Why major in Mathematics at Illinois Wesleyan University?

The first institution of higher learning ever established -- simply called The Academy -- was founded by Plato in the 4th century BC.  It is said that inscribed above the entrance was the sentence "Let none enter who are ignorant of geometry."  Thus, mathematics took it's seat as the most fundamental field of study.

The Mathematics program at IWU is designed to develop students critical thinking and analytical skills, enabling them to tackle some of the toughest real-world problems.  In addition, our program focuses on preparing students to be able to effectively communicate their ideas, both in written and verbal form.  Most major employers state that strong communication skills and the ability to work on a team are two of the main qualities they look for in a potential employee.  Our close-knit IWU mathematics community of both students and professors provides a great opportunity to hone your talents.

All this being said, there are many reasons people study mathematics.  For some, it's because math constitutes the elegant, logical structure which underlies all other scientific inquiry.  For others, it's the thrill of learning how to solve the big problems using a deliberate and systematic attack.  But for many it's the variety of career paths that open up with a degree in mathematics.  This page will provide you with some information on why majoring in Mathematics is a good idea. 

 
MAJOR

SALARY DIFFERENTIAL

Mathematics

+37.7%

Economics +33.5%
Chemistry +22.8%
Foreign Langs +5.1%
Poli. Sci. +4.9%
History +0.9%
Biology +0.8%
English +0%
Sociology -0.3%
Psychology -4.4%
 

(Thanks to Duke University for the data.) 

 

 

 

Salaries

The table on the right compares the average starting salaries for different majors.  The data comes from the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2005 salary survey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


  


Major LSAT GMAT 

Mathematics

+12.8%

+13.3%

Philosophy +8.7% +11.0%
Economics +9.6 +7.3
Chemistry +7.6% +7.5%
English +5.6% +4.1%
Foreign Langs +5.7% +3.3%
History +2.9% +4.6%
Biology +4.0% +3.3%
Psychology +0.9% +0.8%
Political Science -1.6% +.06%
Arts & Music -.05% -1.2%
Business -4.5% -0.8%
Sociology -7.0% -5.0%
Education -8.7% -4.2%
 

 

 

 

Scores on Entrance Exams

Majoring in mathematics can lead to careers that seem far-removed from the subject.  In particular, studying math can help you gain entrance into graduate school for medicine, law, or business.

 The data in the table on the left comes from a study by the National Institute of Education which compared the scores of 550,000 college students who took the LSAT and GMAT with data collected over the previous eighteen years.

The table excerpts some of this data from The Chronicle of Higher Education.  The entries show the percentage by which the mean score of test takers from specific undergraduate majors differs from the mean score of all test takers.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

JOB SATISFACTION RANKING

Mathematician

1
Actuary 2
Statistician 3
Biologist 4
Software Engineer 5
Economist 11
Physicist 13
Computer Programmer 18
Aerospace Engineer 33
Nuclear Engineer 41
Chemist 57
Electrical Engineer 62
Federal Judge 69
Civil Engineer 71
Mechanical Engineer 74
Attorney 82
Stockbroker 84
Senior Corporate Executive 88
Dentist 101
Orthodontist 103
General Practice Physician 142
Surgeon 156

 

 

 

Job Satisfaction

In 2009, JobsRated.com ranked 200 jobs according to environment, income, outlook, physical demands, and stress.  While mathematician took top honors, the 2nd and 3rd ranked jobs are actuary and statistician.  Both fields employ lots of people with degrees in mathematics.  Furthermore, many graduates of the IWU mathematics program have gone on to become actuaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


 

 

Below, you will find descriptions of a few of the many jobs in which mathematicians are employed.  These range from private industrial jobs, to government agencies, to teaching.  The fact of the matter is, a firm basis in mathematics provides the proper analytical skills to take you just about anywhere.


Finance

Wall Street has become a major employer of math majors.  Investment companies are seeking mathematicians for jobs titled "quantitative analyst" to predict the future for them. Trying to match the outstanding success of multibillionaire Differential Geometer, James Simons (founder of the Renaissance Technologies Corporation and the top hedge fund, the Medallion Fund), many investment and financial firms consider mathematicians prized hires. 
 
Information and Data Security
One area that is particularly "hot" these days is cryptography - the making and breaking of secret codes. Not only the CIANSA, and other spy agencies are devotees. Numerous businesses also require cryptography such as RSA key encryption. Number theory is the branch of pure mathematics which provides the theoretical underpinnings for much of the recent progress in cryptography. 

Mathematical Modeling
In mathematical modeling, you write down equations to describe how a real world system behaves. The "system" might be drawn from many different fields. For example, most financial companies hire mathematicians to study financial models and make predictions based on statistical evidence. In physics or engineering you might be interested in how heat is dissipated through the heat shield of a space vehicle. In physiology you might want to apply the laws of fluid dynamics to describe how blood flows in vessels and what happens when blood pressure is increased. In economics you might want to predict how a strike in the automotive industry will affect other parts of the economy.

As usual, the power of mathematics comes from its ability to handle general abstract problems and then to apply these general methods to an enormous variety of problems.
 
Biotech
Recent breakthroughs in the study of  DNA and proteins have generated a great deal of interest in mathematical biology. Many biotech companies hire mathematics majors because of the high (and growing) mathematical content of the field.

Statistics
The proliferation of statistics in everything ranging from business to government has induced many organizations to seek math majors.  Statisticians use surveys -- for example, opinion polls -- to predict the patterns of behavior of large groups based on relatively small samples. They ask questions such as: How can we be sure that what we predict from our small sample is true of the population being sampled? Probability theory  provides the theoretical foundation for statistics.
 
Actuary
One business with an extreme interest in statistics is insurance. The (highly paid) professionals responsible for computing insurance rates are specialist statisticians called actuaries. 

Computer Engineering
The computer industry provides many lucrative jobs for math majors. Beyond mere proficiency in computer programming, math majors are trained to address the more fundamental issues involved in the creation of new algorithms. Furthermore, many sophisticated applications of computers such as creation of  computer graphics and the compression of video and audio signals  (to name a few examples) involve a great deal of deep mathematics, and as a result, many computer companies specifically hire math majors.
 
Teaching
If you would like to give back to your community and serve children, teaching mathematics at the secondary school level can be very rewarding. A major in Mathematics can be paired with an Educational Studies major to ultimately certify to teach.

Graduate School
At the end of your undergraduate years, you may have fallen in love with the beauty of mathematics and want to learn more. You may wish to go to graduate school in mathematics or a related field (e.g., operation research, economics, computer science, etc.). In graduate school, students typically get paid (albeit not much) to pursue a Master or PhD degree. With a graduate degree, you may find a teaching or research job in academia, or a leadership position in industry.