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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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Department of
Mathematics and Statistics

As academic advisers we often hear the question, "What can I do with a major in mathematics or statistics?" The short answer is, "Just about anything you want to do." Majoring in mathematics or statistics teaches you to be a good problem solver, and that is the key to success in any career - finding efficient ways to solve problems inherent in your job. The problems do not have to be quantitative since critical thinking and mathematics go hand-in-hand. But the original question really wants to know what careers require advanced mathematical and statistical analysis. We will try to give you some careers to consider in the following paragraphs.

The largest percentage of our students who major in mathematics pursue careers in education. There will always be a big demand for high school teachers of mathematics. For students interested in teaching high school mathematics we have a degree program (Major in Mathematics Education) with a precisely chosen set of courses leading to licensure to teach in secondary education. You may also want to visit Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics to ask questions of their support group. Students seeking licensure to teach in secondary education must also take a writing assessment lab and apply for admission to Professional Education. Students interested in careers in academia teaching at a college or university do not need teaching licensure, but will need to prepare for graduate studies in mathematics. To prepare for graduate studies in pure mathematics, students should definitely include Intermediate Analysis (Math 316), Abstract Algebra I (Math 345) and Discrete Mathematics (Math 375) in their undergraduate studies. More advanced courses including Complex Analysis (Math 411), Real Analysis I & II (Math 417, 418), Abstract Algebra II (Math 446), and Linear Algebra II (Math 447) are also highly recommended for students pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics. A career in post-secondary academia gives you the freedom to pursue the topics in mathematics that excite you the most along with a most rewarding lifestyle.

Students not interested in a teaching career should put their skills in mathematics and statistics together with some area of application. In business and industry you work in teams with people who have expertise in the field. You need to be able to talk their language, to communicate your ideas and to fit the mathematical and statistical analysis in the framework of their subject. Four areas you might wish to consider are mathematical finance, actuarial science, operations management and biostatistics. These four areas are currently drawing the most attention and provide interesting and challenging careers. Students interested in careers in business and industry should take mathematical modeling (Math 328, 425), differential equations (Math 321, 422), discrete mathematics (Math 375), numerical analysis (Math 470, 471), statistics (Stat 354, 457, 458, 459, 450) and computer science (Coms 110, 171, 211, 212, 310).

Most of the bigger banks and financial investment firms hire mathematicians and statisticians to work in their departments of research and development. If you are interested in a career in banking or Wall Street financial investments, then combine your studies in mathematics and statistics with courses in business finance and investments (Fina 362, 460, 463). For more information a Google search of "mathematical finance" will give hundreds of listings of programs. In particular see the articles in The International Association of Financial Engineers.

Actuaries use their backgrounds in mathematics and statistics to design retirement plans, insurance policies and risk management programs. If you are interested in a career in actuarial science, then combine your studies in mathematics and statistics (Math 223, Stat 354, 355, 350, 458) with courses in insurance and risk management (Fina 460, 480, 467). For more information see the articles in Be An Actuary and The Society of Actuaries.

Careers in operations management or operations research focus on finding ways to maximize profit by minimizing the operational costs of doing business. Many companies need to optimize their scheduling of interrelated tasks, minimize the cost of transportation of goods, and develop quality control methods and reliability analyses. If you are interested in a career in operations management, then combine your studies in mathematics and statistics, including our Math 328 course in Optimization, with courses in management (Mgmt 346, 385, 452). For more information see the articles in The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

Biostatisticians apply their knowledge of statistics to applications in the biological sciences, most commonly in medical research. Proper statistical protocol must be observed in all clinical trials, and the data collected from the trials must be analyzed statistically. Therefore, virtually all larger hospitals and medical schools have teams of biostatisticians working with the physicians. Students interested in a career in biostatistics should take as many courses in statistics as possible. Of course, there are many other businesses and industries that employ statisticians. For more information see The American Statistical Association.

Profiles and interviews with professional mathematicians plus extensive information on careers in mathematics and statistics can be found at The Mathematical Association of America and The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. There are many more careers in mathematics and statistics than listed here. Be assured that a major in mathematics or statistics will always serve you well no matter what field you pursue for your career.