“In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.” - John von Neumann
Are you interested in studying maths, engineering, or the sciences?
Whether you maths, accounting, or maths with other subjects, the career prospects for maths graduates are good.
There’s a lack of maths skills in the UK so whether you’re looking for work in teaching or elsewhere, schools and employers are looking for graduates.
The average maths graduate earns £26k a year after graduation. Of course, this will vary according to the field you move into with some paying much more than others.
Here’s what you need to know about studying maths after school.
Undergraduate Maths Degrees at a Glance
After you finish your A Levels, you can move onto undergraduate maths degree courses. A BSc in Mathematics is probably the first course you’ll think of as this is your typical undergraduate degree focusing on maths which lasts 3 years. By the end of the 3rd year, you can graduate and move into a career in maths or continue your studies at a postgraduate level.
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However, the undergraduate degree should be enough to get your foot in the door of most maths careers. Generally, a maths degree will cover topics such as:
- Numerical analysis
- Data analysis
- Differential calculus
- Probabilities and statistics
- Structured programming
- Coordinate and vector geometry
- Analytical and computational foundations
Usually, the first year of a mathematics degree course only includes core modules and students won't get many choices in terms of which modules they study. As they progress into the second and third years of the course, they get more say in which modules they study. Of course, most of these modules will cover mathematics but some universities offer students the option to study modules outside of the mathematical sciences.
The optional modules allow students a chance to broaden their academic horizons but there's often criteria that dictate how many academic credits in a given year need to be related to maths or science. It's unlikely that a university will allow students to fill their timetable with modules that have nothing to do with mathematics.
Many courses can also offer a year of work placement where students can apply their knowledge of maths to real situations. Some courses also offer the option of a year abroad as part of a 4-year course. This is great for students wanting to see more of the world beyond their textbooks and a great way to learn a foreign language.
Generally, maths courses require an A Level in maths or further maths. Many also like students to have an A Level in physics but this isn’t always a requirement. If you don’t have A Level maths, equivalents may be accepted.
International students may not have studied maths at A Levels and should consider contacting the universities for more information on which qualifications are accepted and the grades they'll need.
Furthermore, if you're from a country where English is not the official language, you'll probably need to prove your English language skills as part of the entry requirements for the course before you can study abroad in the UK.
Maths is also one of those subjects where students are likely to continue their studies after graduation and move onto postgraduate courses. If students don’t move onto postgraduate courses, they often move onto further study to specialise in a given field.
There are a lot of options when it comes to qualifications in mathematics and what you can do with them.
What Do You Need to Study to Get Onto a Maths Degree?
As we mentioned, most undergraduate maths degrees have the same entry requirements in terms of A Levels but not in terms of grades. You'll need an A Level in maths or further maths and physics is often recommended.
The most popular courses ask for A*A*A at A Level. While further maths is usually optional to get onto the courses, if you have chosen to study both, remember that you need to have A* in both your maths and further maths A Levels. While the third A Level doesn't need to be physics, it will help a student's chances of being accepted.
Of course, there are also undergraduate maths degrees with more lenient requirements and it's recommended that you apply to universities with a variety of entry requirements to ensure your place on a course.
For example, if you only apply to universities with A*A*A requirements, you'll be in trouble if you don't get these grades. Similarly, a lot of these courses only accept around 1 out every 10 applicants so there are students who achieve these grades and still don't get onto the most popular BSc Maths degrees.
You also need to think about the financial aspect. Those going onto a mathematics degree straight after school can get financial help in the form of student loans and grants. Mature students can also apply for student finance which takes their family situation, the course they're doing, and whether or not they have children into account.
International students will usually need to apply for finance in their home country to get funding for the degree programme.
Maths: How to Get Onto Maths-related Degrees?
While the requirements are often stated as 3 A Level results, ensuring you get an offer from a university takes more than that. With less than 10% of students getting onto the most popular courses, your application should stand out.
Of course, you'll need to meet the requirements in terms of your exam results but you'll also want an application that shows you're interested in maths outside of your academic studies so being a member of maths or science clubs certainly helps.
Similarly, having hobbies and interests outside of maths also helps. Universities are looking for driven students who both meet their academic entry requirements and also add something to contribute to the university.
Your application will include a personal statement and this is an opportunity to show that you're a motivated student.
The Best Universities for Maths in the UK
Studying maths leads to more than just becoming a mathematician so while some universities may be better than others for certain specialisations, many establishments are worthy of the top 10 spots.
Here are the 10 best universities for maths in the UK:
- University of Oxford
- University of Cambridge
- University of St. Andrews
- Durham University
- Imperial College London
- University of Warwick
- University of Edinburgh
- UCL (University College London)
- Lancaster University
- University of Bath
Of course, these are the universities that rank highest for maths overall but that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be the best choice for you.
For example, you may be interested in a university course that offers a work placement year or has ties to a company you'd like to work in. You may also be interested in a year abroad to see another part of the world or learn a foreign language.
There are also university maths courses where graduates tend to move onto certain fields so a mathematics course that leads students into teaching mightn't be ideal for someone who'd like to work in finance or the sciences.
Many students would be happy to have a degree from any of these universities but there may be a programme offered by a university outside of this list that's much better for you.
After Your Maths Degree
One of the best things about studying an undergraduate maths degree is career prospects. Nearly two-thirds of maths graduates go straight into work and often get jobs in well-paying fields.
Graduates tend to move onto jobs in finance, accounting, insurance, science, education, information technology, or business. As there's a lack of mathematics skills in the workforce and a shortage of maths teachers, a BSc (Hons) Mathematics degree will ensure that you leave university with the mathematical foundation required for a large number of jobs.
Of course, then there are the options to continue studying mathematics after you finish your BSc. You may be interested in moving onto an Mmath programme or research-based maths master's programmes.
If you need help with your maths A Level or meeting the entry requirements to a given university, consider getting help from a private tutor. Not only can they teach you about the subject of mathematics, but they can also help you put together an application for your preferred university and course.
Some tutors specialise in mathematics as well as those who specialise in study skills, university applications, academic support, etc. so you can ensure that you'll be learning exactly what you need to know in a way that works with how you like to learn.