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What Jobs are Available for Math Majors?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the joy-of-working-with-numbers dept.

301

Asmor asks: "I'm currently a CS major/math minor in college, who's strongly considering a role reversal. I like working with computers as a hobby, but I'm not so sure it's what I'd want to do for a living. On the other hand, I love math, especially in its pure and abstract forms. I would like to get a doctorate some day, but ideally I'd like to find a job as soon as I get my bachelor's. I've expressed this interest to important people in my life (like my parents and such) and the general consensus is that there aren't any jobs for math majors. I can't really disagree. Aside from teaching it, something I'm not sure I'd want to do, I can't think of any jobs for math majors. So, what options are out there for me if I did decide to switch? Would my future consist of high school math classes? Also, how much work is involved?"

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Perfect (0, Offtopic)

vistic (556838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822601)

I have a math major friend who is also a religion major... hope this gets some good responses cuz maybe he needs something to fall back on someday...

Re:Perfect (2, Informative)

jdray (645332) | more than 8 years ago | (#15823074)

Look into jobs at utility companies. There's a lot of math that goes into predicting how much power, natural gas, etc. that will get used in the next hour/day/month/year so that appropriate load values can be purchased. Also, look to insurance companies. I've got a friend that's a math major, and she's studying for a certificate in actuarial accounting while working for a large insurance company. In either case, wages are about what you'd expect to get in the computer field.

Re:Perfect (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15823082)

Your friend will be fine: the Theology degree will lead to a government post in the USA, whereas the Mathematics degree will net a real job anywhere outside the USA. It's win-win!

There are a LOT of jobs (4, Insightful)

jasonla (211640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822612)

Having a math degree basically opens a lot of engineering jobs to you. Maybe a job as an engineer with NASA? Google? Any large tech firm you want? Since you will have a major/minor in Comp Sci, more doors will open for you.

Hey, dude, forgot the largest one... (4, Informative)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822838)

... of all! -- National Security Agency, or NSA (for short) -- really, the largest employer of mathematicians of all...

Paul B.

Actuary (2, Informative)

rlp (11898) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822623)

But only if you're REALLY good at math. I'm told that the exam is a extremely difficult.

Re:Actuary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822701)

Ummm, if by exam you mean exams, then you are correct. There are two different paths you can take to be an acturary. One requires something like 7 exams, while the other is 8 (if I recall correctly). The exams are very difficult and require quite a bit of studying. Someone once told a friend of mine that passing all of them requires putting in time comprable to a PhD.

Re:Actuary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822819)

Many good math students actually go down this path, and it's worthwhile after you complete the exams (there's high demand and low supply for actuaries).

Re:Actuary (2, Interesting)

texaport (600120) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822834)

But only if you're REALLY good at math.

Or really good at shoveling snow. At one time not long ago, 75% of all available actuarial jobs were within a couple hours of Hartford.

Re:Actuary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822847)

You don't have to be a math genius to be an actuary. You just have to be pretty good or quite good at math, and willing to spend a long time on the exams. For example, I think that if you're a good math major at a school like UCLA, and you're willing to work pretty hard, then you have a good shot at being an actuary.

Now, if you want to be a quant at a hedge fund, and make $300,000 a year (or more), then you need to be really, really, really good at math.

Re:Actuary (2, Informative)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822910)

According to the sample syllabi at http://www.casact.org/admissions/syllabus/2006/ind ex.cfm?fa=summary [casact.org] the mathematics involved are of the sort that a good high school student will pick up if he/she takes the AP Calculus and Statistics courses. Failing that, the math would surely be easily within reach of a mathematics major at a university. Of course, only the first 3 out of 7 tests deal with pure mathematics, so I can't say much about the others, but it doesn't look like these tests really require any mathematical fireworks.

Re:Actuary (5, Informative)

mattmacf (901678) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822965)

But only if you're REALLY good at math. I'm told that the exam is a extremely difficult.
Exams. That's plural. Times 9. I'm currently working toward becoming an actuary (with a possible minor in CS, coincidentally) and I suggest you look into it if you're at all interested in math. I have a couple of family members who work closely with actuaries, and from what I hear, the career path can't be beaten. The work is incredibly difficult, but unbelievably rewarding financially. If you go through a decent program and take a few of the exams, it's not unheard of to be making six figures right out of college. Employers will also pay for you to take classes to pass the rest of the exams, and give paid time off from work to do so (i.e. you only actually work 4 days a week). Fully certified actuaries can then essentially write their own meal ticket doing whatever they desire. Early retirement (before age 50) is common, as is moonlighing as a private consultant. If that isn't good enough, IIRC, a significant portion of CEOs begin work as actuaries. Not to mention the unemployment rate for actuaries is virtually zero. There is incredible demand in the insurance industry, as well as with almost any company working in the financial sector.

To the OP: this may not be the best path for you if you're more interested more in pure and abstract mathematics, but if you can handle some mind-numbing drudgery every once in a while, it might not be a bad idea to look into becoming an actuary. The first two exams [beanactuary.org] aren't all that difficult, so I highly recommend checking out some of the sample questions to see if this kind of thing might be right for you. Buy a book or two and spend some free time studying and you could be well on your way. The best of luck to ya =)

Most seem to become teachers or stay in academia (2, Informative)

vistic (556838) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822625)

I took an Intermediate Calculus course this Spring as an elective, and I was the only non-Math major in the room (I'm Computer Science)... I asked around and I'd say 99% of the people in that class planned on getting a teaching certificate to become grade school math teachers.

I suppose the other 1% goes on to get a Masters and PhD in Math and stays at the University forever.

Re:Most seem to become teachers or stay in academi (3, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822800)

I took an Intermediate Calculus course this Spring as an elective, and I was the only non-Math major in the room . . .

Where were the physics/chem majors? In my undergraduate days we outnumbered the math majors in any calc course.

And the people after teaching certificates were why such courses always finished with about a third of the students they started with. They changed majors to English or Media studies, eventually got their certificates and went on the teach primary and secondary math anyways.

Remember the modern paradigm; you don't have to know the subject to teach it, because your specialty is teaching; and in any case people who know better than you do prepare all of the materials anyway.

Just follow the curriculum.

KFG

Re:Most seem to become teachers or stay in academi (1)

bofkentucky (555107) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822892)

Amen
B.S. in Biology from my state's flagship institution, just as qualified to substitue as a kid with 60+ hours of college credit in any subjects in my state's farked up educational system. If I actually want a full-time job teaching I have to go back, take enough garbage credits for a BA in education (useful 12 hour semester as a student teacher not included). That's why I'm a sysadmin and not teaching.

Re:Most seem to become teachers or stay in academi (5, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822962)

My mother had been teaching full time for ten years when they first started the whole certificate thing in my state. She had the highest rating in her district. In fact, her supervisor wrote in his last report that she was the finest teacher he had ever seen.

