Master’s Degree in Mathematics: Choosing the Perfect Path

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master's degree in mathematics

A master’s degree in mathematics could provide a strong foundation for a variety of career opportunities in diverse settings. Whether you want to work in academia, conduct research, or apply your mathematical knowledge to help businesses solve complex problems, you might find a master’s degree in mathematics to be an important asset in your professional toolkit. The challenge is choosing a path that aligns with your interests, strengths, and goals.

In this article we explore the various career options available to master’s degree holders in mathematics and provide strategies that could help you navigate your career choices. We also discuss the importance of gaining relevant experience and provide job search and professional development resources.

Career Options for Master’s Degree Holders in Mathematics

Academic Careers

Academic careers in mathematics typically involve teaching.

Mathematical science teacher, postsecondary

College mathematical science professors are responsible for instructing students on foundational mathematics, such as calculus and linear algebra. They also teach more advanced topics, including:

  • Probability theory
  • Numerical analysis
  • Algebraic geometry
  • Modeling
  • Number theory
  • Statistics
  • Differential equations
  • Topology
  • Computational mathematics
  • Mathematical finance
  • Graph theory

College math science professors develop an instructional plan (syllabus), plan lessons and assignments, and evaluate student progress. They may also focus on the development of new models and theories or conduct research to further enhance their discipline.

Postsecondary instruction as a whole is expected to grow much faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Annual median salary (BLS): $90,110

High school math teacher

High school math teachers instruct students in mathematical concepts and help them develop mathematical skills. They may teach classes in different subject areas within mathematics, such as algebra, calculus, and/or geometry.

Their responsibilities include planning lessons, teaching classes, and developing and grading assignments. They may meet with other teachers and staff as well as parents.

Annual median salary (BLS): $62,360

Research Careers

Research careers involve generating data through testing and then analyzing that data to gain new understanding.


Industries that benefit from data analysis, including education, government, healthcare, and research and development, employ statisticians to collect, organize, interpret, and summarize numerical data in order to draw meaningful insights. These insights may then be used to inform decision-making processes, enabling organizations to make informed decisions based on evidence rather than guesswork.

Statisticians leverage sophisticated computer software and algorithms to detect patterns, trends, and correlations between data points. This helps them develop predictive models that could be used to forecast outcomes or create solutions for real-world problems.

They might specialize in fields such as biostatistics, agricultural statistics, business statistics, or economic statistics.

This profession is expected to grow much faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Annual median salary (BLS): $98,920


Mathematicians conduct research and use computational techniques, mathematical theory, and algorithms to solve problems. They design experiments to collect data and use mathematical models to analyze the data.

Some mathematicians work in scientific, engineering, or business fields. Their work in these areas focuses more on practical applications. For example, they might help design experiments to see how airplane engines perform in extreme weather conditions. Or they might conduct tests to determine the efficacy of different drugs in treating medical conditions.

Others work in academia. They study theoretical or abstract concepts and work to advance the field of mathematics.

Annual median salary (BLS): $112,110

Industry Careers

Industry careers typically require the application of mathematical models and algorithms to solve problems in areas such as engineering, computer science, natural sciences, data analysis, and operations research.


Actuaries use mathematical and statistical methods to assess the risks associated with various events, such as death, illness, accidents, and natural disasters. They analyze data and develop strategies that help businesses and clients minimize financial losses resulting from these risks.

Actuaries’ work is essential to the insurance industry as they play a major role in setting premiums, evaluating investments, and recommending policy changes. They are also responsible for ensuring that insurance companies remain financially sound by calculating the reserves needed to cover future claims and losses.

This profession is expected to grow much faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Annual median salary (BLS): $113,990

Operations Research Analyst

Operations research analysts use analytical and quantitative methods to provide decision-makers with data that could inform their decisions. They employ an array of mathematical models, such as linear programming, network analysis, and queueing theory, to analyze complex problems.

In addition to developing models designed for optimizing operations within an organization or industry, operations research analysts also provide insights into the impact of anticipated changes. By gathering and analyzing data, they could help organizations forecast future events and assess the risks associated with decisions they make. In this way, operations research analysts are a valuable asset to any organization looking to optimize their operations.

