Applied math is the use of theories and techniques such as mathematical modeling and computational methods to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, engineering, the physical life, and social sciences. Statistics is the scientific application of mathematical principles to the collection, analysis and presentation of numerical data.
The Applied Mathematics & Statistics Department at Johns Hopkins emphasizes mathematical reasoning, modeling and computations, abstraction from the particular, innovative application of mathematics, and development of new technology. For undergraduates, the department offers a Bachelor of Science degree, a Bachelor of Arts degree, and a combined bachelors/masters program. Students have the option of choosing a curricular focus on probability, statistics, optimization, discrete mathematics, scientific computing, or financial mathematics to prepare them for a wide range of career opportunities including consulting, finance, technology, insurance, management, pharmaceuticals, computing, research, and government.
Graduates of applied mathematics and statistics can pursue careers in everything from studying the effects and safety of new drugs to analyzing the most efficient way to schedule airline routes, as well as building cost-effective models and computer programs. The types of careers they pursue include:
- Management and finance – financial analysis and engineering, the preparation and verification of financial reports and taxes, construction of trading models for Wall Street firms, designing mathematical tools to assess risk, and forecasting costs for project proposals.
- Teaching – teaching at the secondary school level typically requires a masters degree, while at the university level, a PhD is required along with a strong commitment to research.
- Computer mathematics – computer programming, computer systems analysis and software development utilizing logic, combinatorics, number theory, algebra, and algorithms.
- Statistics – applying mathematical and statistical knowledge to the design of surveys and experiments; the collection, processing and analysis of data; the interpretation of experiments and survey results. The federal government is one of the chief employers of statisticians: they are found in the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, and many other branches of government. In fact, nearly 81% of mathematicians work for the Department of Defense, performing functions such as determining the accuracy of new weapons and the likely effectiveness of defense strategies. In business and manufacturing, statisticians are crucial to quality control, product development and improvement, as well as deciding which products to manufacture, how much to charge, and towards whom they should be marketed. In pharmaceuticals, they develop and evaluate the results of clinical trials to determine the safety and effectiveness of new medications.
- Actuarial science – actuaries build and run mathematical models, and collect and analyze data to answer risk-based questions by putting a financial value on future events. They typically work for insurance companies, investment firms, employee benefits consulting firms, and other types for companies that need to quantify financial risks. To become a fully qualified actuary, graduates must pass a sequence of ten examinations. The first few of these exams involve mathematical topics such as calculus, probability, statistics, operations research, numerical analysis and theory of interest, so applied mathematics and statistics graduates would have a distinct advantage.
- Operations research – the use of mathematics, statistics and computer science to quantify things in order to make decisions. This includes everything from planning business ventures using statistical analysis, data and computer modeling, and linear programming to allocate resources, measure performance, schedule, design production facilities and systems, manage the supply chain, set prices, and coordinate transportation and distribution, to performing and analyzing market research on consumer purchasing decisions and preferences.
Careers in applied math and statistics require excellent reasonability and persistence to identify, analyze and apply basic principles to technical problems. Because they must communicate with each other and present their results and findings, communication and presentation skills are important. Participation in extra-curricular activities, intramural sports, and community service are excellent ways to demonstrate leadership and teamwork skills.
For students who are not specifically interested in classical applied math or statistics, it is important to focus your course load on your area of interest and supplement it with an appropriate minor, such as entrepreneurship and management, economics, computer science or a natural or social science. Academic research in your area of interest also serves this purpose.
Internships are particularly important in this field, as they enable students to demonstrate the ability to apply theoretical and abstract mathematical principles to real world problems and situations, as well as one’s ability to work well and communicate with others.
Hopkins Applied Mathematics & Statistics alumni go into a variety of career fields. The Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans 6 months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses from the Post-Graduation Survey of Applied Math & Statistics Majors.
