Why be a mathematician or statistician?
Do you want to be the next Pythagoras or Archimedes? Well, you’re in the right place. If you study a mathematical or statistical subject, you have a huge amount of career paths at your fingertips. You could become an investment banker, you could become a software engineer or you could work in HR.
We’re not here to talk about those career paths though! We’re here to discuss the careers where mathematical or statistical research will be the main focus of your responsibilities. It is possible! Rather than using a limited amount of your expert knowledge within a relatively unrelated sector, you can make maths or statistics the entire focus of your graduate job.
What does it take to be a mathematician or statistician?
If you become a professional mathematician or statistician, you could be researching, analysing, developing and utilising mathematical or statistical theories and algorithms for academic purposes. Alternatively, you could be applying them to ‘real life’ situations in order to solve practical problems.
The power of advanced mathematics and high-level statistical analysis can help financial organisations to improve their position in the market, support engineering companies in solving complex technical problems and help medical research institutes to develop new treatments and improve the functionality of medical machinery. It can also be used to influence business strategy or industrial processes.
Furthermore, the UK government harnesses the expertise of professional mathematicians and statisticians in order to influence their policy-making processes. Defence organisations also use mathematical and statistical research to enhance and optimise their military operations.
If pure mathematics (a.k.a. theoretical mathematics) is more your kind of thing, then your best bet for finding employment is with an academic institution. Here you’ll get the opportunity to continue with your own personal research and teach university students about the intricacies of maths or statistics.
To develop a career in this area, you will need a degree in a relevant subject, such as mathematics, statistics or physics. The majority of mathematicians and statisticians will actually have a PhD or MSc. You can qualify for lower-level assistant positions with a BSc, but it is basically impossible to find work in this area if you don’t have a relevant degree.
What do mathematicians & statisticians do?
If you take the academic route, you will be investigating theories and conducting mathematical research in order to expand your knowledge and to share your findings with the academic community. Basically, you will be researching maths for maths’ sake.
The majority of academic mathematicians specialise in one niche area, such as abstract algebra, computation or geometry. Many of these guys combine their own personal research with teaching responsibilities, giving lectures and leading tutorials to help develop the next generation of mathematicians.
People who pursue the applied mathematics route tend to work as mathematical consultants for a range of different organisations. They research, analyse, develop and apply mathematical structures, algorithms and theories to practical situations and offer insightful solutions for engineering firms, computer companies and government organisations.
If you work in this area, you’ll be carrying out mathematical modelling, numerical analysis, data mining and other advanced techniques. You’ll then be writing up your findings, attending meetings, giving presentations and providing guidance to your clients and colleagues.
Statisticians are employed by all kinds of organisations to accumulate, analyse, evaluate and interpret numerical statistics. They devise quantitative data collection methods, they then use advanced computer technologies to analyse the data, explore patterns and apply statistical theories, before presenting the findings in an accessible way. This statistical research can be used to influence financial planning, business strategy, engineering projects and government policy-making.
So, if you’re a bit of a ‘mathemagician’ and your stats are looking good, the odds are that you would be well suited to a career in mathematical and statistical sciences.