If abundance in varying opportunities is what you seek, then getta ing mathematics education will provide you with them. The perks of being a mathematician include an infinite option of several careers in several unconventional areas.
As a mathematician, you will have an open choice of opting for either a teaching profession, a researcher or other maths jobs in several fields such as engineering or banking etc. Whatever path you adopt, pure mathematics along with mathematical concepts, procedure, rules and theories will follow you and you would need to apply them in solving the most common problems faced in several fields. You will need to develop problem solving maths skills.
Before we start with the discussion of how to become a professional mathematician, let us dive into what exactly is a mathematician.
Someone whose area of expertise is mathematics, is a mathematician.
This is pretty self-explanatory. But what most people miss are the key ingredients needed to become a professional mathematician.
To become a top-notch mathematician and to excel in this field, it is incumbent upon the mathematician to adopt a thought process capable of exploring abstract theoretical problems, applying the theories to solve the problems found in practical areas of economic, engineering, business, physics and other related disciplines.
If you are not afraid to dream big and want to become a maths prodigy and climb up the ladder of the career as a mathematician then let go of your fears because if you consider yourself intelligent enough, you will only need to put in time and effort to become a brilliant professional in maths.
Before we jump into the specifics of becoming a maths professional and the know-how of maths education, let us discuss some of the abstract yet equally important things you need to outshine both your mathematics degree and career. Following are a bunch of tips you can adopt to polish your mathematical skills:
- Learn how to think better, because mathematics is simply a new, out of the box way of thinking. It all boils down to reflective thinking which prepares you for skills like complex analysis.
- While trying to solve a mathematical problem, you need to go deeply into the concept or the actual problem and try to make sense out of it. Spend time on understanding the problem and not on deciding what method to apply on it.
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Learning Maths at School
Your journey to become a mathematician starts long before you start an undergraduate degree. Your thought process is the number one key ingredient which you can start to polish as early as possible.
Starting with school, your first step to become a professional mathematician is to take several mathematics courses while in school. School maths will help you strengthen your base and build solid foundations. Some of the mathematics courses schools offer, are:
Other than these pure courses, you can also take courses such as:
- Computer courses
This is because these courses apply mathematical skills in real world scenarios. They will help you develop skills for data analysis, communication and mathematical models. Taking courses related to computer science will help you learn about large data sets, matrices or recursive calculations.
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You will also learn the basic maths needed for complex mathematical concepts to optimize as well as create intricate algorithms. All in all, these courses will prepare you for your undergraduate degree.
Learning Maths at University
The next step is to get yourself enrolled in a undergraduate program in maths. Bachelor’s degree in maths train students on extremely crucial skills of mathematical reasoning such as logic, formal proof, generalization and abstraction. The degree involves advanced mathematics subjects such as
- Discrete Mathematics
- Linear Algebra
- Differential Equations
- Number theory
- Numerical Analysis
- Statistics and Probability
Third step in this journey to become a professional mathematician would be to take admission into a doctoral program. Some degrees might require you to complete a master’s degree first.
Getting into a doctoral degree needs you to be highly competitive. Most schools offering these degrees require entrance test exams such as GRE or GMAT. Here is the list of things you might need to enhance your chances of getting selected in a doctoral program:
- Letter of recommendation
- A Statement of purpose or (SOP)
There are some programs which need much more than GMAT scores and these documents. They might also require advanced courses in maths along with their own entry test exams.
It is also important for you to make a choice while opting for a doctoral program. This is because doctoral programs are divided into:
Overlap also exists between these two, to some extent. If you decide to opt for theoretical side of doctoral program, you would need to showcase your competence in the core classes of maths which usually include topology, geometry, analysis and algebra.
In applied doctoral programs, mathematics related classes such as economics, physics, astronomy or other such fields are also needed along with the coursework of mathematics.
But regardless of the track you choose, your first two years in your doctoral program would require you to give your full time to your classes, seminars and guest lectures by other mathematicians.
These doctoral programs start off with a year on basic courses and move towards more rigorous and selective courses in the coming years of the degree. You can select courses of your interest. Some of them might include the following:
- Functional Analysis
- Functional analysis
A qualification exam is required towards the end of your second year of the beginning of the third year. Qualification exams are usually written or oral or sometimes a combination of both. These exams are carefully designed to test your knowledge of advanced maths and the concepts and theories.
Passing the qualification exam then asks for you to select an advisor along with a dissertation topic. You will then spend the last three years of your degree writing and researching on this dissertation.
This will enable to pursue scholarships which will help you to contribute to the study of mathematics. The dissertation topic you choose, depends on your path of the doctoral degree and it may be composed of the following:
- It may be involving topics that discuss application of specific mathematical principles and concepts for finding solutions encountered in the other fields, for example, application of algebraic principles to biochemical reactions.
- It might also involve new advanced researches to analyze some new concepts and new innovative tools for technology.
During your studies, get internships too! This will help you understand about the best jobs for professional mathematicians out there. Get into research projects in your final academic years. Be on a look out for job openings and opportunities of career in mathematics.
If you get free time, spend it to get online courses on side subjects such as Data science, Bio-statistics, mathematical physics etc. This will help you in your thesis and will prepare you for getting a fellowship in mathematics too.
You might be wondering, now that you have gotten yourself enrolled in one of the programs, that what is the golden trait you must have in order to become successful in either a mathematical degree or a professional career. You also need to stay vigilant about those traits which might also hinder your success.
Unlike any other career, persistence is one important factor needed to outshine yourself in mathematics. You should remove the word “give up” from your dictionary because it is the first thing that will lead you to failure, whenever something seems hard especially in mathematics.
Now that we have discussed the basic steps to become a professional mathematician, let us peak into the rules and requirements to make this journey more rewarding for you.
The Golden “DP” Rule
You will face many situations, during your preparation for becoming a mathematician, where you will be stuck on a problem set. This is where most people panic and lose track of whatever they were doing. This leads to many short term as well as long term failures.
Whenever you find yourself in that situation, follow the “Don’t Panic” (DP) rule and start thinking hard on it. If you cannot figure it out. Leave it and come back on it the other day. Keep coming back to the problem and keep brainstorming on it until you come up with something. This will help your brain grow and stretch.
Understand How to Understand maths
Just like a computer code, mathematics is sequential. Memorizing the concepts and formulas will help short term but for long term, memorization just doesn’t work. You need to ask a lot of question about a concept. How and why it works? How and where can you apply it? This will enable you to retain the information for a long long time and you wouldn’t need to jump into your books whenever you need to reuse them somewhere.
“Practice makes a man perfect”
Almost all of us have heard this at some point in our lives. And this phrase seems more applicable on mathematics than on any other areas. Want to become adept in mathematics? Then practice all you can, and practice hard. Get into the best possible tune you could. The more you practice, the more you excel.
Talk about becoming a stellar mathematician only if you are passionate about it. Learn how to stay motivated. Stay curious and keep questioning how is a problem solved and what were the causes of a great discovery.
If you got skills and a burning passion in you, then you are bound to succeed as a mathematician but don't forget that there is always a maths tutor at hand if needed. Professionalism will come to you through experience. Combine both and you are good to go! And Roger Bacon also emphasized the importance of loving and adopting mathematics as follows:
“For the things of this world cannot be made known without a knowledge of mathematics.”
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