Some folks expressed interest
in hearing about what sort of mathy jobs
beyond the standard of academia and teaching.
I had to think about this recently
because I moved to Portland,
and while my employer
has discovered a newfound flexibility for relocation
(albeit at reduced pay),
in the year-ish interim
I started compiling a spreadsheet of options.
I’ll share them with you,
and if you have any more ideas,
please send them to me (by replying to this email)
and I’ll compile them into a longer blog post.
My perspective is obviously biased
toward jobs where you write software,
because that’s what I do.
My feeling is that it’s more interesting
to work on tools that use math to help
other people do their domain-specific jobs better,
than it is to do the domain-specific job myself.
That said, entirely avoiding any domain-knowledge
is a detriment.
The balance is key.
I also will stay away
from large classes of “obvious” jobs
because I think everyone already knows them,
though I will list them here:
- Research professor at a tenure-track college.
- Teaching (non-research positions).
- Big software industry research labs (Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc.).
- Government/Military labs (NSA, CIA, NASA, LLNL, Sandia, Oak Ridge, MIT-Lincoln), etc—jeez there are a lot.
- Military-industrial complex industry (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, etc.).
- Actuarial services companies (Aon, Milliman, etc.).
- Big Finance (hedge funds).
- Machine learning-specific startups.
- Data science/statistics at an otherwise arbitrary Fortune 500 company.
The above list is full of good careers,
though in some you may be asked to sacrifice
something you’re not willing to part with, be it
time, money, location, dignity, morals,
or choosing what you work on.
You can guess which applies to which.
I’ll instead try to focus
on a smaller set of jobs
that don’t quite fall into any one of these categories,
yet still seem interesting, mathy, and probably pay well.
I’ll try to group them by category.
Mathy stuff you may already use
You probably use some software already
that is built by a company that hires mathy folks.
If you use any kind of mathematical software,
go look at the careers page on the owning company’s website.
- MathWorks, the company that makes MATLAB,
has open positions
ranging from software engineer
to technical writing to various analyst roles.
- Wolfram, the company that makes
Mathematica, has a similar list,
though they seem to focus more on contract work.
- Desmos makes the world’s best
online graphing calculator.
- Geogebra is similarly amazing geometry software.
- Overleaf is the de facto cloud LaTeX engine.
- MapleSoft makes the Maple math software.
- Mathigon is trying to make the “textbook of the future”
- SageMath (no careers page, yet) seems to have recently gone “industry” with their CoCalc cloud offering.
The last few items on the list
are either not hiring or sparsely hiring,
but they’re good to keep an eye on.
Mathy tools used heavily in industry, but not as much in education
While most math students get exposed
to some of the above math software,
most (with the exception of MATLAB)
is not heavily used in industry.
If you want to work on products
that are very close to real world problems,
you can work on optimization and modeling tools
in a variety of settings,
many related to engineering,
physics, or operations research.
In short, if it’s a physical thing,
someone’s using sophisticated software to model it
and optimize for the cost of producing it at scale.
Or if it requires an expensive conceptual plan,
it needs software to grapple.
In both cases, those software products will use math.
- SOLIDWORKS makes industry-standard 3D-modeling
software. They’re owned by Dassault Systèmes, which appears to have lots of
mathy jobs related to software, such as the operations research software
Quintiq. Other 3D modeling firms are
similar, and if you use a free or open source 3D modeling software,
chances are good there’s a company backing it that is trying to monetize
an enterprise version.
- STATA is leading analysis software,
particularly used in econometrics and forecasting. Their open positions seem
to be all along the lines of Statsitician and Software
- STAAD is a leading
structural engineering modeling software, and their parent company Bentley
makes all kinds of infrastructure modeling software from bridge building to
- ArcGIS is an industry-leading geographic
mapping software, and their parent company.
has a variety of related software products.
- RStudio has an enterprise wing
that funds development of the open source software.
- Tableau is a popular data visualization software package with lots of software jobs.
- SAS makes industry-standard analytics software, and has a number of analytical consultant jobs
that seem to involve listening to enterprise customer problems
and trying to solve them with math.
- Gurobi makes the world’s best linear and
integer-linear programming solver.
In my experience, it blows the competition out of the water.
There are similarly many companies
that build supply chain optimization tools,
like SAP, though I haven’t looked into SAP
jobs in detail because they seem to be mostly in Germany.
There are dozens more examples
for fields ranging from biology
to chemistry and other kinds of physics,
that I have not encountered.
These examples appeal to me in particular
because of the potential for impact.
