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Careers in Mathematics and Computer Science

March 24, 2016

David A. Reimann
Associate Professor
Mathematics and Computer Science
Albion College
Albion, Michigan 49224


There has long been a demand in both industry and government for people with training in mathematics, statistics, and computer science. Even in a weak economy, the job market remains strong for mathematics and computer science majors.

"Employment in math occupations is expected to grow by 17 percent, adding 19,500 jobs by 2020. About half of these positions, 9,400, will be occupied by operations research analysts. Demand for these workers will increase as technology advances and companies need analysts to help them turn data into valuable information that can be used by managers to make better decisions in all aspects of their business."

--- From: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Projections Overview,

The logical reasoning and critical thinking skills you will develop as a mathematics or computer science major gives you incredible flexibility in an ever-changing job market.

Great Careers

A recent ranking lists math and computer science related jobs near the top (Jobs Rated 2012: Ranking 200 Jobs From Best to Worst from Specific jobs and rankings include

  1. Software Engineer
  2. Actuary
  3. Financial Planner
  4. Computer Systems Analyst
  5. Mathematician
  6. Statistician
  7. Physicist
  8. Physician
  1. Economist
  2. Architect
  3. School Principal
  4. Industrial Engineer
  5. Attorney
  6. Elementary School Teacher
  7. High School Teacher

A mathematics or computer science major and a liberal arts education form an excellent preparation for these and many other great careers!

Just because a career you are thinking about is not listed above, that does not mean it is not a good career for you. Your own unique background, interests, skills, and passions will determine what career path is right for you.

Not so great careers

  1. Taxi Driver
  2. Oil Rig Worker
  3. Enlisted Military Soldier
  4. Dairy Farmer
  5. Lumberjack

These jobs do not require a college degree, have limited earning potential, may require physical labor, can be dangerous, may be seasonal, and may require long hours.

Which of the following is most different from the others?

  1. A computer science major
  2. A mathematics major
  3. A liberal arts major
  4. A large pepperoni pizza

The answer is 3 since the other three can feed a family of four.

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Salary Survey - Winter 2012

Average salaries by discipline

Broad Category 2010 Average Salary 2011 Average Salary Percent Change
Computer Science$58,229$60,5944.1%
Health Sciences$44,451$44,9551.1%
Humanities & Social Sciences$34,856$35,5031.9%
Math and Sciences$39,749$40,2041.1%

Graduates earning mathematics degrees now average $43,800—up 3.1 percent. Moreover, four of five employers providing these graduates with the greatest number of opportunities (insurance, management consulting, computer systems design, and manufacturing) provide average starting salaries that exceed $50,000.

From NACE Salary Survey Exectutive Summary (January 2012)

Job Factors

Deciding on a Career

Careers in Mathematics and Computer Science


Through their knowledge of statistics, finance, and business, actuaries assess the risk of events occurring and help create policies that minimize risk and its financial impact on companies and clients. One of the main functions of actuaries is to help businesses assess the risk of certain events occurring and formulate policies that minimize the cost of that risk. For this reason, actuaries are essential to the insurance industry.

See Actuaries in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for more information.
See Be An Actuary

Robert Clark, `12, Actuarial Analyst at Towers Watson, Chicago, IL
Dustin Turner `05, VP of Product Holdings at Confier Holdings, Southfield, MI

An actuary is walking down the corridor when he feels a twinge in his chest.
Immediately, he runs to the stairwell and hurls himself down.
His friend, visiting him in the hospital, asks why he did that?

The actuary replies, “The chances of dying from having a heart attack
and falling down the stairs are much lower than the chances of having a heart attack only.”

Computer scientists, and database administrators

Computer scientists work as theorists, researchers, or inventors. Their jobs are distinguished by the higher level of theoretical expertise and innovation they apply to complex problems and the creation or application of new technology. The areas of computer science research range from complex theory to hardware design to programming-language design. Some researchers work on multidisciplinary projects, such as developing and advancing uses of virtual reality, extending human-computer interaction, or designing robots. They may work on design teams with electrical engineers and other specialists.

