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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Formula For Success

A Formula for Success

The advantages of a math degree really add up

Quick... What do the 15 highest-paying jobs have in common?

Time’s up.

The answer: Math.

Here’s another: What do the top three jobs with the highest satisfaction ratings have in common?

Figured that one out, didn’t you?

Every one of these careers has a common denominator– they are all math-based professions.

Once thought of as a degree that produced mostly teachers and professors, mathematics majors are cropping up everywhere, and they are using those degrees in nearly every industry in today’s competitive environment.

Research, engineering, computer programming, communications, biomathematics, cryptography, statistics, finance and operations are just a few of the fields where mathematics majors are finding success.

“There is hardly a place out there that wouldn’t want to hire a mathematician,” said Sandy Norman, mathematics department chair. “People with quantitative skills are valued in virtually every aspect of the working environment, whether they be carpenters or mechanics, scientists or investment advisers. A mathematician can take a complex collection of data and recognize relationships that other people may not see, or in many cases find connections that are invalid.”

One San Antonio-based company is capitalizing on those attributes and using them in a broad range of practical applications.

Analytic Focus relocated its corporate headquarters to the Alamo City in 2006, just four years after establishing itself as a leader in statistical consulting. Since that time, it has hired eight UTSA alumni in a variety of positions, including several research analysts.

“Math is the science of problem solving, and individuals with these degrees have very similar character traits,” said Charles D. Cowan, president and CEO of Analytic Focus. “They have an innate ability to see large problems, break them down into small problems and then solve them.”

And that, said Cowan, is tremendously important to companies like his that provide consulting and expertise in statistics, economics, finance and litigation support.

“Oftentimes clients come in with a broad question. But they don’t know how to express the question, break it down or answer it,” he said. “So that’s a lot of the work that we do, and that’s where the skills of mathematicians really begin to rise to the top–finding out what the client wants to know and transforming that into a formal statement, and then figuring out how to test that statement.”

In their roles at the company, UTSA alumni provide services not only to federal and state agencies, but also to corporations and financial institutions.

“Our researchers study everything from the economic impact of toxic groundwater contamination to research to determine if there is discrimination in municipal housing policies,” Cowan added. “I like to tell our applicants that we don’t offer jobs, we offer exciting careers that will never be boring.”

Job growth within the field is only expected to accelerate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for mathematicians, especially those with advanced degrees, is expected to increase 22 percent by 2018. And those careers pay well, too. A 2009 study by CareerBuilder.com revealed that the national salary average for an individual with a bachelor’s degree in math is slightly more than $94,000 per year.

And projected growth in the businesses that employ mathematicians means opportunities to climb the career ladder, said Robert Jopling ’12, a research analyst at Analytic Focus.

“To be honest, I was surprised at how well my degree from UTSA prepared me for my career. For example, there was a programming class that I really didn’t want to take but was a requirement in my degree plan. It turns out that class has helped me more than almost any other,” he said. “I have a terrific future ahead of me and there are plenty of jobs out there. It’s a relatively low-stress field and yet at the same time, it’s incredibly challenging.”

However, Cowan cautions math majors not to ignore the other disciplines as well.

“I always encourage students to take some writing and communication classes as well,” he said. “You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t effectively communicate your theories, ideas and suggestions, you don’t stand a chance.”

–Ashley Dumulong


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Advantages of a Math Degree

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