The number of firms knocking on the doors of universities in search of mathematics graduates is increasing by the day.

If you are good at mathematics, then you should seriously consider pursuing a career as a mathematician. For, opportunities galore have begun knocking on the doors of mathematics graduates.

Though the number of students opting for the ?queen of sciences' at the undergraduate (UD) and postgraduate (PG) level had come down in the recent past, the trend has changed amazingly in the last couple of years. Not only is the number of applicants for mathematics courses in the universities increasing nowadays, bright career opportunities too have opened up for successful mathematics graduates both at home and abroad.

Severe shortage

?Career opportunities for mathematics graduates are increasing by leaps and bounds these days as mathematics is being applied in all science and technical branches. There is a severe shortage of graduates in this field all over,? says the Vice-Chancellor of Karnatak University, Dharwad (KUD), H.B. Walikar.

Universities are unable to meet the growing demand for mathematics graduates as the number of firms knocking on the doors of universities in search of such students is increasing by the day.

Between 1998 and 2002, mathematics courses were attracting a limited number of students in view of the IT boom. Consequently, there was a short supply of mathematics graduates. The few who opted to study basic mathematics came across diverse career opportunities.

But today, with the application of mathematics in different fields and with the maturing of the Indian industry, there is a large demand for people with strong analytical skills and a broad-based background in the mathematical sciences, said B. Basavanagaud, HoD Department of Mathematics, KUD .

KUD received more than 600 applications for 135 seats in M.Sc. Mathematics this year. ?None of our students are unemployed today,? he pointed out.

Rush for seats

Mr. Basavanagaud said there is heavy rush for joining the course at the university and affiliated postgraduate centres. The students are recruited by companies, technical educational institutes and others by offering an attractive pay package three months in advance of the completion of course.

Dr. Walikar said KUD is planning to introduce a new course ? M.Sc. in Computational Mathematics ? from the coming academic year. This would be a three-year course where the student can opt out after two years and receive an M.Sc. in mathematics or can continue to for one more year and receive M.Sc. in computational mathematics. In the third year, the syllabus includes training in industrial requirements.

According to Mr. Basavanagaud, mathematics graduates will have a better logical capacity, which gives them an edge over computer graduates. ?Computer graduates can only operate the system. But mathematics graduates can write the programme in computer language besides doing operating jobs. Hence, software companies began preferring mathematics graduates.?

Likewise, opportunities abroad too are knocking on the doors of the meritorious students, who are chosen for teaching jobs at various levels in the Gulf and European countries, where a dearth of mathematics graduates exists. Many foreign countries are looking at India for quality mathematics graduates. Even women graduates, who prefer working from home, are offered jobs for a decent remuneration, he said.

Interestingly, mathematics graduates are seen having an upper hand in administration and civil services too because of their analytical application skills. ?But there is lack of such awareness among the students,? Mr. Basavanagaud said.

Good pay packages

Meanwhile, technical education institutes, which are struggling for mathematics teachers, have begun offering mathematics graduates pay packages that are on a par with engineering graduates. The pay package for a mathematics graduate could also be more than an engineering graduate in some cases as the former are in short supply.

?Mathematics is a core subject in all engineering streams. But finding mathematics teachers is not an easy job. Even if they are found, it is quite a challenge to retain the existing staff as colleges vie with each other for mathematics teachers,? said Vinay S., Assistant Professor, Nitte Mahalinga Adyanthaya Memorial Institute of Technology (NMAMIT), Nitte.

A fresh postgraduate in mathematics can get a starting salary of Rs. 16,000 for a teaching post in an engineering college, which is on a par with engineering graduates.

Mr. Basavanagaud pointed out that mathematics graduates, who teach as part-timers in engineering and polytechnic institutes, are commanding a remuneration of Rs. 5,000 per hour.

Many students of KUD, who have passed out of mathematics courses, are earning around Rs. 50,000 per month as part-time teachers, he claimed. Even retired professors are sought after in technical and higher education institutes.

The shortage of mathematics graduates has also created a dearth of mathematics teachers in schools and PU colleges, said Vasanth Murudeshwar, Senior Lecturer at K.E. Board's Pre-University College.