Math in the wild: 7 unexpected careers that use math
We don’t necessarily have the data to prove it, but we’re pretty sure that the most-wondered-but-not-always-vocalized question in math class is an old classic:
When will I ever use this?
Whether you want to hear this or not, the answer is that you’ll pretty much always use math — even if you think you won’t.
You might have already noticed math popping up in unexpected places (didn’t that TikTok hair hack tell you to trim your bangs at a 45-degree angle?); career trajectories are no exception. A lot of students think that, because they’re not interested in a STEM field, there’s no reason for them to care about math… but that couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Math is such a powerful undercurrent in our daily lives that it’s always worth taking the time to understand.
And the benefits don’t end with the math itself.
So, before we put on our career counselor hat, let’s spend a moment longer on the math.
Not just for numbers
Learning math isn’t just learning math.
Yes, knowing how to count and calculate is important, but math teaches us more than just operations with numbers and variables. When you’re learning math, you’re also learning critical thinking and analytical skills that go beyond the equation.
The systematic evaluation involved in working through a math problem is actually an important “transferable skill” — in other words, you can use it outside of math! It’s problem-solving as a bigger picture, not just solving math problems.
That strategic, analytical, step-by-step approach that you develop through math learning can supercharge your success in just about any field.
Interesting careers for math lovers
So let’s say you really do love math (and we hope you do!). If so, there are plenty of career opportunities that use and grow those skills. If you want your job to be pretty math-forward, here are a few options you might consider:
- Software developer
- Financial planner
- Data analyst
Of course, some people like their math a little less front-and-center — and there are careers for you, too!
Math isn’t just for STEM jobs
Okay, so you’ve made it this far. You see the value in learning math, but you still don’t necessarily want to finagle formulas all day long.
We get it. We really do. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of very cool careers with some very sneaky math — so sneaky, in fact, that you just might enjoy it:
If you feel like your best self in the kitchen, you might be thinking about entering the food industry. Whether you’re a head chef, sous chef, pastry chef, or anything in between, you’ll actually need to use math on a daily basis!
Think about following a recipe: the proportions of ingredients, the measuring (so many fractions!), the experimental replacements, the specific timing, the exact temperatures. That’s all math!!
And, if you want to be the kind of chef that opens their own restaurant, pop-up, or food truck, your business will definitely demand a bit more math-ing (think: budgets, supplies, etc.).
Video game designer
If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably thought about how cool it would be to be the person actually making the games.
The good news is that you can be that person! You’ll just need some math to help — specifically geometry, calculus, trigonometry, linear algebra, and discrete math. That’s how programmers build lifelike 3D worlds, animate players and surroundings, and predict collisions between objects.
Likewise, other animators and special effects designers also use math in their work. So, if any of that interests you, it’s a good idea to pay special attention to your math classes!
Music is undoubtedly an art form, but it’s also an incredibly intricate expression of math.
And that doesn’t just go for classical music — even rock is rooted in math! Time signatures, measures, intervals, ratios… they’re all mathematical building blocks that come together to make something magic. That’s without even getting into the math behind sound itself!
P.S.: The people backstage use math, too! Audio engineers, video technicians, riggers, and set designers all use math to calculate ideal placement, fine-tune settings, and keep everyone safe around heavy and dangerous equipment.
Have you listened to so many murder podcasts that you’re now ready to become a forensic scientist?
You might need more math skills than you think! As a forensic chemist, for example, you could be calculating blood-alcohol concentration, performing random match probability for DNA analysis, or analyzing the probability of inclusion and exclusion for DNA mixtures — just to name a few. Chemistry and math do go hand-in-hand, so we’d encourage you to bolster your math brain if that type of science interests you!
Architect and designer
What if we told you that pretty buildings are pretty because of… geometry?
Architecture utilizes several different fields of math to make beautiful, creative, and structurally sound spaces. Geometry, trigonometry, and algebra help an architect exact angles, make the most of measurements, and predict any issues in construction.
Even if interior design is more your thing, you’ll still need math! Budgeting, measuring, and ratios are all important, math-fueled pieces of the process.
It may depend on the type of law you want to practice, but generally speaking, lawyers will spend quite a bit of time with data: analyzing statistics, financial records, and so much more.
This is also a great example of how to use the critical thinking and logic learned through math classes in a whole new context. Lawyers need to be analytical, responsive, and evidence-focused — these are all traits you’re subtly developing as a math student!
Much like civil engineers, contractors need to understand fractions, ratios, basic operations, and geometry in order to perform their job well. Math is essential to understanding blueprints, building safely and accurately, and making adjustments as needed!