Applied mathematics is a fascinating STEM field that combines mathematical theory with real-world applications. From predicting weather patterns to modeling financial markets, applied mathematicians use their skills to tackle complex problems across science, engineering, business, and more.
This interdisciplinary mathematics degree opens doors to careers in diverse industries, where math-minded professionals help drive innovation through quantitative analysis and computational modeling. If you love math but also want to apply your skills to solve tangible issues, an applied mathematics degree may be the right choice. Read on to learn more about this dynamic major and where it can take you.
What is Applied Mathematics?
Applied mathematics focuses on the use of mathematical methods to solve real-world problems. While pure mathematics revolves around theorems and proofs, applied math is all about practical applications. This field bridges the gap between abstract mathematical theory and specific quantitative issues within the physical, life, and social sciences, as well as engineering, business, and medicine.
Applied mathematicians utilize tools like differential equations, numerical analysis, mathematical modeling, and statistics to analyze data, predict outcomes, and provide insights. Their work involves identifying relevant math principles, developing mathematical models, performing quantitative analysis, and interpreting results. Some key applications and subfields of applied mathematics include:
- Mathematical physics – Applying math to natural phenomena like fluid flow, heat, electromagnetic fields, and quantum mechanics
- Computational science – Using computers to analyze and solve scientific, social, scientific, and engineering problems
- Mathematical finance – Creating and applying mathematical models for stock markets, option pricing, portfolio optimization, and risk management
- Mathematical biology – Modeling natural processes in biology such as cell division, tumor growth, and disease spread
- Operations research – Providing optimized solutions for complex decision-making problems and business processes
- Actuarial science – Assessing risk and uncertainty to advise insurance companies, pension funds, and government
The work of applied mathematicians powers innovation across many different industries. Their expertise in quantitative thinking, data analysis, and problem-solving helps drive advancements in science, medicine, technology, and business.
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Types of Applied Mathematics Degrees
Those interested in applied mathematics can pursue degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Each degree offers varying levels of specialization in applied math concepts, methods, and applications.
Associate in Applied Mathematics
An Associate of Science (AS) in Applied Mathematics provides a solid introduction to university-level math and statistics. This 2-year degree covers foundational concepts like calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, probability, and mathematical modeling. Associates programs allow students to gain basic applied math skills before transferring to a bachelor’s degree. They may also lead directly to entry-level jobs requiring quantitative proficiency.
Bachelor’s in Applied Mathematics
A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Applied Mathematics is the standard credential for most applied math careers. This 4-year degree provides in-depth training in advanced math theories, including real analysis, complex analysis, optimization, numerical analysis, and stochastic processes. Students specialize in particular domains like computational mathematics, actuarial science, or mathematical physics. Bachelor’s programs include labs and/or capstone projects applying classroom concepts to real-life situations.
Master’s in Applied Mathematics
Those interested in leadership or research roles may pursue a Master of Science (MS) in Applied Mathematics, taking around 2 years post-bachelor’s. Master’s students gain sophisticated skills in areas like partial differential equations, combinatorics, or financial modeling, depending on their concentration. Programs include advanced coursework, modeling projects, and independent research. Graduates may become applied math specialists, data scientists, quantitative analysts, actuaries, or professors.
Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics
The highest credential is a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Applied Mathematics. These rigorous 5-year programs prepare students for academic and industrial research careers. Doctoral students take advanced graduate math courses and seminars, pass qualifying and comprehensive exams, and complete dissertation research, making original contributions to the field. PhDs teach at colleges and universities and take lead research roles in industry, defense, and government.
Applied Mathematics and Computation Jobs
Professionals with applied mathematics training are highly sought-after for their ability to solve complex computational problems. Some top career paths include:
Data scientists utilize mathematical and statistical concepts to extract insights from large datasets. They design data modeling processes, create algorithms and machine learning pipelines to detect patterns, visualize findings, and communicate results to stakeholders. Data science draws on skills in programming, modeling, statistics, and analytics.
Operations Research Analyst
Operations research analysts use mathematical optimization models and simulations to provide data-driven solutions for business planning and decision-making. They develop predictive models, perform sensitivity analyses, interpret data, and build real-time dashboards to improve efficiency and productivity across departments.
Actuaries quantify risk and uncertainty to provide expert assessments to guide financial decision-making. They use statistical and modeling techniques to predict potential events and their financial costs. Actuaries advise on risk and insurance policies for corporations, government agencies, insurance companies, and other organizations.
