When you’re picking a major in college, it’s kind of a leap of faith. You pick something you’re good at and interested in, something you vaguely want to do as a career someday. And unless you’re picking a major that’s tied directly to a specific job already, like pharmacy or veterinary science, you likely get to a point where you’re far along in school and start thinking about what you’re going to do with your major once you’ve got that diploma.
First, the good news: you don’t need to map out your entire career based on your major and your interests now. This is more about picking a starting point on a path, and going from there. Second, the even better news: if you’re a math major, you have skills that can take you in any number of awesome career directions—like problem-solving, analytical skills, critical thinking, and tech skills. If you’re not sure what those options could be, we’ve got some different options you might want to consider.
Actuaries are analysts who use math, statistics, and financial theory to assess risk in different scenarios. They’re typically employed by insurance companies to predict whether insuring something is a good bet, and what insurance rates should be. Actuaries work with data, modeling, and statistics to predict risk. This is also a field that’s growing fast:
What you’ll need: In addition to an undergrad degree, actuaries go through significant training and a certification process.
What it pays: The median annual salary for actuaries is $111,030, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Similar to actuaries and other analysts, data analysts take large amounts of data (often mathematical or statistical), identify trends or patterns, draw conclusions, and make recommendations about what to do in particular situations. Their insights are typically used to make strategic business decisions. Data analysts can be found in almost every industry, as skills in the analysis are needed for businesses and organizations of all kinds.
What you’ll need: This is a career where computer programming skills come in handy, so if you’ve dabbled in SQL or other databases, this job could be a good fit for you. A bachelor’s degree is typically enough to get started, but a master’s degree is often needed for more advanced positions.
What it pays: The median annual salary for data analysts is $62,610, according to PayScale.
If you’re more interested in the business side of things, financial analysts use data, statistics, and modeling to help companies maximize their profits. They take historical and current data to forecast future earning potential and develop insights that guide budgeting and strategic planning.
What you’ll need: In addition to your undergrad degree, you’ll also need to be able to stay on top of business trends and industry news. Good communication skills are also key, as financial analysts typically have to work as part of a larger strategic team.
What it pays: The median annual salary for financial analysts is $83,660, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Maybe you’re more interested in current dollars and cents than predicting the future. If so, you might want to consider going into accounting. Accountants are essential parts of any organization, preparing, auditing, and maintaining financial records to make sure that the company’s finances are on track, and that they’re complying with financial laws and regulations. Their responsibilities may include reviewing financial records (such as payroll or invoices), preparing tax documents, reviewing contracts, or conducting financial audits. If you’re super organized and love math that balances, it’s a career path to consider.
What you’ll need: Accountants need to have impeccable attention to detail, as well as detailed knowledge of financial requirements and regulations. Accountants also need to be certified by their states.
What it pays: The median annual salary for accountants is $73,650, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This might be the career path you thought of first when you decided to major in math. A mathematician doesn’t just sit at a board solving abstract math problems all day. They apply mathematical theories and techniques to solve real-world problems. Among the top employers for mathematicians in the U.S. are government bodies and agencies, looking for ways to translate data analysis into practical solutions.
What you’ll need: A master’s degree in math is typically required for mathematician jobs.
What it pays: The median annual salary for mathematicians is $93,290, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Operations research analyst
Operations research analysts use math to help companies work better and more efficiently. These analysts help identify business problems and use data analysis to recommend possible solutions to managers. Their work can help businesses decide where to allocate resources within the company or improve processes.
What you’ll need: A bachelor’s degree is generally enough to get started, but you’ll also need strong business, organizational, communication, and collaboration skills.
What it pays: The median annual salary for operations research analysts is $86,200, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If a job where you’re dealing with endless amounts of data doesn’t sound like the right career path for you, then you might want to consider a job that lets you take your mathematical skills and understanding and teach them to others.
What you’ll need: A bachelor’s degree in math may be enough to get started, but you’ll also need teacher training. Also, teacher certification and licensing rules can vary by state, so be sure to check your own state’s requirements.
What it pays: The median annual salary for a high school-level math teacher is $62,870, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As a math major, you’re well-equipped to join essentially any industry that interests you. The analytical and problem-solving skills you have, as well as your knowledge of how math connects to the world at large, can help you find just the right way to turn those theorems and equations into a fulfilling career.