The Future?

Planning Your Future in Mathematics

Choosing a career is a very important decision. Taking all the mathematics and science you can is a smart choice, because training in those areas opens doors to many exciting career options.

Talk to your parents, teachers, and guidance counselors about the kinds of opportunities mathematics can bring. Your school may sponsor mathematics contests, which can be a fun way to work on challenging problems, or you can try entering a mathematics project in a science fair.

If competition isn’t to your taste, go to the library and find books on mathematics (see Suggested Reading below). Join your school mathematics club, or ask your teachers or counselors about extracurricular mathematics programs that may be available in your community.

As this booklet shows, a wide variety of career opportunities is available to those with degrees in mathematics at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. A bachelor’s degree generally requires four or five years of study. To earn a master’s degree, you need to study for two to three years beyond the bachelor’s degree and, for a doctorate, five to seven years beyond the bachelor’s degree.

Keeping Your Options Open

Even if you do not choose a career in the mathematical sciences, studying as much mathematics as you can is a good way to keep your options open. Mathematics is an excellent foundation for, and is usually a prerequisite to, study in all areas of science and engineering. Students in such areas as anthropology, sociology, and psychology, as well as law, business, and medicine, also benefit from a solid background in mathematics and statistics. In addition, mathematical training will help you to better understand science and technology and their effects on our world.

Because their skills are in demand, mathematical scientists often find they have a number of possible career paths and generally command good salaries. As you plan your future, remember that study in the mathematical sciences can lead to an interesting, rewarding, and well-paying career—a career that counts.

Suggested Reading

  • Mathematical People, Donald J. Albers, Gerald Alexanderson, and Constance Reid, Editors. Birkhäuser, 1985.
  • More Mathematical People, Donald J. Albers, Gerald Alexanderson, and Constance Reid, Editors. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1990.
  • Beyond the Third Dimension: Geometry, Computer Graphics, and Higher Dimensions, Thomas F. Banchoff. Scientific American
    Library, W. H. Freeman, 1990.
  • The Mathematical Experience, Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh. Birkhäuser, 1981.
  • Mathematics: The New Golden Age, Keith Devin. Penguin Books, 1988.
  • Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics, William Dunham. John Wiley, 1990.
  • Chaos: Making a New Science, James Gleick. Viking, 1987
  • The Mathematical Tourist: Snapshot of Modern Mathematics, Ivars Peterson. W. H. Freeman, 1988.
  • Islands of Truth: A Mathematical Mystery Cruise, Ivars Peterson. W. H. Freeman, 1990.
  • Quantum, The Student Magazine of Math and Science. Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., P.O. Box 2485, Seacaucus, NJ 07096-2491.
  • Visions of Symmetry: Notebooks, Periodic Drawings, and Related Work of M. C. Escher, Doris Schattschneider. W. H. Freeman, 1990.
  • The Problems of Mathematics, Ian Stewart. Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Game, Set, and Math: Enigmas and Conundrums, Ian Stewart. B. Blackwell, 1989.


About the Author, Allyn Jackson

Allyn Jackson
I work as the staff writer for the American Mathematical Society, a professional organization for mathematicians, located in Providence, Rhode Island. After finishing my master’s degree in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley, I was surprised to land a job as a writer! But having the opportunity to combine two rather different skills has been very rewarding. Because my job involves communicating with mathematicians, my background in mathematics has proved invaluable. I work primarily as a journalist for the news publication of the Society, mailed to our 30,000 members worldwide. I’ve written about the application of mathematics to DNA research, the job market for mathematicians, developments in mathematics education, women in mathematics, and science policy issues, among other topics. My job allows me to travel, which I enjoy, and to meet many interesting people. I studied mathematics because I found it a rich and fascinating subject, and I’m gratified that it led to a career that offers so much variety.

Other Credits

This brochure was originally published in 1991 and was “republished” on the the AWM website in 1998.

AWM gratefully acknowledges the Exxon Education Foundation for supporting thepublication of this booklet and the AWM Resource Center.

Careers that Count:

  • Writer: Allyn Jackson (1991)
  • Designer: Lisa Gallo (1991)
  • Project Coordinator: Patricia Cross (1991)
  • Online Version: Tamara G. Kolda (1998)

AWM President (1991):

Carol Wood, Wesleyan University

AWM Resource Center Committee (1991):

  • Jenny Baglivo, Boston College (chair)
  • Rosemary Chang, Silicon Graphics
  • Judy Roitman, University of Kansas
  • Martha K. Smith, University of Texas, Austin
  • Margaret Wright, AT&T Bell Laboratories

Photo credits (1991):

  • Ruth Gonzalez:
    • John Elankenship, Exxon Production Research company;
  • Jacquie Callahan:
    • Carol Lachata, Jet Propulsion Laboratory;
  • Nancy Kopell, Mary Kay Tornrose:
    • Janet Coleman;
  • Lenore Blum:
    • Tony Plewick;
  • Rosemary Chang:
    • Jeff Becker;
  • Nancy Laubenthal:
    • Randy Fiach, NASA;
  • Sharon Chapman:
    • Frank Ward;
  • Ann Stanley:
    • Los Alamos National Laboratories;
  • Allyn Jackson:
    • Burt Cross.

The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) was established in 1971 to serve and encourage women to study and have active careers in the mathematical sciences. Equal opportunity and equal treatment of women in the mathematical sciences are promoted.

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This brochure was published in 1991, so some information may be out-of-date.

Copyright ©1991, 2018 Association for Women in Mathematics. All rights reserved.
Comments: awm@awm-math.org.