How practical is a B.S. in Math?

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How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby e^(ipi)+1=0 » Wed Jun 22, 2011 10:04 am UTC

So I will be attending college in a few months and I declare my major and make my schedule in about a week. I am unsure what my major should be.

I always wanted to be a math major since I have a great passion for mathematics. My mother tells me not to do it that since it is a waste and that I should do engineering since they make a lot of money. Personally I don't really care too much about money but I don't want to get a degree in something that won't get me a job after my Undergraduate years.

I know that my mom probably is exaggerating but my friend's father has a math degree and she tells me that he can't find a job with it.

I also, if financially possible, would like to go to graduate school after.

So what can someone do if they got a B.S. in mathematics? I know I could teach but I would rather not until my retirement years.

Or should i just choose engineering like my mother says?

Thanks and I hope my ramblings are coherent.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby mfb » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:55 pm UTC

e^(ipi)+1=0 wrote:So what can someone do if they got a B.S. in mathematics?

Getting a master in mathematics.
It will help a lot if you look for a useful mathematics-related job (and there are many).

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby radams » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:18 pm UTC

Unless you plan to become an engineer, I can't think of a job for which an engineering degree would be an advantage but a math degree would not count. If you haven't decided on a career yet, I'd recommend staying with math, since you say it's your passion
and it leads to a wider range of careers.

As a starting point, this page lists 83 careers for which a math degree is an advantage:

http://www.lauriercc.ca/career/students ... r/math.htm

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby SlyReaper » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:22 pm UTC

Engineers make a lot of money?!? BAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Good one.

Anyway, I got into engineering after doing a maths degree, so it's not like you're closing off any options by doing maths instead of engineering. Conversely, if you do engineering, you are closing off options like finance, physics research, actuary-ing, maths professoring and probably a few others I haven't thought of.

If you love doing maths, then do a maths degree. If you do a degree in a subject you don't love, you'll make your university years unnecessarily stressful and joyless. Don't let anyone tell you you won't find a job with a maths degree because that's bollocks. Maths is a good degree, and if you get a good grade in maths from a good university, then you should have no problems at all finding a job.

As for your friend's father who can't find a job, he is presumably quite a lot older than you. The rules are different for him. A recent graduate does not usually have any relavent work experience, so the first thing a potential employer looks at is the degree. For someone older, they will be more interested in what the applicant has done with their career so far, and their degree counts for less.
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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby gorcee » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:26 pm UTC

I have a B.S. in Mathematics (applied) and work for a private research & development engineering firm.

I make decent money, and I get to solve unique and diverse problems every day. Part of the enjoyment for me is I get to work in many different fields, so I am forced to continuously learn new topics. (Today I might be studying nonlinear vehicle dynamics, tomorrow I might be studying interpretation of electrocardiogram signals).

The reality is that what your degree is in matters for about 24 months after you graduate, and even then, its primary function is to let you through the hiring filters. Once you've been working, what matters is your experience and abilities.

In other words, two classmates getting identical grades in the same aeronautical engineering program will most likely go on to do vastly different things in their careers. One might work on space vehicles, another might work on structures. The world is not broken down into nice categories like colleges are. College is there to train you how to think. The rest of the skills you need in your career you will have to acquire along the way.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby mdyrud » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:30 pm UTC

You can do a lot more than just get a Master's. A friend of mine is currently in his last year of a B.S. in Mathematics. He isn't planning on going to grad school. Instead, he is considering becoming an actuary or statistician, or maybe going into business finance. You can do a lot with a math degree.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby theodds » Thu Jun 23, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

Everyone is on point here (except your mom). I think the top three jobs in the most recent jobs almanac were Mathematician, Actuary, and Statistician. A math degree is ideal for all three (majoring in math > majoring in statistics even if you want to be a statistician).

