Mathematicians create, investigate and analyze mathematical structures in order to solve and understand mathematical problems. Mathematical structures are also found in related fields such as physics, computer science or economics.

Mathematicians work either as theoretical (pure) or as applied mathematicians. Both types of mathematicians develop new mathematical theories, techniques and approaches to solve problems.

Pure Mathematics demands abstract thinking for the development of mathematical theories and methods. These mathematical theories and methods are essential in the qualitative and quantitative description of our world and are practically applied in most sciences. It will, for example, be used to determine, all factors considered, how an industry must be managed in order to show maximum profit.

Applied Mathematics involves mathematical modelling, numerical analyses and operational research. It forms a bridge between Mathematics theory and practice and concentrates on solving problems in Engineering, Physics and Information Technology, as well as practical problems such as industrial research, research on population growth, the development of ecological systems and predictions on the performance of, for example, artificial limbs. Statistics and Information Technology are related fields of study.

Problems for which mathematical analyses are used to find solutions or to solve problems are in such areas as: medical research, agricultural research, psychological research, genetic research, engineering and ecological research. Mathematical models are also used in trade and industry, for example, in marketing management, quality control and auditing.

Most mathematicians work indoors in classrooms, offices and laboratories. The type, size, location and financial resources of the employer and the experience, education and ability of the mathematician determine the actual work setting.

Personal Requirements

  • mathematical aptitude
  • imaginative and intellectually curious
  • enjoy solving problems and have good reasoning ability
  • enjoy working with abstract ideas
  • thorough and accurate
  • able to use calculating machines and computers

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

The requirements with regard to the minimum pass marks for Mathematics vary and prospective students are advised to consult the university yearbooks timeously in this regard.

What to Study

Degree: Most universities offer BSc, BCom or BA with Mathematics as major subject. The second major depends on the field of specialisation e.g. humanities, statistics, actuarial or Information Technology.

Post-graduate study: e.g. UNISA, UJ, UV, UZ - an honours degree in Mathematics is the minimum qualification for a career as a mathematician. High level teaching and research require a masters or doctors degree in Mathematics.


  • schools, colleges and universities
  • government departments
  • mining companies
  • insurance and investment companies
  • businesses
  • such organisations as: Mittal Steel, Sasol, CSIR, HSRC, SABS, NECSA
  • self-employment, a mathematician can act as consultant and also give private classes in mathematics

Further Information

Any of the above mentioned universities or potential employers, for example:

  • CSIR
  • HSRC
  • Mittal Steel
School of Mathematical Sciences
University of KwaZulu-Natal
School Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science
Tel: (031) 260-1111

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a research institution, or in an accounting firm or a government department
  • arrange to speak to a mathematician about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions


Related Occupations

Study Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University

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