What To Know About Becoming Math Major

The math major is the study of numbers and the relationships between them demonstrated in structures and patterns.  

The main class requirements for a math major are algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, logic, number theory and topology.

Math is a good major because graduates with a math degree are in high demand in many industries such as science, technology, data analytics, manufacturing, insurance, finance, research and engineering. Math is also a good major for those who intend to get a graduate degree in math, engineering, statistics and related fields.

Main careers include secondary education or postsecondary teacher, engineer, meteorologist, actuary, statistician, data scientist, mathematician, operations research analyst, financial analyst, architect, accountant, insurance underwriter and software engineer.

What Is a Mathematics Major? 

A mathematics major is a student that studies all facets of math, pure math, and applied mathematics. The coursework includes math theory involving the study of abstract mathematical structures that are the framework for all math sciences and seek to confirm theorems using proofs, and the application of mathematics in other fields as diverse as engineering and music.

Mathematics is categorized as a science – the science and study of numbers, their relationships, structure, change and space with the purpose of establishing mathematical truth through rigorous deduction and application of math principles and definitions. These principles are established through courses in algebra, calculus, geometry, trigonometry, differential equations, statistics, math theory and applied mathematics. In these classes, students develop skills in abstract thinking, logic, analysis, problem solving, critical thinking, and computational math. Math is a STEM major, the M stands for mathematics.

The two main subtypes of math are pure mathematics and applied mathematics.

Pure math is the study of mathematical principles, concepts and theoretical possibilities apart from any application to other fields. According to Harvard University, “pure mathematics focuses on abstract and theoretical concepts in math working to prove theorems and research and discover new realms of math.”

Applied math is the application of mathematics to all other branches of knowledge including science, engineering, technology, data analytics, medicine, chemistry, biology, physics, economics and statistics.

What are the Differences Between Applied Mathematics Major and Pure Mathematics Major?

The main differences between an applied math major and pure math major are the educational focus, the classes taken and the careers each best equips the student to pursue.

The focus of a pure mathematics program is the study of the theory of math including mathematical concepts and theories. It is “math for math’s sake.” Pure mathematics requires abstract thinking, logic, analysis and problem-solving skills. Critical classes include number theory, analysis, algebra, calculus and geometry. The top careers for pure mathematics include computing, finance, teaching, medical and scientific research.

The emphasis in applied math is the use of mathematics to solve problems in the real worlds of technology, business, science, healthcare and economics. Skills acquired include analysis, the recognition of numerical patterns and the application of formulas to predict trends and outcomes. Essential classes are calculus, statistics, differential equations and analytics. A major in applied math prepares students for a wider range of careers than pure math does. These careers are in engineering, data analytics, banking, teaching, computer science, biology, chemistry, machine learning, optimal design, insurance, game theory, consulting and actuarial science.

What are the Requirements for a Math Major?

The requirements for becoming a math major from most colleges and universities include the following.

  • Choose a Specific Mathematics Major: Most schools offer distinct concentrations in mathematics – as many as 8 that might include Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Data Optimization, Algebra and Combinatorics, Analysis, Mathematical Logic, Geometry and Topology, Honors Mathematics, Mathematical Sciences, Actuarial Math, Honors Math, Mathematics for Finance and Secondary Education Teaching Certificate in Mathematics.
  • Complete Prerequisites that Apply to Most Concentrations: These are courses like linear algebra, analysis, and calculus.
  • Complete 10-12 mathematics courses 200-level of higher: This typically equates to 30 to 45 credit hours.
  • Complete a Senior Project or Seminar in Mathematics: Each university has multiple options for this requirement based on the student’s Mathematics concentration.
  • Maintain a 2.0 grade point average, which corresponds to a C grade. Students might be allowed to take one or more classes Pass/Fail. And some schools allow students receiving a C- or lower in any class the option of retaking the class to improve their grade and GPA.  

Many schools require you to meet with your mathematics academic advisor prior to graduation. This meeting is usually held in your second-to-last semester. Its purpose is to go over the requirements for graduation checklist to ensure that you have met the requirements or that the courses you plan to register for in your last semester will do so if you pass them with a satisfactory grade. 

Is Math a Hard Major?

Mathematics is one of the hardest majors, and according to the US DOE National Center for Education Statistics, 52% of beginning college students who start in math change their majors within 3 years of enrollment. That percentage is the highest of all fields.

Studies show that mathematics is the second hardest degree behind physics. Students majoring in math have an average GPA of 2.9, which is a B- letter grade.

The reasons that mathematics is a hard program include the necessity for abstract thinking and reasoning, comprehending mathematical theory, and taking demanding courses in a range of mathematical concentrations. These include advanced calculus, differential equations, advanced analysis, and linear algebra.

