We report on an international study about mathematics students’ ideas of how they will use mathematics in their future study and careers. This builds on our previous research into students’ conceptions of mathematics. In this paper, we use data from two groups of students studying mathematics: those who participated in an in-depth interview and those who completed an open-ended questionnaire. We found that their responses could be grouped into four categories: don’t know; procedural skills; conceptual skills; and professional skills. Although some students held clear ideas about the role of mathematics, many were not able to articulate how it would be used in their future. This has implications for their approach to learning and our approach to teaching.