Listed below are actual job titles that JHU alumni acquired with their degrees in Applied Math & Statistics:
- Actuarial Associate
- Business Technology Analyst
- Emerging Market Sales Analyst
- Energy Risk Analyst
- Environmental Analyst
- Fixed Income Trader
- Health & Productivity Consultant
- Healthcare Consultant
- Owner, Web Development Company
- Operations Manager
- Senior Consultant
- Senior Lecturer
- Software Developer
- Systems Software Engineer
e-Learning Specialist, The IRIS Center at the University of MD
, Writing Seminars, Applied Mathematics & Statistics, JHU Class of 2001,
Master’s in International Education Policy, Harvard 2005
- How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - After working/traveling in Asia for a year after college, I got into the idea of working to improve outcomes and opportunities for youth internationally. No goal when I started Hopkins... have fun and swim fast!
- What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - I lost a job as a consultant when the economy tanked in 2001 (my offer was rescinded) and decided to spend a year teaching in Korea. I came back, worked for an NGO theater company, then a lifeguard, then got an internship working in education in Baltimore (www.mbrt.org). They kept me on as a consultant while I was in grad school for international education and I still work for them. They helped me get 2 other consulting jobs and I am not a PT consultant / PT Specialist at the IRIS Center. Shortly after grad school, I also spent 6 months directing a program in Micronesia.
- What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - Carnie - I actually worked at the Bloomsburg Fair in PA for a few weeks. I temped at Hopkins Hospital and coached swimming before I went off to teach in Korea. It was a bumpy first year but I'm glad I had the fun I did...
- What advice do you have for current students? - Learn things that are useful in addition to things that you enjoy. Writing Sems was my 'fun' major because I liked writing plays and things but never wanted to be a writer for a career. Math Sci was my practical major - it helped that I liked math and was good at it (not Calc II and III bu I did well after that!). Writing and analytical skills are REALLY important and useful when looking for jobs - I've learned that surprisingly few people have both so I'm glad I do.
- What is your typical day like? - I consult from home 1/2 my week so no day is typical. Here's today: Wake up at 630, get dressed, get to the IRIS Center at 9. Check e-mail, finish reviewing a set of slides for a training I'm facilitating next week on poverty assessment. 11am team meeting on the training, make sure others are up to speed on their tasks for the training. 12: Fill out JHU survey. 12:30 will be lunch, more slide review and research on sample design to enhance our training in that area. By 4 I'll be working with students that work here to help get together materials for the training and for a career fair I'm attending at SAIS to represent IRIS. At some point this afternoon I'm going to get edits to an article I wrote for an online microfinance newsletter (www.microlinks.org). I have to finish those edits before I leave. At 7 I'm getting a massage. At 8:30 I'm holding an online review discussion for my students; I teach math to adult undergrads at Trinity College in DC and their midterm is tomorrow. At 10:30 I'll eat dinner hopefully!
- What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: getting to design and lead projects and see their impact. Challenging: being young and trying to work in a city where everyone is as qualified as I am for jobs I want.
- What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - If you want to be a program manager (managing grants, deliverable, project objectives, finances, budgets, etc), look for jobs as a program assistant. If you want to be a specialist in some field, hold out. It's VERY hard to cross over from the project management side to the implementation / project design side.
- Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - Tech is big right now - knowledge management is an emerging buzz word that I happen to have experience in. Poverty outreach is increasing and the emphasis on M&E and showing results has been rising in the past few years.
- What skills and out-of-class experiences are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Working abroad (far more important than studying abroad). Language skills (especially things like Arabic, Russian, Mandarin and other less-spoken languages). Volunteering abroad is great.
- Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - Totally depends. It's an evolving field and funding sources are up in the air with the economy so we're all wondering where we'll be. Rising in the field can be slow because of the need for specialized skills (lots of jobs require a particular language or realm of expertise) so developing a useful skill is important. Moving into the tech side of education and learning has been good for me in terms of finding work.
- Which professional organizations and resources should students look into or get involved with? -
devex.org is the best place to look for jobs. Try idealist.org too.
- What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - There are lots of jobs for people with specialties in other fields like law, economics, governance, business development, etc so gaining 5-10 years of experience in those areas can be useful if you are so inclined.
Additional Alumni Profiles
Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.
For more information on what you can do with an Applied Math & Statistics Major go to What can I do with a major in Statistics or What Can I do with a major in Mathematics.
Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Consulting, Software Development, Investment Banking, and Finance.
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