Mathematics as a Profession: A Letter to Students
(This letter was written originally to raise mathematics awareness
among students of the King Fahd University. I believe that the
conceptions regarding mathematics are common to many other
Most of you have joined the university with clear ideas about a profession in
engineering or business. I have been teaching mathematics here since 1996 and
have experienced that in a class of forty, there is at least one student who has
obvious mathematical talents. For such students, adopting mathematics as a
profession would be more rewarding than a career in engineering or business.
After talking with such students, I found that the reasons why such
mathematically talented students do not opt for mathematics are based basically
on two gross misconceptions about mathematics. Namely, that there is nothing
new to be discovered in mathematics and the only job opportunities that
mathematics provides are in teaching. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While teaching is an essential and a very rewarding profession for a large
majority, there are many other avenues open to mathematicians: I will return to