Mathematics has played an important role in the development of Indian culture since Vedic times. Swami Vivekananda, who leapt into fame at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, had once said, “You know how many sciences originated in India. Mathematics began there. You are even counting 1, 2, 3 etc. to zero, after Sanskrit figures, and you all know that algebra also originated in India.”
Therefore, following the tradition and being fascinated by the concepts provided by many mathematicians there are probably many reasons why a person should have a career in maths. If a candidate is in search of varied options in a single subject, then, maths is the option that he should opt for. It is high time we know about the many careers prospects that the subject maths can offer.
Once the student chooses to study mathematics he can have abundant opportunities. He can opt for many career options like Engineering, Computer Science, Insurance, Astronomy, Banking and Accountancy. He will also have a wide scope in teaching and research fields.
History of Mathematics in India
The Satapath Brahmana, which is a part of the Shukla Yajur Veda, contained detailed descriptions of the geometric constructions of altars in yajnas. The Shulba Sutras, supplementary to the Vedas, contained the famous theorem commonly attributed to Pythagoras. It also introduced the concept of irrational numbers. Among many great mathematicians in the world, many of the places are occupied by the Indian mathematicians and astronomers of the classical era. Some of them being Aryabhata I (500 CE), Bhaskara I (900 CE), Brahmagupta (700 CE), Aryabhatta II (1000 CE), Bhaskaracharya (1200 CE) and many more. These great mathematicians surely become a great inspiration to the ones who want to have a career in maths.
How to become a Professional Mathematician
Before we dive ourselves into the discussion of how to become a mathematician, we need to understand what exactly is a mathematician. Though some people define mathematicians as “people who work with numbers” this is only true to a small part. Number sense is only one strand of Mathematics. It is a subject that encompasses pattern and function, shape and space, measurement and data in addition to operations and number sense.
Some mathematicians conduct research in fundamental mathematics while some work in the application of mathematical techniques to Science, Management and other fields.
To have a career in mathematics, it is necessary for the person to follow a thought process where he can survey abstract theoretical problems and then apply those theories to solve the problems in various disciplines like Economics, Physics, Chemistry etc. One should also possess good reasoning to identify, analyse, and apply the basic principles to technical problems.
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Learning Mathematics in School
Mathematics is a fundamental part of human thought and logic. It helps in the growth of logical reasoning among the students and provides a constructive way of building mental discipline. Mathematics also plays an important role in the understanding of other school subjects like science, social sciences etc. Therefore, a person’s journey to have a career in maths begins a lot before he starts studying the subject in college and universities.
When a person starts with elementary level maths taught in school, it helps in strengthening his base and build a strong foundation. And as a person grows by studying mathematics in school, it helps him develop a thought process, unlike others. However, the very first step to becoming a professional mathematician is to ensure that he is learning various topics in the subject.
Although, discussions are on way to make maths optional in 10th class, but for now, mathematics is a compulsory subject from the kindergarten level to the tenth standard. First, a child is introduced to this subject by teaching numbers, mathematical operation, arithmetic and then gradually moving on to more complicated topics such as Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra, Statistics etc. After the tenth grade, a student gets the option where he may not keep mathematics as a compulsory subject. This is the time when a candidate decides his desired stream of studies. If one decides that he wants to have a career in maths then he has to decide that when he is in Class 10. After the 10th standard, if the candidate chooses the commerce stream, he can still have a career in commerce with maths as the main subject. A commerce candidate may also choose business mathematics if not pure mathematics.
Apart from choosing mathematics, a student aspiring to become a mathematician may also choose subjects like Physics, Chemistry and Computer Science where they can apply their mathematical skills into use. Learning these subjects will also help the student to develop skills for mathematical models and data analysis. Computer Science, a subject generally taught in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades in boards like ICSE and CBSE is also necessary as it helps one learn about recursive calculations and matrices. These subjects, all in all, ready a candidate to take up maths for his undergraduate degree.
