I know this isn't a math question but this has been on my mind for quite some time. I am a second year university student who is planning on getting a degree in pure mathematics. I really enjoy the rigour and depth of understanding that comes from studying pure mathematics but I was wondering whether getting a degree in pure mathematics makes sense from a financial point of view. Many of my friends are combining mathematics with other majors such as finance, computer science, and statistics. I was wondering whether getting a pure math degree means that you only have opportunities in academia or are other opportunities also open to someone with a pure math degree? By the time I graduate university I will be about $30,000 in debt and would prefer to get a job so I can start paying off student loans. A secondary question is if I do pursue a career in academia how competitive is it to become a tenure professor at a reputable university? Also people that have gone to graduate school and gotten their doctorate, was getting a phd worth it from a financial point of view?


closed as primarily opinion-based by user223391, user98602, Daniel W. Farlow, anomaly, Ramiro Jun 16 '16 at 21:54

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.


If you just want money, go into something like finance or even engineering. It's vastly easier, it's vastly easier to find a job, and you're paid better (at least until you're a well-established professor). It's not hard to find a job in industry with a pure math degree; but if that's all you want, there are far better ways of going about it. The point of a doctorate is to prepare you for doing original research in pure math. The situation is different in other fields, but in pure math, the only opportunity to do research is an academia. It's not necessary to take on a second degree in a more marketable field if you're worried about a job in industry, and it's certainly not going to help you if you're pursuing an academic career in pure mth.

As for your secondary question, it's insanely competitive. You have to be extremely good to even have a shot at all, and even then it's random luck: Did your research work out on time, does your advisor have the connections you need, do you get along well with your advisor and department, did you meet the right collaborator at a party that turns into the groundbreaking paper you were looking for, etc. If you want to be a mathematician, that's what your stuck with: Academia is the only place to do pure math, and there are multiple orders of magnitude more people--- all highly talented, hard-working, and dedicated--- than available positions. If you don't want to be a mathematician, don't bother.

  • $\begingroup$ If i understand correctly, then you are saying that a researcher in any other fields of science would get more money and easy job opportunity than a mathematician. correct me if i am wrong?, sorry for being silly. $\endgroup$ – A---B Jun 16 '16 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ Pure math is a unique field. There are opportunities for research in other areas of science outside academia, which makes the market look very different. There are also large collaborations, like CERN or the Human Genome Project, that make the research front look very different. It's difficult to find another area of science (academia in the humanities is an entirely different plot) that has such a terrible job situation and no alternatives to it. $\endgroup$ – anomaly Jun 16 '16 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reply. I really feel bad about it as i love maths so much (although not very good at it). I completely understand that there is a lot of money, fame and job opportunity in other sciences. But there can be a counter argument that Pure maths is abstract and only people with true passion can do it and also a mathematician doesn't need something like a underground particle accelerator to discover something ground breaking. But still i fail to understand why there is no other job opportunity for mathematicians ? $\endgroup$ – A---B Jun 16 '16 at 22:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Even if it doesn't require equipment, being a productive mathematician does require 60+ hours per week of intense work and people to collaborate with (or at least bounce ideas off). It's a full-time job, and a demanding one. You might be able to manage it if you're well-connected and independently wealthy, but that's not really a thing people do. $\endgroup$ – anomaly Jun 17 '16 at 0:23

An academical pursuit in pure mathematics is most likely not a lucrative decision, but it should not be a question about money. Indeed it is easy to say so, since money governs a lot of things in life including choice of education, but mathematics takes a lot of enthusiasm.

There are however more applicable pure mathematical topics than others; Analysis is famously applicable, algebraic geometry is not (but that will most likely change, as mathematics fails to be useless). Just out of interest, you might pursue further studies in differential equations or probability theory, by which mathematical finance (quant, look up salary/bonus if that motivates you) will be an alternative in case academia is not for you.

As far as I know about professor positions, they are insanely competitive.

  • $\begingroup$ If you just want the money, there are better ways to get it in finance than being a quant. As a consolation prize for not getting to be a mathematician, it's not the worst place to end up in; if you're just interested in finance, go into economics or mathematical finance, then manage a fund or something. $\endgroup$ – anomaly Jun 16 '16 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ @anomaly Yes, I saw it more as an alternative if academia does not work out. Although becoming a quant, especially at hedge funds, demands a higher education, in many cases a PhD. $\endgroup$ – user305860 Jun 17 '16 at 5:05

If all you are concerned with is salary then, no, it is not financially worth it.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.