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What majors can I study?
The following are just some of the majors you can study in this
What you’re in for
If you are considering studying mathematics at university you’ve
probably studied it throughout school and are reasonably
proficient. You may also know of its main subdivisions: pure
mathematics (subjects like differential and integral calculus,
mathematical logic and linear programming, as well as areas like
environmental or financial mathematics); applied mathematics
(such as vector calculus, dynamics and probability); and statistics
and operations research (including nonparametric statistical
inference, sampling theory and stochastic processes).
See www.mathscareers.org.au for more information about
careers in mathematics and statistics. If you are interested in
mathematics, you should also consider some of the
specialisations within accounting, business and management,
computing and information technology, economics, and
engineering and technology. Gaining a broader qualification or
combining mathematics with another area of study, such as
education and training, could also make life easier when the time
comes to find a job.
Courses and specialisations
Mathematics courses are more readily available than you might
expect considering it is such a specialised field. Student numbers
are quite small though, despite countless reports suggesting that
mathematics teachers are in dire shortage and that there are too
few mathematics practitioners (statisticians and mathematical
scientists, for instance) to undertake future research and
technology efforts. Of course, if you are contemplating university-
level mathematics you might also be interested in this subject in
its own right, not as a means to an occupational end.
Where to study
If you think you might want to go on to do postgraduate research,
it is an advantage to do your first degree at one of the universities
with an established research track record. Courses at the newer
universities are usually at the more ‘applied’ end of the spectrum.
While cut-offs vary, entry is not all that easy in this field overall,
and you can expect to find mathematics as a prerequisite. To
compare entry difficulty at different institutions, see the ‘How
tough is it to get in?’ tables in Section 4.
The Australian Academy of Sciences’ decadal plan for
mathematical sciences in Australia lists four key objectives — to
provide all Australian children access to outstanding mathematics
teachers, to guarantee high standards of mathematical sciences
teaching at tertiary level, to achieve both global and local impact
in mathematics research, and to ensure that all of Australian
society is capturing the benefits of mathematics-based
technologies. Recommendations include increased professional
development for teachers; the introduction of intermediate
mathematics as a prerequisite for all tertiary science, engineering
and commerce degrees; and funding for a new national research
centre for the mathematical sciences.
There is currently a serious shortage of secondary school
mathematics teachers in Australia and a decline in tertiary
students completing degrees in these areas. Mentoring programs
such as the federal government’s Mathematicians in Schools aim
to engage students at a young age to encourage them to
consider a career in mathematics. The program pairs
mathematicians with teachers and students to provide a fresh,
applied approach to maths education. University programs, such
as the University of Sydney’s Institute for Innovation in Science
and Mathematics Education, also promote new ways to learn
mathematics. The Teach for Australia program allows
mathematics graduates and professionals to gain a fast-tracked
teaching qualification by completing two years of practical
experience in the classroom, while the New South Wales
Government’s teaching scholarships and the Queensland
Governments Step into STEM Teaching Scholarships provide
students with financial incentives to train as maths teachers.
FOR FURTHER HELP...
To compare the pros and cons of mathematics with other
fields of study, see the table on page 68 and institution
profiles in Section 4.
For more on jobs and careers in this field, see The Good
Careers Guide website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au.
For ratings of postgraduate mathematics courses, see
The Good Universities Guide website at
To compare mathematics courses, please see the Sciences
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