Dear Career Doctor:
I’m a mathematician doing a Ph.D. This was my dream when I chose to study math; however, my studies are not progressing and I’m burned out. I don’t like the research anymore, because it’s difficult to produce results. I’m too shy to teach, it’s lonely and my boss is difficult. Therefore, I’m forced to think about quitting. How should I know when to cut my losses and make a huge change? My degree is not practical, like a degree in engineering, since I know very little about computers or statistics. Can you recommend some fields where my education would be useful?
Your degree is quite practical: there are complicated problems in every field that managers would love to throw at a smart mathematician! Everyone knows that mathematicians are intelligent and that someone who has gone beyond the undergraduate level doesn’t just crank through numerical problems, but can take a creative approach to them.
Your problem is not what to do, but where to do it. So, begin thinking about whether you might be more interested in working with problems that would come up in a corporation, in the financial world or in the transportation field. All these areas need mathematical models to make things run more efficiently or to predict future needs.
Go to the Career Center at your university and ask about the companies/organizations that recruit math majors and graduate students. A counselor there can explain more about the kind of work that mathematicians are hired to do for them.