If you enjoy solving problems and working through step-by-step procedures, math is probably a good fit for you. Most people with strong critical thinking and logic skills enjoy math, and this discipline can offer a diverse range of career options. Many math careers offer high salaries; data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the 2021 median annual salary for mathematicians was $108,100.
Most jobs require some math skills, such as arithmetic and basic algebra. These are also abilities most people use in their daily lives. But if you enjoy math and want to specialize in this field, you can pursue a degree and career in math.
What Life Skills Do You Need for a Career in Math?
If you want a career in math, you will probably need to earn a degree in math or a related subject. To succeed as a math major, you need certain skills, starting with a strong grasp of numbers, arithmetic, and algebra.
Beyond that, math requires excellent problem-solving skills, including the ability to take a given situation and convert the key data into a relevant math expression or equation. Creativity and critical thinking are also important for math majors, as both of these skills make problem-solving easier. Finally, a mathematician needs good written and spoken communication skills. It’s especially vital to be able to explain complex math concepts to non-mathematicians.
The Top 5 Highest Paying Math Careers:
There are many math careers that offer high salaries, even in entry-level roles that only require a bachelor’s degree. Here are some of the highest-paying jobs for math majors.
- Projected high range salary: $193,690/year
- Schools that offer majors: Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Princeton
- Other essential skills: Critical thinking, data analysis, speaking/presentation, writing/reporting
Economists are highly specialized experts who work with data related to goods, services, finances, resources, and economic issues. They often collect and organize data and then analyze it to discover trends, evaluate problems, and make predictions of future behavior. When an economist writes a report, they must determine how best to visualize or display the data and their findings to the intended audience. Economists may find jobs in the private sector or in state or federal government agencies.
The math involved in economics is highly analytical in nature. If you want to be an economist, you should enjoy working with data sets and math problems that require this sort of approach. It’s also important to know how to read and interpret financial reports and other money-related information.
In most cases, you’ll need a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in economics to become an economist. However, some entry-level jobs in this field (especially those in the government) accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree. High-level jobs may require a post-graduate degree and work experience. Most economists work with specialized computer programs, so students may need to learn to use statistical analysis software.
- Projected high range salary: $206,820/year
- Schools that offer majors: University of Pennsylvania, University of California – Los Angeles, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, University of Connecticut
- Other essential skills: statistical analysis, data analysis, computer programming, problem-solving, written and spoken communication
Most actuaries work for insurance providers, but they can also find jobs in banks, investment firms, and credit unions. An actuary’s job is to analyze data using statistical models and other research to evaluate risk and set insurance rates. An insurance company or financial institution relies on actuaries to protect its bottom line by avoiding clients who present a high level of risk.
An actuary must have a strong understanding of statistics so they can analyze complex sets of data. The job requires a lot of “number crunching” calculations, so it’s important to enjoy that type of work if you want to be an actuary.
To become an actuary, you need a bachelor’s degree in math, statistics, actuarial science, or a similar field, such as economics. There are two certifying organizations for actuaries, and both of them offer two levels of certification: associate and fellow. Many actuaries start out as trainees who work under the supervision of a certified actuary while preparing for their certification exams.
- Projected high range salary: $241,000/year
- Schools that offer majors: MIT, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Webb Institute, Stevens Institute of Technology
- Other essential skills: chemistry, physics, drafting, engineering, creative problem-solving, critical thinking, computer-aided design, fluid mechanics
A marine architect is also known as a naval architect, and this occupation is closely related to marine engineering. Marine architects design, build, and maintain ships and other marine vessels. They may work on aircraft carriers, tankers, sailboats, cruise ships, and submarines.
A naval architect must have a thorough understanding of math, physics, statics, thermodynamics, and architecture. They’re responsible for all the elements of a ship's design and must ensure that the vessel meets requirements for form, stability, and propulsion. Marine architects also design the interior layout of ships, from passenger spaces and machine rooms to cargo areas.
To become a marine architect, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in naval architecture or a related field, such as marine engineering. If you graduate from a state maritime academy, you can take the U.S. Coast Guard’s licensure exam. Another option for maritime engineers is to pursue a Professional Engineering license.
