If you have a knack for numbers, you might consider a job as a mathematician or statistician. While these jobs are related, they differ in important ways. Mathematicians solve complex problems and create theories, while statisticians design surveys and use math to analyze data and discover trends. Both fields have high earning potential, but often require an advanced degree. Women made up half of all mathematicians and statisticians as of 2007 according to the Population Reference Bureau.
Mathematicians come up with new theories and principles of math. They may use their knowledge to write computer codes and find novel ways to use computers in real-world situations, such as with car aerodynamics. More than half of mathematicians worked in universities or government agencies in 2012.
Statisticians create surveys and analyze results to help businesses and public agencies see trends. They use math to draw conclusions from numbers, and write reports on the findings. Statisticians may hold such positions as analysts for the U.S. Census Bureau, or marketing experts with media ratings agencies.
The typical mathematician earns an average salary of $101,360. Statisticians earn less at a median income of $75,560, although both careers earn significantly more than the median income of $34,756 for all U.S. jobs. Mathematicians tend to earn the highest wages in scientific research and development services, at an average annual salary of $122,440. Other employers that pay above-average salaries include computer systems designers, architectural and engineering firms, the federal government, and scientific and technical consulting firms. For statisticians, securities dealers pay the most, at an annual average of $128,390. Other well-paying employers included pharmaceuticals wholesalers, electronic shopping vendors, mail-order firms, and information services.
Mathematicians earn more on average, but are also more likely than statisticians to have a doctoral or professional degree. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 42 percent of mathematicians had a doctoral degree as of 2012, compared to 24 percent of statisticians. Only 21 percent of mathematicians held only a bachelor’s degree, while 28 percent of statisticians obtained only an undergraduate education (see References 7, 8). Statisticians have the best job prospects with a master’s degree in statistics, and a background in finance, engineering, or computer science. Mathematicians need a doctoral degree to work for universities or government agencies. (See References 11, 13)
Communication is key as either a mathematician or statistician. As a mathematician, you’ll have to explain theories or calculations to people who may not understand math. Statisticians need to talk with scientists and researchers to figure out the questions they want to answer, and to design the right survey. You’ll also need to know how to think critically and solve problems. Computer skills are a must.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 16 percent increase in job growth for mathematicians between 2010 and 2020, as better technology gives companies more data to analyze. Cloud servers used to store projects, financial reports, and other important information will give mathematicians more numbers to mine (see reference 11). Statisticians can expect a 14 percent increase in jobs from 2010 to 2020, as more companies use statistics from a growing internet to make decisions. Government agencies will hire statisticians to improve data for policy-making. Other industries hiring statisticians include engineering and pharmaceuticals.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Statisticians Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Mathematicians Do
- College of San Mateo: Careers in Mathematics - Statistician
- North Carolina State University: Statistics
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012-Statisticians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012-Mathematicians
- O-NET Online: Summary Report for Mathematicians
- O-NET Online: Summary Report for Statisticians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Mathematician