Mathematics is one of the oldest and most fundamental sciences. Mathematicians use mathematical theory, computational techniques, algorithms, and the latest computer technology to solve economic, scientific, engineering, physics, and business problems. The work of mathematicians falls into two broad classes—theoretical (pure) mathematics and applied mathematics. These classes, however, are not sharply defined and often overlap.

Theoretical mathematicians advance mathematical knowledge by developing new principles and recognizing previously unknown relationships between existing principles of mathematics. Although these workers seek to increase basic knowledge without necessarily considering its practical use, such pure and abstract knowledge has been instrumental in producing or furthering many scientific and engineering achievements. Many theoretical mathematicians are employed as university faculty, dividing their time between teaching and conducting research.

Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling and computational methods, to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, engineering, and the physical, life, and social sciences. For example, they may analyze the most efficient way to schedule airline routes between cities, the effects and safety of new drugs, the aerodynamic characteristics of an experimental automobile, or the cost-effectiveness of alternative manufacturing processes.

From The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

Words from the Faculty

James Vance

James Vance

“Mathematics is the foundation that enables the next generation of science, technology, and engineering leaders to pursue advanced degrees and/or successful careers in industry, government, and academia. In collaboration with critical thinkers in other disciplines, applied mathematicians significantly contribute to a plethora of real-world problems, changing the way we view the past, experience the present, and predict the future. For mathematics, not even the sky is the limit.”

morris akers

Morris Akers

“My interests specifically lie in constrained optimization, modeling and simulations, and supply chain performance. Applied mathematicians can find employment with the U.S. military, transportation and logistics companies, as well as computer networking companies. Any company that has a question that needs to be answered, such as “How do we satisfy our customers and employees at the best price?” will need to hire a mathematician.”


A degree in mathematics can lead to a career in a variety of fields.

  • Academic Instruction
  • Actuarial Sciences
  • Cost Estimator
  • Cryptanalyst
  • Data Analyst
  • Quantitative Analyst
  • Research Scientist
  • Statisticians

To view more information about careers in mathematics see the early career profiles at the American Mathematical Society