If you major in math you'll have plenty of opportunities to pick up skills for $$$ fields. It is easy to get into financial mathematics, computer science, actuarial science, and many other things. You would want to pick up those skills as electives. Math is very good training for those things; you'll likely be better at those things than people who are majoring in them.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby andrewxc » Thu Jun 23, 2011 4:59 pm UTC

My wife and lots of my friends down here in Maryland got degrees in Math and/or Computer Science and are working for the government. Five years out of college, they were making about $75k a year, plus bonuses for merit, not to mention great health benefits (public schools are usually the only ones that are better).
I, on the other hand, went into teaching and am having difficulties.

The difference between me and my wife is that she was an A student and I was not, until much later in my college career.
Both of us got our Masters' degrees from Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab in the last year and a half. Hers (Computer Science) was paid for by her employer (in exchange for a required contractual agreement or payback) and mine (Applied Math) was financed entirely by us.

Mathematicians, like physicists, really can do just about anything. I've spent the last three years working part-time for a credentialing company (insurance companies give us a list of people and a list of requirements, and we classify each provider into categories) and was of great use to the department, due to my programming skills (I wrote macros to speed up our process - increasing our productivity by a factor of 2 on average). It was an okay job and, despite the low pay, it was a good place to apply my skills and mathematical knowledge.
I would have also been offered a job in the investigations department, applying neural networks to prevent insurance fraud, but decided to accept a teaching job, instead.
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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby andrewxc » Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:01 pm UTC

theodds wrote:Everyone is on point here (except your mom). I think the top three jobs in the most recent jobs almanac were Mathematician, Actuary, and Statistician. A math degree is ideal for all three (majoring in math > majoring in statistics even if you want to be a statistician).

Unless you enjoy the soul-sucking Actuarial Sciences, I'd steer clear. There is a lot of money to be had, but most actuaries that I know don't enjoy their jobs.
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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby gorcee » Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:58 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:Engineers make a lot of money?!? BAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Good one.


In the US, at least, the average entry-level salary is around or higher than the national median household income. And typically, for engineers, the cost burden of their education is substantially less than, say, a lawyer or doctor.

So, in a manner of speaking, it can be argued that engineers make a lot of money. Certainly, a good engineer with average fortune in life will retire comfortably and provide adequately for his/her family. YMMV.

andrewxc wrote:
theodds wrote:Everyone is on point here (except your mom). I think the top three jobs in the most recent jobs almanac were Mathematician, Actuary, and Statistician. A math degree is ideal for all three (majoring in math > majoring in statistics even if you want to be a statistician).

Unless you enjoy the soul-sucking Actuarial Sciences, I'd steer clear. There is a lot of money to be had, but most actuaries that I know don't enjoy their jobs.


Yeah. I never got the abnormally widespread obsession with actuarial work. The testing process is brutal, because the entire field, nationwide, doesn't need that many people. Also, it's fairly boring work.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby e^(ipi)+1=0 » Thu Jun 23, 2011 6:37 pm UTC

Thanks for the replies. So from what I understand a math degree is good for careers in statistics, finance, business etc. but would I need to make my electives revolve around one of those fields (or get a minor in one) to be able to get a job in it? How does a math major with some business electives (possibly a minor) compare to an actual business major?

I was always under the impression that if you want to do business, you major in a business related major, not math and if you want to do statistics you major in statistics, not math.


Another thing that I have been contemplating is a double major in math and statistics or a math major with a statistics minor.

How would those compare and what are your thoughts on it?

Thanks.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby mdyrud » Thu Jun 23, 2011 6:55 pm UTC

The double major in math and statistics wouldn't be a bad idea if that's what you're interested in. In my experience there is a pretty decent overlap between the two majors so it's closer to getting one degree and a minor in an unrelated field credit-wise.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby gorcee » Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:17 pm UTC

e^(ipi)+1=0 wrote:Thanks for the replies. So from what I understand a math degree is good for careers in statistics, finance, business etc. but would I need to make my electives revolve around one of those fields (or get a minor in one) to be able to get a job in it? How does a math major with some business electives (possibly a minor) compare to an actual business major?

I was always under the impression that if you want to do business, you major in a business related major, not math and if you want to do statistics you major in statistics, not math.


Another thing that I have been contemplating is a double major in math and statistics or a math major with a statistics minor.