Mathematicians advance mathematical knowledge through researching, developing, and testing new theories. They solve abstract problems, publish academic papers, mentor students, and teach mathematical sciences courses. Mathematicians work in postsecondary education and may also take on specialized research roles in private industry or government.
Financial analysts examine financial data to assess economic and business conditions and support organizations’ financial and investment decisions. They build financial models using advanced analytic techniques to forecast revenues, assess risks, and optimize investment portfolios. Strong math skills underpin financial modeling and data analysis.
Epidemiologists study the distribution and determinants of disease in populations. They design studies, collect and analyze data, and interpret results to understand health issues from causes to treatments. Mathematical modeling of disease progression and statistical analysis of risk factors are key to understanding and controlling outbreaks.
Computer programmers write, test, and debug code to create software programs and applications. They take specifications provided by software developers and engineers and turn them into logical sequences of instructions that computers can follow. Programming requires strong math skills, logic, creativity, and attention to detail.
Applied Mathematics Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 30% growth in mathematical science occupations between 2022 and 2032, much faster than the average across all fields. This increasing demand is fueled by the need for advanced data analytics and quantitative modeling across industries. Applied mathematicians earn competitive salaries.
According to Glassdoor, average salaries for applied math professionals is $65,000 to $100,000 per year. However, salaries for other career paths are listed as follows:
- Data Scientists: $144,024 per year
- Actuaries: $176,348 per year
- Mathematicians: $109,389 per year
- Financial Analysts: $76,873 per year
- Computer Programmers: $87,717 per year
- Epidemiologists: $88,828 per year
Salaries vary based on location, experience, industry, and employer. However, applied mathematics provides strong earning potential given its highly specialized, in-demand skill set. Those with advanced degrees tend to command the highest pay.
Applied Mathematics vs. Pure Mathematics
While both focus on mathematical theory and problem-solving, there are key differences between applied and pure math:
- Goal – Applied math aims to solve practical problems, while pure math seeks to advance theoretical knowledge.
- Tools – Applied math uses computational methods and software, while pure math relies on theoretical constructs like proofs.
- Domains – Applied math is interdisciplinary, connecting to specific fields. Pure math dwells in the abstract world of numbers and shapes.
- Mindset – Applied math adopts a pragmatic mindset. Pure math embraces curiosity, imagination, and puzzle-solving.
- Careers – Applied math leads to industry jobs. Pure math drives academic research roles.
The two fields complement one another; pure mathematics provides the theories that applied mathematics utilizes. Students should consider their interests and career goals when choosing between the two concentrations.
Harnessing the Power and Potential of Applied Mathematics
Applied mathematics is a multifaceted degree focused on real-world problem-solving through quantitative analysis and computational methods. Core concepts from calculus to stochastic processes empower students to tackle complex modeling challenges across scientific and business domains.
Associates, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs allow tailored preparation for jobs from data science to actuarial science. With demand for math professionals projected to grow substantially, applied mathematics offers dynamic career opportunities at competitive salaries. If you’re mathematically inclined and desire to see the practical impacts of math, applied mathematics may be the right major for you.
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Frequently Asked Questions About the Applied Mathematics Degree
What kind of math is used in applied mathematics?
Applied math utilizes concepts from calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, probability, statistics, mathematical modeling, and more. Methods involve solving practical problems numerically, graphically, through optimization algorithms, and via computational tools.
Do you need to be good at math for an applied mathematics degree?
Yes, an applied math degree requires strong math abilities, including proficiency in advanced calculus, differential equations, statistics, and other complex math theories. Analytical skills and computational precision are also important.
What can you do with an applied mathematics degree?
Common careers include data scientist, financial analyst, actuary, mathematician, epidemiologist, operations research analyst, statistician, and roles in engineering, computer science, business, and the sciences. Quantitative and modeling skills are applicable across domains.
Is applied mathematics a STEM degree?
Yes, applied mathematics is considered a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field. The quantitative analysis, computational methods, and interdisciplinary applications align with STEM principles. Applied math contributes advanced technical knowledge to drive innovation.
Is applied mathematics a good major?
Applied math is a strong major for mathematically inclined students interested in practical problem-solving. Job demand in data science, business analytics, modeling, and more provides great career opportunities. Applied math skills translate across many industries for those who like math but also want real-world impact.
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