Mathematics and Physics

Mathematics and Physics

Industry Outlook

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of mathematicians is expected to grow by 26 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations, through 2028. Demand will be supported by the need to analyze the growing stores of data being amassed by businesses as more consumers use mobile devices and social media. However, because mathematics is a relatively small field, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) notes that only 800 new jobs will be created in the coming 10 years.

Those who study related disciplines, such as statistics, engineering, computer science, or other types of applied mathematics, will find more opportunities in areas like computer programming, operations research, and engineering design. Mathematicians may also find employment in industry and government. Statisticians, specifically, are expected to experience employment growth of 31 percent through 2028, thanks to demand for analyses in areas such as public policy, business, and healthcare.

According to the DOL, the outlook in physics employment is faster than average, with opportunities predicted to grow by 9 percent through 2028. Federal support of physics research is expected to be relatively flat in the coming decade, however, which will temper employment growth. Like mathematics, physics also is a smaller field. Between 2018 and 2028, approximately 1,800 new jobs will be created. Competition is strong for math and physics research jobs in colleges and universities and other centers of research.

The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 forced business lockdowns and remote work and education in order to protect public health. Mathematics and physics professionals may have worked solely from home during this time or according to a schedule of some days on site in an office and other days from a home office. Math and physics teachers adapted to the pandemic requirements by using technology and software to conduct classes online with their students. Educating students remotely presented instructors with many challenges, including keeping students engaged and motivated to achieve goals. Schools throughout the U.S. were expected to reopen to larger student populations in 2021 as the vaccine for COVID-19 rolled out.

Another change that the pandemic inspired is an increased focus on health and science. Mathematicians and physicians are expected to be in higher demand post pandemic. According to a report by McKinsey and Company, "demand for workers in the healthcare and STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] may grow more than before the pandemic, reflecting increased attention to health as populations age and incomes rise as well as the growing need for people who can create, deploy, and maintain new technologies." The McKinsey report projects a nearly 3 percent growth in total employment of STEM professionals in the U.S. through 2030.

A physics education is good preparation for jobs in information technology, semiconductor technology, and other applied sciences, but job titles are likely to be computer software engineer, computer programmer, engineer, and systems developer, rather than physicist.