By adding features or improvements to STAAD,
you’re not just improving the profit margin of a company.
You’re improving the structural analysis capabilities
of an entire industry.
In the best case that can save lives,
though sadly you would never know.
Government/Policy related jobs
If public service is more your speed,
there are quite a few paths
(I’m focusing on the USA because I live there).
- White House Office of Science and Technology
Policy was recently joined by a number of
excellent people to advise on bias in machine learning systems.
- There are a number of
that buld redistricting software, including
of ArcGIS fame. If you’re passionate about fair (or unfair?) elections this
might be a good path for you.
- Most local and state governments have policy research analysis positions,
where you’d perform statistical analysis to inform policy. Every government
agency is sitting on tons of data and wants to analyze it! For example, just
in Oregon right now there are open positions at:
The Federal government also has math jobs,
though they tend to be lower paying,
and you have to wade through all the Army and Air Force jobs
if you want to find, e.g., Department of Agriculture jobs.
USAJobs.gov has a search engine
where you can enter job codes
- 1500: Mathematical Sciences
- 1501: General Mathematics and Statistics
- 1510: Actuarial Science
- 1515: Operations Research
- 1520: Mathematics
- 1529: Mathematical Statistics
- 1530: Statistics
- 1531: Statistical Assistant
- 1550: Computer Science
Here are a few:
Graphics is extremely reliant on linear algebra,
and a lot of graphics-heavy companies do their
own linear algebra research and development in-house.
I’m sure there are a lot of smaller graphics studios
and indie options,
as I follow a few folks who do bespoke graphics work on Twitter,
either contracting or as part of a larger shop.
- Nvidia makes graphics cards, but they also have a
research lab with a ton of mathy pursuits from formal verification to deep
learning and quantum computing, and of course, making graphics better with
linear algebra (seriously, they have 31 open job
right now that mention linear algebra).
- AMD is similar, though perhaps with less of a research slant.
- Pixar makes movies, but also movie
making graphics software. They have software jobs and research
jobs. Disney is
I’ve also been following a handful of startups
that are trying to bring bleeding-edge ideas
in mathematics and computer science to a wider market.
Note, they are venture backed,
which in my experience skews priorities
and adds stress.
- Zama is a cryptography company trying to make Fully
Homomorphic Encryption finally practical. There are a few others though I’m not familiar with them.
- Tumult Labs is working to bring Differential Privacy
to market, and they succeeded so far in designing the mechanism for releasing
2020 US census data.
- Galois is interesting.
Mostly it’s a government contractor that focuses on formal methods,
but it’s also structured as a sort of employee-owned cooperative,
with interesting flexible work options like 4 day work weeks.
A friend of mine worked on their ElectionGuard
project in partnership with Microsoft,
which was actually used (successfully, and to little fanfare)
in some recent municipal US elections. He had good things to say about the company.
They seem to focus heavily on formal methods
and the Haskell programming language.
I’ve also been keen on finding relevant,
impactful jobs in the climate-crisis-fighting space.
It’s hard to find much that doesn’t involve
building physical things like nuclear reactors
or batteries (all of which require very specific PhDs).
But there are some close to what I do now (optimization)
and some that seem not-too-far-afield.
Usually they need a software engineer
who likes data analysis and simulation.
- Form energy is designing long-term energy storage and they want data engineers, as are companies like Solid Power and ESS batteries, which no doubt will be doing applied analysis, simulation, and optimization for batteries.
- WattTime uses IoT in your fridge to reduce peak load when coal plants are fired up. There are a few microgrid companies like this, another one I looked at is Advanced Microgrid Solutions.
- Spatial Informatics Group does GIS for environmental applications and carbon markets.
- Asset Revolution does financial modeling for climate risk.
- Johnson Controls and similar HVAC companies optimize building cooling for energy usage.
- AMP Robotics is building a robot that can smartly sort recycling so it becomes cost effective to recycle all the stuff that otherwise ends up in landfill.
- Aurora Solar is a solar panel system design company.
I.e., their software helps you design a configuration of solar panels
and batteries and such to be efficient and cost effective.
- Opus 12 is converting CO2 into jet fuel and similar products (net-zero carbon cycle).
- Carbon plan seems like it’s data science for identifying carbon removal opportunities.
- I heard of a few startups that are doing things like automated drone flying
plus ML to identify diseased crops and spot-treat them with pesticides,
instead of spraying an entire field.
I can’t seem to find it again.
Hope that list sparks your interest
and let me know if you think of additional jobs,
or entire categories I’ve missed,
that involve math!