One day they called her in and told her she had to get a Master of Education. She said, "Riiiiiiiiight!" They let her go.

Because she had a Bachelor of Fine Arts, ceramics, a specialty whose department she had created at her college; and thus wasn't qualified to show primary school children how to play with clay.

She became a photo journalist, travel. Had the time of her life and made more money with less grief. The only ones who really lost out were the children. Won't someone please think of. . .oh, wait, we're talking about "education." Nevermind. Children have nothing to do with that.

KFG

Re:Most seem to become teachers or stay in academi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822912)

There's a reason this is the new paradigm - it works better. If you think about it, you really don't want every single teacher writing their own curriculum - that's the rough equivalent of expecting every programmer to write their own compiler before starting to code. Sure, you end up with a few great new ideas, but mostly you just get a lot of bad knockoffs of the popular stuff. Let the specialists do the heavy lifting for the big bucks.

And you also can't expect too much out of the standard classroom teacher - when you need 2.8 million people for a job, you're not gonna get top quality (nor could you afford to pay for top quality if you wanted it).

Re:Most seem to become teachers or stay in academi (1)

clbyjack81 (597903) | more than 8 years ago | (#15823038)

Where were the physics/chem majors? In my undergraduate days we outnumbered the math majors in any calc course.

Amen to that. As a recent B.S. Chemistry graduate I had to take Calculus 1, 2, and Differential Equations just to qualify to take Physical Chemistry (basically calc. based physics of chemistry).

The physics, chemistry, and CS majors definitely outnumbered the math majors in those classes.

Re:Most seem to become teachers or stay in academi (1)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822920)

Most good math majors would have already gotten their calculus out of way in high school, so the math majors you took calc with were probably mainly the slow ones.

Re:Most seem to become teachers or stay in academi (3, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822971)

This is pretty much it. With a minor in math you probably have enough credits to become a highly qualified teacher under NCLB. If you take some hard science classes, you can probably pass the composite science certification tests as well. And being a CS major, you might be able to do AP computer courses, which appear to all be in Java. It is not so bad, as such teachers are in high demand so not so disrespected.

As far as other jobs, I find that for long term employment most people are looking for a masters degree. As far as I can tell, the resume filter tend to spit out anything without and engineering of CS degree on it, unless there is also a masters degree. A MS even helps if you are a teacher, and will allow you make some extra money teaching community college.

You could even go over to the dark side and get a masters of education in educational assessment. Due to NCLB, huge amounts of money are being funneled to the test makers, and they cannot get enough people to make the tests. It is a mathematical and computer based situation no matter what subject is being assessed. Who knows how long the gravy train will last, but at least until 2008, when all the bought and paid for elected officials get booted out of office. It is not that testing does not have it's good points, but a lot of parents are pissed off that their kid isn't graduating just because they can't pass a single assessment. One thing that I learned about assessment, and in my science classes, is that a single measurement is merely a guess.

A smart person will find a way to make a living no matter what degree they have. Some of it just has to do with luck. If you do teach, there are programs that will give some extra benefits if you go through them.

Re:Most seem to become teachers or stay in academi (1)

Decker-Mage (782424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822976)

That's pretty much what happened here. When I took physics, during the first lab the instructor went around the room asking what our majors were. I told him "economics" with a smile. He said, "I've never had an economist before." I didn't have the heart to tell him (he's with the gamma-ray observatory team) that I could have taught the course in my sleep. Stupid fraggin' breadth requirements.

Math major (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822626)

"Would you like fries with that? By the way, I'm just doing this job to pay the bills. I have a number of leads on professorships. Uh, the ketchup is behind you. Did I tell you I have a Ph.D.? Er, we're out of the red clown toys in the kid's meals. But I could calculate the approximate centroid region of one, if you want!"

Re:Math major (2, Funny)

dasunt (249686) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822675)

Judging by the great difficulty that the local McDonalds has making change, the only math majors that end up there must have flunked out of their courses.

Re:Math major (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822781)

I did my PhD thesis on PDEs and I still can't do simple mental arithmetic worth shit. There is so much more to math than making change.

Lots ... (1)

b0r1s (170449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822627)

Many I've seen lately seem to be going towards advanced programming (algorithm development, protocol development, etc) fields...

Lots ...chutes and ladders. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822651)

symbolic mathmatics and computers.

Chutes and ladders ... (1)

b0r1s (170449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822792)

Sounds a lot like network engineering (think international ISP, not small office IT).

Of course, the network operators around the world just cringed.

A list (4, Funny)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822628)

1. McDonalds Fry Cook 2. Math Teacher 3. ???

Re:A list (2, Funny)

DoubleRing (908390) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822653)

4. PROFIT!!!

Re:A list (1)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822741)

5. Take the limit of Profits(t) as t tends toward infinite. If all goes well, profits will be infinite. But will the profits be countably infinite. or uncountably infinite? What good is infinite cash if you can't spend all day counting it?

Re:A list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822676)

3. NSA

Re:A list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822707)

3. Slashdot moderator

Re: A list (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822837)

> 1. McDonalds Fry Cook

No, if you have a degree in math they let you work the register.

Re:A list (3, Informative)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 8 years ago | (#15823047)

I was going to say it differently: {jobs for the otherwise uneducated} U {math teacher}

Our Boat (1)

mrspikersworth (991721) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822630)

I was in the same boat as you, liking the things that dreams are made of rather than the things that jobs are made of. My choices were to either keep learning or start teaching, though yours may be different.

Your college degree gets you in the door (1)

Noksagt (69097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822631)

Quite a few people end up making a living doing something not directly related to their major. Some who get post-graduate degrees get them in something different than what they got a B.S. or B.A. in & then start a career which is yet again different. So, your options are open. Common choices other than academia are investment banking or some other field of applied mathematics.

If you eventually want a Ph.D., why not get it now? You're used to a low standard of living & may be paid a meager wage to get your degree & you won't be interrupting your career path.

If you don't really want a Ph.D., figure out what it is you like to do day-in and day-out & do that.

Your college degree gets you into MY profession. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822843)

"Quite a few people end up making a living doing something not directly related to their major. Some who get post-graduate degrees get them in something different than what they got a B.S. or B.A. in & then start a career which is yet again different. So, your options are open. Common choices other than academia are investment banking or some other field of applied mathematics."

Ummm, aren't those the ones people get all bitchy and whiney when they come into their particular profession, and complain about them "not doing it for the love" or something?

Re:Your college degree gets you in the door (3, Informative)

uncreativ (793402) | more than 8 years ago | (#15823045)

"Quite a few people end up making a living doing something not directly related to their major."

Exactly. Math was one of my majors. I am in charge of IT where I work--never had a comp sci class in my life. There are a lot of career opportunities in business/management for Math majors--ever test your logic/reasoning skills against an MBA (outside finance or econ concentration)? Most business school graduates lack quantitaitive analysis skills.

