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Job Market for Non-academic Research Mathematicians

  1. Jun 25, 2008 #1
    How is the job market for research mathematicians in industry?

    My ultimate goal is to get a PhD in Mathematics, and while I would love to become a professor, I recognize that these days, the chances of me getting a Tenured Track position out of college are slim to none, and personally, I'd rather not travel around the country for temporary low pay positions until I'm 35.

    I know there are areas outside of academia that hire mathematicians for research. I've been looking at places like NIST, Sandia, Bell Labs, Microsoft, Google, Motorola.

    How likely is getting a position at a place like this as a mathematician? I'm talking someone that is using good amounts of high level math to solve problems, not just something a comp. sci masters could also accomplish.

    Is it realistic to land a position like this out of college, given I study something highly appliable? there are always fallback positions like finance and the like, but those don't interest me much.

    Thoughts? Is it even worth getting a PhD in math if you don't plan on sticking around in academia?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 25, 2008 #2
    I think it really would depend on your area of research. You may want to look into those companies you mentioned that hire mathematicians and read the descriptions of the available positions. However, it's not likely that a company is going to hire you to research pure math.
  4. Jun 26, 2008 #3


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    There is no clear distinction between industry and academia in some cases. The research done at places like NIST etc is not that different from what is done at many universities and there are many other similarites as well (i.e. NIST do hire post-docs, have PhD students working there etc), I believe the same is true for the various "labs" owned by Microsoft etc.

    Hence, they are likely to have roughly the same requirements as a university when they hire new staff and you are unlikely to get a permanent position unless you have done at least one post-doc OR happen to have some specific skill they are in desperate need of.

    Having gone through the "temporary low pay positions"-stage seems to be somewhat of a requirement when applying for permanent positions in research.
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