Is an Applied Mathematics Degree Right for You?
Applied mathematics is a solid choice for problem-solvers who want to apply their mathematical talent to an industry instead of pursuing careers in academia. Since mathematics has applications in everything from insurance and finance to engineering to defense, an online bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics may lead to a wider variety of career options than would a degree in pure mathematics. Students may also leverage a bachelor’s in applied mathematics to pursue a graduate degree in other analytical areas, like biophysics, computer science, operations research, and systems engineering.
Advice for Earning Your Applied Mathematics Degree Online
Even if you’re a math whiz, college-level courses in advanced mathematics can be challenging, which is why we recommend choosing an online applied mathematics bachelor’s program that features strong tutoring support. Since one concept builds on another in math, it’s vital to be able to get the help you need as soon as you start experiencing difficulties with the material.
Similarly you should choose an online program with small class sizes so that your professors can devote more time to individual students. Because of the complexity of applied mathematics courses, we also recommend taking a part-time course load to start out so that you can evaluate your ability to take time-consuming courses like calculus, statistics, and physics while balancing your other life responsibilities, such as a job or family.
Applied mathematics students start out taking general education courses in the arts and sciences and build their mathematical foundation by taking courses in Precalculus and Calculus I, II, and III. From here, they move on to advanced mathematical principles through courses like Linear Algebra Probability, Number Theory, Statistics, and Differential Equations. Courses that emphasize the practical applications of mathematics might include:
- Mathematical Modeling
- Mathematical Theory and Applications
- Geometry for Graphic Design
- Computing Foundations
- Mathematics for the Sciences
Common Career Paths
Although applied mathematics does encompass mathematical theory, the practical application of those principles allows for a great amount of versatility in career options. Most of the positions listed below can be earned with just a bachelor’s degree, but pursuing a master’s degree can greatly improve a candidate’s chances at a higher-paying career or better position. Keep in mind that salaries can vary based on your level of experience and education, the size and type of your employer, where you live, and other factors.
- Expected Growth: 27%
- Average Annual Salary: $103,000
Actuaries work in the insurance industry, where they look at statistical data pertaining to mortality rates, accident rates, disability rates, etc., and evaluate the level of risk an insurance company takes on by insuring certain types of people and personal property. For instance, an actuary in the health insurance industry might make predictions on how much it would cost for an insurance company to provide health coverage to certain categories of people depending on their age, where they live, their family medical history, and other contributing factors.
A degree in mathematics, statistics, or actuarial science is often required for positions in the field, and a strong grasp of math is a must, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above employment growth and salary figures are available through the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 23%
- Average Annual Salary: $87,740
Financial analysts help organizations, and sometimes individuals, make solid investment decisions. They might evaluate the performance of a company’s financial portfolio over time and make recommendations on what stocks, bonds, and other investments should perform well in the future. Financial analysis involves mathematics as it pertains to accounting and statistical analysis, and applied math majors who wish to pursue this field may wish to minor in business or finance and take courses in risk management.
A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is typical for the profession, although many financial analysts have an MBA or other relevant master’s degree, the BLS explains. The above statistics on employment growth and average salaries for financial analysts are provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 16%
- Average Annual Salary: $101,320
Applied mathematicians use their broad knowledge of mathematical modeling to solve real-world problems in a variety of industries, such as the pharmaceutical, automotive, and other industries. For example, an applied mathematician might create mathematical models that could help predict the spread of forest fires based on the weather and ground cover, or conduct genome sequencing analysis techniques in the health care industry, according to some examples provided by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
While a graduate degree in mathematics is preferred, some careers are open to those with a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics, the BLS indicates. The employment growth and salary figures listed above were provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 6%
- Average Annual Salary: $67,520
Insurance underwriters set the terms by which people are issued insurance, and may also determine if a person is too risky to insure. For example, an insurance underwriter may look at an auto insurance clients’ data, assign them to a specific risk category, and select a premium based on their age, driving record, and other factors, or they may refuse to issue a policy to someone who has multiple traffic infractions and a DUI.
A bachelor’s degree is preferred for positions in the field, and courses in mathematics, business, finance, and economics are helpful, the BLS explains. The above employment growth and salary figures are available through the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 36%
- Average Annual Salary: $62,670
Cost estimators use computer software to accurately estimate the money, manpower, supplies, and time needed to complete projects, manufacture a product, or provide a service. These professionals work on teams with project managers, and most commonly work in construction or manufacturing, according to the BLS.
While some jobs can be obtained through experience alone, a bachelor’s degree is the most common qualification, and a solid grasp of mathematics is essential. The BLS is the source for the above statistics on employment growth and salary figures for cost estimators.