Mathematicians salary & career outlook

Nearly every technological invention, from computers to factory equipment to automobiles, has involved the work of a mathematician. Mathematicians generally work in applied mathematics -- solving practical problems -- or theoretical mathematics, which aims to advance the base of mathematical knowledge.

Mathematician job profile

Mathematicians hold a wide range of positions. As a mathematician, you might work in genetic engineering, pharmaceuticals, electric power or computer chips. Working for a business or industry, you will likely apply tools and concepts, such as derivatives, matrices and probability, to real-life applications such as helping develop 3-D technology as a research mathematician. Mathematicians also work for businesses as actuaries, underwriters and financial analysts. Theoretical mathematicians often work as university faculty, and divide their time between teaching and research.

Mathematician salary: 2011 data

The national annual salary for mathematicians in 2011 was $101,040 median, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012). The top 10 percent earned an annual salary up to $152,140, while those in the lowest 10 percent earned up to $55,680.

Mathematicians' earnings varied depending on the industry. Scientific research and development services came out on top, with an national annual salary in 2011 of $117,970 mean. Close behind were computer systems design and related services at $113,930 mean, and the federal executive branch at $106,020 mean (BLS).

States paying mathematicians the highest wages in 2011 were concentrated on the east coast, according to data from the BLS. Highest annual wages were offered in the following states in 2011 (BLS):

  • New Jersey: $125,490 mean
  • Maryland: $121,620 mean
  • District of Columbia: $117,600 mean
  • Illinois: $114,330 mean
  • Massachusetts: $112,320 mean

Predictably, top-paying metropolitan areas in 2011 were places densely populated with research institutions and industries. The areas paying the highest national annual mean wage in 2011 included (BLS):

  • Chicago-Joliet-Naperville: $151,960 mean
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria: $133,080 mean
  • Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick: $122,550 mean
  • Boston-Cambridge-Quincy: $120,750 mean
  • Edison-New Brunswick: $112,910 mean

These metropolitan areas all have relatively high costs of living. Mathematicians wanting their salaries to go further could consider the following top-paying cities as of 2011, which are located in states with an overall lower cost of living, according to data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center:

  • Dayton, Ohio: $98,630 mean
  • Ann Arbor, Mich.: $95,620 mean
  • Virginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News, Va. - N.C.: $95,580 mean

Mathematician training online and in the classroom

Education requirements for mathematicians run the gamut from bachelors' degrees to doctoral degrees. According to the BLS, a bachelor's degree is usually sufficient for mathematicians who work for the federal government or become secondary school teachers (BLS). Mathematicians working in theoretical mathematics at public research institutions most likely need a Ph.D., while those working in the private sector in applied or theoretical mathematics generally hold a master's degree or Ph.D.

There are abundant opportunities for mathematician training online and in traditional schools. In addition to studying a core curriculum, students wishing to attend mathematician schools at a graduate level should also have research or internship experience.

Employment outlook for mathematicians

The BLS projects job growth of 16 percent for mathematicians from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations (BLS). Because a large percentage of people trained as mathematicians use their math skills in other jobs, such as researchers for industries and financial analysts in the business sector, there are, in fact, a wide array of career options for trained mathematicians.