Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Low Stress Job?!!?

Very interesting quick view from the outside on the life of a mathematician, from the world out-there: According to Laurence Shatkin, author of "150 Best Low-Stress Jobs," as detailed in the Yahoo! hotjobs section, a mathematician with a Ph.D. can earn a starting salary in the 80s while enjoying a relatively stress-free life: The money quote:

"[T]he most stressful aspects of the job are the importance of being exact and a level of competition, in essence it's all good."

I have to admit that there may be a bit more stress in one's life than simply the overpowering compulsion to be exact. And the competition among mathematicians can be quite fierce in its own way (although in truth we have nothing on the social scientists: Our theories (theorems) are usually not judged on the matter of being correct. We cannot have competing theorems like in economics and sometimes in physics. What is right is right, after all. Our competition is more a matter of who proves something first, or in the most beautiful way, or just how "interesting" our results are).

And while some of my mathematician friends over at the National Security Agency and NASA, or some of the securities specialists on Wall Street (you would be surprised on how many mathematicians work in lower Manhattan) may quibble with Shatkin's quote that "[m]athematicians are not under pressure as this isn't life and death; they're dealing with theoretical realms," I have to admit it is a good life.

Something to consider, anyway....


Laurence Shatkin said...

I'm the author of that book. I'm not sure the journalist represented Mathematician well in the space she had available, so I thought I'd submit the complete write-up from the book. Note that this is based on information from the U.S. Department of Labor. Those folks aren't all-knowing, but they're the best source a researcher can turn to for information about over 900 occupations. Here it is:

Education/Training Required: Doctoral degree
Median Annual Earnings: $86,930
Growth: 10.2%
Annual Job Openings: 473
Self-Employed: 0.0%
Part-Time: 2.3%
Level of Stress Tolerance Needed: 41.8 (out of 100)
Most Stressful Aspects: Duration of Typical Work Week (83.5); Importance of Being Exact or Accurate (81.5); Level of Competition (70.2).
Least Stressful Aspects: Deal With Physically Aggressive People (0.0); Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment (4.8); Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (17.5); Frequency of Conflict Situations (23.0).

Conduct research in fundamental mathematics or in application of mathematical techniques to science, management, and other fields. Solve or direct solutions to problems in various fields by mathematical methods. Apply mathematical theories and techniques to solution of practical problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields. Develop computational methods for solving problems that occur in areas of science and engineering or come from applications in business or industry. Maintain knowledge in field by reading professional journals, talking with other mathematicians, and attending professional conferences. Perform computations and apply methods of numerical analysis to data. Develop mathematical or statistical models of phenomena to be used for analysis or for computational simulation. Assemble sets of assumptions and explore consequences of each set. Address relationships of quantities, magnitudes, and forms through use of numbers and symbols. Develop new principles and new relationships between existing mathematical principles to advance mathematical science. Design, analyze, and decipher encryption systems designed to transmit military, political, financial, or law-enforcement-related information in code. Conduct research to extend mathematical knowledge in traditional areas, such as algebra, geometry, probability, and logic.

Personality Type: Investigative. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

GOE—Interest Area: 15. Scientific Research, Engineering, and Mathematics. Work Group: 15.06. Mathematics and Data Analysis. Other Jobs in This Work Group: Actuaries; Mathematical Technicians; Social Science Research Assistants; Statistical Assistants; Statisticians.

Skills—Programming: Writing computer programs for various purposes. Mathematics: Using mathematics to solve problems. Science: Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems. Complex Problem Solving: Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions. Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems. Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.

Education and Training Programs: Algebra and Number Theory; Analysis and Functional Analysis; Applied Mathematics; Applied Mathematics, Other; Computational Mathematics; Geometry/Geometric Analysis; Logic; Mathematical Statistics and Probability; Mathematics and Statistics, Other; Mathematics, General; Mathematics, Other; Topology and Foundations. Related Knowledge/Courses: Mathematics: Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications. Physics: Physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic, and subatomic structures and processes. Computers and Electronics: Circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming. Engineering and Technology: Practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to design and production of various goods and services. English Language: Structure and content of English language, including meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.

Work Environment: Indoors; sitting.

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Richard Brown said...

Excellent post, Laurence. And thank you for the data. I will post this as a stand-alone diary.

Mike Smith, AJM said...

"What is right is right, after all. Our competition is more a matter of who proves something first, or in the most beautiful way..."

Ah! Truth and Beauty! Classical (or at least traditional) virtues! Gotta love 'em!

Great post, Rich...thanks!



Richard Brown said...

Thanks, Mike.... We often see ugly truths, as well as some beautiful falsities. It just all comes together when you get both virtues in one package.

Those are the moments mathematicians live for....