Finally, operations research analysts must be able to effectively communicate their findings and recommendations in a clear and concise manner. They need to be able to explain the implications of their analysis for decision-makers, enabling them to make more informed decisions that could benefit their organization. By leveraging their skills and knowledge, operations research analysts provide invaluable insight into how organizations make decisions and optimize operations.

This profession is expected to grow much faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Annual median salary (BLS): $85,720

Data Scientist

Data scientists use a variety of methods to explore data and uncover meaningful insights. These might include statistical analysis, data visualization, machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and other artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. Through these methods, they are able to identify patterns, trends, anomalies, correlations, or relationships within large amounts of complex data and communicate their findings in a meaningful way.

Data scientists must have a deep understanding of the data and be able to interpret the results accurately, as well as develop effective strategies for collecting, cleaning, and transforming data into useful information. They should also understand how different methods might be used together to create more accurate models. Finally, they need to be able to communicate their results in a clear and concise manner to stakeholders, who could then make informed decisions based on the data-driven insights.

This profession is expected to grow much faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Annual median salary (BLS): $103,500

Finance Careers

Finance careers may be well suited for those interested in using their quantitative skills for analyzing financial markets and investments.

Financial analysts use their knowledge to identify potential investment opportunities and provide sound advice for their clients. They analyze financial statements, research market trends and economic conditions, assess risk levels, develop portfolio strategies, prepare reports, and recommend investments. Financial analysts must stay up-to-date on the latest developments in their industry to ensure they are providing accurate information to their clients.

Financial analysts also interpret complex data to make informed decisions. They need to possess excellent communication skills in order to explain the implications of their research and analysis in a clear and concise manner.

This profession is expected to grow faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Annual median salary (BLS): $96,220

Personal Financial Advisor

Personal financial advisors help individuals make important decisions about their money. They assess the individual’s financial needs, such as budgeting for education expenses and saving for retirement, and provide advice on investing in stocks, bonds, and other instruments. Advisors recommend investments based on the client’s goals and risk tolerance, from short-term investments to long-term retirement plans. They also offer advice on tax strategies and help clients select appropriate insurance policies that suit their individual needs.

Once a client’s financial strategy has been put into action, financial advisors monitor their clients’ accounts and modify them as needed to adapt to current market conditions or changes in lifestyle or goals. These professionals typically meet with clients yearly to discuss the performance of their financial portfolio and make further recommendations.

This profession is expected to grow faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Annual median salary (BLS): $95,390

Financial Risk Specialist

Financial risk specialists are tasked with understanding and mitigating the risks associated with various financial decisions. They use a variety of analytical tools to analyze investment data, such as historical pricing trends and forecasting models, to help them identify potential risks that could impact investments and develop strategies to reduce or avoid them.

These professionals monitor markets for changes in conditions that may require adjustments in the strategies they put in place. By taking into account the complexities of financial markets, they help to ensure that their clients are making informed decisions that minimize risks and maximize potential rewards.

This profession is expected to grow faster than average between 2022 and 2032.

Annual median salary (BLS): $78,180

career options with a master's degree in mathematics

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Career Path

You may have had a specific career goal in mind when you chose your mathematics master’s program—many such programs are fairly specific with limited career outcomes. However, others are more general and could give you a wider range of career opportunities. So, where do you start in choosing a career?

Personal Strengths and Interests

If you’ve come this far in your mathematics education, it may make sense to presume that you possess strong math skills—and careers in math obviously require such skills. However, there are differences in some of the other types of skills required by various math occupations.

For example, some professions, such as personal financial advisor or teacher, are primarily “people-facing.” Those professions place emphasis on interpersonal and speaking skills. Although computer use may be integral to many types of occupations, some, such as actuary, financial analyst, and data scientist, typically require higher-level skills and involve regular work with computers. Problem-solving skills may be essential in research oriented positions, such as mathematicians or statisticians, but not as important for financial advisors or actuaries. Consider your strengths and explore careers that emphasize them.

