Students in a North Central College math classroom.

4 Best Applied Mathematics Jobs

Hannah Brauer

Nov 30, 2022

What is Applied Mathematics?

If you enjoy using math to find answers or solve problems in everyday life, and you want to figure out how you could use these skills to build your career, then you may be picturing an applied mathematics job. Applied mathematics career paths can take many different directions, ranging from business to engineering fields. You may still be wondering, though, what is applied mathematics? Read on to find out more about the difference between pure mathematics vs applied mathematics. 

Pure Math vs. Applied Math

First, let’s dive into pure math vs. applied math. Because applied mathematics depends on the fundamental methods of pure math, the two fields are similar. What is applied mathematics, and how does it differ from pure math? The key difference between these mathematical sciences lies in how the two areas of study use those mathematical principles: pure math investigates mathematical concepts, while applied math focuses on using math to solve real-world problems.

Pure mathematicians may use math to find answers to questions that are more abstract. To study those abstract mathematical concepts, pure mathematicians may continue beyond a math major in undergraduate school. They may pursue graduate study or even become a postdoctoral fellow mathematician.

On the other hand, an applied mathematician employs math to provide practical solutions to real-world problems. Applied mathematicians can pursue a career path in various fields, including finance, computer science, and coding, economics, and business.

If you like math and are intrigued by the chance to choose from various career opportunities, then an applied mathematics major might be for you. To give you an idea of applied mathematics careers, let’s look at the four best-applied mathematics jobs.

1. Statistician

A statistician is one example of an applied mathematics job. You may be curious, though, about applied math vs statistics: what is the difference? Once again, the difference is in how statisticians use applied mathematics to research and solve issues. They construct surveys or experiments based on the type of information they need to collect, like quantitative or qualitative data. To gather information, they may use applied math and modeling in software programs. After conducting their studies, statisticians analyze and interpret the results, looking at current data or extrapolating data to explore future trends. Then, statisticians interpret those results and present their findings to help inform decisions, sometimes communicating their results to diverse audiences. 

Because statisticians apply mathematics to decipher problems, they have access to a lot of career opportunities. According to Jacquelyn Smith in Business Insider, statisticians may “specialize in fields such as bio-statistics or agricultural, business, or economic statistics.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average annual salary for statisticians is $96,280.

2. Economist

Using data and statistical analysis, economists apply their knowledge of mathematics to evaluate previous, current, and future market trends. This may seem similar to the work of a market research analyst or a statistician, but economists rely more on applied math for their analyses of the economy. 

Since the economic market itself is vast, this brand of applied mathematicians can choose from various economic sectors to specialize in. Economists can work for the government or in the private industry. They focus on analyzing market directions for a particular product or service, and they make recommendations for “monetary and fiscal policy,” as written in Business Insider.

Economists play an important role in providing economic predictions to the government, to stakeholders and investors, or to anyone wanting to keep up-to-date with the economy. As such, economists use their understanding of applied mathematics and data science to collect research and demonstrate their analyses in various ways, sometimes even for public consumption. Keep an eye out when you read the news or check social media—you will see economists quoted all the time!

According to the BLS, economists earn an average annual salary of $105,630.

Find out more about North Central College

3. Actuary

Actuarial jobs are among the highest-paid applied math careers. Per the BLS, the median annual salary for an actuary is $105,900. Most actuaries are employed by insurance or re-insurance companies, where they extrapolate data to analyze potential risks. 

Actuaries utilize applied math, such as computational mathematics, to quantify potential risk by considering the likelihood of “mortality, accident, sickness, and retirement rates,” per Business Insider. For insurance companies, actuaries present their predictions to help the companies determine potential liability and formulate insurance policies and costs.

4. Operations Research Analyst

Operations research analysts use applied mathematics to consult on the most advantageous operations practices for companies. These applied mathematicians conduct quantitative operations research; they may look at company financial reports and resource costs, for instance. They also conduct qualitative operations research—sometimes meeting with employees and supervisors to evaluate the workplace procedures of a company. 

Upon completion of their evaluation, operations research analysts present their findings to the company, often working with managers or supervisors to recommend best practices. They may also collaborate with software engineers to develop or augment software programs and databases to inform efficient business strategies. The average annual wage earned by operations research analysts is $82,360, as reported by the BLS

How to Work in Applied Mathematics

Most career paths in applied mathematics require an applied mathematics degree or a degree in a related field. Some applied mathematics jobs, like actuaries or operations research analysts, generally require only a bachelor’s degree in terms of education. While it is possible to find a job as a statistician or economist with only a bachelor’s degree, most of the time you will need to have a master’s degree in applied mathematics. 

Applied mathematicians gain knowledge and experience through an applied math degree, where they can learn to use mathematical modeling to propose optimal resource usage for companies. As an operations research example, an applied mathematician might be asked to forecast flight usage for airline companies to optimize the use of their planes. According to the program page, an applied mathematics degree at institutions like North Central College can help equip you with the knowledge and skill set needed to solve real-world problems in operations research and other applied mathematics jobs.

You might also think about the educational experience you want as you work toward becoming an applied mathematician. You’ll want an education that helps to jumpstart your search for an applied mathematics job, even if you’re not sure which field you’ll want to work in yet. Look at institutions that will prepare you for many career options, like North Central to see which program is the best fit for you. 

As you consider how you could use your math skills to work in your field of choice, you may want to look for ways to grow your practical skills and pursue potential career opportunities while earning your degree. Applied mathematics students can join a math club or add to their professional experience by completing an internship, such as the internship opportunities available at North Central.

With an educational foundation that prepares you to help solve many kinds of real-world problems, your applied math career can take off in any direction you choose.

Hannah Brauer is a communications specialist in the North Central College Office of Communications. She has a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University, and she has four years of experience working with college students and collegiate communications.



North Central College. 

Smith, Jacquelyn. (2016, June 14). “14 High-Paying Jobs for People Who Love Math.” Business Insider. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, September 8). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Economists. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, September 8). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Math Occupations. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from