With the Internet and electronic business generating large volumes of data, there is a growing need to be able to store, manage, and extract data effectively. Database administrators work with database management systems software and determine ways to organize and store data. They identify user needs and set up new computer databases. In many cases, database administrators must integrate data from outdated systems into a new system. They also test and coordinate modifications to the system when needed, and troubleshoot problems when they occur. An organization’s database administrator ensures the performance of the system, understands the platform on which the database runs, and adds new users to the system. Because many databases are connected to the Internet, database administrators also must plan and coordinate security measures with network administrators. With the growing volume of sensitive data and the increasing interconnectedness of computer networks, data integrity, backup systems, and database security have become increasingly important aspects of the job of database administrators.

See Computer systems analysts, computer scientists, and database administrators in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for more information.

JP Walters, `02, Computer Scientist at University of Southern California / Information Sciences Institute East, Arlington, VA
Todd Krabach, `99, Software Engineer, Facebook

A computer science student is studying under a tree and another pulls up on a flashy new bike.
The first student asks, “Where’d you get that?”
The student on the bike replies, “While I was studying outside, a beautiful girl pulled up on her bike.
She took off all her clothes and said, ‘You can have anything you want’.”

The first student responds, “Good choice! Her clothes probably wouldn’t have fit you.”

Financial Analysts and Personal Financial Advisors

Financial analysts and personal financial advisors provide analysis and guidance to businesses and individuals in making investment decisions. Both types of specialists gather financial information, analyze it, and make recommendations. However, their job duties differ because of the type of investment information they provide and their relationships with investors.

Financial analysts assess the economic performance of companies and industries for firms and institutions with money to invest. Also called securities analysts and investment analysts, they work for investment banks, insurance companies, mutual and pension funds, securities firms, the business media, and other businesses, helping them make investment decisions or recommendations. Financial analysts read company financial statements and analyze commodity prices, sales, costs, expenses, and tax rates in order to determine a company’s value and to project its future earnings. They often meet with company officials to gain a better insight into the firm’s prospects and to determine its managerial effectiveness.

Personal financial advisors assess the financial needs of individuals. Advisors use their knowledge of investments, tax laws, and insurance to recommend financial options to individuals. They help them to identify and plan to meet short- and long-term goals. Planners help clients with retirement and estate planning, funding the college education of children, and general investment choices. Many also provide tax advice or sell life insurance. Although most planners offer advice on a wide range of topics, some specialize in areas such as retirement and estate planning or risk management.

See Financial Analysts and Personal Financial Advisors in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for more information.

John Pearce '11, Quantitative Analyst, NorthPointe Capital, Troy, MI
Mary Fidler, `04, Financial Services Professional, Greater Chicago Area


The legal system affects nearly every aspect of our society, from buying a home to crossing the street. Lawyers form the backbone of this system, linking it to society in numerous ways. They hold positions of great responsibility and are obligated to adhere to a strict code of ethics.

Lawyers, also called attorneys, act as both advocates and advisors in our society. As advocates, they represent one of the parties in criminal and civil trials by presenting evidence and arguing in court to support their client. As advisors, lawyers counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest particular courses of action in business and personal matters. Whether acting as an advocate or an advisor, all attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the law to the specific circumstances faced by their clients.

See Lawyers in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for more information.

Megan McGown `06, Attorney - Labor/Employment Law, Law Offices of Lee & Correll, Detroit
Jennifer Paine `05
Anwar Imam `02, Media and Technology Professional, Venture Capital and Private Equity, United Arab Emirates

One day Lincoln and a certain judge who was an intimate friend of his were bantering each other about horses, a favorite topic. Finally Lincoln said:
"Well, look here, Judge! I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll make a horse-trade with you,
only it must be upon these stipulations:
Neither party shall see the other's horse until it is produced here in the courtyard of the hotel
and both parties must trade horses. If either party backs out of the agreement,
he does so under a forfeiture of twenty-five dollars."

