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Graduate School


How a master's degree in mathematics can open doors

Zahraa Mazeh combined her love of math with Eastern Michigan University's top-notch graduate program in order to multiply her career opportunities.

The 28-year-old Dearborn Heights resident, who has a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Eastern, recently enrolled in EMU's master's in mathematics program so she can teach on the high school and college levels and capitalize on high paying jobs in the business world.

"My counselor explained the job market in terms of supply and demand. Since few people choose math as a major, the demand for employees with this skill is high. Earning a master's degree magnifies this benefit," says Mazeh, adding that she's always been intrigued by how numbers form the foundation of everyday life, from construction plans to pharmaceutical calculations.

Choosing a graduate program in her native Dearborn would have been easier, but Mazeh says she was drawn toward the green and white because of Eastern's supportive faculty.

"They have become like an extension of my family; it's worth the 30-minute commute," she says, adding that her husband, Mike Hazime, also has been tremendously supportive.

Other benefits that appealed to Mazeh include Eastern's challenging upper-level courses, affordable tuition and employment benefits, she says. Those benefits ring true for Director of Graduate Programs Deb de Laski-Smith, who adds that EMU's career services provides on-campus recruiting, internships, job fairs, workshops and a resumé database available to employers, among services.

"About 80 percent of our graduate students are part-time working adults, so most are enhancing their career opportunities or heading for employment change," says de Laski-Smith.

Mazeh, the busy mother of two, expects to enter the workforce after earning her degree, but in the meantime, she's encouraged by the versatility and profitability of her chosen major. In fact, the top 15 highest-earning degrees all have math skills in common, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which tracks college graduates' job offers.

A sampling of math-related jobs and their median annual salaries includes: actuary, $87,000; statistician, $72,000; and college professor, $64,000, according to a non-profit website supported by the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America. Then there's the median annual wage of mathematicians--a whopping $94,000. That's a big slice of pie! In addition, the U.S. Dept. of Labor predicts that the employment of mathematicians is expected to increase by 16 percent from 2010 to 2020.

"If you have math skills, you are a valuable asset," says Bingwu Wang, professor of mathematics who also advises EMU's math graduate students.

That asset pertains to a wide variety of careers, adds Christopher Gardiner, mathematics department head. "Pharmaceutical companies need employees with math skills to design clinical trials; manufacturing needs them to work in quality control and design; and the government needs them to study crime patterns, to analyze traffic congestion—just to name a few possibilities," Gardiner says.

For Mazeh, the bottom line is simply this: a supportive EMU faculty + an affordable education + math skills = a successful career. That's an equation worth remembering. – Linda Hass

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