A maths degree is very versatile and, as a result, mathematicians are sought after by a variety of employers.
But why is this?
It is because a maths degree is more than just dealing with arithmetic and the properties of numbers. Through the course of their degree, mathematicians can become knowledgeable and skilled with varying applications of mathematics. This can include topics such as: the methods and history of mathematics; the philosophy, science, collection and analysis of data for statistical purposes; operational research and modelling; computational mathematics; financial derivative pricing; quantum mechanics and relativity.
However, as well as developing a range of subject-specific and technical skills, mathematicians also develop and demonstrate major competencies in other areas through the course of their studies. These can include:
- Advanced numeracy, dealing with abstract concepts, and logical and objective thinking.
- Presenting mathematical arguments and conclusions with clarity and accuracy.
- Approaching problems in an analytical and rigorous way, formulating theories and applying them to solve problems.
- Analysing and interpreting large quantities of data, finding patterns and drawing conclusions.
- High level IT skills, particularly in programmes such as MAPLE, MATLAB and Microsoft Office.
- Designing and conducting observational and experimental studies.
- Attention to detail and effective time management.
- Ability to work independently and in a team.
- The capacity to interact and communicate effectively with people.
- Organisational skills and the ability to plan tasks well.
As a result of these broad skills, mathematicians appeal to many employers as a string of these proficiencies are required for a business to succeed and, it is for that reason, maths students/graduates find employment in many different job sectors.
Where do I start?
With your maths degree, a wide range of occupations could be open to you. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Jobs roles in this sector include:
- Corporate investment banker
- Data analyst
- Insurance underwriter
- Investment analyst
- Operational researcher
- Research scientist (maths)
- Secondary school teacher
- Software tester
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on areas of employment where a maths degree could be useful. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to explore career options, target your job applications and prepare for interviews.
- Prospects - Careers website which provides an overview of what to do with a maths degree, job vacancy information and careers advice.
- Targetjobs - An overview of career areas with a maths degree.
- QS Top Universities - A global career and education network, providing information on maths careers.
- All About Careers - All About Careers provides some useful tips, advice and tools to help you explore what to do with a maths degree.
- The Guardian - An insight into mathematics-related career areas and postgraduate courses from The Guardian.
A maths degree opens up a wide range of career options and opportunities to gain work experience will depend on the direction you want to choose. You may want to increase your commercial awareness, build experience in analysis and statistics or gain classroom experience if you are considering teaching.
Overall, the key to success when looking to gain experience is to prepare thoroughly, carry out research and to organise your placement, internship or volunteering opportunity in good time.
Different opportunities to gain experience
As part of your degree programme you may have the opportunity to take part in a salaried placement year, either in the UK or overseas to gain proven industrial experience by the time you graduate. This will provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer a unique opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills you are learning as part of your studies.
Placements will also enable you to gain transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.
Your first point of contact to arrange your placement will be the placement office within your Faculty. Find out how to contact your Placements Office here.
An internship is usually a work experience opportunity that is offered for a fixed period or a limited amount of time. Internships tend to be undertaken by students and graduates who are looking to gain more relevant/industry specific skills and experience in their particular field.
These opportunities can be paid for a period of between one to four months and typically take place over the summer, with closing dates generally around January to March, but some can be earlier.
Searching for placement and internship opportunities
The websites below provide further information about placement and internship opportunities:
- InsideCareers - search for internships, placements and insights across career sectors including actuaries, insurance, pensions, banking and investments and accountancy.
- RateMyPlacement - offers information on a range of internships and work experience, including accounting and finance, banking, business, consulting and retail.
- TARGETjobs - provides a specific section on different career sectors, with the ability to search for placement and internship opportunities in accountancy and financial management, financial services, insurance and investment banking and consulting.
- The Big Choice - includes a search tool for work placement opportunities across financial services such as accountancy and taxation, actuarial, banking, insurance and pensions; in addition to computing and IT, retail and public sector services.
- Gradcracker - as the UK’s careers website for Technology students, Gradcracker provides a search function for placements and internships relevant to your degree discipline.
- Milkround - provides a search tool for internships and industrial placements across sectors, including IT and related business support roles, accounting and banking, consultancy and education.
If you are specifically looking to get into teaching then the following sites provide further information:
- The Undergraduate Ambassador Scheme run by the Department of Mathematics enables final year students to undertake a ten week placement in a local school. Students benefit from work experience in an educational environment, as well as the opportunity to work directly with mathematics teachers across key stages and higher level qualifications.
- Try Teaching is specifically targeted at graduates who may be considering moving into the profession and offers a paid internship programme in an English school.
- Get into Teaching provides tailored advice from teaching experts covering everything from arranging school experience to preparing a strong application.
Getting involved in volunteering gives you the opportunity to develop employability skills and experience a variety of working environments. It also provides the chance to network, meet new friends and boost your confidence.
Volunteering also enables you to gain practical experience and working examples to support your graduate applications. If you choose to commit a significant amount of time and impress the organisation during your volunteering, they may also provide you with a professional reference.
