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Mathematics as a Career Path

Mathematics as a career choice has been picking up among the students of India since the last couple of years. But sadly, very few students are aware fully of the scope they have to study in India. Most go for the local colleges and Universities in their neighbourhood. In this article we shall discuss the avenues that are open to students after they pass their 12th class in India.

India has a rich tradition in math since time immemorial, and this has led to the establishments of various centres of learning in math and related sciences. In the present day too, there are various institutes offering math education and research of world repute in India. Typically the road to an education in math starts after passing the 12th class in India. A student then has the opportunity to either opt for a BSc degree or an Integrated MSc degree or a BS degree or an Integrated MS degree.

The two best places in India offering a Bachelor’s degree in math are the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Bangalore and the Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI), Chennai. ISI offers a B.Math degree, and admissions are held after a tough screening test in various centres of India held in late May each year followed by a personal interview at Bangalore. CMI offers a BSc degree in Mathematics and Computer Science and another in Mathematics and Physics, admissions to which is through a written test held in various centres of India in late May each year, which may be followed up by an interview later. Both ISI and CMI also admit students who have qualified in the Indian National Mathematical Olympiad (INMO), but they still have to appear in an interview. For ISI the interview takes place at Bengaluru. Added to that CMI also admits students who have qualified in the Indian National Olympiad in Informatics (INOI) and Indian National Physics Olympiad (INPhO).

A student can also opt for a BS degree in math, which is a 4 year course. At present the two best places in India for a BS degree are the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. IIT admits students via the JEE Advanced held every year in April-May. While IISc admits students via the JEE Advanced, Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVPY) and INMO. The KVPY is held every year in November for students in classes 11th, 12th and UG 1st year. And the INMO is held every year on the first Sunday of February. But to appear in the INMO, one has to pass the Regional Mathematical Olympiad (RMO) which is held in various centres throughout India in December every year.

After the BSc/BMath/BS degrees a student has the opportunity to get an MSc or an MS degree from the many places in India and abroad. They can also apply for an Integrated MSc-PhD degree offered at some places in India. Ideally the best places in India for a Masters degree in math are mentioned below:

  • CMI, through admission test held in late May

  • ISI, Kolkata or Bengaluru through admission test held in late May

  • Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) through admission test held sometime in May

For Integrated MSc-PhD programmes the best places are:

  • Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai and Bangalore admits through a written test held in May and followed by an interview

  • IISc, Joint Admission Test for M.Sc. (JAM) followed by an interview at IISc

  • The Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), Chennai admits through the National Board of Higher Mathematics (NBHM) exam followed by an interview

  • Harish Chandra Research Institute (HRI), Allahabad admits through the NBHM exam followed by an interview

  • IISERs (Pune, Mohali, Trivandrum, Bhopal, Kolkata) also has a good Integrated MS-PhD course and they admit students either via their own exams or NBHM

If a student wants to opt for an Integrated MSc in math then the best place in India is the University of Hyderabad, which admits students through a written test held in early June. Various other central universities also have the Integrated programme, amongst them the best curriculum after the University of Hyderabad is at the Pondicherry University and Tezpur University. In recent years, many new Central Universities have also started this course.

A student can also opt for an Integrated MS degree offered at present by the IISERs, and also at the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) at Bhubaneswar and Centre for Basic Sciences (CBS) at Mumbai. The IISERs admits students via JEE Advanced, KVPY and through board exam performances. While NISER and CBS admits students through the National Entrance Screening Test (NEST) held every year in early June.

After a Masters degree, a student can pursue a PhD. The best places in India to get a PhD in math are TIFR, IMSc and HRI. Normally these institutes (except TIFR which has its own exam) accept students who have cleared either NBHM or the CSIR JRF exam followed by an interview. Students who have been awarded INSPIRE Fellowships by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), GoI may also be called for interviews at these institutes. Apart from these, CMI, IISERs and NISER also has a very highly ranked PhD programme.

Students studying at all the above institutes are paid fellowships of Rs.5000 for the Bachelors students, Rs.5000-Rs.7000 to the Masters Students by the DST and around Rs.12000-Rs.18000 for the PhD students. In CMI PhD students are paid Rs. 26000-28000 for PhD. But recent hike in fellowship for PhD students mean that they might be paid as high as Rs. 26000 in the coming session onwards.

In this article we have only focused on the best institutes in India. There are many other quite good places to study mathematics. Among them mention may be made of the Institute of Mathematics and Applications (IMA) at Bhubaneswar and the University of Delhi.

[This article was slightly modified on 14th of March, 2015.]

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Manjil P. Saikia holds a masters degree in Mathematics from Tezpur University. At present he is Diploma student at The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy. He is the editor of the english section of Gonit Sora. He co-founded the website in April, 2011.