My advise--make sure you have a well rounded background. Take some literature classes to improve your language/analysis skills. A couple econ classes would be useful--I never took them, but read through macro and micro economics text books and found my knowledge of how the economy works to be on par with the typical business major.

When I hire people for the tech department for the ISP I run, I look for smart, well rounded people who have the capability and self motivated interest to learn. If someone is uncanny enough--like me when I learned economics--to learn a field/skillset on their own, has proven their logic/reasoning skills with a math major, and is a well rounded person with good communications skills, then I would hire that person in a heartbeat. I would not care what job they were being hired for--that person would be capable of being agile and competant in nearly any role they were in.

enjoy your studies while they last.... (1)

landijk (978884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15823093)

...because sooner or later you'll have a job whether you like it or not.

        I agree that your major doesn't matter that much. I finished a graduate degree in mathematics a year or so ago and I've already forgotten most of the proofs I had learned. If I had to pick it up again, I probably could, but I don't imagine needing to for work. As it turns out, there's not much call for the Fundamental Theorem of Finitely-Generated Modules over a Principal Ideal Domain out there in the work force.
        Anyway, so I learned some programming and TCP/IP networking in my spare time over the past few years and I ended up getting an IT job through a family member. If I had majored in literature in school (which I almost did), I still probably could have gotten the job. So if you find yourself asking "What kind of jobs can I get with degree X?" you're obviously not the "I've always wanted to be a doctor" type. And that means you're asking the wrong question. Instead ask "Who do I know, and where do they work?" That's a better question because you're probably going to get your job through someone you know and you're going to take the best job offer you get, regardless of whether it's relevant to your major or not.
        For now, enjoy the mathematics. It's beautiful stuff. If you're not satisfied after 4 years or want to know what a principal ideal domain is, get a master's. Beyond that, beware. Few people who start a Ph.D. ever finish. I think the figure is something like 1 in 3. And those 2 in 3 who don't finish are all smart, dedicated people just like you. If you have to ask whether you want a Ph.D., you probably ought to take some time off after you finish what you're working on now and see whether you can live without mathematics. If so, a Ph.D. ain't for you.

Author (3, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822633)

Don't laugh. Larry Niven's degree is in math with a psych minor. The way he tells it (and he should know) is that he spent two years taking required clases and whatever looked interesting then worked out a major that would fit.

Re:Author (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822725)

Don't get me wrong, Niven is a fantastic writer but somehow I don't think his writing has much to do with his being a math major.

what about teaching? (4, Informative)

ericbrow (715710) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822635)

Being a math teacher with a very strong background in computers I know that math teachers are hard to find, and programming teachers are nearly impossible. I don't really like programming all that much, but our district needs it badly. I voulenteered to do Java, and advanced web design (with php and mysql) this next year. The last person who tried to teach programming was the physics teacher who taught logo about 20 years ago.

I'm a high school teacher, but there are plently of community colleges in the same fix (I do them part time on occasion as well). I know the community colleges around here allow their teachers to also work tech if they desire. This way, they can keep their skills sharp and up to date.

Re:what about teaching? (1)

plover (150551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822864)

My son's high school had a math teacher who took on the AP Computer Science course, even though her previous computer experience had been Pascal 20 years prior. During the summer, she took one of the training courses [collegeboard.com] from the College Board, and that was it -- she was an AP teacher.

Out of about 1100 juniors and seniors, 19 took the AP CSci course. She seemed to do well with the kids. My son liked her, anyway, and came home and asked pretty insightful questions. I believe all but two of her students passed their AP exams with 3s or above. So, I'd say their training does a pretty good job of prepping teachers with a lot less experience than you seem to have.

(I confess I grilled her quite a bit at the start of the course, mostly to find out how much help I'd have to provide.)

What I don't know is who picked up the bill for her AP training. The 5-day course I linked to above cost $695, not counting travel to Pennsylvania; and I doubt that covered room and board.

Of course, that teacher just left for a great opportunity in her home state, leaving another math teacher to fill the void. :-( I hope he can go through the AP training, especially if he has no Java or OO experience.

Re:what about teaching? (1)

kevlarman (983297) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822931)

I had the opposite experience, our old computer science teacher retired (and he was a great teacher), and we were left with a teacher that had taught calculus at some point in the past, but she had no clue about java or computers in general, the computers in her lab (macs) went from being a pleasure to work with to making Windows XP on a 386 look good, the only reason we could accomplish anything was because it took us 2 weeks to root our boxes and the fileserver. No one in that class took the AP test (I already had my 5, and was taking the class for fun, one other person could have gotten a 5, but didn't spend $82 because most colleges wont give credit for it, the rest of the class left knowing little more about programming than they came in with). The one good thing about the class: she walks up to my friend who has a terminal up that says something to the effect of root@darwin root# and sees nothing out of the ordinary.

Re:what about teaching? (1)

plover (150551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822984)

You didn't say whether or not your new teacher was able to take the AP training course. I guess it doesn't matter, every teacher (and student) is different.

And regarding your lab of Macs, I know most school districts have really poor IT departments -- either poor when it comes to staff quality, or poor with respect to their budget (and frequently both.) I'm just saying it may not have been your teacher's direct fault that the computers in her lab sucked.

Hey, you and your buddy sound like smart guys, why didn't you offer to help clean them up? At least you'd have gotten something useful from her class!

Comp Sci-Math Double Major (1)

Tanmi-Daiow (802793) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822637)

I'm starting college at the end of August as a Math/CS double major. I am planning on using the CS degree as my main money maker but the Math degree will make me much more marketable after I graduate and I will be more likely to get a higher starting salary. So Double Majoring is what I suggest, but that's not for everyone...

Starbucks is hiring... (1, Troll)

Sneaky G (945398) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822641)

...at least, that's what my favorite math major does with all those 1337 calculus skillz.

Re:Starbucks is hiring... (2, Interesting)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822862)

...at least, that's what my favorite math major does with all those 1337 calculus skillz.

Well yes, you've been modded a troll, but that's about the size of it really. Friend of mine used his PhD to . . .open a used book store.

You see, math is not a career, it's a study. An act of scholorship.

I know, I know, that word has disappeared from the lexicon, but there are a few weirdos, here and there, who can still only be legitimately labeled as "scholars."

Well, or "worthless bum," depending on your metaphysics. Or a teacher, but I repeat myself.

Thing is that if you're a math major, as others have pointed out, you don't look for a job in math, you look for a job in engineering, business, computing, insurance, etc. All of these enterprises hire people with math degrees for one reason or another.

And if they're not hiring, well, there always is Starbucks or Target. The pay is low, the conditions sort of suck, but it is honest work and nothing to be ashamed of doing.

Remember, this a classless society and nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go. . .