Next, consider your personal interests and preferences:

  • What specific areas of math are you passionate about—statistics, finance, research?
  • Do you prefer an academic, business, or government setting?
  • Are you a computer junkie?
  • Do like working with people as an advisor or teacher?
  • Are you interested in investing and the stock market?
  • Are there certain general industries that interest you—for example, healthcare, education, aeronautics, engineering?
  • What types of people do you like to be around—intellectual, techie, business-minded?

Remember, there are many facets to a career. Zeroing on one that’s perfect for you may involve more than just reading a job description.

Job outlook, work-life balance, and compensation

The logistics of your life might also help you narrow down your career options.

Many jobs in mathematics are growing faster than average. But if you are interested in one that isn’t, or one for which there aren’t many openings, landing a job might take more time or involve a geographical move. Could you accommodate these possible scenarios?

Work-life balance refers to being able to equally prioritize the demands of your career and the demands of your personal life. Careers vary with regard to time investment and stress. Are you able to work long or irregular hours? Do you have issues dealing with stress, or do you tend to carry it over to your personal life? Many people take on careers without considering these issues and struggle to balance their work and personal lives.

Finally, while it would be nice to think that compensation isn’t important, the fact is that different lifestyles may have different monetary requirements. If you are raising a family, live in an expensive area, or have expensive hobbies or tastes, you could set yourself up for financial disaster if you don’t ensure that the career you choose could meet your monetary needs.

The Importance of Gaining Relevant Experience

Having relevant experience may be a factor that employers take into consideration when screening job candidates—and could tip the balance in your favor if more than one candidate is being considered. Relevant experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you previously worked in the exact same role; rather, it means you’ve gained experience in developing the skills and knowledge you may need to succeed in a particular career. Relevant experience could come in a variety of forms: part- or full-time jobs, internships, volunteer work, or extracurricular activities.

Your previous career-related experiences may not only be helpful for employers—they may be helpful for you. These experiences could provide a reality check to help you determine what you want or don’t want in a career.

Resources for career exploration and professional development

Professional associations and organizations

Professional associations are a group of people who come together based on some type of shared commonality, such as being part of the same field or industry. Joining such an association could provide you with the opportunity to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your field, gain access to resources and experts within the industry, network with peers, and enhance your job search efforts.

American Educational Research Association (AERA)
Provides news and resources in educational research.

American Mathematical Society (AMS)
Dedicated to advancing research and connecting the mathematics community.

American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
An advocate for excellence in engineering instruction, research, public service, and practice.

American Statistical Association (ASA)
Supports the development, application, and dissemination of statistical science.

Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators
Devoted to the improvement of mathematics teacher education.

Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM)
Encourages women and girls in their mathematical endeavors and promotes equitable opportunities for women in mathematics.

Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS)
Helps actuaries stay current with the developments in their profession.

Mathematical Association of America (MAA)
Dedicated to advancing the understanding of mathematics and its impact on the world.

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)
Financial advisors committed to maintaining the highest standards of practice.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
Teachers, educators, and other professionals championing quality education in mathematics.

Society of Actuaries
An educational, research, and professional organization focused on enhancing the abilities and skills of actuaries.

Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)
An advocate for mathematical research and advancing the application of mathematics to science and industry.

Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
Women engineers and other professionals committed to helping women meet their full potential in engineering careers.

Online Job Boards

When you’re ready to start the search for a job in mathematics, you have a number of options. For starters, many professional associations post job listing related to their area of focus. These include:

American Educational Research Association (AERA)
American Mathematical Society (AMS)
American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
American Statistical Association (ASA)
Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE)
Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM)
Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS)
Mathematical Association of America (MAA)
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)

There are also other job boards related to mathematics:

Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS)
Mathematical Jobs
Research in Math Education

Of course, you could always use general job search engines in your job search. Although they don’t post jobs only related to mathematics, you could enter a math-related keyword to find jobs within your field. With some job search platforms you may also sign up for alerts when new jobs that meet your criteria are posted.

Your expertise and passion for mathematics could be the gateway to finding a satisfying career that highlights your skills and incorporates your interests. As you explore career options, keep in mind that a job title alone may not reveal all the realities of the day-to-day career experience. Take time to consider whether a career jives with your interests, strengths, preferences, and lifestyle.

So, master’s in mathematics degree holder—go get ’em!

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