program Manager for Project Gotham Racing at the Microsoft Games Studios.
The best word to describe my career path is probably ‘accidental'. I didn't have a major picked out until my junior year in college. I dumped way too much money into arcade games back then, but it didn't occur to me that you could get an actual job working on games. I knew I wanted to work on fun, challenging projects with smart people, but that's about it. My first job was as a technical writer responsible for documenting operating systems' API sets, so I described how OS function calls worked and wrote sample code that exercised those functions. After several years of this, I realized I wanted to be closer to the nose end of the dog, rather than the tail, so I moved into Program Management to be part of the design and development process. I was in the right place (Microsoft) at the right time (mid-90's) with the right skills (technology background, project design and management experience) and interests (sports) when Microsoft decided to get into the entertainment software business.
As a Program Manager, it is my responsibility to drive the creation and maintenance of a game's vision, feature set, and schedules, as well as deliverables and trade-offs from project inception through launch. This includes coordinating the work of functional leads and team members from Game Design, Development, Art, Audio, Testing, Product Support, User Experience, Localization, Business Development, and Marketing.
My mathematics background is instrumental for me in two ways. First, I have a strong understanding of the higher-level mathematics required to provide realistic physics and next-generation 3-D graphics in today's games. This enables me to work effectively with the programmers and artists responsible for these features, anticipating and understanding their challenges. Second, the problem-solving skills I learned while studying mathematics and as a programmer are absolutely invaluable.
Much of my ability to break complex issues into solvable pieces, find creative solutions, and execute methodically, I credit to my mathematical education.
There are possibilities of advancement for someone in my position. One can climb the corporate ladder to achieve positions such as Group Program Manager, Studio Manager, General Manager, etc. However, I prefer to focus on a single game and work with a dedicated team to make a creative vision come to life. This also enables me to have a vibrant life outside of work, which is more difficult to do the higher you climb in management. My dream is to explore more fully the concept of making games for wider audiences. The hardcore gamer audience of 16-26-year-old males has plenty of games for them, so I'm pushing for entertainment experiences designed for older people, for women, and for anyone who doesn't currently play games, which is still the majority of the population.
I have people ask me what the most enjoyable aspects of my job are. Personally, I thrive on bringing order to chaos, and that definitely describes the process of creating a game. It's also very gratifying to see people have a good time playing your finished game. And, when people ask me what I do for a living, I love to see their eyes light up when I say “I make video games!” I never got that reaction when my answer was “I write technical reference guides for programmers!”

- Kathie Flood, Program Manager, Microsoft Games Studios

Want to know more?

Learn more about careers in mathematics; get tips on how to succeed in math, and read about math in real life at some of the websites listed below.

When Will I Use Math?
A site developed by math majors at Brigham Young.

Art of Problem Solving
Includes forums, free online classes, games, and resources for the young mathematician.

The Math Forum @ Drexel
A Leading online resource for improving math learning, teaching, and communication, includes forums, problems, puzzles, and other resources for mathematicians, teachers, researchers, students, and parents.

Sloan Career Cornerstone Series
SIAM, MAA, and AMS contributed resources to the Alfred Pl Sloan Foundation to develop the pages of this site on how business, industry, and government use mathematical expertise.

MAA Math Classifieds
Developed for you to explore a job search

American Mathematical Society
Undergraduate Students: Find further career resources, clubs, conferences, and job opportunities by exploring the Undergraduate Student page.
High School Students: Have you considered a challenging summer math camp to explore the world of mathematical research along with other gifted high school students from around the country? There are also competitions and contests featuring math problems for students from around the country or around the world. Need help with homework or self-study? Find a variety of resources on the high school student page.

Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
A guide that will help you find answers to many of your questions about careers in applied mathematics and computational science.

Bureau of Labor Statistics
A link from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that provides information on what workers do; working conditions; education, training, and other qualifications; pay; job outlook; similar occupations; and sources of additional information, for occupational profiles.

Books / Magazines

  • 101 Careers in Mathematics, Second Edition; Andrew Sterrett, Editor; Mathematical Association of America, 2003
  • A Mathematician’s Survaval Guide: Graduate School and Early Career Development, Steven G. Krantz; American Mathematical Society, 2003
  • Great Jobs for Math Majors, second Edition; Stephen Lambert & Ruth DeCotis; McGraw-Hill, 2005
  • Careers for Number Crunchers & other Quantitative Types,Second Edition; Rebecca Burnett; McGraw-Hill, 2002
  • She Does Math: Real-Life Problems from Women on the Job, Marla Parker, Editor; Mathematical Association of America, 1995

MATH in the MEDIA, a monthly magazine from the American Mathematical Society.

FOCUS, the news magazine of the MAA, has published several articles on jobs for both undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Some of What Mathematicians Do, by Martin H. Krieger, Notices of the AMS, November 2004, page 1226


Dr Stephen Brady at 316-978-3966 if you are interested in a career that uses your mathematical talent.