Mathematicians & Statisticians


Quick Facts: Mathematicians and Statisticians
2017 Median Pay $84,760 per year 
$40.75 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 40,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 33% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 13,500

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Mathematicians and Statisticians Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Mathematicians and Statisticians Do

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields.

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Mathematicians & Statisticians

Duties

Mathematicians and statisticians typically do the following:

  • Develop new mathematical rules, theories, and concepts in areas such as algebra and geometry

  • Decide what data are needed to answer specific questions or problems

  • Apply mathematical theories and techniques to solve practical problems in business, engineering, the sciences, and other fields

  • Design surveys, experiments, or opinion polls to collect data

  • Develop mathematical or statistical models to analyze data

  • Interpret data and report conclusions drawn from their analyses

  • Use data analysis to support and improve business decisions

Mathematicians and statisticians apply theories and techniques, such as mathematical or statistical modeling, to solve practical problems. Typically, they work with individuals in other occupations to solve these problems. For example, they may work with chemistsmaterials scientists, and chemical engineers to analyze the effectiveness of new drugs. Others may work with industrial designers to study the aerodynamic characteristics of new automobiles.

To work on these problems, mathematicians and statisticians must first collect data. Statisticians design surveys, questionnaires, experiments, and opinion polls to collect the data they need. Surveys may be mailed, conducted over the phone, collected online, or gathered through some other means.

Some surveys, such as the U.S. census, include data from nearly everyone. For most surveys and opinion polls, however, statisticians use a sampling method to collect data from some people in a particular group. Statisticians determine the type and size of the sample to be surveyed or polled.

After the data are collected, mathematicians and statisticians use specialized statistical software to analyze data. In their analyses, mathematicians and statisticians identify trends and relationships within the data. They also conduct tests to determine the data’s validity and to account for high survey nonresponse rates or sampling error. Some may help create new software to analyze data more accurately and efficiently.

Mathematicians and statisticians present the findings from their analyses and discuss the data’s limitations in order to prevent inaccurate conclusions from being drawn. They may present written reports, tables, charts, and graphs to other team members and to clients.

Mathematicians and statisticians work in many fields, such as education, marketing, psychology, sports, or any other field that requires the collection and analysis of data. In particular, government, healthcare, and research and development companies employ many statisticians.

Government. Mathematicians and statisticians working in government develop and analyze surveys that collect a variety of data, including unemployment rates, wages, and other estimates pertaining to jobs and workers. Others help to figure out the average level of pesticides in drinking water, the number of endangered species living in a particular area, or the number of people who have a certain disease.

HealthcareStatisticians known as biostatisticians or biometricians work in pharmaceutical companies, public health agencies, or hospitals. They may design studies to test whether drugs successfully treat diseases or medical conditions. They may also help identify the sources of outbreaks of illnesses in humans and animals.

Research and development. Mathematicians and statisticians design experiments for product testing and development. For instance, they may help design experiments to see how car engines perform when exposed to extreme weather conditions. Some may analyze consumer data to help develop marketing strategies and prices for consumer goods. 

Colleges and universities. Mathematicians and statisticians working in a postsecondary education institution may study theoretical or abstract concepts in mathematics or statistics. They identify, research, and resolve unexplained issues in mathematics and are concerned primarily with exploring new mathematical or statistical theories to increase knowledge and understanding about the field.

However, the mathematician occupation is a relatively small one, and many people with a degree in mathematics or who develop mathematical theories and models may not be formally known as mathematicians. Instead, they work in related fields and professions. In the computer systems design and related services industries, for example, they may be known as computer programmers or systems analysts. In finance, they may be known as quantitative analysts. Other industries may refer to them as data scientists or data analysts.

Computer and information research scientistsphysicists and astronomerseconomistsactuariesoperations research analystsengineers, and many other occupations also use mathematics extensively.

Many people with a Ph.D. in mathematics, particularly theoretical mathematics, work as postsecondary teachers in education institutions. They usually have a mix of teaching and research responsibilities. Some may conduct individual research or collaborate with other professors or mathematicians. Collaborators may work together at the same institution or from different locations.


Work Environment for Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians held about 3,100 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of mathematicians were as follows:

Federal government: 35%

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 17%

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: 16%

Finance and insurance: 8%

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: 7%

Statisticians held about 37,200 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of statisticians were as follows:

Federal government: 13%

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 11%

Insurance carriers and related activities: 9%

Healthcare and social assistance: 8%

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: 8%

Mathematicians and statisticians typically work in offices. They also may work on teams with engineers, scientists, and other professionals.

Work Schedules

Most mathematicians and statisticians work full time. Deadlines and last-minute requests for data or analysis may require overtime. In addition, these workers may travel to attend seminars and conferences.


How to Become a Mathematician or Statistician

Mathematicians and statisticians typically need at least a master’s degree in mathematics or statistics. However, some positions are available to those with a bachelor’s degree.

Education

In private industry, mathematicians typically need an advanced degree, either a master’s degree or a doctorate. For jobs with the federal government, candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or significant coursework in mathematics.

