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Mathematicians - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
The majority of those with a master's degree in mathematics who work in private industry do so not as mathematicians but in related fields, such as computer science, where they have titles such as computer programmer, systems analyst, or systems engineer. In these occupations, workers can advance to management positions.

Mathematicians held about 2,900 jobs in 2008. Many people with mathematical backgrounds also worked in other occupations. For example, there were about 54,800 jobs for postsecondary mathematical science teachers in 2008.

Many mathematicians work for the Federal Government, primarily in the U.S. Department of Defense which accounts for about 81 percent of the mathematicians employed by the Federal Government. Many of the other mathematicians employed by the Federal Government work for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

In the private sector, major employers include scientific research and development services and management, scientific, and technical consulting services. Some mathematicians also work for insurance carriers.

Job Outlook
Employment of mathematicians is expected to grow much faster than average. However, keen competition for jobs is expected.

Job Growth
Employment of mathematicians is expected to increase by 22 percent during the 2008–18 decade, which is much faster than average for all occupations. Advancements in technology usually lead to expanding applications of mathematics, and more workers with knowledge of mathematics will be required in the future. However, jobs in industry and government often require advanced knowledge of related scientific disciplines in addition to mathematics. The most common fields in which mathematicians study and find work are computer science and software development, physics, engineering, and operations research. Many mathematicians also are involved in financial analysis and in life sciences research.

Job competition will remain keen because employment in this occupation is relatively small and few new jobs are expected. Ph.D. holders with a strong background in mathematics and a related discipline, such as engineering or computer science, and who apply mathematical theory to real-world problems will have the best job prospects in related occupations. In addition, mathematicians with experience in computer programming will better their job prospects in many occupations.

Holders of a master's degree in mathematics will face very strong competition for jobs in theoretical research. Because the number of Ph.D. degrees awarded in mathematics continues to exceed the number of available university positions—especially tenure-track positions—many graduates will need to find employment in industry and government.

Employment in theoretical mathematical research is sensitive to general economic fluctuations and to changes in government spending. Job prospects will be greatly influenced by changes in public and private funding for research and development.

Median annual wages of mathematicians were $95,150 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $71,430 and $119,480. The lowest 10 percent had earnings of less than $53,570, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $140,500.

In March 2009, the average annual salary in the Federal Government was $107,051 for mathematicians; $107,015 for mathematical statisticians; and $101,645 for cryptanalysts.

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