KFG

Re:Starbucks is hiring... (1)

Sneaky G (945398) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822919)

That was my point; my favorite math major (my boyfriend) works at Starbucks. His boss is a CS major from Georgia Tech. Myself, I'm an undecided liberal arts major, so I'm even more useless :)

Financial jobs (1)

Enrique1218 (603187) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822656)

There is a lot of demand for applied mathematician in the financial service field. Investment analysist, economist, and statisticians are just to name a few. I find it unfilling personally but there is a lot a money in it. I suggest you go career builder or some other job website and see for yourself. Physics and engineering majors are also welcomed.

Vegas! (2, Interesting)

Starji (578920) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822661)

No seriously. The gaming industry (in particular gaming machine manufacturers, i.e. slot machines) requires people good with statistics skills to determine if a new game idea is valid (read: will make them money over time). It may not be the most glamorous work, but it's necessary.

Another job one of my math professors in college had was essentially data analysis for a mining company. They would place sensors in the ground and take some sort of reading, returning a huge amount of data that needed to be analyzed. The analysis was done through various mathematical models that I have only the vaguest understanding of.

My best suggestion if you're worried about this stuff: talk to your professors. I would guess that at least a few of them have held jobs outside academia and could give you an idea of where you could work. Hopefully this at least gives you a place to start looking.

Google to the rescue! (1)

Rysith (647440) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822668)

Some quick googleing turned up this:

http://www.sbuniv.edu/~khopkins/mathdo.html [sbuniv.edu]

which, for those too lazy to read the link, lists actuaries, academic work, cryptologists, statisticians, operations research, and enegineering fields as among the top fields for math majors.

Finance / derivitives (4, Informative)

Blorgo (19032) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822674)

Search back issues of the Wall Street Journal. A few months back (March-to-May timeframe I think) there was a front-page article (might have been on the front page of section B or C) that mentioned a specific teacher, a specific statistical class, and the 6-figure incomes that graduates of this class got in Wall Street finance firms. Basic subject of the class was how to calculate the value of each part of a transaction and figure out the risk/reward for it as an investment. Derivitives and how to calculate them are big now, it is what Hedge Funds are doing.

data analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822679)

I've found with my applied math masters that I had a lot of opportunities for data analysis. This includes all sorts of database applications, from economics to finance to integer programming etc...

My dad has a math degree (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822680)

My dad has a BA in math. When he graduated from college, he says he was offered a job figuring out flight paths of missiles. That's not what he ended up doing, but apparently that's something you could do with a degree in math. Although nowadays with computing power as available as it is and since the end of the Cold War, I suppose that those jobs are far less plentiful.

Re:My dad has a math degree (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822702)

My dad has a BA in math. When he graduated from college, he says he was offered a job figuring out flight paths of missiles.

And people say geeks can't be total badasses.

Re:My dad has a math degree (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822723)

Everybody loves a good game of Scorched Earth, right?

Re:My dad has a math degree (1)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822979)

Especially with the facelift [scorched3d.co.uk] it just got...!

Engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822681)

In my line of work -- military space -- we use Math PhDs to solve relatively hard problems in antenna calibration and orbital mechanics. Not that they're all that hard, but whose who wear ties like the certitude of the solutions coming from someone with a doctorate. I imagine there are similar opportunities in civillian space.

Poke around, find what's out there (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822682)

I would suggest asking some of your math/CS profs, or if your campus has an internship-finding type place, going there as well. People who have already graduated with these degrees are another resource. These types of people are ones who either have experience or exist in and around these fields, so they should be able to give you some pointers.

As for my advice to you, well I'm a CS major, so I've taken some math classes and I'm also looking for career ideas. I get the impression that one area math majors get jobs is pretty much anywhere in high tech. If you like computers, a math person could develop equations and stuff that model real-world phenomena and implement this into a program. For example, a math prof at another local school came to ours and gave a talk on what type of math is used in photo editing programs (Photoshop filters, etc). Similar types of work can be found in pretty much all the sciences, even things like economics or psychology. Poke around and find stuff that you might be interested in.

The other point I want to make is this: don't constrain yourself to "my major". There are many jobs in related and unrelated fields that you no doubt can do well in, as long as you have passion for them. I know a guy who majored in music performance but works as a programmer. Many writers were not English majors. Sure, you might not get hired if you're applying for some specific, technical position, but that doesn't mean you have to stick to what you studied in school.

Do what you want! (2, Insightful)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822684)

Jeez how old are you?

        Do the Math Major/Compu Sci minor. If you're good enough to get a Phd then the problem of getting a job after your BSc will be trivial. With a Math major no decent software company will care. Likewise most financial companies will snap you up.

        Are all college kids this dumb in the US?

Re:Do what you want! (1)

deceased comrade (919732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822820)

No, but PhDs cost tons of money and are prohibitively expensive to persue without having worked first. Students also often need a job to pay off the debts they accrue from their BS too. People also sometimes like to have money to spend on things like real food, and living space.

PhD students are paid to attend school. (1)

xplenumx (703804) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822966)

PhDs cost tons of money and are prohibitively expensive to persue without having worked first. Students also often need a job to pay off the debts they accrue from their BS too. People also sometimes like to have money to spend on things like real food, and living space.

In the sciences, and this includes mathematics, the student gets paid to go to school. For example, we pay our students (biosciences) $2,600 per month (plus extra to cover tuition), which is about average across the top tier schools. Regarding debt, student loans are deferred for four years while pursuing a PhD.

Career Possibilities (4, Informative)

Jazzer_Techie (800432) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822685)

Here a few possibilties

1. Actuarial Science
Lots of probability and statistics if that's your thing. I've heard the qualification exams are pretty tough, and since you haven't really devoted study to it as an undergrad, you'd have to get some graduate education before you could even hope for a job.

2. Biostatistics (and other things like this)
Again, this would require some more education, but there's a good chance of you getting a job. Biological research is only going to continue to grow, and there's always room for someone to do the important mathematics.

3. Computer Science
I'm sure other people will point this kind of thing out, but places like Google, etc. definitely don't mind having mathematicians with CS background for things like algorithm development and the like.

4. Mathematics
Stick with it and get your PhD in pure (or applied) mathematics. Get a post-doc, and then a professorship, and enjoy a rewarding (intellectually) life in academia. If you really love it, this is a great way to go.

I think the main theme of this post is probably that the best way to ensure that you get a job (that does not involve teaching minors) is to keep going in your education. That is not to say that you can't get a job with a BS, but I think you'll find there's a lot more open to you in today's world with at least an MS.

Maths is like philosophy... (1)

jtogel (840879) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822690)

...it might not be very useful in itself, but it can fruitfully combined with almost anything. So a combination of maths and something applied is a very good idea. So lots of mathematics with some computer science is a very good idea - probably better than the other way around, from a advanced jobhunting point of view. The specifics of various algorithms and development environments are easy to pick up later, while the a proper mathematical background had better be there from the start.

If you have time over, try to throw in some other random sciences as well - a bit of physics? Some neuroscience? A short course in geology? Broadening your view is always useful.