How would those compare and what are your thoughts on it?

Thanks.


Double major in math and statistics or a math major with a statistics minor

Difference between the two -- about 4 upper-level undergraduate classes, or, about two hours of reading wikipedia/textbooks when trying to use the knowledge in practice. The other difference is that with the double major, you can selectively focus on which degree is most relevant for convincing someone to give you/your company lots of money.

How does a math major with some business electives (possibly a minor) compare to an actual business major?

In industry, business is the act of navigating policy. Math is the act of solving problems. Business + Math would make you well suited for project management in the sciences.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby SlyReaper » Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:26 pm UTC

gorcee wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:Engineers make a lot of money?!? BAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Good one.


In the US, at least, the average entry-level salary is around or higher than the national median household income. And typically, for engineers, the cost burden of their education is substantially less than, say, a lawyer or doctor.

So, in a manner of speaking, it can be argued that engineers make a lot of money. Certainly, a good engineer with average fortune in life will retire comfortably and provide adequately for his/her family. YMMV.


Well it's the same here. It's well above average if you compare against everyone in the country. But compared to other potential graduate jobs (especially graduate jobs for mathematicians), the wages are strictly average. Perhaps even a little on the low side. I get slightly depressed when I think of the fellow mathematicians I graduated with who ended up working at financial companies, and how much they must be earning by now. If I'd gone for finance or insurance or something similarly money-oriented, I'd be much better off than I am now. Of course, I knew that when I started this job - I decided I'd rather be paid less for a job I'll enjoy than be paid highly for a job I won't. And my job is rather cool; I get to design missiles for a living. I enjoy my job, but it's not the salary that keeps me at it. :P

e^(ipi)+1=0 wrote:Thanks for the replies. So from what I understand a math degree is good for careers in statistics, finance, business etc. but would I need to make my electives revolve around one of those fields (or get a minor in one) to be able to get a job in it? How does a math major with some business electives (possibly a minor) compare to an actual business major?

I was always under the impression that if you want to do business, you major in a business related major, not math and if you want to do statistics you major in statistics, not math.


Another thing that I have been contemplating is a double major in math and statistics or a math major with a statistics minor.

How would those compare and what are your thoughts on it?

Thanks.


I stuck with pure maths all the way through university. I had an almost snobbish aversion to any kind of maths that had any possible real-world application, because I was a twerp back in those days. So you don't have to "major" in anything in particular. Of course if you decide halfway through your degree that you have a keen interest in a particular area, you can pick and choose your courses to be relevant to that interest. I'm not sure how American universities work, so take that with a pinch of salt.
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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby mdyrud » Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:38 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:I stuck with pure maths all the way through university. I had an almost snobbish aversion to any kind of maths that had any possible real-world application, because I was a twerp back in those days. So you don't have to "major" in anything in particular. Of course if you decide halfway through your degree that you have a keen interest in a particular area, you can pick and choose your courses to be relevant to that interest. I'm not sure how American universities work, so take that with a pinch of salt.
That sounds like a pretty accurate description of what I've seen of schools in the US. Changing your major isn't a terribly difficult thing. My friend I referenced earlier has switched his major two or three times, trying to figure out what he is most interested in, and he's still graduating ahead of schedule. As long as you aren't switching from Mathematics to Underwater Fencing with a focus on Basket Weaving, you shouldn't end up being hurt by switching majors.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby Dason » Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:59 pm UTC

mdyrud wrote:As long as you aren't switching from Mathematics to Underwater Fencing with a focus on Basket Weaving, you shouldn't end up being hurt by switching majors.