- Projected high range salary: $163,640/year
- Schools that offer majors: University of Pennsylvania, New York University, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MIT
- Other essential skills: business, data analysis, finance, decision-making, computer financial software, communication, and presentation
An investment analyst is a financial analyst who specializes in investment topics, such as venture capital, securities, hedge funds, and real property. They collect and study financial data in order to guide clients in their financial decisions.
Financial analysts can work for individual clients or for large businesses and financial firms. They study economic trends, financial statements, and other current and historical data to identify good investments and estimate the performance of stocks, bonds, and other assets.
To get started as an investment analyst, you’ll need at least an undergraduate math degree or a bachelor’s degree in economics, finance, or a relevant field such as business. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master’s degree and/or a credential such as a Chartered Financial Analyst certification. If your investment analyst position involves selling financial products, your employer may sponsor you to complete the licensure requirements of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
- Projected high range salary: $195,000/year
- Schools that offer majors: MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, University of California – Berkeley
- Other essential skills: computer operating systems, source code programming (e.g., C++, Python, Java, etc.), discrete mathematics, linear or matrix algebra, data structures, number theory
Traditionally, cryptography centered on code-making and -breaking in the service of intelligence agencies and the military. While you can still pursue this type of cryptography job, the highest-paying positions are in the data security and cryptocurrency industries.
Cryptography is about encrypting and decrypting data. With the amount of financial and other sensitive data transmitted by computers, cryptographers are in high demand by private sector companies and government agencies. Cryptography is an essential part of cybersecurity and information assurance.
Cryptographers need excellent analytical skills, as the job centers on data analysis. However, critical thinking and creativity are also essential to develop new algorithms and solve problems. To become a cryptographer, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in math, computer science, or a similar subject like information technology. Continuing education is essential, as the cryptography field evolves rapidly. You can also earn an EC-Council Certified Encryption Specialist credential.
Get Ahead with Learner!
Every level of mathematics builds upon the previous one. Success in high-level courses like statistics and calculus requires mastery of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. If you aren’t confident with some of the concepts or problem-solving techniques in your current math classes, it’s vital to focus on those areas before moving on to the next class.
One of the best ways to deepen your knowledge of mathematical theory is by working one-on-one with a private tutor. Learner tutors are math experts who are also outstanding educators. Tutoring sessions give you the chance to ask any questions you have and work at your own pace to master the material so you’re ready to succeed in high school, college, and your career.
Connect Your Student with Our World-Class Tutors
Learner tutors are exceptional educators who specialize in helping students build confidence in their math skills. Every tutor has years of experience teaching students and giving them the foundation they need to enjoy math and succeed in school and beyond. We also offer test prep tutoring services for those studying for the SAT and ACT.
Alan has a bachelor’s degree and is pursuing a Ph.D. in economics after earning his master’s degree. He has worked with students of all ages, from elementary school through college. Alan believes everyone can learn math, and he focuses on finding the ideal teaching method for each of his students.
A Princeton graduate with nearly 2 decades of tutoring experience, Stephanie can help students with anything from pre-algebra to AP calculus to physics. She fosters a collaborative relationship with each student to help them build confidence. Stephanie is also one of our ELA tutors, and she can help students master their writing and reading comprehension skills.
Linda is a community college math professor and an experienced tutor with over 20 years of experience. She uses multiple teaching techniques and engaging sample problems to help students of all learning styles boost their knowledge and practical skills.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still trying to figure out the right math career to pursue? Read on for expert answers to commonly asked questions.
What jobs do most math majors get?
Math majors can qualify for a wide range of high-paying jobs, especially if they also study engineering or computer science. Some of the most common math careers are actuary, statistician, research analyst, teacher, and mathematician.
Is a math Ph.D. worth it?
It depends on what you want to do with your math degree. A doctoral degree in math doesn’t always correlate to a high-paying math career. However, it is a requirement if you want to be a math professor.
Are mathematicians in demand?
Yes. The BLS predicts employment growth of 33 percent for mathematicians between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
Does NASA hire mathematicians?
Yes, NASA and other aerospace organizations frequently hire mathematicians. NASA also looks for candidates with degrees in aerospace engineering, physics, electrical engineering, computer science, astronomy, and mechanical engineering.
How can you improve your math skills?
While some people are naturally inclined toward math due to genetics, most people can improve their math skills simply by practicing critical thinking, logic, and problem-solving skills. Math tutors can help students deepen their knowledge and hone key math skills.