People who study mathematics in college can choose from a broad range of valuable careers.

In recent years, some math majors from Lafayette have started working in actuarial science, business, finance, management, and secondary education among other fields. Other students have gone on to post-graduate programs in business, computer science, dentistry, education, engineering, law, mathematics, and medicine.

Here are some places where you can find answers to the question, “What can I do with a math degree?”

Below we try to offer some advice appropriate to math majors with various interests. Get in touch with your friendly neighborhood math professor for more information!

Graduate Studies

Students interested in graduate work in applied or pure mathematics are strongly encouraged to study mathematics beyond the minimal major requirements. Such students should seriously consider studying Abstract Algebra II, Advanced Multivariable Calculus, Complex Analysis, and Ordinary Differential Equations. These courses add breadth to the undergraduate program and present topics that are required by many graduate schools. Other 300-level classes are certainly valuable too; students should choose electives according to their interests. In addition, many graduate programs require foreign language competence, typically at least one element of the set {French, German, Russian}. Independent study, research and honors projects, and graduate courses at universities provide opportunities to find out what it “feels like” to be a graduate student.

A lot of information about graduate programs is available online; for instance, the websites of Lehigh, Ohio State and Penn State include detailed descriptions of their qualifying exams in addition to other kinds of information.

Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Economics

Students in the bachelor of arts in mathematics and economics program should carefully plan their programs to serve their interests. In particular, the capstone experience requirement may be fulfilled in several ways, including appropriate independent study or honors work. Economics 313 (Forecasting for Business and Economics) and 324 (Options and Futures) have both been approved as satisfying the capstone requirement. The economics and business department will allow joint mathematics/economics majors to take these courses at the same time as their prerequisites (Economics 365 and 321, respectively). Mathematics 301 (Case Studies in Mathematical Modeling) also may be taken for the capstone, and students interested in graduate school in economics are encouraged to take Mathematics 356 (Real Analysis) for the capstone.

Advanced work in Engineering or Physical Sciences

Students interested in advanced work in engineering or the physical sciences should seriously consider studying advanced multivariable calculus, complex analysis, differential equations (ordinary and partial), mathematical modeling, probability, and statistics.

Advanced work in the Social Sciences

AB and BS math majors interested in advanced work in the social sciences should seriously consider studying mathematical modeling, operations research, probability, and statistics.

Teaching Mathematics at the Secondary Level

Students interested in teaching mathematics at the secondary level cannot obtain an education degree or teaching certification working only at Lafayette. However, Lafayette cooperates with DeSales University’s Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP) in helping such students prepare for their careers. If you’re interested, contact John Squarcia (, campus extension 5266) for detailed advice. Certification requirements vary somewhat from state to state, and some required courses are not offered every year, so plan ahead!

Lafayette offers four courses for all students interested in secondary education: Education 150, 250, and 350, and Psychology 242. (Psychology 110 is a prerequisite for Psychology 242).

For students interested in teaching mathematics, the STEP program requires several mathematics courses in addition to those required for the major: Differential Equations (Math 264, 310 or 312), Discrete Mathematics (Math 182, 306, or 325), Geometry, History of Mathematics, Probability, and Statistics. Courses in computer science, literature, and physics also are required.

Actuarial Profession

Students interested in the actuarial profession have the opportunity to gain course content credit and preparation for examinations that are part of the certification process for the primary actuarial professional organizations, The Society of Actuaries, and the Casualty Actuary Society. Most of the requirements are completed over the course of several years while in the profession; however, several requirements can be completed while an undergraduate student. It is highly desirable to have completed several specific mathematics and economics courses as a student.

Most insurance companies expect students to have taken the Course P (Probability) examination while they are undergraduates. The content for this examination is covered by Mathematics 335: Probability. Mathematics 336: Mathematical Statistics provides necessary content for further examination and educational experience validation required by the actuarial societies. Therefore, students interested in the actuarial profession should complete Mathematics 335/336.

In addition to passing a series of examinations, both the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society require VEE (Validation of Educational Experience) for three subject units as part of their professional certification requirements. A convenient way to fulfill these while a student is to obtain grades of B- or better in the following Lafayette College economics courses:

  1. Economics Unit: ECON 211/212 (Intermediate Microeconomics/Intermediate Macroeconomics)
  2. Corporate Finance Unit: ECON 319/320 (Financial Theory & Analysis/Corporate Finance)
  3. Applied Statistics Unit: ECON 365 (Econometric Analysis)

You should consider taking these courses while a student at Lafayette College since fulfilling VEE requirements now will save effort in fulfilling these requirements once you are in the profession. These economics courses also represent the economics background that is recommended by companies hiring actuaries.

For further information about the actuarial profession, please contact Professor Fisher (email, Pardee Room 231, ext. 5281).

The following websites are excellent sources of information about the actuarial profession: