When I tell people I am in grad school for math, I often get the question, “Do you want to teach?” This is a pretty reasonable response, as a lot of people do go to grad school hoping to become professors and split their careers between teaching and research—probably many of you are in school for just this reason. However, I am a master’s student, so I would have to finish my current degree program and start looking into getting a PhD before that was really a consideration. I could likely get a job as a community college instructor or perhaps as a teacher at a private school, but as I am not a math ed major, I wouldn’t be able to teach public school unless I pursued teaching certification. So what am I going to do with this degree?
Well, there are actually a lot of other things you can do with a degree in math. The government, particularly through the NSA, hires a lot of mathematicians. Corporations do as well. It’s also fairly common for people with degrees in math to get hired as computer programmers—even if programming isn’t your main area of expertise, many companies are willing to train you because they recognize that your proficiency in higher math shows you have an aptitude for abstract logic. While it may not be directly related to your degree, business is another field where people with math degrees often find jobs; again, the ability to think logically is a valuable commodity. When I was an undergrad, our math department even had a talk from an alum who had worked for NASA during the Apollo 11 moon mission. The possibilities are endless!
Do you have any unusual or exciting stories about what you did or are planning to do with your degree? If so, feel free to share them in the comments!