Last updated December 31, 2014

When you think of a mathematician, you may imagine a gray-haired man standing in front of a chalkboard covered end to end with formulas. In fact, mathematicians come in all shapes and sizes. And they work with the latest computer technologies in fields as varied as business and physics.

There are two main groups of mathematicians. Theoretical mathematicians come up with new ways of thinking about quantities -- you can thank them for adding to the formulas and principles you learn in math class. Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, use math to solve practical problems in fields like computer science. The line that divides these two groups, however, often blurs.

Mathematicians use mathematical theory, algorithms, and computers to solve problems in economics, science, engineering, and other fields.

“I loved math because of the clarity of it. With math, there are no arguments, no discussions; you have a proof or an answer or you don't.” Jim, Mathematician, National Security Agency

Are You Ready To...?

  • Communicate complicated math ideas to those not well-versed in math
  • Work with cutting-edge computer technology to deal with complex mathematical issues
  • Work on an interdisciplinary team that may include engineers, computer scientists, economists, and physicists
  • Meet deadlines, working overtime when needed
  • Travel to conferences and seminars

It Helps To Be...

An abstract thinker who loves seeking answers as much as finding them. If you like logic, playing with numbers, and using computers, then mathematics might be the field for you.

Make High School Count

  • Take advanced math and science classes, like AP® Calculus and Physics.
  • Get comfortable with computers. You’ll spend a lot of time using them to analyze data.
  • Explore subjects, such as economics and business, that rely on math.
  • Take part in the International Math Olympics.

Did You Know?

Mathematicians work for universities, government agencies, and businesses.