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Careers in Math

The Undergraduate Program

What can you do with a BS in mathematics?

Apart from the specialized mathematical skills that you have acquired in earning a BS in mathematics, the degree also reflects general skills that are valued by many employers. These skills include problem solving, critical thinking, analysis, facility with data, the ability to process quantitative information, and perhaps most important of all, the ability to learn new skills and concepts quickly. For this reason mathematics majors are prepared for a wide variety of careers.

You may be asked to tackle questions like:

  • A newspaper poll asks a thousand people if they approve or disapprove of casino gambling in their state. How will millions vote when the issue is on the ballot?
  • Will the new design of an airplane wing perform well if ice accumulates on it?
  • If anthrax is picked up by a sensor in a remote exterior location, what is the most likely location of the source?

You may work at a government lab such as Oak Ridge, Sandia, or Lawrence Livermore; at an engineering research organization such as AT&T, GTE, or Exxon; or at an electronics and computer manufacturing or a computer software firm. Many mathematicians are employed by financial firms like Citibank, by chemical or pharmaceutical manufacturers like Kodak and DuPont, and by aerospace and transportation manufacturers like Boeing, General Motors and Ford. A very attractive career for mathematics majors is the actuarial industry, working for life insurance companies assessing risks.

By all means do not overlook the teaching profession. There is and will continue to be a shortage of qualified and inspired teachers at the K-12 level (bachelor's degree and certification generally required), at the two-year college level (requiring a master's degree), and the the college/university level (requiring a PhD).

You should explore the many resources on the Internet and in print about careers in mathematics. Here are a few starting places:

  1. Books:
    1. Lambert, DeCotis; Great Jobs for Math Majors; The Mathematical Association Of America; 1998; ISBN 0-8442-6422-9 (under $15). Part II of this book shows the realistic options for those with an undergraduate degree in Mathematics.
    2. Sterrett; 101 Careers in Mathematics; The Mathematical Association Of America; 1996; ISBN 0-88385-704-9 (under $25)
  2. Web sites:
    1. Why Do Math? (sponsored by SIAM)
    2. University of Colorado Denver Career Center
    3. MAA Career page
    4. AMS Career Page
    5. SIAM Career Page
    6. UIC's extensive list of job resources