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Best job in the country: Mathematician

But don’t take my word for it.  Check out the Wall Street Journal article.  Some choice snippets:

According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions…The study also considers pay, which was determined by measuring each job’s median income and growth potential. Mathematicians’ annual income was pegged at $94,160..

The Journal cites the example of Jennifer Courter, now a research mathematician at mental images Inc.  Speaking of her job, Ms. Courter says

“It’s a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school…It’s the science of problem-solving.”

Ms. Courter reports that her salary is somewhat above the $94K median for mathematicians.  The article notes that she has 19 years of experience in her field.  It doesn’t say whether she has a Ph.D. or not.

As much as I’m for good salaries and favorable working conditions – I’m for motherhood and apple pie too, by the way – I don’t think they tell the whole story as far as a career in mathematics is concerned.  Unlike some other fields, few if any people go into mathematics because of the money.   Rather, most people who go into mathematics do so because they love the subject.   And those who are lucky enough to make a good living doing something they love are truly among the chosen few.

Another advantage we mathematicians have stems from what Eugene Wigner called the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.”  Our subject, our knowledge, and our skills are in demand across the entire spectrum of the sciences, from astrophysics to zoology.  Even beyond the sciences, in economics, in philosophy, and in the arts, mathematics has an increasingly strong presence.  And when when we as mathematicians collaborate across disciplines, we bring back new ideas and new problems that enrich our own subject.  As an applied mathematician myself, I have experienced this first hand, and it is extremely invigorating.

Back to the WSJ article, here are some of the math- and science-related jobs on their list, along with their rankings:

1. Mathematician

2. Actuary

3. Statistician

4. Biologist

5. Software Engineer

6. Computer Systems Analyst

11. Economist

13. Physicist

15. Meteorologist

18. Computer Programmer

20. Astronomer

Fully 11 out of the top 20 jobs were from fields in which mathematics and computer science are playing an increasing, and in some cases dominating, role.

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