That you don't want to work with computers is a problem, as that is what you will end up doing in virtually any science or engineering position. So get over it.

Further, I agree with above poster that if you're thinking about getting a PhD you should not wait too long. Getting used to having a proper salary is a major demotivator. So take maximum a year out of university.

Don't wait to get a Ph.D. (5, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822718)

First, my credentials: I did a dual major in Math and CS. I went to school planning on getting the CS degree, but, like you, I enjoyed the math so much that I ended up with two majors. Actually, I ended up with all of a CS major and 1.5 times as many math credits as I needed for that major. I also seriously thought about going on for an MS and PhD in math, but decided I wanted to take a break for a while and get a job.

Well, I got the job, and a wife, and kids, and while I don't regret any of how my life has gone, and wouldn't change it a bit, I'll tell you that if you're really serious about getting the post graduate degrees, do it now, don't wait. If you wait, odds are very good that you'll never get the other degrees. My math professors told me that back then, and I didn't believe them, but I now know just how right they were. You can even get married while still going to school, if you want, and I even know people who've finished their doctorate with a couple of kids, but they were smart enough not to stop going to school.

As for what kinds of jobs you can get with a math degree, there are lots, actually. A BS in math won't get you a "math job" (except as a schoolteacher), but it can certainly help you get lots of jobs that have an element of math in them. For example, if hiring a programmer, I'd generally hire a math major with a CS background over a CS major. In general, people look at a resume that mentions a math degree and automatically assume that you must be a bit smarter than the other resumes in the pile. So if you enjoy the math, you might as well do it, because it's never going to hurt you.

If you want a job where mathematics is the primary focus of your job, though, you really have to go on and get at least a master's degree. With that in hand, there are lots of engineering and research organizations that need someone with serious math skills. The best area of mathematics to pursue to for employability is almost certainly statistics. With a little additional effort you can become a certified actuary, for example.

A Ph.D. will get you into a lot of the same positions as an M.S., plus it's pretty much a requirement if you want to teach math at a university. Be warned, though... those math faculty positions can be hard to get. A good friend of mine is the chair of the math department at a local state university and every position they advertise nets them 200-300 resumes, many of them from very competent people. From what I hear, if you don't have anything seriously wrong with you that makes you unhirable, you will be able to get a job teaching math, but it might take a couple of years, and you'll have to be willing to live wherever the job is.

If math is what you really enjoy, though, I'd focus less on the job prospects and more on doing what you like. You'll be happier, even if you don't make as much money.

Lots of options (4, Informative)

blate (532322) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822724)

I was rather like you when I was in undergrad (in the late 90's). I started out as a Math major (Operations Research) which required certain CS classes. As I learned more about CS, I found that there is a very rich mathematical basis for Computer Science -- from the theories of computation to graphics to algorithm analysis. Almost any serious PhD in CS involves a heavy dose of mathematics in one form or another. Think of it as applied mathematics, in a geeky twisted way :)

Part of what I'm saying is that you can do CS and not end up as a programmer, per se.

The other half of the equation is that there *are* significant (well-paying) jobs for mathematicians. Now, I doubt that you'd want to (or could) seriously pursue any of them with just a BS, but a PhD need not be a requirement. My S/O's employer has several math/statistics majors on staff who perform marketing analysis, trending, etc... some of it rather high-powered stuff. If you look into the Actuarial or Operations Research fields (if that floats your boat), there are awesome opportunities.

Whatever direction you choose, I strongly encourage you to go past a BS -- at least stay in school through an MS program. For one thing, it opens more doors down the road (I've gotten at least two jobs partially because I have an MS/CS). More importantly though, IMHO, it makes you a better professional; you learn a heck of a lot more in grad school than in undergrad -- at least that was my experience. You study your subject in far more depth and with far more rigor than in undergrad and you're treated more like a colleague than a student. It's an awesome experience, particularly if your're more of the geeky theoretical type :)

Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it. Of course, you can always go back and get a second degree in underwater basket weaving or Anthropology, but it's a heck of a lot easier to get it right the first time. The sooner you identify a career path (at least vaguely), the better choices you can make in courses, internships, research focus, etc.

Good luck to you!

Wall Street (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822727)

Go to Wall Street, make money, then do whatever you want.

Of the best people we had on our DARPA Grand Challenge team [overbot.com] , one is runnning a hedge fund in Santa Fe, and one is working on derivatives for a Wall Street firm.

Teaching Is More Work Than You Can Imagine (1)

Serra (42794) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822751)

I have a background in science and was awarded a teaching fellowship for science and math professionals that wanted to make a mid-life switch to teaching. School systems (especially in disadvantaged areas) are in desperate for math and science teachers. I am sure you could easily find a program that would allow you to quickly get certified while you taught.

That being said, teaching was the hardest job I have ever tried to do. Maybe if I hadn't been in a completely under-funded urban district or hadn't been teaching 5 different types of science classes it would have been different. As it was, to prevent the students from rioting you had to keep them engaged in something meaningful at all times. Since the district I was in had no resources, I was inventing my lessons as I went. For example, their were not enough text books for the students to each have one in a single class, much less take home to do homework out of. I didn't have teachers manuals. If I didn't create worksheets my students couldn't do homework. I got up at 5am and didn't make it back home till 7pm most nights. I would stay up till midnight creating my lesson plans for the next day while my husband helped me grade papers. I was so busy that I forgot to eat. I lost almost 15 pounds in the first 2 months.

I eventually quit because I had no home life and my husband couldn't really handle my zombie-like state all the time.

Don't get involved in teaching lightly, especially not in a program that places teachers in high needs areas. It is not an easy job.

Do both (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822754)

If you're so concerned about making the wrong decision, why not do both and double major Math/CS? If you decide to go to grad school, you will need to choose at some point, unless you plan on spending your whole life in school. But a number of interesting research areas are just as commonly approached from math as from CS. The rule of thumb is that it is a lot easier to teach programming to a mathematician than it is to teach math to a computer scientist. Math/CS double major will open a lot of doors. And a PhD doesn't necessarily commit you to academia. Industry labs (Intel,IBM,Google,MS), government labs (Sandia,Livermore,Argonne)... there are a lot of opportunities out there for someone with abstract thinking abilities, strong analytical skills, and practical engineering and programming experience.

You can be a... (1)

SysKoll (48967) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822762)

...cartoonist. No, seriously. Bill Amend of Foxtrot fame is a Physics major [mac.com] and is the only strip to have real, working equations and code.

One alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822764)

I would advise you to switch to a double major of math and CS. Then, when you graduate you will be more attractive a candidate than someone with just a CS background. You will probably be able to get a relatively good entry level CS job.

Then, work that for a few years. Say three. The pay will be pretty good. Save like a mad fiend. Stay focused.

Then go back to school and get into a math Ph.D program.

You will be a better scholar for your professional experience, and you will likely be able to avoid going in to scads of debt.