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  1. 1

    hi ,i am a 12 kv student..i want to become a pgt maths teacher in kvs..what to do next after my 12th

  2. 3

    I want to know that since I am preparing for IIT JAM - MA, is there any scholarships inside IITs ? If yes, what type of scholarships they provide?
    I would be grateful to you if you suggest me some scholarships I can apply for after BSc regarding higher studies in Maths?

    • 4

      You should apply for the NBHM MSc scholarships, you will need to give a written test and then an interview. The scholarship amount is Rs. 6000 per month and is considered to be really prestigous.

  3. 5

    Hello. I'm currently doing B. Sc. (Hons.) Maths from Delhi University. I'm really tensed regarding the career options I have after this degree. Please suggest me some good colleges for pursuing M. Sc.

    • 6

      The colleges in DU are also a very good option apart from University of Hyderabad, University of Mumbai, University of Pune and all the institutes that were mentioned in the article.

  4. 7

    What was the cutoff marks of NBHM 2014 for phd? What can be the possible cut off this year for the same?

  5. 9

    How good is Bartle and Sherbert for Real Analysis ?

    • 10

      For beginners, it is an excellent book. If you are more adventurous, you could go for Apostol's two volume Calculus.

  6. 11

    For pursuing Masters and PhD in Computer Science (Cryptography) which institute is better : ISI Calcutta OR IITs OR IISc ?

  7. 13

    What's the cut-off score for M Math program @ ISI kolkata exam-2014.

  8. 17

    Hi, I am currently working with 5 years of experience in Analytics industry but my graduation is in BBA which is Non mathematics field. I had maths in 12th.I would like to know good universities /colleges that accept people with my background either in India or abroad to pursue Msc in statistics or Mathematics to further pursue phd.

    • 18

      Normally universities do not accept anyone for a Masters degree without math at the undergraduate level. But you could write to some universities abroad and enquire if you are eligible to apply.

  9. 19

    Hi Sir
    I am a Btech Computer Science graduate. At present working in Oracle. I would like to know which is the best option for a Intg PHD pgrogram TIFR bangalore / IISc /CMI /ISI.

    Since I am not from a maths background , Can you please suggest me the best books to crack the exams .

    Thanks in Advance.

    • 20

      Hi, all of the institutes that you mentioned are top notch, and all are good. You should brush up your basics in algebra, topology and real analysis before attempting the exam. For algebra a good book is Herstein's Topics in Algebra, for Topology you could look into Munkres book and finally for real analysis there is a nice beginners level book by Bartle and Sherbert. Please note that these books go much beyond the syllabus of the exams, and hence you should know which topics are in the syllabus of those exams. This information can be easily found out in the webpages of the respective exams.

  10. 21

    Sir I havd done n nw preparing for site is vei helpful.i wanted to ask
    1.i applied for sau n isi.n I m preparing applied part is good.but theorettical part is weak.where shud I focus?
    2.any idea aboyt weightage?
    3.what bout banaras hindu univ. ? I have keen interest in research+got settle with the same,is it possiblr?

    • 22

      1. You should brush up algebra and topology very well, assuming your analysis is good.
      2. There is no fixed weightage in the exam, it will be a mixed bag.
      3. BHU is also a very good and reputed university in India, and you should definitely apply for it.

  11. 23

    This is probably the most informative site on the net for any Math aspirant. Kudos to you for showing the correct path to students & parents alike.

    My son wishes to become a Data Scientist. He is currently appearing for his Class 10 ICSE boards. If you could kindly answer a few queries:

    1) Between CMI & ISI, which UG course offers a better platform to later pursue Data Science as a career?
    2) Which other institutes should he target as a back up for a good Math UG Degree in India?
    3) Is there any institute in India which offers a Data Science degree at the UG level?

    Thanks & Regards,

    • 24

      Thank you for your kind words. For your son we have the following suggestions:

      1. CMI would be a better option.
      2. IISc Bangalore, University of Delhi and IMA Bhubaneswar are also very good options.
      3. We do not know of any, but our knowledge is limited and hence please do not take this as a truth.

      Thank you.

  12. 25

    MY daughter is currently in xii cbse she recently found out she has no interest in engineering but only in maths. she was earlier preparing for jee mains. But now she wants to pursue her career in mathematics instead of engineering but she is afraid to take the path as many of her fellow students try to demotivate her saying maths has no career from the income and job prospectus view.Also she thinks it is late for her to appear for cmi and isi exams. her exams finishes on march 31. so little time to prepare for jee main. also she is not confident of nest exam as she came to know about it recently .She thinks she is not fully prepared for phy/chem.for nest/iiser. pl guide. also please advice which exam she should focus as she is getting a time of one month only ISI/CMI/NEST/IISER. ? Her Maths is quite good. Also guide if she does not clear any exam which career path she should follow if she gets good marks in xii and jee mains. or B.Tech(I.T.) What is the scope for acturial science if she do it alongwith B.Sc.

