WHAT WOULD most people imagine to be the best jobs in the world? Or, at least, the most desirable? Banking, IT maybe, looking after an uninhabited island in the Great Barrier Reef, general managers of luxury hotels, the list goes on, but here’s one job that no one would list as being the best or even the most desirable—a mathematician! Most people picture a mathematician at a blackboard scrawling figures and calculations in front of a bored classroom.
That’s not so far off the mark if one looks at the winner of the Field’s Medal for 2014, Indian-origin Canadian-American Manjul Bhargava. It is the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel and Bhargava is considered a math wizard by his peers, which explains why he is the second-youngest full professor in Princeton University’s history. Mathematicians are no longer seen as just solvers of esoteric equations. They topped the list of the most desirable jobs, as per a survey by CareerCast. The survey points to the “exponentially growing popularity of mathematics” in everything from healthcare and technology to sports and politics. “Mathematicians are employed in every sector of the economy… from Wall Street brokerages to energy exploration companies to IT R&D labs to university classrooms,” said CareerCast publisher Tony Lee. Indeed, mathematics offers solutions to everyday issues from airline scheduling to Internet security, even though many practitioners pursue esoteric problems incomprehensible to the layman.
The survey points out that with a median income of $101,360 and a 23% projected job growth rate by 2022, mathematicians topped the site’s round-up of the most desirable jobs. Unlike the stereotype of them working in academia, mathematicians are today required in increasingly important fields like climate study, medicine, robotics, biology, finance and national security. Without them, the Human Genome Project would not have finished so fast and now, with the prevalence of the computer, mathematicians affect everyone in modern society. In fact, half of CareerCast’s top 10 jobs are in the so-called STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The next best job on the list is that of a tenured professor at an Ivy League college (like Bhargava) followed by healthcare: an audiologist (a specialist in hearing disorders) at number five followed by a dental hygienist. Then come software engineers and computer systems analysts. Then it’s back to healthcare with occupational therapists and speech pathologists coming in at numbers nine and 10.
CareerCast is an American