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At a Glance

  • Usually specialize in theoretical or applied math
  • Theoretical mathematicians study ideas or theories
  • Applied mathematicians use math to solve problems
  • Work alone most of the time
  • May travel to attend conferences or seminars
  • Most have at least a master's degree

Career summary

Mathematicians study and research numbers. They create new theories and try to solve problems using those theories.

Mathematical work falls into two classes:

Theoretical mathematicians study and test new mathematical ideas or theories. They try to find connections between existing theories. The discoveries made by theoretical mathematicians may advance areas such as science or engineering.

Theoretical mathematicians may study:

Applied mathematicians use math theories to solve problems. For example, mathematicians study mathematical studies of the effects of new drugs on disease. They analyze numbers to predict how the drugs will impact diseases.

They also study ways to apply math to:

Mathematicians may discuss research problems with people in other fields to gain more information. Sometimes they serve as consultants for other researchers. Some mathematicians teach at the college or university level. If they have a teaching certificate they can teach in high school.

Other people who work with math and numbers are statisticians, actuaries, and operations research analysts. They focus on a single area of math.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to mathematicians.

Common work activities

Mathematicians perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, mathematicians:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Mathematicians frequently:

It is important for mathematicians to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for mathematicians to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Mathematicians need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a mathematician, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most mathematicians have at least a master's degree in math. Course work for this degree includes calculus, differential equations, and abstract algebra. In addition to math, you should take courses in computer science and programming. This is because you use computers for complex calculations and modeling.

You should also consider taking courses closely related to math such as economics, engineering, or physics. A dual major in math and a science is good preparation for an assortment of jobs.

In applied math, it is important to get training in the field in which you will be working. Fields such as business, geology, chemistry, biology, sociology, and psychology all use applied math.

Work experience

You should consider participating in an internship while in college. An internship is usually part of a degree program. It offers you a chance to apply what you have learned in the classroom to a work situation. It also allows you to build skills and make contacts with people in the field.

On-the-job training

New graduates work under the guidance of experienced mathematicians. Training generally lasts a few months.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Consider taking as many advanced math classes as you can to prepare for college math courses.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Few mathematicians do just math. Many work in areas such as computer science, engineering, or economics. Consider taking additional electives in areas such as these that interest you.

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Many employers prefer to hire mathematicians who have a doctorate (PhD). Universities choose candidates based on their area of research and the quality of their published articles. For entry-level jobs, the federal government hires applicants who have a bachelor's degree in math.

Employers in research and development often look for applicants who can work well as part of a team. They look for applicants with leadership skills and good oral and written skills. Knowledge of other fields, such as business or marketing, can also be useful.


A background in computer science, physics, accounting, or engineering is an important consideration in hiring for some positions. Internships provide valuable work experience. The ability to translate scientific information into non-technical language, both in written form and orally, is also important.

Costs to workers

Workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues. Individuals may also be required to pay their own exam fees.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


#Currently, there is no specific statewide wage information available for mathematicians.

Mathematicians (SOC 15-2021)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $29.19 $40.77 $57.62 $75.58 $92.29
Monthly $5,059 $7,065 $9,986 $13,098 $15,994
Yearly $60,710 $84,800 $119,860 $157,200 $191,950
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $29.75 $47.90 $69.22 $85.92 $100.00
Monthly $5,156 $8,301 $11,996 $14,890 $17,330
Yearly $61,869 $99,627 $143,981 $178,712 $207,992
United States Hourly $27.48 $35.33 $48.99 $60.61 $77.19
Monthly $4,762 $6,123 $8,490 $10,504 $13,377
Yearly $57,150 $73,490 $101,900 $126,070 $160,550

Pay varies based on a mathematician's level of education. Mathematicians who have a PhD earn more than those with a bachelor's or master's degree. Pay also varies with the type of industry they work in. Those who work in business tend to earn more than those in government or education.

Mathematicians who work full time usually receive benefits. Benefits may include medical insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings. This data does not include mathematicians who teach at colleges and universities.

Mathematicians (SOC 15-2021)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 145 15.2% 16.1% 16
    King County 75 18.7% 19.6% 8
    Snohomish County 10 10.0% 12.4% 1
United States 2,900 24.1% 5.2% 300

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

This occupation will experience large growth in demand, however, it is a very small occupation and not many new jobs will be created. Growth in this occupation will be due to advancements in technology that allow for better collection and processing of data. This will lead to an increased need for mathematicians to analyze the data.

Many jobs that require high levels of math also require knowledge of science. The most common fields in which mathematicians study and find work are computer science and software development, physics, engineering, and operations research. More mathematicians also are becoming involved in financial analysis.

Job openings will occur as mathematicians retire or leave this occupation for other reasons. Job prospects will be best for those with experience in business, computer science, or statistics.

Other resources

American Association for the Advancement of Science (external link)
1200 New York Ave, NW
American Institute of Biological Sciences (external link)
1800 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 400
Reston, VA 20191
American Institute of Physics (external link)
One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740
American Mathematical Society (external link)
201 Charles Street
Providence, RI 02904
Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (external link)
IEEE Computer Society (external link)
2001 L Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster