What use is maths in getting a job?

What types of skills do employers look for? Problem solving, analysis, data handling and communication skills, to name just a few. These transferable skills are useful in any job, and you can get all of them from studying maths.

Think about answering a question in your maths lessons. It might be to triangulate a distance, calculate an area, anything. Whatever you’re asked, the approach is the same: pick out the important parts of the problem, work out the knowledge and skills you need to apply, and figure out the answer. Employers need people who know how to solve problems, and once you know how to do it in maths, you can do it in anything.

Once you’ve solved a problem, you need to tell people the answer. Maths helps you communicate complicated ideas in a clear and unambiguous way. People working in science, business and many other areas use maths to explain complex situations, like analysing a company’s profits or checking that a building will stay standing. Maths also teaches you how to handle and interpret data, sifting through the numbers to come up with a solution.

These skills – problem solving, logical thinking, conceptual ability, communication, data handling and interpretation, and research – are useful in any job, and employers recognise that you have them if you’ve studied maths. Apart from these general transferable skills, maths also equips you with a set of tools that are vital in many jobs.

Here is a selection of the wide variety exciting careers that you can do with a maths qualification.

Computer game designer and ICT

Creating the virtual worlds of video games and making the people that inhabit them and act as we’d expect involves a lot of maths. Everything in a game is a three-dimensional mathematical object, and these objects behave according to equations modelling the game’s physics. Maths is also widely used in other areas of ICT, including programming, designing hardware and project management.

Medical statistician and medical research

Medical statisticians design clinical trials to judge whether new medicines and medical treatments are effective. Maths is used throughout medical research to model tumour growth and the spread of disease, decide treatment dosages, and model the effects of illness on the human body.

Audio software engineer and digital signal processing

Most of today's music uses synthesisers and digital processors to correct pitch or add effects to the sound. These tools are created by audio software engineers who manipulate digital sounds using a mathematical technique called Fourier analysis. This kind of digital signal processing has many other applications including speech recognition, image enhancement and data compression.

Meteorologist and climate prediction

Meteorologists use mathematics to model the weather and make short-term predictions. They also study how changes to our environment impacts the climate. They use numerical analysis and computer modelling techniques to produce results, from tomorrow’s weather forecast to long-term predictions of global climate change.

Racing car designer and aerodynamics

A car’s speed is influenced by aerodynamics, the mathematical study of the motion of air. Using maths, racing car designers can know what affects the car's performance, and tweak the car to get the best results. This area of maths is also used to understand flight and can even improve sporting performance.

Actuary and financial mathematics

Actuaries use maths and statistics to make financial sense of the future. For example, if an organisation is planning a large project, actuaries analyse the project, assess the financial risks and outcomes involved, and advise the organisation on the decisions to be made. Much of their work is on pensions, ensuring funds have enough money for when current workers have retired. They also work in insurance, making sure that premiums match the level of risk. Mathematics is used in many other areas of finance, like banking, stock trading, and economic forecasts.

Avalanche researcher and fluid dynamics

Understanding how avalanches start and developing ways to predict when they might happen requires an area of maths called fluid mechanics. This is one of the most widely applied areas of mathematics and it is used in understanding volcanic eruptions, flight, ocean currents and even the stock market.

Statistical consultant and data analyst

Government departments and businesses call in statistical consultants to help solve complex problems. They apply their training to a wide range of areas, such as predicting future infrastructure requirements, improving manufacturing processes, and using information collected by businesses to make better decisions.

  • John Henstridge and Jodie Thompson are consultant statisticians at Data Analysis Australia where they use maths to understand a wide range of real life problems.
  • Our career profiles section has a special page on statistical careers.
  • Have a look at our selection of statistical job descriptions.
  • Check out some statistical consulting case studies.

Math: not just for mathematicians

All of the jobs featured on this page use maths, but few of them have the words maths or statistics in their titles. You don’t have to be called a mathematician to use maths – in fact, no matter what job you go into, you’ll end up using your mathematical skills.