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.
- What do graduates do and earn?
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 in how to break complex problems into simpler ones, classifying objects and proving that a certain phenomenon must happen, can happen or indeed can't happen.
Statistics is also driven by real-world problems, especially ones that can't be so 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 main 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
Some of civilisation's most prized and proud achievements are wholly reliant on mathematics. Planes flying seamlessly through the air, high availability of complex medicines, even the computer or phone you're using now: all of these increasingly vital commodities rely on the use and study of numbers.
Mathematics is a reasonably neutral subject so it can easily be combined with other courses. Joint honours like Mathematics & History, Mathematics & English, Mathematics & Spanish or Mathematics & Music are but a few of the increasingly broad range of maths-related courses available.
As a main motive for many students to study certain subjects, the potential pay is a definite bonus factor, helped by the versatile nature of the skills involved. All three areas of the subject area develop skills in numeracy, logical thinking and an analytical approach to problem solving.
You'll also learn to present complex and technical ideas verbally and in writing.
All of these skills mean that graduates in mathematical sciences are highly sought after.
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.
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
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)
- GO TO
- Choosing A Levels
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.
Mathematics, statistics and operational research can all be studied separately, in combination with each other, or in combination with a variety of other subjects, including:
- Computer Science
- Modern Languages
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 and internships are common, especially in statistics and operational research.
- 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)