If you enjoy mathematics and did well in high school math courses, then a university math major won’t be as difficult for you as for those without a natural interest in mathematics.

Is Math a Good Major?

Yes, math is a good major because you develop useful skills, get a degree that is excellent preparation for graduate school and is in high demand, providing high-paying job opportunities.

Math majors that complete a degree in mathematics have high acceptance rates to business school, law school, medical school and graduate schools for mathematics and engineering. To support this, a study by the National Institute of Education covering 18 years of data collection showed that mathematics majors had the highest scores on the LSAT, 12.8% above average, and the GMAT, 13.3% above average, according to the University of Georgia Department of Mathematics.

Your broad career options as a mathematics major with a degree include jobs with excellent salaries in business, education, manufacturing, cryptography, data science, modeling, finance, insurance, government and scientific research. In fact, the demand for positions in these fields that can be filled by mathematicians and statisticians is expected to grow by 31% before 2031, which is “much faster than for the average of all occupations.”

What are the Different Types of Math Degrees

There are four mathematics degrees, each with an increasing number or requirements:

Associate’s Degree in Mathematics: This is a 2-year degree requiring 4 semesters or 8 quarters depending on the structure the school uses. Most associate’s degrees require 60-64 credit hours. Curriculum covers foundational mathematics understanding and skills learned in classes like algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Some degree programs include statistics, differential equations, physics or computer programming. Those with an associate degree continue their education or find employment in data science, actuarial science, economics or business.

Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics: A bachelor’s degree in math is a 4-year degree, meaning it takes 8 semesters and a minimum of 120 credits. Students working toward a bachelor in math take core classes in algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics and analysis. Advanced courses are required in calculus, analysis, differential equations, applied mathematics, data structures and complex variables. A bachelor’s degree in math qualifies the graduate for a career in fields including engineering, education, technology, medical technology, biotechnology, industry, manufacturing, science, research and development, economics, computer science and business. 

Master’s Degree in Mathematics: A masters in math takes an additional 2-3 years and 30-60 credit hours to complete and has a focus on a specific math concentration. Courses include master’s-level courses in algebra, calculus, analysis, statistics, quantitative and computational finance, computational math or computer science. A master’s thesis or teaching undergraduate courses are required by many schools.

Doctoral Degree in Mathematics: This is the highest math degree offered by most universities. The program of study to receive a doctoral degree or PhD in mathematics is 2-4 years and 60-90 credit hours after a master’s degree. A qualifying exam is a common requirement. Concentrations include a PhD in Mathematics, PhD in Computational Sciences and Engineering, PhD in Algorithms and Optimization, PhD in Bioinformatics and PhD in Machine Learning. A doctoral degree in mathematics prepares you for teaching in higher education and for a career in fields such as finance, software engineering, government laboratories, engineering research, computer information, data science and analytics, pharmaceutical engineering.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Mathematics Degree?

With a mathematics degree, you qualify for a range of jobs with good pay. Your career opportunities with a mathematics degree include these 10 top jobs.

Math Teacher: To teach high school math, you need a mathematics degree and a teaching certificate. Teaching math at the college or university level requires an advanced degree in mathematics.

Actuary: Actuarial science is used in the insurance industry to determine probabilities and calculate likely outcomes. These are used to develop rates for a range of premiums including life insurance, car insurance and homeowner’s insurance. A bachelor’s degree or higher is necessary to obtain employment as an actuary.

Engineer: Math is the top undergraduate degree for those getting an advanced degree in engineering. Common fields include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science and engineering, industrial engineering, biomedical engineering, robotics engineering, aerospace and aeronautical engineering, and algorithms engineering.

Financial Analyst: A financial analyst monitors, analyses and forecasts a company’s financial status and anticipated performance in the near term and long-term. Financial models are created and used to provide recommendations to improve and maintain the organization’s financial well-being.

Economist: An economist studies past and present activity within financial markets to recommend financial decisions in the best interests of the company, non-profit or governmental organization. This job requires a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. 

Accountant: Accountants at all levels review financial records, accounting data such as accounts receivable, reports, and tax returns to ensure the organization complies with applicable laws and regulations and is in a solid financial position. A math degree plus an MBA in accounting is required for most positions, and a board exam must be passed to become a certified public accountant. 

Statistician: Statisticians collect and analyze numerical data, or statistics, through various means. They sort, analyze and categorize the data for findings leading to strategies for company growth, development and profitability. Entry-level Statistician jobs can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s or PhD degree will improve career advancement.

Data Analyst: The duties of a data analyst are to use statistical tools to gather, organize and interpret collected data. Their analysis looks for trends, best practices and needed changes to optimize performance. Entry-level jobs require a bachelor’s degree.