Most colleges and universities offer a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Courses usually include calculus, differential equations, and linear and abstract algebra. Many colleges and universities advise or require mathematics students to take courses in a related field, such as computer science, engineering, physics, or statistics. Because mathematicians often work with data analysis software, computer programming courses may be particularly beneficial for students.

Many universities offer master’s and doctoral degrees in theoretical or applied mathematics. Many students who get a doctoral degree work as professors of mathematics in a college or university.

Statisticians typically need a master’s degree but some entry-level positions may accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree.

Most statisticians have degrees in mathematics, economics, computer science, or another quantitative field. A degree in statistics typically includes courses in linear algebra, calculus, experimental design, survey methodology, probability, and statistical theory.

Many colleges and universities advise statistics students to take courses in a related field, such as computer science, engineering, or physics. These courses can help prepare students to work in a variety of industries. Coursework in engineering or physical science, for example, may be useful for mathematicians or statisticians working in manufacturing on quality or productivity improvement. A background in biology, chemistry, or health sciences is useful for work testing pharmaceutical or agricultural products.

Because mathematicians and statisticians often work with data analysis software, computer programming courses may be particularly beneficial for students.

Students who are interested in becoming mathematicians or statisticians should take as many math courses as possible in high school.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Mathematicians and statisticians use mathematical techniques and models to analyze large amounts of data. They must determine the appropriate software packages and understand computer programming languages to design and develop new techniques and models. They must also be precise and accurate in their analysis.

Communication skills. Mathematicians and statisticians must interact with, and propose solutions to, people who may not have extensive knowledge of mathematics.

Math skills. Mathematicians and statisticians use statistics, calculus, and linear algebra to develop their models and analyses.

Problem-solving skills. Mathematicians and statisticians must devise new solutions to problems encountered by scientists or engineers.


Mathematician and Statistician Salaries

The median annual wage for mathematicians was $103,010 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,860, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $161,900.

The median annual wage for statisticians was $84,060 in May 2017. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $50,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $133,720.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for mathematicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $120,840

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $119,500

Federal government: $111,990

Finance and insurance: $106,070

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: $56,320

In May 2017, the median annual wages for statisticians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government: $103,630

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $91,610

Healthcare and social assistance: $79,150

Insurance carriers and related activities: $77,860

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: $70,780

Most mathematicians and statisticians work full time. Deadlines and last-minute requests for data or analysis may require overtime. In addition, these workers may travel to attend seminars and conferences.


Job Outlook for Mathematicians and Statisticians

Overall employment of mathematicians and statisticians is projected to grow 33 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation.

Employment of statisticians is projected to grow 34 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected to result from more widespread use of statistical analysis to make informed business, healthcare, and policy decisions. In addition, the large increase in available data from the Internet will open up new areas for analysis. 

Employment of mathematicians is projected to grow 30 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 900 new jobs over the 10-year period. The amount of digitally stored data will increase over the next decade as more people and companies conduct business online and use social media, smartphones, and other mobile devices. As a result, businesses will increasingly need mathematicians to analyze the large amount of information and data collected. Analyses will help companies improve their business processes, design and develop new products, and even advertise products to potential customers.

In addition, mathematicians and statisticians will be needed in the scientific research and development services and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industries. The aging of the U.S. population is expected to prompt pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments and medical technologies. Biostatisticians will be needed to conduct the research and clinical trials necessary for companies to obtain approval for their products from the Food and Drug Administration.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for mathematicians and statisticians are projected to be very good. An increasing number of jobs over the next decade will require high levels of mathematical and statistical knowledge. Job opportunities are expected to be favorable for those with very strong quantitative and data analysis skills. Computer programming skills will remain important to many employers, as will be keeping up with new statistical methods and programming languages.

Many candidates with a background in advanced mathematical techniques and modeling also may find good job opportunities in other, closely related fields.

In addition to technical skills, applicants with strong communication skills and the ability to interpret and present their data and findings will have stronger job prospects.

Employment projections data for mathematicians and statisticians, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 40,300

Projected Employment, 2026: 53,700

Change, 2016-2026: +33%, +13,400


Careers Related to Mathematicians and Statisticians

Actuaries

Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk of potential events, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. Actuaries’ work is essential to the insurance industry.

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts, sometimes called systems architects, study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures, and design solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.

Economists

Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service. They help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price.

Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help organizations investigate complex issues, identify and solve problems, and make better decisions.

Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact. Theoretical physicists and astronomers may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe. Some physicists design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers.

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They may also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data. Surveys are used to collect factual data, such as employment and salary information, or to ask questions in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, or desires.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
ActuariesBachelor's degree$101,560
Computer Systems AnalystsBachelor's degree$88,270
Financial AnalystsBachelor's degree$84,300
Market Research AnalystsBachelor's degree$63,230
Operations Research AnalystsBachelor's degree$81,390
Postsecondary Teachers$76,000
Survey ResearchersMaster's degree$54,270
EconomistsMaster's degree$102,490
Computer ProgrammersBachelor's degree$82,240
Physicists and AstronomersDoctoral or professional degree$117,220

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mathematicians and Statisticians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/mathematicians-and-statisticians.htm