"Agreed," cried the judge, and both he and Lincoln went in quest of their respective animals.

A crowd gathered, anticipating some fun, and when the judge returned first the laugh was uproarious.
He led, or rather dragged, at the end of a halter the meanest, boniest, rib-staring quadruped—blind
in both eyes—that ever pressed turf. But presently Lincoln came along carrying over his shoulder
a carpenter's sawhorse. Then the mirth of the crowd was furious. Lincoln solemnly set his horse down,
and silently surveyed the judge's animal with a comical look of infinite disgust.

"Well, Judge," he finally said, "this is the first time I ever got the worst of it in a horse-trade."


Mathematics is one of the oldest and most fundamental sciences. Mathematicians use mathematical theory, computational techniques, algorithms, and the latest computer technology to solve economic, scientific, engineering, physics, and business problems. 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.

Theoretical mathematicians advance mathematical knowledge by developing new principles and recognizing previously unknown relationships between existing principles of mathematics. Although these workers seek to increase basic knowledge without necessarily considering its practical use, such pure and abstract knowledge has been instrumental in producing or furthering many scientific and engineering achievements. Many theoretical mathematicians are employed as university faculty, dividing their time between teaching and conducting research.

Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling and computational methods, to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, engineering, and the physical, life, and social sciences. For example, they may analyze the most efficient way to schedule airline routes between cities, the effects and safety of new drugs, the aerodynamic characteristics of an experimental automobile, or the cost-effectiveness of alternative manufacturing processes.

Additional Information

Operations research analysts

“Operations research” and “management science” are terms that are used interchangeably to describe the discipline of using advanced analytical techniques to make better decisions and to solve problems. The procedures of operations research were first formalized by the military. They have been used in wartime to effectively deploy radar, search for enemy submarines, and get supplies to where they are most needed. In peacetime and in private enterprises, operations research is used in planning business ventures and analyzing options by using statistical analysis, data and computer modeling, linear programming, and other mathematical techniques.

See Operations research analysts in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for more information.
See Student Union from Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS)

Q: Do good operations research jokes exist?

A: Good OR jokes exist, but the problem of finding them is NP-hard.


Statistics is the scientific application of mathematical principles to the collection, analysis, and presentation of numerical data. Statisticians apply their mathematical and statistical knowledge to the design of surveys and experiments; the collection, processing, and analysis of data; and the interpretation of the experiment and survey results. Opinion polls, statements of accuracy on scales and other measuring devises, and information about average earnings in an occupation are all usually the work of statisticians.

Statisticians may apply their knowledge of statistical methods to a variety of subject areas, such as biology, economics, engineering, medicine, public health, psychology, marketing, education, and sports. Many economic, social, political, and military decisions cannot be made without statistical techniques, such as the design of experiments to gain Federal approval of a newly manufactured drug. Statistics might be needed to show whether the seemingly good results of a drug were likely because of the drug rather than just the effect of random variation in patient outcomes.

See Statisticians in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for more information.
See also Careers Center from the American Statistical Association (ASA)

Jeremy Troisi, Ph.D. Candidate - Statistics, Purdue University
Elizabeth Jewell, Biostatistics

Three statisticians went out hunting, and came across a large deer.
The first statistician fired, but missed, by a meter to the left.
The second statistician fired, but also missed, by a meter to the right.

The third statistician didn't fire, but shouted in triumph, "We got it!"

Teachers—preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary

Teachers play an important role in fostering the intellectual and social development of children during their formative years. The education that teachers impart plays a key role in determining the future prospects of their students. Whether in preschools or high schools or in private or public schools, teachers provide the tools and the environment for their students to develop into responsible adults.

