Careers
From Mathsreach
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.
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.
A degree majoring in pure (or general) mathematics will focus on the fundamental concepts and methods of mathematics, and serve as a springboard 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 problemsolving 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, decisionmaking 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 decisionmaking 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.
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
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 