After Your Degree: Careers In recent years graduates in Mathematical disciplines have fared better than most graduates entering a difficult employment market. The quality of numeracy is increasingly important in a wide range of careers. Indeed, specific skills in Mathematical Science (Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science etc.) are in demand in industry and commerce particularly in Finance, Computing and Engineering.
Traditionally in Ireland, mathematics graduates have gone into research and teaching, the civil service (such as the Central Statistics Office or the Meteorological Office), the computer industry and financial institutions (such as actuarial work in insurance companies). If we look at the world-wide context, mathematics graduates are working in research departments of the nuclear, aeronautical, telecommunications and computer industries and in government research organizations dealing with matters such as environmental control and defence. Mathematicians also work on economic and social research, management services and computing, programming and systems analysis, and in banking and finance. It is interesting to note that in Britain, which proportionately produces over 10 times our number of mathematics graduates, over 25% of mathematics graduates go into the financial category, particularly accountancy, actuarial work and banking, and about 40% go into the computer industry.
As Ireland's technological base grows it is bound to enhance considerably the employment prospects of numerate graduates in Ireland. The advantages of a mathematics background are being recognized more now with the advent of the present era of software engineering in computer science. This is in contrast to what held previously, when the emphasis was on hardware and its development. A technique that is becoming increasingly important is the use of Formal Methods. These provide a rigorous mathematical basis to software development. Formal methods produce systems of the highest integrity and are recommended for security and safety critical systems (needed in the aviation, military, medical, and other fields).
Cryptography and Coding Theory are examples of mathematical techniques which are increasingly used for the secret and secure transmission of data over local and international networks - for example error-correcting codes are used in CDs.
The storing, compression and recovery of large amounts of data and images is achieved using the Mathematics of Fourier Transforms (and related areas) - some applications (unfortunate side effects?) include Karaoke.
Statistics is concerned with making sense out of data, and statisticians find employment in business, industry, government, science, medicine etc. in problems ranging from studying consumer preferences to assessing the effectiveness of a new drug or therapy. Successful statisticians are strong mathematicians, are good at problem solving and use of computers, have good communications skills and are capable of working in many different areas.
A mathematics training is not designed specifically towards a particular job but rather trains a student to think logically and quantitatively and to be versatile with changing trends and job prospects. Numerate skills are always in demand, and flexibility of mind to tackle practical problems will have much to contribute to society.