Teachers act as facilitators or coaches, using classroom presentations or individual instruction to help students learn and apply concepts in subjects such as science, mathematics, or English. They plan, evaluate, and assign lessons; prepare, administer, and grade tests; listen to oral presentations; and maintain classroom discipline. Teachers observe and evaluate a student’s performance and potential and increasingly are asked to use new assessment methods. For example, teachers may examine a portfolio of a student’s artwork or writing in order to judge the student’s overall progress. They then can provide additional assistance in areas in which a student needs help. Teachers also grade papers, prepare report cards, and meet with parents and school staff to discuss a student’s academic progress or personal problems.

Additional Information

Levi Straight, `04, Baltimore
Jennifer Kamer, `06, Port Huron
Rachel Kamischke, `11, Metro Detroit
Daniel Staniszewski, `06, Pontiac
Lauren Paul, `07, Sammamish, WA

A guy goes to the supermarket and notices a beautiful blond woman wave at him and say hello!
He's rather taken aback, because he can't place where he knows her from. So he says, "Do you know me?"
To which she replies, "I think you're the father of one of my kids."
Now his mind travels back in time ...

"Are you the woman I met on spring break my senior year in college???"

She looks into his eyes and calmly says,

"No, I'm your son's math teacher."


Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. Most of theses students are working toward a degree, but many others are studying for a certificate or certification to improve their knowledge or career skills. Postsecondary teachers include college and university faculty, postsecondary career and technical education teachers, and graduate teaching assistants. Teaching in any venue involves forming a lesson plan, presenting material to students, responding to students learning needs, and evaluating student progress. In addition to instruction, postsecondary teachers, particularly those at 4-year colleges and universities, also perform a significant amount of research in the subject they teach. They must also keep up with new developments in their field and may consult with government, business, nonprofit, and community organizations.

See Teachers—Postsecondary in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for more information.

David Friday, `04, Macomb Community College

Top executives

All organizations have specific goals and objectives that they strive to meet. Top executives devise strategies and formulate policies to ensure that these objectives are met. Although they have a wide range of titles—such as chief executive officer, chief operating officer, board chair, president, vice president, school superintendent, county administrator, or tax commissioner—all formulate policies and direct the operations of businesses and corporations, public sector organizations, nonprofit institutions, and other organizations.

See Top executives in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for more information.

Michael J. Griffith, `79, former president and CEO, Activision
Bill Ferguson '52, former Chairman/CEO from NYNEX
Samuel Dickie, class of 1872 valedictorian, mayor of Albion, president of Albion College for twenty years (and also taught mathematics at Albion College)

Career Profiles

New wage and salary jobs

Employment in professional, scientific, and technical services is projected to grow by 29 percent, adding about 2.1 million new jobs by 2020. Employment in computer systems design and related services is expected to increase by 47 percent, driven by growing demand for sophisticated computer network and mobile technologies. Employment in management, scientific, and technical consulting services is anticipated to expand, at 58 percent. Demand for these services will be spurred by businesses’ continued need for advice on planning and logistics, the implementation of new technologies, and compliance with workplace safety, environmental, and employment regulations. Combined, the two industries—computer systems design and related services and management, scientific, and technical consulting services—will account for more than half of all new jobs in professional, scientific, and technical services.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Projections Overview,
on the Internet at (visited February 27, 2013).

Fastest Growing Occupations in Michigan

Fastest Growing Occupations in Michigan from

Finding a Job

  • Write a resume (you should have one by now!)
  • References
    • Who: Faculty, former employers, coaches
    • Provide references enough lead time
    • Provide references information about you: resume, transcript, etc
    • Provide references information about where you are applying
  • Networking
    Networking is a two-way street that can put you in touch with possible mentors, employers, summer internship providers, graduate school professors, and peer professionals; but you must also be ready, and actively look, to return the favor. Networking is communicating with the purpose of achieving a career-related goal. It is not asking for a job. It is asking for advice and suggestions on areas that may include employment opportunities. -
    • Math/CS alumni
    • Albion College alumni
    • LinkedIn
  • Job Postings
  • Be open to change
  • Pound the pavement!
  • Don't Give up!

Other Resources