Volunteer to get practical experience:
Approaching local organisations, charities or community groups who would benefit from your skills is one way of gaining that all-important experience. The competencies developed will be invaluable and enhance any speculative applications you make.
Purple Door offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank, which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly, you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in Purple Door.
Examples of roles previously advertised and recruited by the Volunteering Team that may be of interest to maths students and graduates include:
- Assistant Money Tutor Volunteer with Citizens Advice - supporting the delivery of Money Workshops to members of the public in line with changes in policy and legislation.
- Bookkeeper Volunteer with Toucan Diversity Training - assisting with the general bookkeeping for the organisation; creating and recording financial transactions and reports from the data.
- Fundraising Volunteer with Portsmouth Autism Support Network - organising and managing fundraising activities and events to raise funds for the organisation.
- Funding Researcher with Portsmouth Foodbank - researching potential funding streams and compiling a report of the findings to present to the board of trustees with advice and suggestions on suitable opportunities to explore and apply for.
- STEM Ambassador with STEM Learning - acting as an ambassador of your subject area to inspire children and young people and demonstrate the possibilities of STEM subjects and careers by delivering workshops and/or activities within schools or local organisations.
- Higher Education Mentor with Brightside - communicating with mentees online through a dedicated mentoring platform to share resources, information and activities to help to raise aspirations and encourage young people to consider their education and career options.
If you have any questions regarding the volunteering opportunities available to you in Portsmouth then please contact the Volunteering Team on email email@example.com.
Tips for success when looking for experience
Before starting your search consider your requirements:
Initially, it is important to identify whether or not there is specific experience you wish to gain within a particular sector or could your search be broader where you are looking to gain transferable skills?
Some key considerations for your search may include:
- Are you looking for experience that relates to a specific unit you are taking as part of your university course?
- What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
- Are there any gaps in your skillset that need to be addressed? How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
- What is the time commitment and location of the role? Does this fit in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
- What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? A bigger national or multinational company? A small to medium-sized enterprise, charity of not-for-profit organisation?
Make sure you carry out thorough research:
Research the different potential employers who may be looking for graduates with a maths degree and/or associated skills before you apply for work experience. Are you interested in working within statistics, finance, banking or insurance services? Do you have a specific goal to work within education? Do consultancy or risk management roles appeal to you?
As a starting point take a look at the job profiles included on the Prospects website to consider the type of work experience recommended and the skills you will need to develop to enhance graduate applications to specific roles.
Use your initiative and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively - send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
Create a positive online presence:
Finding a job
Careers and occupations with a maths degree are varied and numerous. Some of the job areas you could get involved in are: statistical work; actuary and risk management; quant (applying mathematical and computing methods of analysis to financial problems); finance, accounting and banking; operational research; computing; teaching; retail merchandising; human resources and administration, so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.
The range of employers who recruit in these areas includes:
- Statistical, financial, banking and insurance services
- Aerospace and defence companies
- Education providers
- Telecommuications, computing and engineering companies
- Risk management and actuarial organisations
- Utility, transport and travel companies
- Science and technology laboratories
Below is a list of useful websites to help you start your job search
- Office for National Statistics - The Office for National Statistics is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the UK's economy, population and society.
- Government Statistical Service - The GSS collects, analyses and publishes official statistics.
- The Institute of Risk Management - A leading body for professional risk management.
- AllStats - Allstats perform data analysis and apply statistical techniques to serve the medical, business, technology and education communities.
- GCHQ - The Government Communications Headquarters for national intelligence and security.
- BAE Systems - A global defence and aerospace company.
- Atomic Weapons Establishment - AWE support the UK's Continuous At Sea Deterrence programme and national nuclear security.
- Defence Jobs - An online jobs board which provides a full range of UK roles within a variety of industries.
- Numerical Algorithms Group - NAG specialise in numerical engineering and delivering computational software.
- E.ON - E.ON is one of the UK's leading energy providers.
- Highways England - Specialists in modernising and maintaining the UK's highways.
- Government Operational Research Service - GORS supports policy-making, strategy and operations, and employs around 500 analysts.
- Met Office - The Met Office is the UK's national weather service.
- Experian - Experian Decision Analytics provides credit risk and fraud management consulting services and products.
- Machine Intelligence Research Institute - MIRI is an artificial intelligence research center.
- Math-Jobs.com - An online jobs board which provides information on national and international job vacancies for mathematicians.
- Maths Careers - A site managed and maintained by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, providing links to companies that recruit qualified and practising mathematicians.
- WISE - Job vacancies focused on STEM occupations.
Need more help and information?
How can Purple Door help you?
Purple Door offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and Covering Letters
- Application forms
- Job search
- And more......
Please visit services for you for more details about our support and services.
Purple Door has an online Jobs Board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Recruitment Consultancy team that delivers a personalised matching job service.
Remember if you are not on campus you can still access our services via telephone or skype booked appointments, please contact us to discuss your needs.
If you need more information why not check out some of the resources below to help you to research a sector in more depth.
- STEM Graduates - A recruitment agency that support students and graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
- STEM Recruitment Solutions - An independent consultancy for the scientific, technology, engineering and manufacturing industries.