Careers

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There’s a big range of courses on offer at New Zealand universities in pure and applied mathematics and statistics and closely related fields (such as bioengineering, financial mathematics, and operations research), all providing a balance of knowledge and skills suitable for many different careers — see below for more information.


The Honeycomb Conjecture is the idea that a hexagon encloses an area into equal parts with the least perimeter (Photo credit - Cimmerian)



Mathematics

The subject of Mathematics has many aspects: it can be challenging, beautiful, powerful, fascinating, even mysterious to some people, but above all it is useful. Sometimes called the “Queen of the sciences”, mathematics interacts with other disciplines and makes essential contributions to science, medicine and commerce, as well as to many important contemporary areas of technology such as communications, linguistics and genetics. Wherever problems need to be solved, mathematics has a role to play. In fact, many sciences rely so heavily on mathematics that their most important questions are, fundamentally, mathematical.

Mathematics does not just consist of formulae. It consists of ideas, and to appreciate mathematics at a deeper level you must pass from the bare formulae to the ideas that lie behind them. Mathematical thought is one of the really great human achievements, having developed over the last 4000 years an impressive body of knowledge and methods with a wide range of applications and versatility, as well as being part of our culture.



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The Seven Bridges of Königsberg is a famous historical problem in mathematics. In 1736 Leonhard Euler proved there was no solution. This is the foundation of graph theory and a precursor to the field of topology (Photo credit)


A degree majoring in pure (or general) mathematics will focus on the fundamental concepts and methods of mathematics, and serve as a spring-board to many further options.

A degree majoring in applied mathematics will focus on mathematical modeling and the application of mathematics (and computing) to various types of problems arising in other areas.

Both types of degree open up many opportunities for careers in industry or government, computing, insurance, meteorology, traffic engineering, systems analysis, statistics, biometrics, operations research, and many other fields. There is also a strong demand for mathematics teachers, in New Zealand and abroad.

Also with a good mathematics degree you will be attractive to employers in a wide range of occupations, not just those directly using mathematics. This is because your degree is a demonstration that you have problem-solving skills and clear analytical thinking. The process of ‘doing’ mathematics is far more than just calculation or deduction; it involves observation of patterns, testing of conjectures, estimation of results, and sometimes simulation and experimentation as a means of discovering truth.

Recent employers of mathematics graduates in New Zealand include banks, insurance companies, telecommunications companies (such as Telecom NZ), NZ Treasury, finance companies, the NZ Defence forces, market research companies, NZ Post, schools, universities, government research institutes, and public and private consultancy firms.

As with other branches of the mathematical sciences, successful mathematics graduates often begin their careers in technical positions but rapidly move into positions of leadership and management because of the skills and insights they develop during their education and training.


Statistics

Statistics is the art and science of critical analysis of numerical information. This includes investigative questioning, designing ways to collect data to answer those questions, collecting data, and making sense of what that data says to produce reliable answers.

Statistics is a rapidly advancing science, increasingly important in the information age in which we live. It is a very broad subject with many branches, ranging from statistical theory to its application in business, medicine, biology, forestry, social science, education, engineering, physics, agriculture, economics and marketing. But also statistics is involved in many different ways in our daily lives, helping us to understand things like costs, values, sales volumes, measurements, ratings, distances, prices, percentages, counts, times, market shares, and even sports performance.

Statisticians are in high demand in insurance companies, finance companies and banks, market research companies, manufacturing, management consultancies, government research institutes, crown health enterprises, government departments (such as Treasury, Statistics NZ, AgResearch, MAFTech), local bodies, and as teachers and researchers in schools, universities and polytechnics.

Operations Research

Operations Research uses mathematics and computer science to make improvements to business problems, decision-making and complex systems.

Mathematical, statistical and computational methods are applied to planning and management problems in areas like production and operations, inventory management, and scheduling. These methods are usually based on analysis using mathematical or statistical models, but also involve a ‘systems approach’ to problem solving, which considers both the problem context and the problem itself in the decision-making process. Defining a problem, collecting data, consulting with people involved in the solution, and implementing change, are all aspects of Operations Research.

Many industries employ Operations Research specialists, in the business, industrial, agricultural, and administrative sectors. Recent operations research graduates have been employed in companies like Air New Zealand, as well as management consultancies, banks, insurance companies, large manufacturing firms, and public sector agencies. Many Operations Research graduates ultimately move to senior management positions.



Turing Hypothesis on pattern formation: A system of nonlinear partial differential equations that can be used to model the creation of patterns on the hides of animals

(Photo credit)



Engineering Science & Computational Modeling

Engineering Science and Computational Modelling involve the application of computing and mathematical modelling skills to the solution of a wide range of problems faced in the engineering, industrial, medical, service and business sectors. This includes the disciplines of Bioengineering and Operations Research (which are described separately), and just like those, involve a ‘systems approach’ to problem solving, which considers both the problem context and the problem itself.

Aside from career opportunities listed under Bioengineering and Operations Research, graduates in Engineering Science and Computational Modelling have been employed in yacht and sail design (e.g. for Team New Zealand), the geothermal industry, Fonterra, the electricity industry (e.g. for Vector Ltd), and local government agencies.

Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering (or Bioengineering for short) bridges the gap between engineering, medicine, and biology. Bioengineers use engineering, mathematical, and computational tools to model the human body, with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of how the body functions, to enable better clinical outcomes. Bioengineers also develop new instrumentation to enable useful information about living bodies to be obtained, to improve fundamental knowledge of healthy individuals and diagnosis of pathologies. This specialisation is relatively new and is rapidly expanding. There is an increasing demand for biomedical engineers, as computational and mathematical modelling play a greater role in health and medicine.

Recent graduates have taken up careers in sports science and medicine, medical device companies (such as Fisher and Paykel Healthcare), and the meat research industry.

Financial Mathematics

Financial Mathematics is a specialisation that combines mathematics and statistics with economics and the theory of finance, and is ideally suited for many students who wish to choose a career in banking, the Treasury or Reserve Bank, financial or stock market analysis, financial and economic modelling, or other quantitative aspects of finance.

Some recent graduates have taken up careers at the ANZ Bank, Genesis Power, the Ministry of Economic Development, the New Zealand Treasury, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and UNISYS.


Mathematics at New Zealand’s universities

University of Auckland

Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

University of Waikato

Massey University

MathematicsStatistics

Victoria University of Wellington

University of Canterbury

University of Otago


Maths degrees and which universities offer them

 
(pure) Maths
Applied Maths
Statistics
Operations Research
Other
University of Auckland
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Bioengineering,
Engineering Science
AUT
Yes
Yes
University of Waikato
Yes
Yes
Yes
Financial Maths
Massey University
Yes
Yes
Yes
Victoria University of Wellington
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Financial Maths
University of Canterbury
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Lincoln University
University of Otago
Yes
Yes
Yes
Computer Modelling