"I want to be a pharmacist. Why should I study math?"
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Jeff Anderson, MD PhD

Director of Functional Neuroimaging University of Utah Department of Neuroradiology BS Math BYU

“Most people who train in mathematics do not end up as academic mathematicians, although many do end up in academics. Mathematics is possibly the ideal training for any career in science, medicine, law, or business. It teaches rigorous thought, problem solving, and creativity.”


“I have an amazing job where I study the brain using functional MRI half time, and spend half time in clinical practice reviewing neuro-radiological exams such as MRI’s and CT’s. Most of the research projects I’m involved in use some type of analysis that is facilitated by mathematical training. I write my own data analysis software, which gives me big advantages in pursuing cutting edge theories. It’s a competitive world in academics as in most fields, and solid mathematical training gives you the ability to compete in the intellectual high country where fewer investigators feel comfortable, and where the most sophisticated and beautiful ideas tend to live.”

Physicians, or doctors, diagnose illnesses and prescribe and administer treatment for people suffering from injury or disease. Physicians examine patients, obtain medical histories, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive health care. Earnings of physicians and surgeons are among the highest of any occupation, and depend on area of specialty and how long the individual has been a physician.

Low-end Salary: 
Median Salary: 
High-end Salary: 

Becoming a doctor requires more training than most other jobs. It usually takes at least 11 years to become a doctor: 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 3 years working in a hospital. To become a doctor, you should study mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and English. Do you love mathematics, but want to pursue a career as a doctor? "Professional graduate schools in business, law, and medicine think mathematics is a great major because it develops analytical skills and the ability to work in a problem solving environment. And results on admission tests for graduate and professional schools show that students majoring in mathematics receive substantially higher scores than most other majors." William Allard & Clark Bray Duke University, Mathematics Department

Math Required: 

College Algebra
Calculus I
Calculus II (useful)
Linear Algebra (useful
Statistics and

Each med school has their own math requirements.  If you're considering med school, see what your top choice requires.


When Math Is Used: 

Physicians use math in every day practice. For example, they use statistics and probability to interpret tests results. When a patient is treated for an illness, the probability is used to determine which type of treatment to use, if any. “Evidence-based medicine, the use of statistical models to guide diagnoses and treatment, is already changing how doctors practice.” - Ian Ayres

Potential Employers: 

Approximately 15 percent of physicians are self-employed. About half of wage–and-salary physicians and surgeons work in offices of physicians, and 18 percent are employed by hospitals. Others practice in Federal, State, and local governments, including colleges, universities, and professional schools; private colleges, universities, and professional schools; and outpatient care centers.


Anesthesiologists focus on the care of surgical patients and pain relief. They are responsible for maintenance of the patient’s vital life functions—heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, breathing—during surgery. They also work outside of the operating room, providing pain relief in the intensive care unit, during labor and delivery, and for those who suffer from chronic pain. Anesthesiology is the specialty where individuals can receive the highest salary as a physician.

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Example of How Physicians Use Math

I found this math problem online about how physicians use math that I thought was pretty cool:

It talks about how to compute the probability that a patient is actually sick and explains why the accuracy ratings on different tests don't really let your know your chances of being sick or not.

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math requirements

The vast majority of medical schools do not require any calculus, however, it is recommended. Most want a year of college math/applied math (i.e., computer science, stats, calc, or anything else beyond basic algebra).


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Salary figures from
the current US Bureau of Labor of Statistics website and represent the
90th percentile.

The most common question students ask math teachers at every level is “When will I use math?” is a non-profit website that helps to answer this question. This website describes the importance of mathematics and many rewarding career opportunities available to students who study mathematics.



Figures represent salary potential.


Dr. Cary Oberije, a postdoctoral researcher in The Netherlands, has found that mathematical models can be used to accurately predict patients' responses to treatment. Prediction models were used to analyze lung cancer patients' likelihood of survival and...

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