Maths graduates are highly sought-after for their grasp of complex data and models, particularly by the finance and insurance industries – and there are plenty of other exciting opportunities out there for an enthusiastic, motivated maths graduate. But what can you do with a maths degree? Here are some careers for maths graduates that might suit you.
Insurance and risk management
Risk management careers are a mix of mathematical techniques and creative problem-solving. It’s your job to analyse risks to companies and find ways to mitigate them – whether by taking out an insurance policy or installing a new security system. You can also work within the insurance sector itself, deciding the types of policies to offer or which claims to payout.
Different roles in the industry require different skills. For example:
- Actuaries assess risks using mathematical models, providing information that underwriters can use to decide whether to insure a person or company. Actuaries need an excellent grasp of statistics, so a maths degree is a huge advantage.
- Insurance brokers search out the best insurance policies for their clients. Analytical skills are a vital part of this, but there’s also a lot of client interaction – you’ll need to demonstrate excellent customer service and communication ability.
- Roles infinancial risk don’t just have to identify and manage risks – they also have to communicate their solutions to the company’s management team, and make sure that policies are followed by all employees. Unsurprisingly, communication and diplomacy are almost as important as problem-solving.
If you're interested in insurance and risk management, there are some big-name firms that should be on your radar.
Accountancy is a career for a meticulous maths graduate who could enjoy a day spent mostly with numbers. You’ll need to put in some time to get the necessary qualifications – this is usually done on the job as part of a graduate scheme and can take 3-5 years. The starting salary for a trainee accountant is around £30k, increasing significantly when you qualify.
Once you qualify, you’ll be extremely employable. Depending on the area of accountancy you choose, you could lead a team at a large audit company, join a specialist firm of tax advisers, or even branch out on your own providing freelance accountancy services to small companies.
Work in private practices tends to be around audit: visiting clients and reviewing their business operations and financial records to verify and review their accounts. Various professional bodies regulate the training and work of accountants in the UK, but generally, qualification as an accountant involves three years of study, exams and relevant employment.
It's important to gain experience throughout university and big accountancy firms will offer a range of summer internships. When applying, remember to check out how to take common accountancy interview questions.
Data analysts turn data into insight. They’re employed by all kinds of companies, from banks to toy manufacturers. Roles might include monitoring the company’s performance and competitors or investigating customer behaviours to increase conversion rates. There are also dedicated data analysis companies, such as credit rating agency S&P Global or wide-ranging news and analysis provider Thompson Reuters. These provide insight to other companies – for example, by monitoring a particular industry sector and providing analysis to help investment managers make smarter investment decisions.
A degree in maths or statistics is a great help in a data analysis career, especially if you have experience of working with large data sets. It’s important to remember that the role will also test your softer skills. You’re likely to deal with qualitative as well as quantitative data, meaning you need to be flexible and a creative thinker. You’ll also write reports and occasionally give presentations on your findings, so communication skills are vital.
Investment banking is banking for big business – managing deals, mergers and acquisitions for companies and corporations. It’s one of the most competitive careers to get into, but as a maths graduate, your chances are better than most. While investment banks will employ humanities graduates for their broad outlook, the majority of bankers have an economics, maths or finance background. Bankers with these degrees are likely to end up in the highest-paying roles. Investment banks - including Goldman Sachs and Berenberg - covers areas such as mergers and acquisitions, foreign exchange, sales and trading.
If you have the personality and enthusiasm for investment banking, you probably already read the business pages for fun. Your next step is to gather as much experience and as many contacts as you can. You should start in your very first year, by going to careers fairs and applying to spring weeks. This is the build-up to obtaining an internship in the summer of your penultimate year – an absolute must for getting onto a graduate programme.
If you’re particularly interested in predictive modelling and forecasting, you could be well-suited to a career in meteorology. Most meteorology roles bear no resemblance to a career as a TV weather forecaster. You’re likely to be collecting weather data, analysing satellite images and applying mathematical models.
The biggest employer of meteorologists is the Met Office. As well as graduate schemes, they offer work experience and summer placements so you can get a feel for the work and develop your skills. You might also find work in an industry such as oil and gas or insurance. There are also research posts available – for example, at research centres focused on climate change or agriculture.
Your maths degree will qualify you to get into a graduate role or a postgraduate course in meteorology. Meteorologists also need to be team players and problem solvers.
While it’s not for the faint-hearted, a teaching career is one of the most rewarding paths you can take. Your enthusiasm for maths can have a positive influence on the lives of young people, you’ll be able to communicate underlying mathematical concepts in creative ways. It’s not just about lessons and marking – your school community will benefit from your particular talents. With your enthusiasm, you can even start a knitting club, a programming club or a choir.
Maths teachers are currently highly in demand, and you’ll be offered strong financial incentives to train. If you graduate with at least a 2:2 you can receive a bursary of £25,000 or a scholarship of £27,500 during your PGCE.
The one thing standing against you is employers’ preconceptions. All university degrees develop a wide range of soft skills like problem-solving, teamwork and communication, and maths is no exception. You just have to prove it. Make sure you have concrete examples showing the skills you’ve developed, both from your degree and your extracurricular activities, and be prepared to do extra work to convince your interviewers you’re the right person for the job. Read our article on boosting your employability to help you on your way.
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