What is a Mathematician?

What does a Mathematician do?

Mathematicians typically do the following:

  • Expand mathematical knowledge by developing new principles
  • Recognize previously unknown relationships between known mathematical principles
  • Create models to resolve practical problems in fields such as business, government, engineering, and the sciences
  • Develop computational methods and computer codes
  • Compare inferences derived from models with observations or experiments

Mathematicians use high-level mathematics and technology to develop new mathematical principles, understand relationships between existing principles, and solve real-world problems.

Mathematicians work in government and in private science and engineering research. They work on teams with engineers, scientists, and other professionals.

Workers other than formal mathematicians use mathematical techniques. For example, engineers, computer scientists, physicists, and economists use mathematics extensively. Some workers, such as statisticians, actuaries, and operations research analysts, are specialists in a particular branch of mathematics. Some people with a mathematics background become math teachers.

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What is the workplace of a Mathematician like?

Mathematicians work in the government and in private science and engineering research companies. They often work with engineers, scientists, and other professionals and therefore must often work around others' schedules.

Mathematicians who work in post-secondary education usually have a mix of teaching and research responsibilities. Many academic mathematicians do research by themselves or in collaboration with other mathematicians. Collaborators work together at the same institution or from different locations, communicating electronically. Mathematicians in academia often have help from graduate students.

Are Mathematicians scientists?

Whether a mathematician can be called a scientist or not is a somewhat grey area which is not definitive. Strictly speaking, mathematicians are not considered natural scientists. The latter investigate the physical world; mathematicians’ work is more abstract and intangible.

Nevertheless, some of the traits one may find in a scientist – an investigative spirit, an enthusiasm for discovery, a voracious appetite for constant learning – can be found in a mathematician.

The general population, not involved in either science or mathematics, tend to categorize both in the one field. However, the majority of mathematicians would not consider themselves as scientists. Conversely, scientists would not label themselves mathematicians.

Mathematicians deal in absolute truths and must emerge with proof for a theory or hypothesis to be confirmed, while scientists can hypothesize and conditionally accept the results of the hypothesis. This is why mathematicians’ work is almost never redacted at a later date but sometimes scientists’ work can be revised or disproven.

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Can Mathematicians become Engineers?

It wouldn’t be advisable for a person who wants to become an engineer to first major in mathematics with the view to deviating at a later date toward engineering. It is true that a lot of mathematic principles apply in the world of engineering, but engineering is far more practical and ‘hands-on’ and one could not major in mathematics and expect to secure employment right away as an engineer.

If, however, you have majored in mathematics and find yourself looking thereafter to pursue a career in engineering, you are certainly ahead of someone who has majored in something completely unrelated. There are some specialized areas of engineering in which a mathematician could work, but you will still have to undergo further training and obtain the relevant qualifications, or at the very least assume an internship or relevant work experience.

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Do the majority of Mathematicians seem to end up working in educational settings?

Not necessarily, and in fact this view can be easily refuted when one observes the broad spectrum of careers in which a mathematician can work. It is forgivable to believe that mathematicians mainly work in educational settings though, because many are given job titles from the fields in which they work and so are not technically termed ‘mathematicians’.

A mathematician can specialize in areas as divergent as actuary, where they will use their skills to undertake risk analysis and build mathematic models, or meteorology, where they can analyze data using mathematical principles.

Of course, some mathematicians do pursue careers in research and teaching, but there are certainly other avenues for mathematicians to follow.

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Are Mathematicians in demand?

In a word, yes. Competent mathematicians are highly sought after in various industries and their ability to undertake intricate data analysis is viewed as a critical skill in modern business, industry and technology.

If you have a major in mathematics you have proven that you can undergo complex problem solving and have the requisite capabilities to undertake such problem solving in multiple settings. For example, economists rely heavily on the abilities of mathematicians, as do engineers.

You have a choice to make once you graduate with a mathematics degree as to the environment in which you want to work. A mathematician’s versatility is a huge asset and may lead to potential work in business, academia, engineering and technology.

Furthermore, if you are considering becoming a mathematician, you will be encouraged to learn that mathematicians often find themselves the subject of ‘Top 10 Jobs’ lists because of the average salary, job satisfaction, and employability.



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Further Reading

  • Mathematicians Thinking About Students Thinking About Mathematics homepages.warwick.ac.uk

    In recent years there has been increasing attention on the difficulties that many students experience in studying mathematics at university level...

  • Does One Have To Be A Genius To Do Maths? terrytao.wordpress.com

    In order to make good and useful contributions to mathematics, one does need to work hard, learn one’s field well, learn other fields and tools, ask questions, talk to other mathematicians, and think about the “big picture”.

  • Mathematicians - What They Do www.studentscholarships.org

    The work of mathematicians falls into two broad classes: theoretical (pure) mathematics and applied mathematics. These classes, however, are not sharply defined and often overlap.

  • Explainer: The Point Of Pure Mathematics theconversation.com

    What is pure mathematics? What do pure mathematicians do? Why is pure mathematics important?

  • A Day In The Life Of A Mathematician www2.math.ou.edu

    Whenever I tell someone I'm a mathematician---or a movie star---they become immediately fascinated and ask me what I do all day. Here's a example...

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