NSA (2, Informative)

wirelessbuzzers (552513) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822785)

The NSA is the largest single employer of mathematicians in the world. ... Or you could do finance.

Mathematics are necessary in many technical fields (1)

brycef (866665) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822806)

I work at a consulting firm specializing in structural dynamics. We have designed and built parts that are on the Hubble telescope, have isolated payloads in the Space Shuttle, and are in the Airborne Laser, to name a few. Most of our engineers have advanced degrees in mechanical and/or aerospace engineering. We have one engineer with a PhD in Theoretical Mathematics. It took him a while to come up to speed in engineering, but he is a definite asset to the company. Getting a PhD in mathematics will give you the tools to branch into many well-paying technical jobs. Good luck.

Be careful (2, Insightful)

rm999 (775449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822808)

"I'm currently a CS major/math minor in college, who's strongly considering a role reversal."

Make sure you are prepared for it. A lot of people I know who did well in calculus and differential equations (and other appliable engineering classes) weren't really prepared for the theoretical nature of high-level math classes. Try taking a low-level number theory class or something similar with a lot of proofs to determine if you are up for taking the high-level analysis classes.

I personally think a math major is somewhat useless if you want to be an engineer. The most it will do for you is teach you how to think in a more analytical way, but you won't learn as much as you may think. My school offered an applied math major which I think is a lot more useful and interesting.

Re:Be careful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822893)

I've been to a lot of colloquial dinners at my University for the Math/CS department, and I found there were several Math students who got into lots of different jobs.

For instance, you could become an actuarian [wikipedia.org] . In short, actuarians can go into tons of different industries, including business. And another thing to point out is that a Math major is interpreted to be someone who can solve problems easily, and that can be applied to many different fields. One graduate went onstage to talk about her job in marketing!

Also if you feel you don't know where to go, talk to your professors. The ones with the longest tenures have probably seen their former students go into many different fields, and would be glad to help you decide what to do with your major. And perhaps like at my Uni, there are events at your school where alumni speak about their major and what kind of jobs they got.

pure math majors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822826)

Obesity, obesity with hypogonadism. Also, morbid obesity. Nodular leprosy with leonine facies. The acromegalic and hypokeratsistic. The enuretic, this year of all years. The spasmodically torticollic. Those with saddle-noses. Those with atrophic limbs. And yes, chemists and pure math majors, also those with atrophic necks. Scleredema adultorum. Them that seep, the serodermatic. Come one, come all, this circular says. The hydrocephalic. The tabescent and cachectic and anorexic. The Bragg's Diseased, in their heavy, red rinds of flesh. The dermally wine-stained or carbuncular or steatocryptotic or, God forbid, all three. Marin-Amat Syndrome, you say? Come on down. The psoriatic, the eczematically shunned and the scrofulodermic. Bell shaped steatopygiacs, in your special slacks. Afflictees of Pityriasis Rosea. It says here, Come all ye hateful. Blessed are the poor in body, for they.

The leukodermatic, the xanthodantic, the maxillofacially swollen, those with distorted orbits of all kinds. Get out from under the sun's cove lighting, is what this says, Come in out of the spectral rain. The basilisk-breathed and pyorrheic. All ye peronic or teratoidal. The phrenologically malformed. The suppuratively lesioned. The endocrinologically malodorous, of whatever ilk. Run! Don't walk on down. The acervulus nosed. The radically -ectomied. The morbidly diaphoretic, with a hankie in every pocket. The chronically granulomatous. The ones, it says here, The ones the cruel call Two Baggers - one bag for your head, one bag for the observer's head in case your bag falls off. The hated and dateless and shunned, who keep to the shadows. Those who only undress in front of their pets. The quote 'aesthetically challenged'. Leave your lazarettes and oubliettes, I'm reading this, right here, your closets and cellars and TP Tableaux, find Nurturing and Support and the Inner Resources to face your own unblinking sight, is what this goes on to say, a bit overheatedly, maybe. It is not ours to say. It says here Hugs, not Ughs. It says Come don the veil of the type and token. Come learn to love what's hidden inside. To hold and cherish. The almost unbelievably thick ankled. The kyphotic and lordotic. The irredeemably cellulitic. It says Progress, not Perfection. It says Never Perfection. The fatally pulchritudinous: Welcome. The Actæonizing, side by side with the Medusoid. The papuled, the macular, the albinic. Medusas and Odalisques both: come find common ground. All meeting rooms windowless. That's in ital: all meeting rooms windowless.

Nor are exluded the utterly noseless, nor the hideously wall- and cross- eyed, nor either the ergotic of St. Antony, the leprous, the varicelliformally eruptive or the sarcoma'd of Kaposi.

The multiple amputee. The prosthetically malmatched. The snaggle toothed, wattled, weak-chinned and walrus-cheeked. The palate clefted. The really large pored. The excessively, but not necessarily lycanthropically hirsute. The pin headed. The convulsively Tourettic. The Parkinsonally tremulous. The stunted and gnarled. The teratoid of overall visage. The twisted and hunched and humped and halitotic. The in any way asymmetrical. The rodential and saurian and equine looking.

The tri-nostrilled. The invaginate of mouth and eye. Those with dark, loose bags under their eyes that hang halfway down their faces. Those with Cushing's Disease. Those who look like they have Down's Syndrome, even though they don't have Down's Syndrome. You decide. You be the judge. It says You are welcome, regardless of severity. Severity is in the eye of the sufferer, it says. Pain is Pain. Crow's feet. Birthmark. Rhinoplasty that didn't take. Mole. Overbite. A bad hair year.

Theres a lot of things you can do.. (3, Informative)

wanax (46819) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822833)

I was a math/history double major, and am now doing neuroscience... but that's besides the point.

With a pure math BA you can basically go to any engineering, physics, biology, neuroscience, finance, econ, cs, etc masters or PhD program and do just fine. The important part about a math degree, is that it gives you the background and experience required to learn specific applications really quickly. There's a huge demand out there for people who are talented at math, although most of this demand isn't 'pure' math per se, there are a lot of interesting applied problems you can work on that do have theoretical interest to a mathematician.

You should really have no problem finding a job or getting into grad school in almost any tech/science type field that you're interested in coming out college with a BA in Math. The great thing about a math major, against a more specific applied major, is that you learn how to think about many of the applied problems in a deeper way, and since you're aquainted with the underlying theory, you can much more easily link various ideas that are only taught at a plug and play level in the applied fields (for example, most IOE curriculum is just rather narrow subset of graph theory & combinatorics).

Personally, I was interested in a lot of things as an undergrad, and decided to major in math since it basically kept all my options open on a grad/job level, and I certainly haven't regretted that decision.