Architect: Math graduates can apply to a master’s program in architecture. Architects work with clients to determine the objectives and requirements for residential or commercial structures. They then prepare structure specifics, determine cost estimates and prepare drawings and documentation that are used to bring the design to life.

Purchasing Agent: The work includes buying various goods and materials the company needs for manufacturing or reselling. Duties include inventory management, supply chain management and contract negotiations necessary to ensure the delivery of products.

What are Salaries for Math Majors?

The average salary range for math majors is $60,000 to $110,000 depending on their specific level of education, their degree and the type of work they are doing.

Typically, the more education you receive, the higher your salary will be.

  • The average salary range for a bachelor’s degree in math is $62,900 per year.
  • The average salary range for a master’s degree in math is $89,000 per year.
  • The average salary range for a doctoral degree in math is $125,000 per year.

This table lists 20 top careers for math majors. Many require just a bachelor’s degree, but for some, an advanced degree is essential. The median salaries are shown. 

Career or JobEntry-level DegreeAnnual Salary
Math TeacherBachelor’s plus Certificate$61,820
ActuaryBachelor’s$105,900
Mechanical EngineerMaster’s$95,300
Financial AnalystBachelor’s$95,570
EconomistMaster’s$105,630
Accountant or AuditorBachelor’s$77,250
Mathematician or StatisticianMaster’s$96,280
Data ScientistMaster’s$100,910
ArchitectMaster’s$80,180
Purchasing Managers and AgentBachelor’s$75,410
Budget AnalystBachelor’s$79,940
Cost EstimatorBachelor’s$65,170
Financial AdvisorBachelor’s$94,170
Software Developer and TesterBachelor’s$109,020
Atmospheric Scientist or MeteorologistMaster’s$94,570
Physicist and AstronomerDoctoral$147,450
Aerospace EngineerMaster’s$122,270
Electrical EngineerMaster’s$101,780
Civil EngineerMaster’s$105,550
Bioengineer and Biomedical EngineerMaster’s$97,410
Data is from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Should I Major In If I Like Math?

Students that enjoy math, numbers and their relationships and who have done well in high school math classes should consider majoring in general math or one of the math concentrations offered by most universities.

Consider these match concentrations and programs:

Pure Mathematics: This is the study of concepts and principles in math without regard to application. It is a good choice if you have the ability for abstract reasoning and understanding theories.

Applied Mathematics: This field of mathematics involves putting math to use in all other fields to solve problems, forecast outcomes and determine best practices.

Statistics: This field involves gathering statistical data through surveys, consumer habits, testing performance and data analysis. The statistics are gathered and sorted for the purpose of categorization and analysis.

Computer Science: This field of study combines math and computing. If you enjoy them both, consider computer science, which is the study of computing and its applications to algorithmic science, hardware, software and their applications.

Actuarial Science: This is the study of probability and expected outcomes in mortality, risk and related fields including inflation trends. The information is used to set policy premiums and annuity rates.

What are the Differences Between Statistics Major vs Math Major?

The key difference between a statistics major and a math major is that math is a broader major, and most math majors take at least one statistics class. Statistics is a narrower subset within mathematics, though students take general math classes including algebra and calculus.

Because of the difference in focus, advanced classes are different for math and statistics. For example, math majors take classes in differential equations, physics, computer science and engineering. Statistics majors are more likely to have required classes in probability, statistical theory, data analysis and survey methods.

Career opportunities vary too. All industries hire math majors. These include engineering, technology, academia, agriculture, physical sciences, finance, insurance, research and development, and medicine.

Industries that hire statistics majors are more focused on information collection and analysis. These industries include insurance, data analytics, medical research, atmospheric sciences and meteorology, finance, and technology.

What are Good Double Majors with Mathematics Major?

The main double majors for mathematics are computer science, chemistry, economics, statistics, philosophy, accounting, engineering, financial management and physics. Not all colleges and universities offer all these potential double majors with mathematics.

Math and computer science are an excellent combination. The double major in math and CS makes graduates highly sought after for high-paying careers in computer science and engineering, medical research and technology, chemistry, biology, genetics, genomics, computational mathematics or applied mathematics.

This double major is so popular that some universities have specific programs established to provide a double major in computer science and mathematics. Keep in mind that this double major can be very challenging with a full load of difficult courses each semester.

What are Minors that are Suitable for Mathematics Major?

Minors that go well with a mathematics major are computer science, statistics, engineering, education, physics, finance, business, economics and accounting. These minors open up additional career opportunities for math majors, especially in fields requiring applied mathematics.

Some experts consider a minor for a math major that addresses the creative side of the brain to produce balance in thought and skill. These include minors in music, language, literature and the arts. 

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