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Research Scientist (Maths)

Job Description

Have you got a noggin for numbers, a cranium for calculus or an aptitude for algebra? Do you want to use your maths skills in your career? You do? Good, you’re in the right place!

Scientists undertaking mathematical research (a.k.a. research mathematicians) can apply their knowledge of maths for both commercial purposes and academic research.

In the commercial domain, mathematicians are employed by companies which use statistics and quantitative reasoning to predict business trends and future market developments, such as investment banks, insurance companies and other types of financial services.

If you work in this area of mathematical research, you’ll most likely be using statistical modelling, quantitative analysis and trend forecasting to influence strategic business decisions.

Essentially, mathematicians working in the commercial sector are vital for developing business intelligence and carrying out in-depth business analysis. Research scientists can also apply their mathematical research expertise in the information technology, aerospace and product development industries.

Mathematicians who focus their efforts on academic research tend to hold teaching positions with universities. These academic professionals also tend to publish a certain amount of mathematical papers each year, which help them to secure research grants and other forms of funding.

If you work in this area of mathematical research, you may be carrying out independent studies which focus on specialist areas of maths, such as geometry, algebra and calculus.

If you enter this profession, a lot of your research duties are likely to focus on using state-of-the-art equipment and advanced programming languages to analyse and manipulate data and build mathematical models, which will allow you to find solutions to mathematical problems.

Your research findings and conclusions will be used to influence business decisions or inform the academic research community. Consequently, you’ll be required to present your findings in the form of research papers and ejournals, during meetings with clients, by giving presentations or talks at academic conferences or through the medium of dance (okay, not this last one!).

Salary & benefits

Mathematical scientists in the early stages of their careers can earn between £20,000 and £35,000 per annum, while annual salaries for professionals with a decent amount of experience range from £30,000 to £45,000.

At a senior level, mathematicians in academic positions can earn up to £68,000, while those employed by commercial enterprises may earn salaries in excess of £80,000.

Working hours

Mathematicians tend to work around 35-40 hours per week, but you may also be required to work extra hours on a frequent basis to meet research deadlines.

The majority of your work will be carried out in a lab or office, although established professionals may travel around the globe from time to time to collect research data from different parts of the organisation, or to attend industry events, such as conferences and seminars.

Entry

Understandably, you’re going to need a good undergraduate degree in mathematics, statistics, operational research or physics to work in this area.

However, most candidates applying for research positions are usually well-qualified, with relevant postgraduate degrees (MSc or PhD). 

Training & progression

Research mathematicians are required to be fully-trained and well-versed in their specialist area of maths before being hired for full-time positions. As such, there are no formal, structured training schemes in this line of work.

However, some employers may sponsor employees as they study towards obtaining advanced professional qualifications and membership of professional bodies, such as the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS).