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How Do I Become a Mathematician?

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  • Written By: D. Nelson
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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To become a mathematician, it usually is necessary to earn a doctorate degree in a field of mathematics, such as algebra, geometry, or calculus. Individuals who become mathematicians normally begin studying mathematics early in their college careers. Aside from earning advanced postgraduate degrees, aspiring mathematicians also can benefit from publishing papers on mathematical issues, performing research, and practically applying their mathematical skills and knowledge to real world problems. Individuals who would like to practice as theoretical mathematicians can apply for professorships and research positions, while those interested in applied mathematics may choose to pursue careers as engineers or physicists.

A mathematician is a professional who specializes in the study of math. Theoretical mathematicians tend to be interested solely in the philosophy and practice of mathematics. Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, often work in disciplines such as physics and engineering.

An individual who would like to become a mathematician should take as many math classes in high school as possible. Some of these should be advanced courses, meaning that students who would like to enroll must have demonstrated proficiency in the subject and perhaps even have passed a proficiency exam. A student at this level who would like to become a mathematician can benefit from studying this subject outside of school in his or her free time.

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In order to become a mathematician, a person should plan on enrolling in an undergraduate or bachelor's (BA) degree program in mathematics. At this stage, it might not be necessary to have a specialized area of study. Faculty advisers often encourage students to take a number of different math courses, waiting to choose which concentrations they prefer until they have earned a broad-based background in mathematics. While many professionals believe that degrees from prestigious schools can allow students greater opportunities in the future, others advise that it is more important that students attend schools where they are comfortable and where there are strong mathematics programs.

After receiving an undergraduate degree, a person who wants to become a mathematician should apply to graduate degree programs. Most mathematicians have doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees. If you are unsure about which path you should pursue, you might benefit from enrolling in a master's (MA) degree program. These normally last for about two years. Upon completion of this degree, you can decide if you would next like to pursue a PhD.

If you aim to study applied mathematics, then you might also study concentrations such as physics or engineering. After earning your graduate degree, you might send resumes to firms where you can put your mathematics knowledge to use. Those interested in theoretical mathematics should apply for positions as researchers and instructors.

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