Mathematics is the science of patterns: numerical patterns, patterns of shape, patterns of motion, patterns of behaviour, and so on. Since patterns are found in all areas of life, so is mathematics.
In statistics, we start with some real-life data and want to find out as much as we can about the processes that produced the data. Modern life produces almost endless amounts of data, which means that statisticians are always in high demand.
How do computer games work? How is the information contained in an MP3 file transformed into music? How are traffic lights programmed to yield the best flow of traffic? How do we know which quantity of an antibiotic is going to get rid of your flu? All these questions are answered using mathematics and statistics.
From biology to engineering to the finance industry, mathematics and statistics are in action. As a mathematician or statistician you have the opportunity to contribute to almost any field of endeavour. Mathematical and statistical skills are flexible and transferable, and can be applied to almost any industry anywhere around the world.
By studying mathematics and statistics you improve your logical thinking, problem solving and analytical skills. Solving mathematical and statistical problems requires creativity and adaptability. These skills are highly valued by employers.
Career choices are boundless - see our more detailed careers page or the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute Careers guide for more details regarding job prospects. You can also find out what some of our former students are doing now on our alumni page.
Yes, there are many more than can be filled by the numbers of students graduating. A degree in mathematics or statistics provides you with international employment opportunities.
See where many of our graduates end up working, via our Alumni webpage.
AMSI's "Maths Adds" career guide website also provides a good overview of the kinds of jobs on offer to maths and stats graduates: http://mathsadds.amsi.org.au/
With the evolution of computing, many areas have been opened up to mathematical advances - in finance, biology, weather simulation, medical diagnosis, image processing, for example - providing many new kinds of job opportunities. Mathematical skill has kept pace with the advances in hardware and software, so mathematics graduates are highly sought-after to give a competitive advantage. Mathematicians are trained to think logically and to approach problems in analytical and creative ways. Studying mathematics and statistics prepares you for a wide variety of careers because it provides you with the problem solving, computing and communication skills that employers want.
There are opportunities in areas as diverse as banking, insurance and investment, environmental modelling, oceanography, meteorology, computing, information technology, government, education or research. In the finance industry, for example, there are many highly-paid positions in areas like portfolio optimisation, option pricing and stockmarket prediction. The handling of large amounts of money requires the use of sophisticated mathematical techniques to limit risk. The official regulator of the financial sector, the APRA, also regularly advertises graduate opportunities. And the deregulation of the electricity generation industry has created a high demand for mathematicians.
There are many positions in the area of environmental modelling, which uses mathematics to understand and predict complex environmental systems. The School's courses in oceanography, marine science and meteorology are directly relevant to work in the Bureau of Meteorology, Weatherzone and CSIRO. But the same techniques of modelling and prediction are applicable much more widely, in, for example, fisheries management and salinity prediction. The expanding biotechnology and health industries are providing an increasing number of positions, especially in biostatistics.
There are many positions available for mathematics teachers in high schools, for those who wish to inspire the next generation of mathematicians. Qualifications in teaching are required. Other jobs in maths communication involve interpreting complex financial information for company reports and prospectuses, and designing TV and newspaper weather reports.
Academic positions within universities, and research positions with universities, the CSIRO, and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation are available for those with the drive to discover new knowledge in mathematics.
And remember, the same formulas are true all over the world (actually, in all possible worlds): mathematics is the ultimate portable skill. It is thus perfect for "keeping your options open".
Yes. Some ads ask for graduates to do spreadsheet work with surveys; analytical work in the insurance industry; "maths/science graduate for inventory control, criteria for success in this role include a sense of humour, computer literacy, the ability to work with numbers". Some pass graduates however use their degrees to obtain more general positions that use analytical and research skills but are not specifically mathematical, such as office jobs of various kinds.
Employers are much more concerned with overall results and with general analytic and communication skills than with details of areas in which students have specialised. It is better to study whatever you find of most interest, as that will give the best results. However, there are particular shortages of experts in statistics, risk management and financial mathematics, so anyone especially concerned to enhance their job prospects could consider taking at least some courses in those areas. Courses in mathematical modelling are also generally useful, as are combined degrees like maths/finance, maths/law and others.
Job ads and surveys of employers often mention communication skills (both oral and written), the ability to work in a team, and energy and initiative. Basic computer literacy, especially in spreadsheets, is very desirable. For some jobs, though not all, computer skills in programming (e.g. in C++ or Java or SAS) are wanted.
The Australian Mathematical Society maintains an online Jobs for Mathematicians site. You may also want to check out the Math Jobs site.
There is a site for statistics jobs and one maintained by IAPA for jobs in analytics/data mining.
The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute's (AMSI) Career Guide profiles some varied - and even unexpected - careers that can arise as a result of studying mathematics and statistics.
The UNSW Library holds the books "101 Careers in Mathematics" (P510.2373/1) and "Great Jobs for Math Majors" (P510.23/3) which detail some of the fun and exciting jobs available to people with mathematics degrees.
An American site with career profiles of some mathematicians outside the academic and teaching arena can be found at AMS Careers Information site.
For some role models, check out the School's alumni page.
Professor Jim Franklin
T: (02) 9385 7093
fax: (02) 9385 7123