Thinking of the similiar move (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822845)

In the same boat as you, actually I was a CS major and was about to shift to a EE major - but unlike High School, all the math is finally clicking (in my head) with me. Perhaps I'm a late bloomer, but now I find the math much more enjoyable than hacking code*, as hacking code seems to be just that so far, usually a bunch of hacks that barely stay together to make a program (in my experience so far). Math, otoh, seems much more elegant and solid. Anyway, enough philosophizing, I just wanted to say I am returning to school to become an EE major with a math minor, or the other way around. Anybody think one or the other is any better?

BTW, according to my Math professors who teach parttime (and work at "real" jobs the other part), they are pretty much in demand. Because pharmaceuticals are in my area and all three are hired by them, my perspective may be skewed. But they also say it is hard right now for schools (at all levels) to get and retain math teachers/professors (people with math degrees).

*The language I find programming elegant is a lisp. But that may be because it was designed by a mathematician. [paulgraham.com] I never looked at a C/Algol derive as particulary elegant even if C is my first language.

Emphasize Advanced & Foundational Statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822869)

A good statistics background can get you a good job in any major corporation. It's not easy to properly understand probability and statistics and the value-added to the firm is enormous. A mistaken assumption or misunderstanding can cost a firm it's very existence, so they'll pay to keep good mathematicians on staff. And the problems are interesting and you're given time and quiet to solve them.

Bioinformatics (2, Informative)

xplenumx (703804) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822877)

Speaking as an Immunologist, we're screaming for bioinformaticists at the moment and it's certainly an area that I would look at if I was in your position. Throw in some side work as a statistician, and you're set.

I think you'll find the bioinformatics field to be broad enough to meet just about any interest that you may have - work ranges from programming pattern recognition/alignment software (for protein or DNA work) to mathematical modeling of protein networks. Don't worry if biology isn't your greatest strength as you'll be working as a programmer/mathematician solving a biological problem, not as a biologist working with computers (in fact, graduate level programs in bioinformatics tend to recruit computer science majors as the biology/biochem/etc majors don't have the required background).

Some links for further information:
International Society for Computational Biology [iscb.org]
National Institute of Health [nih.gov]
UCSD [ucsd.edu]
Stanford [stanford.edu]
IBM [ibm.com]

Math, eh? (1)

acramon1 (226153) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822879)

How about becoming an actuary [wikipedia.org] ?

Anything (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822883)

Retail - Analysis of purchasing habits. You don't need to have a marketing background to understand what people like or don't like. You'll find it out more accurately through analysis of purchasing data.
Fast food - model what areas the company should expand into.
Science - help design statistically meaningful experiments
Industry - Help create failure models
Financial - Actuary
etc.

Pretty much the running theme is that as a mathematician you will be expected to analyze data and create models. Most often in a support role helping those with first hand knowledge of how the industry works.

a good article about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822884)

If you don't think there are any jobs for math majors, check out this article from businessweek.com:

http://businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/06_ 04/b3968001.htm [businessweek.com] ?

Here's a quote:

"The world is moving into a new age of numbers. Partnerships between mathematicians and computer scientists are bulling into whole new domains of business and imposing the efficiencies of math. This has happened before. In past decades, the marriage of higher math and computer modeling transformed science and engineering. Quants turned finance upside down a generation ago. And data miners plucked useful nuggets from vast consumer and business databases. But just look at where the mathematicians are now. They're helping to map out advertising campaigns, they're changing the nature of research in newsrooms and in biology labs, and they're enabling marketers to forge new one-on-one relationships with customers. As this occurs, more of the economy falls into the realm of numbers. Says James R. Schatz, chief of the mathematics research group at the National Security Agency: "There has never been a better time to be a mathematician."

Think about Medicine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822895)

I am a physics major who ended up in medical school. I now have a job I really enjoy (diagnostic radiologist), eight weeks vacation a year, and an income above $500k annually. Plus I get to save lives every day, not directly, but by finding problems for other doctors and surgeons to fix.

It's a good job for social retards like me, who are good at hard sciences and want to help others, but find much of the actual hands-on "people" side of medicine to be draining and unpleasant. I don't have flesh-and-blood patients telling me every detail of their fifteen kinds of laxative pills, I just look at their shadows on film!

When I applied to medical school, the three majors with the best odds for getting in were engineering, math and physics. Over 70% of these people got accepted.

What you want to do is keep your eyes on the specialties where your math skills will be most useful. This includes very high paying but competitive specialties like Diagnostic Radiology, Therapeutic Radiology, and Ophthalmology, as well as some rather low paying but desperately necessary fields such as public health and epidemiology.

Realistically, your math skills will not be drawn upon very much in daily practice, but it will be an edge that helps you land the primo residency position that will put you on the road to success. I do a lot of nuclear medicine and have to be comfortable with half-lives and exponential curves, but my skills in calculus and higher math have withered. If you stay in academic medicine and know math inside and out you will be a smokin' hot property in the research lab, but those jobs tend to pay for shit unless you get a high position with a private company (cough*stock options*cough).

It takes about eight to ten years after your college degree, but believe me it's worth it. I graduated with $150,000 in debt but it's all been paid off in eight years and I am in Fat City right now. Intellectually stimulating, socially useful, and very financially rewarding, my job has it all. All that, and it's relatively impervious to economic cycles. Give it some serious thought.

I want to be a quant! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822897)

I did well in high school math, up to basic calculus. Then I went to a science/engineering college and became road-kill to the freshmen mathematics steam roller. I never recovered, and has always felt behind my peers in math. Still, I do enjoy the occasional math problems that comes my way, and at least still have a vague recollection of the right principals.

I've met many computer science/physics/math majors go into the financial industry and after a few years of "dues pay", become junior directors and ultimately directors making trememndous amounts of money. They liked the math and analysis, and they liked the money.

Heck, if I could do it all over again, I would pay more attention to the classes that would have let me ultimately become a quant!

Math vs computer science (1)

alexfromspace (876144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822904)

I don't want to discourage you from pursuing your interests because I once felt similarly. My family would not pay for a math major at a prime school so I tried to switch from my Comp Sci major at a private research university for a math major at a mediocre state school that was well positioned between a ghetto/hood, possibly abandoned industrial waste-lands and a mediocre metropolitan. And I am glad it did not work out. I like math, but it is much easier to get around with a comp sci diploma in your pocket than a math teaching license. Assuming you do not plan to inherit a few million bucks in a near future, here are the reasons why you should keep your current major:

1. It is a lot easier to reach your goals/dreams once you have a nice financial foundation. It is easier to convince people with money (businessmen) that you are worth holding on to. Show them how good you are at abstract algebra or curved space geometry and they will see no use for you, given that they do not fall asleep first. Show them that you can make computers run on steroids, help bridge together salesmen and IT and possibly impress with your sharp knowledge in economics and you've got yourself a nice paycheck twice a month plus a super medical+dental to keep your natural or implanted teeth shining. This does not mean that you have to give up your dreams or so-to-speak "sell-out".

