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Engineering vs Mathematics

by Poker-face
Tags: career advice, engineering, mathematics
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Poker-face
#1
Apr18-11, 08:25 PM
P: 60
Hi all, I am 32 years old and have been back to school for a year now. I am working on my second degree in Math. It will take me 2 more years at a small state school in NJ that is costing me about $12,000 a year. Prior to school I owned and operated my own general contracting business.

My dilema is this - does anyone have an opion on whether or not switching to an expensive university, (Drexel $40,000 a year) to study Civil Engineering over staying at a cheap state college and recieving a BS in Math is a smart decesion.

I love studying Math and Physics and could see myself really enjoying applying it as an engineer. Not sure if the cost is worth it. Also not sure what I would do with my Math degree. I have a little credit problem that would probably rule out finance industry. Also drexel has a great Co-Op program that allows you to mix in three semesters of work while studying.

Any advice or experiences would be welcomed.
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fss
#2
Apr18-11, 09:11 PM
P: 1,185
I'm sure there must be some public school in New Jersey that offers an engineering program. Oh hey.... Rutgers! (?)
Poker-face
#3
Apr19-11, 09:47 AM
P: 60
Quote Quote by fss View Post
I'm sure there must be some public school in New Jersey that offers an engineering program. Oh hey.... Rutgers! (?)
Yes, you are right, but only in New Brunswick which would be a 3 hour commutte round trip. Relocating is not an option. Thanks for the thought though.

Null_
#4
Apr20-11, 07:16 AM
P: 232
Engineering vs Mathematics

Why are you going back to school to study math? You should have a goal in mind, then we can tell you if math or engineering is more suited to reaching that goal.
Poker-face
#5
Apr20-11, 09:32 AM
P: 60
Quote Quote by Null_ View Post
Why are you going back to school to study math? You should have a goal in mind, then we can tell you if math or engineering is more suited to reaching that goal.
Thanks for asking.
Kind of a long story, so I will try to give you the short version. Early in High School I tested extremely high in Math (National Test Top 1%), but decided partying was more fun than taking more challenging classes. Went on to a small State school and received a B.A. in Political Science. My father owned his own construction company so I decided to give self employment a try, and use my degree as a backup plan. Again the short version is I had a successful General Contracting Business until New Home Construction Industry was wiped out. Along with my business also went my credit. Decided to test my math skills knowing that if you are good at math there seem to be better job opportunities. So far I have received an A in Pre-Calc, A in calculus 1, A- in Physics, and I have an A average in Calculus 2. I enjoy Math and physics very much.

My concern is Losing my business destroyed my credit and I am not sure what I can do with a math degree since my credit is bad and it seems like a lot of the jobs are geared towards the banking industry.
I know I would like the academics of engineering, but is it worth the expense. Will there be job opportunities justifying the enormous cost in comparison to the much smaller cost of receiving a BS in Math. Is a math degree with bad credit not a problem in this tough job market?

I know I would enjoy either curriculum, my decision lies with what will give me the best job opportunities at the end. Thank you to anyone who took the time to read this and I appreciate any comments or suggestions.
Pyrrhus
#6
Apr20-11, 11:51 AM
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As a BS in Civil Eng, now doing a PhD in Econ. I can tell you, a math degree is better if you plan to go to grad school in another field like Engineering or Physics.
Pharez
#7
Apr20-11, 03:47 PM
P: 4
Hello, Poker-face. Glenn Kelman, CEO of a company named Redfin, says mathematicians are the most sought-after type of employee in Silicon Valley. Maybe a BS in math brings you an opportunity over there. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine...5060960537.htm
DrummingAtom
#8
Apr20-11, 06:44 PM
P: 661
Quote Quote by Pyrrhus View Post
As a BS in Civil Eng, now doing a PhD in Econ. I can tell you, a math degree is better if you plan to go to grad school in another field like Engineering or Physics.
I'm a bit confused on this. How does a math degree help with engineering or physics grad school? Wouldn't an engineering degree help with engineering grad school and a physics degree help with physics grad school?

From my math major friends they say anything past Diffy Q's/Linear Algebra (in some cases complex analysis) isn't much help in physics.
micromass
#9
Apr20-11, 07:26 PM
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Quote Quote by DrummingAtom View Post
From my math major friends they say anything past Diffy Q's/Linear Algebra (in some cases complex analysis) isn't much help in physics.
Wow, this is just plain wrong!!!! Functional analysis is essential in quantum physics. Differential geometry is essential in relativity. Measure theory, probability theory, topology can all be used in physics...
DrummingAtom
#10
Apr20-11, 07:37 PM
P: 661
Quote Quote by micromass View Post
Wow, this is just plain wrong!!!! Functional analysis is essential in quantum physics. Differential geometry is essential in relativity. Measure theory, probability theory, topology can all be used in physics...
That's unfortunate then. My math major friends say that the stuff in the upper level classes isn't applied to anything and focuses on proofs. Do those classes differ that much from university to university?
micromass
#11
Apr20-11, 07:43 PM
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Quote Quote by DrummingAtom View Post
That's unfortunate then. My math major friends say that the stuff in the upper level classes isn't applied to anything and focuses on proofs. Do those classes differ that much from university to university?
I can understand why your friends say that, I even said it in the past. The point is that many upper level classes will teach you things without saying where they are applied. They will only motivate it from a math point-of-view. (The problem is that many math professors just don't know the applications, don't care or it's it would take too long). So you could easily get the impression that it's all useless in application. You would already have to follow a physics course to see the applications of things like Hilbert spaces or manifolds. But trust me, knowing these things from a mathematical point-of-view will help you in a physics education. It may seem useless now, but it will be applied sooner or later.

