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Guide to studying Mathematics

If you love numbers and want to develop a skill set useful in many different industries, then a degree in Mathematics could be for you.

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  1. What's Mathematics?

  2. Why study Mathematics?

  3. What jobs can you get as a Mathematics graduate?

  4. What do graduates do and earn?
  5. What qualifications do you need?

  6. What degrees can you study?

  7. How will you be assessed?

  8. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

What's Mathematics?

There are three main areas of study under the umbrella of Mathematics – maths itself, statistics and operational research.

Mathematics is at the heart of questions about the world. Mathematicians are interested in number, shape, and space and how to break complex problems into simpler ones, classify objects, and prove that a certain phenomenon must happen, can happen, or can't happen.

Statistics is also driven by real-world problems, especially ones that can't be easily broken down into simpler parts. By carefully examining data, statisticians help make difficult decisions about the effectiveness of a new drug or make predictions about the likelihood of flooding.

Operational research (OR), also known as management science, is the third area of mathematical sciences. Its primary focus is the analysis of decision-making processes, especially in complex organisations such as large multinational companies or the military. Some of its more well-known areas include game theory and the analysis of voting systems.

Similar courses for Mathematics include: 

  • Operational Research
  • Statistics

Why study Mathematics?

Mathematicians are needed in many professional contexts, from policymaking to medical research. Study Mathematics and your career could see you play a part in solving some of the world's many complex problems. 

Read our five reasons to study Mathematics for more information on why you might choose this subject area.

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What jobs can you get as a Mathematics graduate?

Having specialist knowledge and skills will make you highly employable in teaching, technical careers, financial services, management, consulting and computing.

Graduates have started careers as analysts and trainee actuaries with big financial institutions from the banking, insurance and accountancy sectors.

Your logical and analytical skills are highly transferable and attractive in sectors as diverse as energy, healthcare and defence.

Many graduates have undertaken PGCE training or started accountancy qualifications, while others have continued to study at master's and PhD level.

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of Mathematics have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate Mathematics students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

What qualifications do you need? 

Specific entry requirements vary considerably between institutions. Always check for the university and course you're interested in.

A Level: Mathematics is essential. Further Mathematics is desirable and, for some universities, essential.

Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers: Higher Mathematics is essential. Advanced Higher Mathematics is desirable and, for some universities, essential.

IB: Mathematics HL is usually essential.

Some universities may ask you to sit one or more of the following papers:

  • Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT)
  • Advanced Extension Award (AEA)
  • Sixth Term Examination Papers (STEP)

What degrees can you study?

You can study courses in mathematics, statistics and operational research.

This can lead to:

  • BA Hons
  • BSc Hons
  • MA Hons
  • MMath Hons
  • MMathStat Hons
  • MSci Hons

These honours degrees can be used as entry qualifications to jobs. Or as entry qualifications for further study in postgraduate degrees or professional qualifications.

Related courses

Mathematics, statistics and operational research can all be studied separately, in combination with each other or with a variety of different subjects, including:

  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Modern Languages
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Physics

How will you be assessed?

Mathematics, statistics and operational research degrees are usually taught by means of lectures with a pattern of regular coursework, some assessed and some not, with final examinations at the end of a unit of study. You'll be expected to spend a significant amount of time working independently or in small groups, digesting the material from lectures and working on problems.

Most programmes also include some computing with specialist software and project work, either in groups or individually. Four-year degrees typically include a substantial project in which you study a particular topic in-depth with the guidance of a supervisor.

Placement opportunities are often available in schools for those interested in teaching. Internships are common, especially in statistics and operational research.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  • One- or two-year certificates in initial teacher training (PGCE)
  • One-year taught master's degree courses (MSc)
  • One-year master's degree by research courses (MRes)
  • Two-year research degrees (MPhil)
  • Three or four-year research degrees (PhD)

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