What can I do with a mathematics degree?

Lots! We have surveyed mathematics majors who have graduated in the last 10 years or so and found they have pursued a remarkable diversity of careers. Many of these careers are not ones that you would normally associate with mathematics and others require specific mathematical skills.

Some have gone into medicine, some to law and others to careers in business and finance. It was interesting to read that a number of the finance professionals regret not taking more core mathematics courses; they find the methods contained in these courses essential in their work.

Some of the people who responded to our survey have gone into technology-related industries, some have used their statistics training and gone on to actuarial careers in the insurance industry. Yet others have gone on to Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences and then into academe.

They all report that mathematics was a good preparation for their careers. As society becomes more technologically based, mathematics becomes more and more important in an ever-increasing number of fields. If you want more specific information, you should consult with an adviser in the mathematics department.

Requirements for the Math Major

1. Calculus I, II, and III. These requirements can be satisfied by either taking the classes or through AP credit. If you need help choosing which Calculus class to start with, read our Calculus guide. Students typically start in Math 1210 (Calculus I) or Math 1310 (Consolidated Calculus). Students with a 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement Mathematics BC exam, start out in Math 2210 (Calculus III).

Each fall there are Honors sections of Mathematics 1310 and 2210 and each spring there is an honors section of Mathematics 2210. Students contemplating majoring in mathematics should consider taking one of these sections.

2. A core class component, consisting of:

  • Real Analysis 1 (Math 3050)
  • Linear Algebra (Math 3090)

Note: These courses are offered every semester.

3. At least five electives with the following provisos:

  • These courses must be at the 3000 level or above
  • At least two must be at the 4000 level.  The Senior Seminar (Math 3980-3990) may count as one 4000 level course.
  • At most one of Math 2240 (Introduction to Applied Mathematics) or Math 2170 (Discrete Mathematics) may be substituted for a 3000 level course. Students may not receive credit for both 2240 and 4240.
  • All electives must be regularly offered mathematics courses (not reading courses) carrying at least 3 hours credit each.

Read Course Descriptions


My primary interest is in the sciences. Can I add mathematics as second major?

You bet! As mathematics becomes more important in the biological, physical and social sciences, students in these disciplines have many mathematics requirements. Frequently you may just need to add a few mathematics courses to obtain what is one of the most valuable credentials: a mathematics degree.

Also, many of them find that they enjoy the math courses (so much that sometimes they drop their original major for a math one!).

How do I prepare for graduate school?

That depends on the sort of graduate program you wish to pursue. Read the sample curriculum below for some ideas. We emphasize that the requirements for the major are necessary but not sufficient preparation for graduate school in any mathematical science.

In addition to a good GPA and strong GRE scores (especially in the subject test), admissions committees look for evidence that a student is not only willing and able to work, but is actually happy to do lots of hard, independent work. This is why students who are considering graduate school in one of the mathematical sciences should give serious consideration to doing an honors thesis.

In addition students who are considering going to graduate school should consider applying for one of the summer programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation, called Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). There are about 70 such mathematics programs at various universities around the country, including Tulane. In these programs students work closely with faculty and other students on research problems in various fields of mathematics. This is about as close as an undergraduate gets to the experience of mathematical research. Students who have completed such programs have an enormous edge in getting into the best graduate schools. As if this weren't motivation enough, you also get a generous stipend.

Read more about the NSF's Research for Undergraduates (REU)

How can I prepare for professional schools (business, law or medicine)?

If you wish to go to graduate school in business then, in addition to the core courses you should take:

  • Math 6030 (Stochastic Processes)
  • Math 6350 (Optimization)

Many subfields of business, especially finance, are becoming increasingly mathematically sophisticated. Our alumni in these fields recommend that undergraduates take as much core mathematics as possible. In fact, one of the most popular fields in business, recently, has been "Financial Mathematics". There are a number of excellent Masters programs in this area.

Read Course Descriptions

Law & Medical School
Admissions committees at law schools are most interested in students with analytical skills who can understand and formulate a complicated argument. A general mathematics curriculum is perfect training for such a career. Similar things can be said about students who wish to go on to medical school, except that for such students there is a core of science courses which the student must take to prepare for the MCAT examination.