Learning Maths at College and University
To have a career in Maths after 12th standard, the students are required to pass their 10+2 or its equivalent exam in Science Stream with Mathematics as one of the subjects. Then only the candidates are eligible to pursue mathematics for higher studies. The students complete their graduation with Maths as the main subject along with two other elective subjects. Some of the Maths graduate-level courses popular in India are:
- A (Hons.)(Mathematics)
- Sc (Mathematical Science)
- Com (Business Mathematics)
- A (Business Mathematics)
Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics helps train students on important skills of mathematical reasoning. Some of the subjects included in the degree in various colleges and universities all over India are:
- Integral Calculus and Trigonometry
- Advanced Calculus
- Numerical Analysis
- Differential Calculus
- Vector Analysis and Geometry
- Abstract Algebra
- Differential Geometry
In some metropolitan cities in India like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata etc., the Master’s Degree in Maths also plays an important role in getting a good job. This curriculum mostly includes assignments, projects, seminars and analyzing a large amount of numerical data. Some of the subjects offered in almost all universities regarding M.Sc mathematics are:
- Real Analysis
- Probability Theory
- Linear Programming
- Field Theory
- Geometry of Numbers
Now, when the candidate has completed his Master’s Degree, he may either look for a job or go into the research field by pursuing M.Phil or PhD in mathematics. There are a number of universities in India that provide research programmes. But getting into a research programme can be tough as the entrance exams conducted for the admission in doctoral programs are quite competitive. Most of the universities offering doctoral programmes require the candidates to qualify CSIR-UGC NET for JRF, UGC-NET for JRF, NBHM Screening Test or GATE. Apart from these, some universities conduct their own Entrance Exams. Also, there are multiple options available before opting a Master's Degree. In that case, there are also entrance examinations a student has to pass. For instance, MBA, exams like CAT, GMAT, XAT are required to get through.
Maths Doctoral Programs in India are divided into two forms:
- Pure Mathematics
- Applied Mathematics
Therefore, it is important that the candidate makes a choice while opting for a doctoral Program. But regardless of what field the candidate chooses, in the first two years, the candidate will have to attend seminars, classes and guest lectures by other mathematicians. Some of the subjects offered in PhD mathematics are:
- Algebraic Topology
- Probabilities: Limit Theorems
- Functional Analysis
- Complex Variables
And when one gets free time during the studies, he may enrol in some online courses on some side subjects such as Mathematical Physics or Bio-Statistics. This will also help the candidate in preparing his dissertation. The Indian Government encourages the students for research programs by providing a scholarship of Rs. 25,000 - Rs. 35,000 per month, which increase after the second year with external funding sources.
Now that a candidate has crossed his fourth step in his journey to become a professional Mathematician, he must decide whether he wants to be satisfied with his degree or he wants to build a professional career.
Go the Extra Mile
One may face many situations during his studies where he may feel that the best option then would be to quit, which may finally lead to short-term or long-term failures. But the one who will not panic and find ways of fighting the obstacles will always be the winner. If one wants to outshine in the field of maths, it is required that he puts an extra dose of determination and perseverance to reach his goal.
Job Opportunities in Mathematics
All the highest paying jobs in India are directly or indirectly related to Mathematics. After a candidate completes his graduation in mathematics he will have various career options in maths available in both government and private sectors. Jobs for maths graduate include career prospects in the research organisations, banking sectors, PSUs and technical branches. Apart from these, the mathematicians are appointed as Assistant Professor, Reader, Professor and Associate Professor in various colleges and universities. Trained mathematicians also have job opportunities in Defence Research and Developmental Organisations (DRDO), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC), National Aeronautical Limited (NAL) etc. Other than these, there are various other opportunities like working as a Financial Mathematician, Operation Research Analyst and Computer System Analyst.
Like the old saying, “Practise makes a man perfect”, mathematics is a subject in which one can gain mastery only by practice. The more one practises, the better he becomes. You cannot become an expert in mathematics by simply memorising the concepts and formula. That may help one in the short run but will not prove to be a very promising step in the long term. And one must also keep the habit of asking questions while studying this subject because that helps to retain the information for a longer time. Staying curious and being motivated also goes a long way if you want to build a career in maths.