What is a Math Major and is it Right for Me?

Do you love working with numbers? Do you love the fact that numbers in themselves are a whole other language? Want to spend your day problem-solving and working with others? If so, being a math major might be perfect for you.

Many people are intimidated by the thought of majoring in math, or they have misconceptions about what math majors actually do. Here’s what the life of a math major is really like, so you can decide if it’s right for you.

What is a math major?

Becoming a math major is about more than just being good with numbers; it requires a big time commitment that includes going to class, meeting with study groups and teaching assistants (TAs) and solving problem sets. If you’re willing to take the time to be successful in the major, it can definitely be the right track for you.

Additionally, the term “math” is broad, which means that math majors often tackle a number of different topics within that concept. Potential classes include algebra, calculus, trigonometry, geometry, computational mathematics, statistics, number theory and discrete math. Thus, even if you consider yourself a “good” math student in school, you’ll want to be sure you can do well in any math course, not just in a particular subject area like calculus.

Furthermore, many math majors often concentrate in a particular math subject or even major or minor in that area. It’s not uncommon to meet people who double major in math and computer science or math and statistics.

It’s also important to note that often people in more quantitative fields decide to pursue graduate degrees (a Masters, PhD or specialized certification program), so that will also have to factor into your decision as well.

Is it right for me?

Here are several key questions to ask before pursuing a math major in college:

  • Am I willing to put in extra time going to study groups or TA (teaching assistant) sessions to work on my problem sets?
  • Do I like problem-solving, especially when the answer doesn’t come easily to me at first? Am I willing to work on a particular problem as long as it takes, no matter how hard it is?
  • Am I willing to ask for help from a professor or TA if I need it?
  • Do I like working on different types of math, including calculus, algebra, statistics, geometry and computational mathematics?
  • Would I be open to double-majoring, minoring or focusing on a particular area of math, like statistics, accounting or computer science?
  • Am I interested in pursuing a graduate degree to supplementing my undergraduate one if my career called for it?

What can I do with a math degree?

Very few people with math degrees go on to be “mathematicians” per se, but the great thing about this degree is that if you want to work in a quantitative field after you graduate from college, a math major gives you many diverse options.

Math majors have gone on to a number of interesting positions, including:

  • professor
  • investment banker
  • financial/business analyst
  • accountant
  • statistician
  • researcher
  • information technology analyst
  • engineer
  • programmer
  • …and more

What do people who majored in math earn?

Great news: Majoring in math and pursuing a quantitative career involving numbers and research can give you a great ROI (return on investment) after graduation. For example, actuaries make a median salary of $70,000, and operations research analyst managers have a median salary of $146,000.

Next, learn more about this college major such as What Types of Skills Are Best for a Math Major? and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Internship?

What Types of Skills Are Best for a Math Major?

If the idea of working on problem sets, finding solutions and solving real-world problems appeals to you, becoming a math major might be right up your alley. But what are the key skills you’ll need to rock the math major and feel confident in your career prospects?

Here are four skills that all of the most successful math majors possess.

Strong quantitative skills

Fact: You can be a math major unless your number-crunching, quantitative and logic skills are extremely strong. Majoring in math is not for those who did “okay” in math classes in high school; you need to be confident in your abilities to solve problems.

Organizational skills

Math majors take a lot of notes in classes, so you’re going to have to think of an efficient system for note-taking on many different subjects and also organizing the notes you take. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get lost if you can’t keep track of the notes you’ve written or the problem sets you’ve finished; successful math majors are able to keep all of their documents straight.


It may seem like a strange skill for a math major, but think about it: You’re spending hours upon hours every day working on difficult problem sets, and it’s easy to get frustrated and give up.

However, math majors need to be able to stay calm and ask for help when they need it, and the most successful people in this major are those who are able to remain calm when a problem doesn’t make sense, try out different strategies to find a solution and turn to others if the answer isn’t obvious.

Problem-solving skills

Right up there with patience is the importance of having a problem-solving mind, one that desires to find the solution to any problem and will work tirelessly to find it.

The great thing about majoring in math is that your calculations and equations can solve big real-world problems, but you have to be curious, ready and willing to take on new challenges, many of which won’t have obvious solutions right off the bat.

Next, learn more about this college major such as Finance and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Top 10 Things You Should Look for in a Company

Types of Internships for Math Majors

How does being great with numbers and complex equations translate into in the real world? If you’re a math major, you’re probably asking yourself that question right now. The great news is that there are plenty of career opportunities for math majors in a broad range of fields including data science and accounting. The key to finding out which career path is best for you is to take on one or more internships while completing your degree.

Here are some of the most common internships for math majors:

Data science intern

A data science internship will give you first-hand experience with making data useful. You’ll learn how to clean large amounts of data and run relevant analyses by blending together applied mathematics with computer science, statistics, machine learning and other disciplines relevant to the problem at hand. You’ll also learn how to interpret these results in order to gain insights into a specific issue, identify emerging trends or even create a data-driven product.

Risk modeling intern

An internship as a credit risk modeler at a bank or financial firm can give you the opportunity to apply your math skills to the fields of banking and finance. As a credit risk modeler, you’ll assist in developing and measuring the validity of credit risk models which help the bank manage risk and measure different components of its performance. You’ll also receive training in the framework of existing credit risk models.

Quantitative research analyst intern

An internship as a quantitative research analyst will familiarize you with statistical methods and techniques used in making sense of data. From analyzing large, complex data sets to developing and testing statistical models, you’ll use your skills to interpret data and turn it into reports that can be used when making key business decisions. Because of the broad scope of this role, this internship can be found in any number of industries from healthcare to hospitality.

Financial analyst intern

A financial analyst internship is a great opportunity to learn about the process of collecting and analyzing financial information and making recommendations based on that information. This includes everything from internal and external data collection and analysis to data budgeting and forecasting. By interning as a financial analyst, you’ll be getting exposure to a broad range of duties and a hands-on feel for the world of finance.

Accounting intern

If you’re looking to branch out into accounting, an accounting internship will give you exposure to a wide range of responsibilities in the field. During your internship, you’ll be assisting with everything from preparing month end financial reports and bank statement reconciliations to crediting checks and contributing to the team’s yearly forecasting efforts.

Investment banking intern

An investment banking summer analyst position will give you a great sense of what it’s like to be a full-time analyst. Throughout your internship, you’ll be getting exposure to various aspects of investment banking including client pitches and deals such as mergers and acquisitions. Although you’ll mostly be working on behind-the-scenes projects such as analyzing financial statements and putting together presentations, you’ll also be building valuable skills that you can use in a full-time analyst role.

Business intelligence intern

As a business intelligence intern, you’ll assist the business intelligence team with their current projects such as analyzing competitor data and market trends for a specific industry. You’ll also obtain an overview of key operations within the company, support data management efforts and assist clients both within and outside the organization. Along the way, you’ll learn how to improve the organization’s decision-making outcomes and performance.

Internships relevant to math majors will tap into your problem-solving skills in more ways than one and offer you exciting opportunities for learning and skill building. By taking on an internship during your undergraduate career, you’ll learn more about the career opportunities available to you after graduation and figure out what role is right for you.

Next, learn more about this college major such as What is a Math Major and is it Right for Me? and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Top 10 Things You Should Look for In An Internship.