Sample Curricula (based on interest)

We give a number of sample curricula depending on what you're interested -whether it's a basic math program or preparation for professional school.

Each curriculum starts with Math 1310, but if you are taking Math 1210 & 1220, simply substitute them for Math 1310

We list only courses in the mathematics department. But we encourage all of our majors to take at least one year of physics, and other courses in which math is heavily used.


Core Math 1310
Applied Math 1310
Statistics 1310
Business School 1310
Biostatistics*, Applied Statistics* or Actuarial Career 1310

Core Math 2210
Applied Math 2210
Statistics 2210
Business School 1310
Biostatistics*, Applied Statistics* or Actuarial Career 2210


Core Math 3090, 3050
Applied Math 2240, 3090
Statistics 3070, 3090
Business School 3090
Biostatistics*, Applied Statistics* or Actuarial Career 3070, 3090

Core Math 2240
Applied Math 4470
Statistics 2240, 3080
Business School 2240
Biostatistics*, Applied Statistics* or Actuarial Career 2240, 3080


Core Math 3110, 4210 or 4410
Applied Math 3050
Statistics 3050, 6040
Business School 3050
Biostatistics*, Applied Statistics* or Actuarial Career 3050, 6040

Core Math 4060, 4120
Applied Math 4060, 3310
Statistics 6040, possibly 4060
Business School 3310 or 6030
Biostatistics*, Applied Statistics* or Actuarial Career 3040


Core Math 4210 or 4410, 3010, 3980
Applied Math 3110, 3980, 6350
Statistics 3980, 6350
Business School 3200, 3980, 6350
Biostatistics*, Applied Statistics* or Actuarial Career 3980

Core Math 4300, 3470, 3990
Applied Math 4300, 3990
Statistics 6030, 3990
Business School 3310 or 6030, 3990
Biostatistics*, Applied Statistics* or Actuarial Career 6030, 3990

How do I graduate with honors?

In order to graduate with departmental honors in mathematics, students must achieve the following:

  • 3.4 or higher cumulative GPA.
  • 3.5 or higher GPA in math courses counting for the major.
  • Successful completion of an Honors Thesis.

The Honors Thesis is written under the supervision of a member of the mathematics department faculty over a two-semester period. The student must receive prior approval of the proposed thesis from his/her major advisor (and of course the faculty member supervising the thesis). The student must also submit a prospectus to the Honors Program so that the office can inform the student of the requirements and deadlines of the Honors Thesis process.  A student receives 7 credits for successful completion of an Honors Thesis, which includes submission of the written thesis and an oral presentation before a committee of three faculty members. For additional information on the Honors Thesis, please visit

For information about graduating with Latin honors, please visit

In order to graduate magna cum laude (summa cum laude, if GPA is 3.8 or above) the student must fulfill one additional requirement of the Honors Program:  he/she must take at least 4 honors courses.  The Mathematics Department has honors sections of consolidated calculus, several variable calculus, and linear algebra.  Other courses that will count as honors courses are:

  • Graduate courses.
  • Independent studies courses.
  • Certain courses involved in study abroad.
  • Honors option: student makes arrangement with instructor of a non-honors course to do extra work to earn the honors designation (this is done only after a successful petition to the Director of the Honors Program).

A student planning to graduate with honors in mathematics and/or a graduate magna cum laude or summa cum laude should consult with both his/her major advisor and the Honors Program Office to make sure his/her program of studies is consistent with that goal.

Can non-math courses count as part of my major?

Yes, you may take some of your electives in other departments with approval of your major adviser. To qualify, the course will have to be one with substantial mathematical content and cannot overlap substantially with regularly offered mathematics courses.

How do I declare a mathematics major?

The procedure is actually quite simple! Each student must declare a major by the end of her/his sophomore year. You should:

  1. Obtain a major declaration form from your academic advisor and bring it to Prof. Tai H. Ha, Chair of the mathematics department. He will serve as your advisor or assign you one.
  2. Meet with the advisor for his or her signature and discuss your program of study in the department as well as more generally. The relationship between a student and his or her major advisor is an important one. You should feel comfortable talking to your advisor about any academic problems or concerns and about applying to graduate of professional school or a job in industry.
  3. Return the signed form to your academic advisor.