Mathematicians create, investigate and analyze mathematical structures in order to solve and understand mathematical problems. Mathematical structures are also found in related fields such as physics, computer science or economics.
Mathematicians work either as theoretical (pure) or as applied mathematicians. Both types of mathematicians develop new mathematical theories, techniques and approaches to solve problems.
Pure Mathematics demands abstract thinking for the development of mathematical theories and methods. These mathematical theories and methods are essential in the qualitative and quantitative description of our world and are practically applied in most sciences. It will, for example, be used to determine, all factors considered, how an industry must be managed in order to show maximum profit.
Applied Mathematics involves mathematical modelling, numerical analyses and operational research. It forms a bridge between Mathematics theory and practice and concentrates on solving problems in Engineering, Physics and Computer Science, as well as practical problems such as industrial research, research on population growth, the development of ecological systems and predictions on the performance of, for example, artificial limbs. Statistics and computer science are related fields of study.
Problems for which mathematical analyses are used to find solutions or to solve problems are in such areas as: medical research, agricultural research, psychological research, genetic research, engineering and ecological research. Mathematical models are also used in trade and industry, for example, in marketing management, quality control and auditing.
Most mathematicians work indoors in classrooms, offices and laboratories. The type, size, location and financial resources of the employer and the experience, education and ability of the mathematician determine the actual work setting.
Some satisfying aspects of this career
- solving problems
- having variety and challenge in one's work
- knowing that one's work may benefit others
Some demanding aspects of this career
- having to concentrate on one's work for long periods of time
- continually studying to keep up with the latest advancements in their field
- having to obtain post-graduate degrees to obtain a responsible position
A mathematician should:
- have mathematical aptitude;
- enjoy solving problems and have good reasoning ability;
- be imaginative;
- be intellectually curious;
- enjoy working with abstract ideas;
- be thorough and accurate;
- be able to use calculating machines and computers.
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.
Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics
Recommended Subjects: Physical Sciences
The requirements with regard to the minimum pass marks for Mathematics vary from university to university and prospective students are advised to consult the university yearbooks timeously in this regard.
Degree: Most universities offer BSc, BCom or BA with Mathematics as major subject. The second major depends on the field of specialisation e.g. humanities, statistics, actuarial or Information Technology.
Post-graduate study: eg UNISA, UJ, UV, UZ - an honours degree in Mathematics is the minimum qualification for a career as a mathematician. High level teaching and research require a masters or doctors degree in Mathematics.
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Government departments
- Mining companies
- Insurance and investment companies
- Such organizations as: Mittal Steel, Sasol, CSIR, HSRC, SABS, NECSA
- Self-employment, a mathematician can act as consultant and also give private classes in mathematics