Careers in Applied Mathematics
WHY HIRE A MATH MAJOR?
Employers have learned that if you hire those who have earned their degree in mathematics, you are getting an employee with problem solving skills and who chose and completed what is considered to be a difficult course of study. If these graduates also have good communication skills and are good team players, employers know they can be valuable assets to their companies. The job positions that math majors are hired for do not have to be directly associated with the mathematical content of their courses taken to earn their degree. Many jobs exist that do not relate directly to skills that are learned in the classroom. Employers know that on-the-job-training is part of what is required no matter who you hire. Math majors are considered to have the basic skills and intelligence to learn easily.
WHY SEEK AN APPLIED MATH MAJOR AND NOT JUST A (PURE) MATH MAJOR?
Students who major in mathematics (pure mathematics) may or may not take computer science courses as electives. They may never take economics classes and may choose a limited number of science courses. As a result, they could leave themselves less prepared for the large array of technological jobs available in today's market. When graduates list their degree as applied mathematics, employers know that these applicants have studied current applications in their mathematics course using today's electronic technology in addition to the theory that is studied in such courses. HPU's applied mathematics major assures that the student will be broadly education in applied subjects. It includes courses in economics and many of the sciences. Students can also ask for exceptions to some of the requirements if they have reason to want to emphasize an area more than it currently is.
SPECIFICALLY, WHAT ARE SOME JOBS/FIELDS THAT MATH MAJORS PURSUE?
Although math majors' skills and abilities can be valuable in a wide array of positions (as explained above) there are a number of specific fields that look to mathematics majors to hire. Some require advanced degrees masters or doctorates -- while others require only the bachelor's degree. Basically, the options of a math graduate can be divided into four paths. These paths are described in the book Careers for Math Majors by S. Lambert and R. DeCotis as:
Path 1: Teaching (at the K-12 level) -- An applied math major would well prepare a student for entering HPU’s graduate-level teacher licensure program. The Teacher Education Program is approved by the state licensure board for preparing you for secondary mathematics licensure. Over forty states will recognize completion of the HPU TEP licensure program towards their state licensing requirements. Also, given today’s critical shortage of math teachers, HPU mathematics majors are securing high school teaching positions as “emergency-hirers” after completing their bachelor’s degree only. They then enter the graduate teacher education program teaching because courses are conveniently offered in the evening.
Also, private schools do not have the same licensing restrictions as public/government schools. Should you apply to a private school, those hiring math teachers could easily be impressed with the broad skills and knowledge you acquired as an applied math major.
Path 2: Math as a Primary Skill -- These are the jobs that do use mathematics skills specifically. Specific jobs include actuary, mathematician (a job title with governments and many companies and can be used by those working independently in the field), statistician, and operations research analyst.
Path 3: Working Towards an Advanced Degree (math as an essential skill) -- An advanced degree in mathematics would be necessary if you desire to teach at the college or university level. An applied mathematics major qualifies you to pursue a master's and/or doctorate degree in mathematics if you wish to teach at the college level or teach and perform research at the university level. You can propel yourself further in non-teaching positions with an advanced degree. You might even be able to go to work directly after earning your bachelor's degree with a company that will assist you with the expenses of graduate school.
Path 4: Math in the Marketplace -- You might major in mathematics because you enjoy it even if you do not desire to work in a heavy mathematical field. Or maybe you enjoy math as a student but do not excel in your math classes. If that's the case, then there are many jobs in the marketplace that can use your problem-solving skills, your ability to think logically. There are jobs that are best performed by those who are comfortable with quantitative thinking and problem solving, but those without these skills can also be hired in these fields. Sales representative, retail buyer and purchasing agent are sophisticated jobs, responsible for decisions involving large sums of money. Interviewers and employees will be interested in your math skills; they will also be very interested in your ability to think on your feet and to be decisive and creative at problem solving.
Additional interesting reading is found in the book 101 Careers in Mathematics published by the Mathematical Association of America with Andrew Sterrett as its editor. This is a compilation of the stories of 101 people who majored in math or statistics. Regarding these 101 people that he interviewed and included in his book, Sterrett says in the book's preface:
"These are found:
Group work and student presentations are an important part of many courses at HPU. Students graduating from HPU will have gained experiences in organizing and presenting material individually and as part of a group, in both general education courses and others.
[Prepared by Evelyn Puaa, former Instructor of Mathematics, Hawai'i Pacific University. Both of the books used to write this paper are available from the Mathematical Association of America. A better understanding of careers pursued by math majors can be acquired from a more thorough reading of them.]