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Applied mathematics is the application of mathematics to the solution of non-mathematical problems. Applied mathematicians work in government, business, various industries, and academia to solve practical problems: They might calculate the efficiency of airline routes or the effects of a new drug, the environmental effects of alternative energy sources, or the cost-effectiveness of alternative manufacturing processes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that increasingly, applied mathematicians have job titles other than “mathematician.” The pool for jobs titled “mathematician” is expected to shrink, but at the same time, the need for candidates with mathematical skills is increasing. Those who study applied mathematics are generally expected to have equal experience in another discipline representing the sector in which they plan to work (such as computer science) Many graduate programs make a point of noting their interdisciplinary approach; prospective students should make a point of finding out what a school means by “interdisciplinary.”

Degree Information

A Master of Science (M.S.) in Computation and Applied Mathematics is the most common graduate degree. Students may also earn a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree, which as a non-terminal degree is often preparation for a Ph.D. program. Master’s and doctorate programs tend to require a good deal of testing--when students first enter the program, between semesters or years, and at the end of the course of study. Master’s degrees usually take two years and doctorate programs four to six years.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Do they have faculty in a variety of research areas?
  • How accessible are the faculty?
  • Does the mathematics department work well with other academic departments?
  • Where have alumni gone on to work?

Career Overview

Employment of mathematicians is expected to decline through 2012, due to the decrease of jobs with the title “mathematician” in them. However, those with a graduate or doctoral degree and a strong background in another discipline will have plenty of opportunities for jobs with other titles, such as systems analyst. The most popular disciplines in which to work are computer science and software development, physics, engineering, operations research, and finance, though this means that degree-holders in applied mathematics must complete with degree-holders in those disciplines. The opportunities within academia may be even more limited, since the number of Ph.D.s awarded exceeds the number of university positions available.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no specific career/licensing requirements for a career in Applied Mathematics.

Salary Information

In 20002, the median annual earnings of mathematicians were $76,470. The middle 50 percent earned between $56,160 and $91,520. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,930, while the highest 10 percent earned over $112,780.

A 2003 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that starting salary offers averaged $42,348 for those with a master’s degree and $55,485 for those with doctoral degrees. The same year, the average annual salary for mathematicians employed by the Federal Government in supervisory, non-supervisory, and managerial positions was $80,877; for mathematical statisticians, $83,472.

Related Links

Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Information for students as well as professionals on everything from career opportunities to national policy affecting the profession.

American Mathematical Society
Information about conferences, jobs, research, and links to periodicals.


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