High School Bulletin Board: Careers in Math
“When will ever I use math?” Many students ask this question when advised to take math courses especially Algebra and Geometry.
A good answer to this is: “When you count your earnings.”
But first you have to choose a career and find a job in it.
Until about fifty years ago, it was possible to find respectable, well paying jobs that did not require much math beyond simple addition and subtraction with the odd fraction or percentage thrown in.
Today, computers have drastically reduced the number of secretaries, clerks and other office personnel. Robots have largely replaced factory workers. Even farm workers are seeing their jobs taken away by machinery.
Apart from untrained menial labor, almost all jobs require applicants to have at least a few advanced math skills.
But that doesn’t mean that there will be few jobs in the future. Far from it.
There are hundreds of professions that require or will require graduates in mathematics.
Most people think that math is only about numbers, doing calculations and the properties of shapes which we really don’t find in the real world.
Actually the properties of numbers and shapes and the results of calculations are the end result of doing mathematics and not math itself.
“Then what is math about?”
Math is about learning how to look at problems, breaking them down into simpler questions and then solving each one. Math involves making assumptions, creating models, thinking logically, verifying the results and finally communicating them clearly. Math develops a skill set of strong analytical and communication abilities.
Who requires these abilities?
Any industry or organization that has problems that need solving. And that means a lot of people.
Industries of all kinds like to hire math majors. The jobs they offer may be far removed from mathematics. But they know that mathematicians have the analytical and communication skills to be easily trained in them. Mathematicians are employed by engineering firms, technological businesses, government departments, pharmaceutical corporations, private defense contractors, finance bureaus, even wineries.
Combining a math major with computer studies and another science increases your career choices even more. For instance, a graduate with credits in math, biology and computer science can start a career in robotics, oceanography or medical crisis management.
“An undergraduate math major with knowledge of science and computing skills is the general purpose worker of the future,” says William Yslas Velez, University of Arizona Distinguished Professor of Mathematics.
Mathematicians have the reputation of not being interested in nonscientific subjects. In fact, many math majors choose to study the liberal arts and humanities. They then go on to work in social sciences, history, psychology, and the humanities.
Some even study music and art.
A degree in mathematics offers more than the average in job security.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for mathematicians, especially those with advanced degrees, is expected to rise by 22% between 2008 and 2018, “much faster than average for all occupations.”
A degree in pure or applied math can also be a stepping stone to a career in Medicine, Law and other professions.
“But what if I’m not good enough in academics or don’t want to go to college?” You may ask . . . Still no reason to stop studying math.
Trades like carpentry, electrical technicians, and dressmaking use high school math constantly. Accountants, draftsmen and construction foremen have to study math in college. And they all earn good money.
So sign up for Algebra I and II, Geometry, Probability, Finite Math and Calculus, and Trigonometry. These courses are the prerequisites for the math courses you will take in technical school, college or university. These courses may not look fun but they are the stepping stones to a successful career and satisfying life.