The Employment Outlook for Math Careers

by Brian Jenkins –

U.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsA variety of organizations and companies hire mathematicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 22% employment growth for mathematicians from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations ( The BLS reports that a person with a PhD, a strong background in mathematics and a related field (such as computer science or engineering), and the ability to apply mathematical theory to real-world problems will have the best job prospects.

The BLS forecasts that those with master’s degrees in mathematics will have very strong competition for positions in theoretical research. Additionally, because the number of PhD degrees awarded in mathematics exceeds the number of jobs available at universities, especially tenure-track positions, many graduates will have to find jobs in industry and the government.

Quantitative Finance

According to James Madison University’s Career & Academic Planning, the recent explosive growth in quantitative finance has led mathematicians and other students of all levels to wonder if a career or an advanced degree in quantitative finance is right for them. There’s an increasing demand for students with highly quantitative backgrounds in the financial field.

Sophisticated math modules and the computational methods and skills required to implement them are utilized to support investment decisions, manage risk, and develop and price new securities, as well as for portfolio selection, optimization, and management.


The BLS forecasts a 13% employment growth for statisticians from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations ( Technological advances are expected to increase the demand for statisticians. As data processing continues to become less expensive and more efficient, employers may hire statisticians to take advantage of the new information available.

People with degrees in statistics have opportunities to analyze and interpret data in the fields of biological science, economics, computer software engineering, psychology, education, and other fields.

Regarding those with master’s degrees in statistics, the BLS reports those with a strong background in an allied field such as biology, finance, computer science, or engineering should have the best prospects of obtaining a job related to their field of study.

The American Statistical Association (ASA) reports statisticians are in high demand in a wide variety of fields. The ASA reports biostatisticians with advanced degrees have excellent career opportunities in industry, government, and academia. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts biostatisticians should see good employment growth, mainly because of the growing pharmaceutical industry.

Federal Government

Many mathematicians are employed by the Federal Government, mainly in the U.S. Department of Defense. Some mathematicians employed by the Federal Government work for the National Institute of Standards and Technology or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Operations Research Analyst

The BLS forecasts a 22% employment growth for operations research analysts from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations ( Strong quantitative and computer skills are essential for these jobs. Employers prefer to hire people who have completed advanced math courses. Employers also seek candidates who know how to use advanced operations research software and statistical packages.

Software Engineers

The U.S. News & World Report, in its The Best 25 Jobs of 2012, lists software developer as the #2 best job ( Some software engineers have a degree in mathematics. The BLS forecasts a 21 percent employment growth for software engineers and computer programmers from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations (

Employers who utilize computers for scientific or engineering applications typically prefer college graduates with degrees in computer science, information science, mathematics, engineering, or the physical sciences.


Cryptographers are specialists in cyber security. They may identify issues that make software vulnerable to hacking, and then they help design solutions, including inscription, to prevent hacking. The BLS reports many cryptographers have formal training in mathematics or applied mathematics. Typically, crypto analysts are involved in the research and development of new mathematical concepts and methodologies.

Cryptology professionals need to be gifted in mathematical concepts and statistical analysis and have a strong background in technology. Data encryption and security is a large and growing field. Crypto professionals also work in the field of digital forensics.

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