2. Give yourself some slack or room to fall. No matter how smart you are or how smart you think you are, and even if you are a member of the MESA (genius), you have limits too. Do not count on everything working out perfectly, it is really hard to get into serious academia. Know your limits, give yourself slack.

3. Working for NASA is not really all it is purported to be. Among other things, the longer you work there, the more seriously it limits your career options/paths. So if things do not work out you may have a harder time fitting in elsewhere.

The last advice I would give you is this. Get an internship or a co-op and see what it is like. That will help give shape to your idea of what your future prospects are. Try to apply as both a math major and comp sci major in different instances and see for yourself what works out better for you.

Keep Math Major (1)

S3D (745318) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822906)

You can pick CS Major, but keep Math anyway. For practical porposes expirience is more important then CS theory (though of cause CS useful too). And you can pick whatever CS knowledge you need by yourself if need arise. To learn really serious math by yourself is a lot more difficalt. And moder cutting edge computing become more and more math hungry. Computer Vision/signal/speech/image processing, serious 3D graphics, search alogorithms, AI all require strong math background.

a dose of reality (1)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822925)

As someone with a graduate degree in math, I hope my advice is worthwhile. First, a Bachelor's degree doesn't give you anything beyond basic skills. You can not take a degree (any degree) and walk right into a job, unless that job is mundane (and everybody starts there). What you are getting is a general education with possibly some exposure to specialized concepts or techniques. That's not a criticism, it's reality. Whatever career path you take will build on those skills, and you are just starting out. So I hope I have disillusioned you from depressingly common notion that university degree = job. There is no job waiting for you. If you wanted training for a job, you should have gone to a technical school.

Thankfully, what you did get (or are getting) is in many ways better than a job. An education in any subject is worthwhile, but this is especially true for hard subjects, like math and science. They teach you to think, and people who think are valuable in any field. You need to find a field that you're interested in, or look for a place that needs someone like you. You need to be ambitious, you need to be flexible, and you need to work hard. Then you will be successful.

My advice is to look for companies which do interesting things and apply. They will look at you and decide if you could be useful. You will have to do this a lot. Don't be afraid to jump at something you are unfamiliar with. For the most part you don't know anything (and when you're young EVERYBODY knows this), so you need to try a lot of things. Don't be afraid of trying anything. If you have some good ideas and a bit of cash, you might try starting a business. In that case, read all of Paul Graham's essays (I don't know much).

As for your education, the honest truth is it doesn't matter. Even if you go to graduate school it doesn't matter. So do whatever is easiest to fulfill the requirements, and take every course that you think could be interesting. Your goal is to learn something. In the real world, that counts, but not in the way that school has lead you to believe.

"Do what you want... (1)

ghettoimp (876408) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822947)

but call it Computer Science."

That's some old advice a professor gave to a friend of mine in a similar circumstance. The rationale was allegedly something about where the funding is.

All Math Got Me was a Good Job, House & Family (1)

art_the_geek (141100) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822952)

With a degree in Math/CS from San Jose State, I work as a senior test engineer in the semiconductor industry. I design test algorithms, design circuitry for the fixtures that interface to the devices under test, characterize the behavior of those devices, improve test throughput, and analyze a variety of problems with the goal of getting a given device into efficient routine production. My work involves lots of electronics, electromechanics, human engineering (on the production floor) and sometimes interesting math problems. I use a variety of DSP techniques as needed. I really enjoy the work and have done this sort of thing for over 25 years at a variety of companies. It is a single example of where you can land with a math degree, a special interest (electronics in my case) and a love of technical problem solving.

No brainer -- FINANCE! (1)

lindseyp (988332) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822958)

If you can convince the right people you're smart enough, exotic financial derivatives can be extremely lucrative and quite fun. A bachelors won't get you in though, you're going to need at least a Master's, and maybe an MBA or PhD. Otherwise there are plenty of jobs in finance related to forex, debt, credit or equity derivatives trading / structuring, financial analysis, economics etc. which require a thorough understanding of statistics, and mathematical concepts. And all of which pay very well. This might sound a bit materialistic, but the jobs can be a lot of fun, and you might as well pay off those student loans sooner rather than later.

Re:No brainer -- FINANCE! (1)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822983)

You souless bastards! Rich, rich, souless bastards :) Just kidding - please don't wreck the economy.

What can you do with a math degree? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15822974)

Math is cool but (1)

mark99 (459508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15822998)

I loved studying math, have never regretted it, and having done so is a huge advantage to me even today (20 years later). But I have never gottem paid purely on my ability to do math, and all the jobs I know that do that (like teaching) did not appeal to me.

Programming makes it far easier to use math but you need a third thing to be really valuable.

Finance and economics are your best bet as they are so universally in demand, but any carefully chosen engineering disipline will also do.

Be careful about getting a doctorate though. If you do, do it fast and don't tell anyone (much). Doctorates have an ever worsening reputation as being hopelessly theoretical and inflexible.

The Department of Defense (1)

Capmaster (843277) | more than 8 years ago | (#15823094)

This summer I took Calculus II from a professor who is also a personal friend. Before he was a professor, he worked for the Department of Defense. He says that they hire more mathematicians than anyone else in the world. Anyways he had some very interesting stories from when he worked there on *top secret* projects and such. From what I understood, when you work for DoD, you are pretty much free to travel around and work on whatever project you want, but still keep your pay grade. It is definitely worth considering if you are going to major in math. Oh yea, and a perk of the job is that DoD will pay for your graduate school.

From the bottom of the ladder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15823095)

Try janitor in a world class University then impress one or two Math teachers by pretending to be just a kindergarten drop out and the professional world is wide open for you from NSA to Hollywood.

PS: if you speak and look like Matt Damon this will increase slightly your chances.

PS2: Walmart is also looking for high potential associates.

Engineering is the way to go (1)

Heir Of The Mess (939658) | more than 8 years ago | (#15823099)

The group I work with do lots of mathematics as part of programming duties, however we don't hire CS/Maths grads. When it comes to modelling, image processing, and analysis of big hardware/software problems Engineers are a cut above the rest. If you are good at maths my recommendation is get out of CS and get into Engineering if you can. It's a big shift, and it will be hard but when a serious project (eg software/hardware for defence, space, aeronautics, roads, trains) needs people to do the maths they are going to grab engineers.

Motorolla set up shop here in South Australia for a while to develop wireless comms. The government increased the student numbers in a CS course at the university in anticipation of Moto taking them. How many of those students did Moto take? None. They took in engineers instead.

John Carmack (from memory of reading his .plan file) used Laplace Transforms in the Quake 3 engine for some of his physics calculations. Want to know what a Laplace Transform is? ask en engineer. He/She will tell you it's a way of modelling a system that is timeslice independent so no matter what frame rate you run at you will always get the same answer. Now try and do that with the CS grads first choice of timesliced Newtonian Physics calculations - you can't..well you can if you interate of your physics calcs multiple times for each frame but it still wont give the right result, just a consistent one.
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