*The following is a facetious public service announcement I wrote about
what you can do with an advanced math degree. It dates from 1987, which
explains the low dollar amounts and lack of a website.*

**Scene:** A well-kept, expensive home in a posh neighborhood. A
supertitle “Careers in Mathematics” is displayed for 2 seconds. A
teenage boy walks along the sidewalk and up to the door as the voice over
says:

**Voice over:** A lot of people wonder what someone with a doctorate in
mathematics would do for a living. To help answer this question, we’re
paying a visit today to the offices of Dr. Bernard McCutcheon, who got his
Ph.D. in math from the University of Kentucky in 1971.

**Scene:** Camera zooms in as boy rings doorbell. A well-mannered man
in a white medical jacket answers the door.

**Boy:** Dr. McCutcheon? You have a doctorate in math?

**Doctor:** (modestly) Uh, yes.

**Boy:** (hesitates) Well—I have this terrible itchy throat,
and—

**Doctor:** (soothingly) I see. Come right in.

**Scene:** Doctor leads boy into a medical examining room whose walls
are covered with large posters filled with equations and geometrical
diagrams. Doctor sits boy down on an examining table and gets out a tongue
depressor.

**Doctor:** Now open wide—

**Boy:** (opens mouth)

**Doctor:** (sticks in tongue depressor) —say
‘ah’.

**Boy:** Ahhhhhh—

**Doctor:** Fine. (pulls out tongue depressor) Just as I thought. The
coefficient of the fifth-degree term is irrational.

**Boy:** (bewildered) Is that bad?

**Doctor:** Nothing these can’t fix. (hands him a bottle of
pills)

**Boy:** (incredulously) “Algebra tablets”? (reads on)
“Makes all problems solvable by linear equations. Take one hour after
every meal.” (condescendingly) Come on, doc.

**Doctor:** Hey, you came to a Ph.D. in math, right? Last week I gave
these to a 78-year-old woman with varicose veins. She had a matrix with
irrational and imaginary entries. She took the tablets for two days. Pretty
soon the entries were all rational, the determinant was integral, and her
legs didn’t hurt any more. Or how about the guy with bronchitis two
days ago. He had a double integral even the great Gauss couldn’t
evaluate. After one day on these, plus a few Calculus Drops, it was a simple
matter of applying Green’s Theorem, and, just like the bottle says, the
integrand became linear, and he was fine. He still has a bit of mucus,
though. I’ll probably have to translate his z-axis to get rid of
that.

**Boy:** (doubts allayed, looks around respectfully at equations) All
this stuff really works, huh?

**Doctor:** Of course. Do you think I could build up a practice and
live in relative luxury if math didn’t work as a system of medicine?
Oh, that reminds me—that’ll be $60, please.

**Boy:** (taken aback) What?

**Doctor:** $40 for the office visit, $20 for the pills.

**Boy:** (takes out cash resignedly) Okay, I’ll try it. (perks
up) Hey, doc, this seems to be a pretty good business—how long does it
take to get a Ph.D. in math?

**Doctor:** Three to four years after you get your bachelor’s.
And there’s no internship or residency, either. You can start seeing
people as soon as your thesis is accepted. (takes out sheet of paper, hands
it to boy)

**Boy:** What’s this?

**Doctor:** A list of the top grad schools in math. Think about it.

**Boy:** (starts out door) Thanks, doc!

**Doctor:** Sure. And if you need any help with your math homework, let
me know. I tutor people for $15 an hour.

**Boy:** Jeez, I never knew math was such a good way to make money.
Thanks again, doc.

**Doctor:** No problem. Have a rational day.

**Screen:** Switches to words only:

Careers in Mathematics

1-800-MATH-DOC

Or See Your Guidance Counselor

Or Math Teacher

**Voice over:** To find out more about careers in mathematics, talk to
your guidance counselor or math teacher today. Or call this toll-free number:
1-800-MATH-DOC. Mathematics—it could be your ticket to a profitable
future.