That's a tough switch. But to be fair Underwater Fencing is a tough major to begin with - I don't know anybody that has finished with that major in less than 5.5 years.
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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby Adam Preston » Fri Jun 24, 2011 1:28 am UTC

You know, I feel sorry mate, I may be in the same dilemma, where as you wish to study a subject passionately but it's a matter of finacial security for the future, Einstein once said "Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it." Well any subject is beautiful if you have a passion for it. I would say, do what you want mate, like the guy said above u don't close the possibility of engineering afterwards, but you should consider what you want to do. Hope you make the correct choice mate :D.
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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby RogerMurdock » Fri Jun 24, 2011 7:49 pm UTC

This thread is surprisingly relevant. I am currently going into my sophomore year with a Math major and CS/econ minor. Though I was thinking about switching that to a focus in Finance/Statistics, I'm not sure now. My math degree is technically something like "Applied Discrete/Computational" mathematics, so not only do I get a CS minor but I end up with a bunch of other classes in that area. The econ is kind of random but it's something I've always been interested in.

My only concern is I truly, TRULY hated my first CS course. I think it may have been a byproduct of how it was taught, maybe not. I enjoyed the parts where I learned java and solved little logic/number puzzles with it, but there was a web design component in a very obscure language with very little documentation. I feel like the ability to say I have CS experience when applying for a job may be worth whatever it takes though, it's really only 5-6 classes max. Any thoughts anyone?

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby 314man » Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:29 pm UTC

There's a joke around my area that engineering is a blue-collar white-collar job. Pretty much that it's a white-collar job with the pay of a blue-collar job.
Also, I enjoy this short clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOtoujYOWw0

Anyways, I recommend a stats and math double major. It can lead you to a huge amount of jobs. Especially if you have a stats background because stats are dominant in almost every kind of workplace. You can get a job in insurance, at the government, any corporation or smaller business, be a sports stats guy (though I don't know how one becomes one), etc.

If you don't mind going through some dull work, you can also try actuarial science. It's essentially half statistics, half business (you'll take stats courses as well as financial math, corporate finance, derivative markets, etc.) I found act sci to be too dull for me so I switched to a double major in stats and math. Stats to me has the unique honour of being the most interesting/exciting thing to learn and being the most boring to learn. To each their own. If you take stats, you'll also learn a little bit of programming which is also nice to have in your repertoire.

Although I recommend a stats/math double major, I'd recommend to give a shot at the act sci exams (they're done outside of college). If you end up liking the material, you can switch to act sci easily and you'll have a completed exam in hand, and if you don't, you won't fall behind in anything.

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby achan1058 » Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:58 am UTC

mdyrud wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:I stuck with pure maths all the way through university. I had an almost snobbish aversion to any kind of maths that had any possible real-world application, because I was a twerp back in those days. So you don't have to "major" in anything in particular. Of course if you decide halfway through your degree that you have a keen interest in a particular area, you can pick and choose your courses to be relevant to that interest. I'm not sure how American universities work, so take that with a pinch of salt.
That sounds like a pretty accurate description of what I've seen of schools in the US. Changing your major isn't a terribly difficult thing. My friend I referenced earlier has switched his major two or three times, trying to figure out what he is most interested in, and he's still graduating ahead of schedule. As long as you aren't switching from Mathematics to Underwater Fencing with a focus on Basket Weaving, you shouldn't end up being hurt by switching majors.
That depends on school, the year you are in, and more importantly how the courses overlap.
If you want to change from Mathematics to say Music or something when you don't already have a minor in it in say your 4th year can be quite difficult, but switching to say computing science or physics usually isn't too bad, especially in your first 2 years, since I think most schools have a bunch of general pre-req that goes through the whole faculty (or school, even).

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Re: How practical is a B.S. in Math?

Postby teacupthesauceror » Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:31 am UTC

Also, you can get jobs not related at all to Mathematics with a BSci in Mathematics!

Getting a degree in anything allows you to enter the corporate ladder on a higher rung than if you have no degree at all. So actually, "useless" degrees aren't actually useless, and people respect people who are good at Maths. The response you get when you say you're doing Maths is "woah you're really clever" as opposed "god that's useless". So yes, do a Maths degree, and don't end up like someone I know, switching degree with no transferable modules halfway through the first year because she thought getting a job she would hate that would give her a guaranteed income was worth three years of misery. It isn't.

Also, you can always come over to England and become a Maths teacher, we're always desperate for them. So you have a guaranteed job at the end anyway!


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