    • 26

      Hi, contrary to popular belief, if you are quite good in what you do in math you will get high paying jobs. It might be difficult in India to get such a job, but still plenty of opportunities exists even now. And if the plan of the present government to open a big data centre in India comes to fruition, then there will be plenty of jobs for mathematicians there. Organisations such as DRDO, ISRO, etc recruit mathematicians every year. But it is quite competitive to get such a job.

      Coming to your queries about the exams, students who clear JEE Advanced with a good rank can get into a BS programme at some IITs in mathematics, which are really good. Also IISERs take students from JEE Advanced. As for the NEST and IISER exams go, their level of difficulty will not be generally more than that of JEE Mains, so your daughter still has a chance in those exams. And from what you say, your daughter is good in mathematics, then it is not late to appear for the ISI or CMI exams. Tell her to check previous years question papers from these exams and see what is her level now. She can also look into some old INMO and RMO problems, as such problems may also be asked in ISI or CMI entrance exams.

      Finally, B.Tech (IT) would be a good option in terms of job prospects, but if her plan is to eventually do math, then she should go for BSc from a top level college in India, and then try to follow it with a Masters from India or abroad. Being an actuary can pay you quite well, but unfortunately the scope is still very limited in India. And if she really loves math, then actuarial sciences will be a let down for her.

      We hope this will be helpful to you. All the best to your daughter.

  13. 27

    sir i prepare for iit jam please give me some guidliance and say useful books for jam

    • 28

      Please check the previous years questions for an idea of the exam. Prepare differential equations, numerical analysis and vector calculus specially well as there will be non trivial questions on those topics. You should do lot of problems from Schaum series books, as questions in JAM are of a similar level as the problems in those books.

  14. 29
    amit singh rathore

    sir i am a student from national institute of technology jalandhar punjab,can i eligible for from any reputed institute of india like iit,iiser,cmi,nit etc.plz tell me

  15. 31
    amit singh rathore

    and sir my branch is mininig engineering.

  16. 32

    Sir, I'm a first year student present enrolled in BSc. Maths under University of Delhi. I'm thinking of joining a coaching institue for IIT Jam preparation in the summer, however I'm also interested in institutes like CMI, ISI, IMSC, TIFR among others, so would coaching for IIT Jam also provide a good base for the entrances of these exams(Cmi,isi,etc) or will I need to put in extra effort ?

    • 33

      Also I'd be really really grateful if you'd suggest a coaching institute and any other advice you might want to part with is very welcome.

    • 34

      We are very sorry, but we do not have much knowledge about coaching institutes in New Delhi to give you a correct and helpful response. But if you find a good coaching institute for JAM than it should help you for preparation of CMI and ISI admission tests too.

  17. 35

    sir i am a maths 1st year student.i want to do a in maths.but i find learning languages really tough,which is lowering my overall percentage.pls advice if i have to concentrate on all my subjects or just maths and the supplementary subjects(statistics and computer)or just maths. does the overall percentage affect my chances to get admission to cmi or isi which have entrance exams.pls advice and thanks in advance.

    • 36

      Normally, you need a minimum of first class if you belong to the General category to be eligible for admission into various colleges. So try to keep your overall percentage above 60% or if you follow CPI then above 6.5 so that you do not become ineligible even if you do well in the interview, etc.

  18. 38

    I want to know about cut off for msc maths in nits..
    Can u tell me last year cutoff?

  19. 40

    Sir, I am bsc 2nd year student and I want to do msc +phd.My maths is quite good which type of study material I should preffer for iit jam preparation. I like physics and maths both may I do msc+phd in both subjects is there any combination of these subjects.

    • 41

      You may see if you wish to work in theoretical physics, which is almost all mathematics. For IIT JAM, please prepare from the standard texts but give special importance to vector calculus and differential equations. The following books may be useful:

      Topics in Algebra by I. N. Herstein
      Topology by Munkres (only the first few chapters)
      Differential Equations with Historical Notes by Simmons
      Understanding Analysis by Abott
      Vector Calculus by M. R. Spiegel

      Best wishes.

  20. 42

    I am a B.Tech ECE. I did my analysis in ECE and i found out that i am not good at ECE. I am very good at mathematics and was best in my class. I was very comfortable in mathematics. I want my career to be related to mathematics. i have 60% marks. Would you please guide me. I would love to go to isro and other research area that has mathematics. what should i do to get in isro.

    • 43

      ISRO normally conducts exams and interviews for recruitment every year. These exams are quite competitive and you must prepare well. Follow the weekly Employment News as ISRO and many other government agencies place their ads on the paper.

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