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Mathematicians Rank at the Top of Best U.S. Occupations

January 16, 2009

According to research from, mathematicians make the best living.

Mathematicians ranked at the top of a list of 200 professions because they rarely work outdoors and don't have to deal with toxic fumes and noise unlike, say, sewage-plant operators, painters, and bricklayers. In addition, they do little heavy lifting, crawling, and bending, duties required of firefighters, mechanics, and plumbers.

The study, which took into account the jobs' environments, employment outlooks, physical demands, and levels of stress, also evaluated remuneration, which was determined by calculating each job's median income and growth potential. Mathematicians' annual income came in at $94,000.

Mathematics is "more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school," observed Jennifer Courter, a 38-year-old mathematician at a software company in San Francisco. Problem-solving, she told the Wall Street Journal, "involves a lot of thinking." Courter also earns more than the median income for a mathematician.

Ranking just below mathematicians on the scale of the brightest job possibilities were actuaries, statisticians, biologists, software engineers, and computer-systems analysts. On the opposite end of the career spectrum were lumberjacks—they earned $32,000 per year—dairy farmers, and taxi drivers.

The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of Jobs Rated Almanac, and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and trade association studies.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Jan. 6, 2009;, Jan. 4, 2009.

Start Date: 
Friday, January 16, 2009