Jobs in Math

A student wrote to me: “I like mathematics but my friends told me that there is no future in mathematics as there is no job for people with a math degree. Is it true or not? Where can I find job with a bachelor's degree in math and who is hiring? Please advice.”

Answer: Your friends are wrong. A degree in mathematics can lead to a several careers such as actuary or statisticians, and both of these jobs are in high demand.

Actuaries help companies to assess the risk of certain events occurring and to formulate policies that minimize the cost of that risk. For this reason, actuaries are essential to the insurance industry. Actuaries assemble and analyze data to estimate the probability and cost of the occurrence of an event such as death, sickness, injury, disability, or loss of property. Actuaries also address financial questions and the way in which a company should invest to maximize its return on investments. Most actuaries are employed in the insurance industry, specializing in life and health insurance or property and casualty insurance. They produce probability tables which determine the potential future event that generates a claim. From these tables, they estimate the amount a company can expect to pay in claims. For example, property and casualty actuaries calculate the expected amount payable in claims resulting from automobile accidents, an amount that varies with the insured person’s age, driving history, type of car, and other factors. Actuaries ensure that the price, charged for such insurance will enable the company to cover claims and other expenses. Actuaries help determine corporate policy on risk and help explain complex matters to company executives, government officials, policyholders, or the general public.

Statisticians apply their math skills to the design of experiments, collect, process, analyze data and interpret the results. Statisticians work in a variety of subject areas, such as biology, economics, engineering, medicine, health, marketing, and education. Many experiments cannot be made without statistical techniques. Most statisticians work for government to collect data for economic modeling, social policies as well as planning. Many statisticians work for private businesses, such as pharmaceutical and insurance companies to calculate experiments accuracy, or identify the risks of insuring different situations. In business and industry, statisticians play an important role in quality control and in product development. For example, in automobile company statisticians might design experiments to determine the failure time of engines exposed to extreme weather conditions by running the engine until it fail and breakdown. In pharmaceutical company, statisticians might develop and evaluate the results of drugs experiments to determine the safety and effectiveness of new medications. In Software Company, statisticians might help construct new statistical software packages to analyze data more accurately and efficiently. In addition to product development and testing, some statisticians also are involved in deciding what products to manufacture that will give company the most profitable. In insurance company, Statisticians also manage assets and liabilities, determining the risks of certain investments.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of actuaries is about $80,000 per year (2012 data) and the average salary of statisticians is about $73,000 per year (2012 data). Of course, each country may have different wages and needs as it varies from country to country but overall, statistician is in a high demand in most developed countries as fewer students are studying math today. Although job opportunities exist for graduates with a bachelor’s degree, a majority of statisticians have a master’s degree in statistics or mathematics as it usually requires more advanced math for the jobs.

Prof. Vu


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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