how to become a mathematician

What does a Mathematician do?

A mathematician leverages mathematical and statistical methodologies to analyze data, addressing practical challenges across various sectors such as business, engineering, healthcare, and beyond. Collaboration with interdisciplinary teams is common, enabling the interpretation of numerical data to make informed projections and decisions, guided by mathematical and statistical insights.

Watch a video to learn what a mathematician does:

How to Become a Mathematician

Mathematician requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, while most employers and private industries often want individuals with an advanced degree like a master’s or doctorate. Degree programs usually consist of courses in calculus, abstract algebra, linear or differential equations, statistics, and data analysis. You may also be required to take classes in related fields such as engineering, physics, or computer science.

Becoming a mathematician requires you to love numbers, computations, and problem-solving. Your time can vary pending on your chosen college path; advanced mathematics degrees can take up 6-8 years. However, it’s generally four years of full-time undergraduate courses and an additional 2-6 years for a masters and doctorate. You must also maintain knowledge of current trends by attending professional conferences, reading professional journals, and talking with other mathematicians.

Also, there are many mathematics associations that one can join. The American Mathematical Society (AMS) is an association of professionals focused on mathematical research and scholarships. They serve their communities through publications, meetings, advocacy, and have several resources for students wanting to enter this career field. Another one is the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), which offers student chapters, resources, rewards, and fellowships. Lastly, there is a national honor society called the Mu Alpha Theta for high school and two-year college students and a National Mathematics Museum, MoMath, located in New York. Even if you cannot visit it, you must check out their website.

These are 13 steps you can take to becoming and growing as a mathematician:

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Begin your journey by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or a related field. This provides the foundational knowledge and skills essential for a mathematician’s career.
  2. Specialize and Explore Interests: During your undergraduate studies, identify specific areas of mathematics that pique your interest, such as algebra, statistics, or applied mathematics. This helps you focus your future studies.
  3. Pursue a Master’s or Ph.D.: To advance in the field, consider pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. in mathematics. A Ph.D. is often required for research-based roles and academia.
  4. Research and Publish: Engage in research projects, contribute to mathematical journals, and publish your findings. This builds your credibility and expertise within the mathematical community.
  5. Networking: Establish connections with fellow mathematicians, professors, and professionals in your chosen field. Networking can lead to collaboration opportunities and job prospects.
  6. Gain Teaching Experience: If interested in academia, gain teaching experience as a teaching assistant or lecturer. It’s a crucial step if you aspire to become a professor.
  7. Apply for Jobs: Start applying for mathematician positions in academia, research institutions, government agencies, or private companies. Customize your resume and cover letter for each application.
  8. Continuous Learning: Mathematics is a continually evolving field. Stay updated with the latest research and technologies to remain competitive in your career.
  9. Join Professional Organizations: Become a member of mathematical associations like the American Mathematical Society (AMS) to access resources, conferences, and networking opportunities.
  10. Excel in Problem Solving: As a mathematician, your problem-solving skills are paramount. Continuously hone these skills through real-world challenges and puzzles.
  11. Seek Mentorship: Find a mentor who can provide guidance and support throughout your career journey.
  12. Publish and Present: Continue to publish your research and present your findings at conferences to showcase your expertise.
  13. Contribute to the Community: Give back to the mathematical community by mentoring aspiring mathematicians and participating in outreach programs.

By following these steps, you can embark on a fulfilling career as a mathematician, contributing to advancements in mathematics and its applications.

Benefits of being a Mathematician

Embracing a passion for their work is a cornerstone of the mathematician’s journey, where they get to immerse themselves in the world of math every day! But the advantages of this profession extend far beyond their love for numbers. Mathematicians have the flexibility to apply their skills across a multitude of industries that form the backbone of our economy, spanning technology, business, physical sciences, and countless other sectors. Imagine the thrill of contributing to space exploration with a role at NASA, for example!

One of the standout benefits of being a mathematician is the continuous enhancement of analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. These invaluable skills not only fuel personal growth but also open doors to career advancement opportunities. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is another perk in the life of mathematicians. With regular working hours, they can relish quality time with family and friends, nurturing their personal lives alongside their professional pursuits.

Moreover, mathematicians enjoy collaborating with diverse teams of professionals in nurturing and stimulating work environments. This collaborative spirit not only fosters a sense of camaraderie but also fuels innovation and creativity. So, the life of a mathematician isn’t just about numbers; it’s a gateway to endless possibilities and a well-rounded, fulfilling career

Job Description of a Mathematician

Mathematician duties may vary depending on their field of work. However, they typically develop new mathematical theories, concepts, and rules in areas like geometry and algebra. They use these theories to solve problems in the sciences, business, and engineering fields, working closely with staff in the related industries. They do this by collecting data, looking for trends/relationships, determine validity, sampling error, and concluding, Sometimes they may use or even create software to analyze data more accurately and efficiently. They often use mathematical models and formulas to prove or disprove theories and present written reports, tables, charts, and graphs on their drawn conclusions. A mathematician always uses data analysis to support and improve business decisions.

Most mathematicians work full time and often due to deadlines, and last-minute requests may require overtime. Besides, they travel to attend seminars and conferences when presenting their findings. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mathematicians work primarily in an office building. Over half mathematicians work for the federal government, and most all others work for educational institutes or
management, scientific, and technical consulting services.

BLS states that the employment of mathematicians is projected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average. However, those entering the field should know that digitally stored data will increase over the next decade. A lot of companies are conducting business online and use social media, smartphones, and other mobile devices. As a result, companies will seek mathematicians to analyze the large amount of digital information and data collected, so technology skills are a must!

Mathematician Career Video Transcript

If you enjoy solving puzzles and have a good head for numbers, you might be interested in a career as a mathematician. These workers use equations to solve both academic and real-life problems. Theoretical mathematicians use equations to develop new rules, disprove existing mathematical theories, or create new ones. They may develop methods to solve problems emerging from the science and engineering fields. They often work for research firms or teach math and conduct research at colleges and universities.

Applied mathematicians address an almost endless variety of problems, from making aircraft more aerodynamic, to programming models for a video game, to designing and deciphering encryption systems for the military and financial industries. Applied mathematicians working in industry and government, dealing with robotics, pharmaceuticals, space exploration, and more! Despite the differences between applied and theoretical mathematics, these areas often overlap. Many mathematicians, particularly those in government or private industry, use both applied and theoretical knowledge in their job duties.

Mathematicians, however, are a relatively small occupation. Most people with a degree in mathematics or who develop mathematical theories and models work in related fields and professions, such as information technology. Some become math teachers in a middle school or high school. This typically requires a math degree and a teaching credential. Government jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in math. For private industry jobs, a master’s degree or usually expected, and in academia, a Ph.D. is needed. So, is this challenging career in a fast-growing field the right choice for you? You do the math.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mathematicians and Statisticians.

National Center for O*NET Development. 15-2021.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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