Career Guide to JMU Majors: Mathematics
Admission and Progression Standards:
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Description of MajorMathematics is offered as a major and minor at JMU. The department offers a program of study in the mathematical sciences which meets the needs of a wide variety of students and make a continuing contribution to the advancement of mathematical knowledge and dissemination. The program provides opportunities for in-depth study which lead to careers as mathematicians and statisticians in industry and government, mathematics teachers; and to further study in graduate school. The first two years of introductory mathematics focus on differential and integral calculus. The studies of the last two years are devoted primarily to basic material in the fields of analysis, algebra, geometry, computing and statistics. The two parts of the program are distinguished by methods of presentation, as well as by content. The first two years lead gradually to appreciation of definitions and proofs, and to precision in mathematical language. The latter two years anchor basic mathematical concepts, results and methods, and increase the knowledge of applications. The program is committed to promoting mathematics as an art of human endeavor as well as a fundamental method of inquiry into the sciences and a vast array of other disciplines. In addition to the concentrations listed above, the department also offers a minor in Statistics. Students seeking teacher licensure are encouraged to consult with the appropriate program in the College of Education.
Tell me more about this field of study
Mathematics is the study of such objects as numbers, operations, space configurations, mappings, and abstract structures. Those studying mathematics develop skills to manipulate these objects and analyze the relationships between them. Much of the knowledge and effort of a mathematician is devoted to formulating and analyzing models, which can be used to make predictions. A mathematical model is a set of equations whose solution can be used to predict the behavior of the phenomenon being modeled. The 5-day forecast that we see on the 11:00 news is prepared using output from a weather model. The predictions we see in the news concerning the growth of the economy are based on various mathematical models. The performance and reliability of communication networks are often predicted using a network model. The predictions produced by mathematical models vary in quality. Sometimes they are right on target and sometimes they are meaningless. Certain models can be calibrated by running an experiment. For example, a fully instrumented building can be burned down and the results compared to the output from a fire model. When used as part of a design process, a well-constructed mathematical model can often produce enormous cost savings.
Tell me more about specialization
Mathematicians specialize in a wide variety of areas such as algebra, geometry, analysis, probability and statistics, mathematics education, and applied mathematics. The college graduate with a bachelor's degree in mathematics or actuarial science can qualify for a broad range of highly paid positions in a variety of industries. In private industry, companies in the computer, communications, and energy field employ many mathematicians. Students interested in government work will find that almost every bureau and branch of the federal government employs mathematicians in some capacity. Mathematicians, statisticians, operations researchers, and actuaries work in the Department of Health and Human Services, the General Accounting Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Institute of Standards. The Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Security Agency also employs many mathematicians. Many mathematicians are attracted to teaching and research opportunities at primary, college and university settings. In most four-year colleges and universities, the Ph.D. is necessary for full faculty status. Many mathematicians with a bachelor's or master's degree teach at the K-12 level. Major Research Laboratories like IBM, ATT, Bell, and Research Institutes support purely scientific research positions. Many other job titles apply to mathematicians who have specialized in an applied branch of mathematics. Actuaries assemble and analyze statistics to calculate probabilities, and thereby set rates, in the insurance industry. Operations Research Analysts apply scientific methods and mathematical principles to organizational problems. Statisticians design, carry out, and interpret the numerical results of surveys and experiments. All of these careers begin with an education in mathematics, and a curiosity about the use of mathematics to solve problems.
Common majors or minors that complement this major
Some common combinations with a Mathematics major are: Astronomy, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Environmental Information Systems, Finance, Geographic Science, Geology, Integrated Science and Technology, Logic and Reasoning, Materials Science, Physics, Quantitative Finance, Statistics, Telecommunications, or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.
Those students who are able to think independently and creatively and are not afraid of hard work are the most successful in mathematics.
Recently, JobsRated.com ranked Mathematician as the best job in America, with Actuary and Statistician at second and third, based on salary, work conditions, and other factors. Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose nontraditional career fields that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
Aeronautic Firms, Banks & Investment Firms, Chemical & Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, Colleges & Universities, Communication Companies, Computer & Electronics Manufacturers, Computer Service & Software Firms, Consulting Firms, Electric Companies, Energy Systems Firms, Engineering Firms, Federal Contractors, Federal & State Government Offices, Government Labs and Research & Development Firms.
There are a number of "hands on" experiences available to students in mathematics, especially through the Center for Mathematical Modeling and the Office of Statistical Services, both housed in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Students intending to teach complete an "internship" through the student teaching experience, required in the senior year for those who seek teaching licensure. Students also gain experience and/or exposure to the field of mathematics through involvement in the Mathematics Club, Pi Mu Epsilon (Mathematics Honor Society), and the student chapter of the American Mathematical Society.
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A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center.
A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:
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