If I'm not mistaken, the fields of functional analysis and differential geometry were actually motivated by problems in physics. They just don't mention these things in the courses...

By all means, take some functional analysis and differential geometry, and see for yourself!!
Pyrrhus
#12
Apr20-11, 09:33 PM
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Quote Quote by DrummingAtom View Post
I'm a bit confused on this. How does a math degree help with engineering or physics grad school? Wouldn't an engineering degree help with engineering grad school and a physics degree help with physics grad school?

From my math major friends they say anything past Diffy Q's/Linear Algebra (in some cases complex analysis) isn't much help in physics.
The OP mentioned that he is deciding whether to pursue Civil Eng or Math. Obviously, doing (for example) a BS in Aerospace Eng, and moving to a MS/PhD in AeroSpace is the normal path, but a BS in Math is not that big of a handicap, and sometimes it is even better. In some cases like Economics graduate programs, students with background in math, physics or engineering are preferred over students with background in economics. The reason is they can do the math already.

I transitioned sort of smoothly with my civil engineering background in my PhD studies, but if I could do it all over again, I'd just get a BS in Math, and then proceed again to grad school.
zif.
#13
Apr21-11, 12:45 AM
P: 91
Quote Quote by DrummingAtom View Post
I'm a bit confused on this. How does a math degree help with engineering or physics grad school? Wouldn't an engineering degree help with engineering grad school and a physics degree help with physics grad school?

From my math major friends they say anything past Diffy Q's/Linear Algebra (in some cases complex analysis) isn't much help in physics.

Just this semester one of my physics profs said that if he had his way, physics students wouldn't touch physics until after at least three years of mathematics.
DrummingAtom
#14
Apr21-11, 01:28 AM
P: 661
Quote Quote by Pyrrhus View Post
The OP mentioned that he is deciding whether to pursue Civil Eng or Math. Obviously, doing (for example) a BS in Aerospace Eng, and moving to a MS/PhD in AeroSpace is the normal path, but a BS in Math is not that big of a handicap, and sometimes it is even better. In some cases like Economics graduate programs, students with background in math, physics or engineering are preferred over students with background in economics. The reason is they can do the math already.

I transitioned sort of smoothly with my civil engineering background in my PhD studies, but if I could do it all over again, I'd just get a BS in Math, and then proceed again to grad school.
But I think that's misleading. Math --> Engineering might give you some nice tools to have for grad school but a math major will have to take engineering classes to catch up to the grad level engineering classes. And unless the OP is on a free ride (which isn't the case), they should probably pick the shortest route to the goal. If it's engineering then do engineering. If it's math, do math. The OP case seems pretty tough though, because the tuition difference is large between the two choices.

I really don't understand the special case argument either. I take it your econ program likes math, physics, engineering degrees more? If that's the case, did you not have to take any economics before being admitted to that program? Or did you take those when you were an undergrad?

The reason I ask is because one of my friends is going to grad school in the fall for economics and his background is chemistry. He has all the math classes done from his undergrad but the program won't let him in officially until he does 5 undergrad econ classes. So it's going to be another year before he can actually *start* doing grad economics work. Those undergrad econ classes aren't covered by the university either so he has to pay them out of pocket.

I'm not bashing any particular degree but in my eyes the college system is setup to jump through a bunch of hoops. And if you don't do it right the first time then they will always make you start over again. I dealt with this as a transfer student and it's incredibly annoying.
Pyrrhus
#15
Apr21-11, 01:50 AM
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Quote Quote by DrummingAtom View Post
But I think that's misleading. Math --> Engineering might give you some nice tools to have for grad school but a math major will have to take engineering classes to catch up to the grad level engineering classes. And unless the OP is on a free ride (which isn't the case), they should probably pick the shortest route to the goal. If it's engineering then do engineering. If it's math, do math. The OP case seems pretty tough though, because the tuition difference is large between the two choices.

I really don't understand the special case argument either. I take it your econ program likes math, physics, engineering degrees more? If that's the case, did you not have to take any economics before being admitted to that program? Or did you take those when you were an undergrad?

The reason I ask is because one of my friends is going to grad school in the fall for economics and his background is chemistry. He has all the math classes done from his undergrad but the program won't let him in officially until he does 5 undergrad econ classes. So it's going to be another year before he can actually *start* doing grad economics work. Those undergrad econ classes aren't covered by the university either so he has to pay them out of pocket.

I'm not bashing any particular degree but in my eyes the college system is setup to jump through a bunch of hoops. And if you don't do it right the first time then they will always make you start over again. I dealt with this as a transfer student and it's incredibly annoying.
Really? I didn't take any extra econ courses. I had no econ background whatsoever. I started at the same level as the other grad students, but I had to put some effort learning new concepts (mostly new interpretation to the same math). I've already completed my MS Econ, now just a year or so to get my PhD. I took some additional courses outside the department in Mathematical Statistics (in STAT department), Stochastic Optimization (in IE department), and others.

I recommend Math, because it is a flexible degree. You can move rather quickly to most grad schools in science and engineering. Of course, you should have an idea of which area, so at your undergrad you take as much related courses as possible. The handicap may be take additional courses, but if you're ok with that. You should be fine.

The traditional path of grad school has always been the same (Undergrad->Grad). Aerospace->Aerospace, Physics->Physics, and so on. However, there have always been cases of crossover, Math->Operations Research, Physics->Aerospace, Physics->Economics, History->Physics, Sociology->Engineering, Mechanical Engineering->Physics. The most common are crossovers from Math and Physics to Engineering and other sciences such as Economics.

Anyway, choosing between Civil and Math is not really useful, if you plan to stay at the undergrad level. Students of Sciences degree tend to most of the time go to grad school.


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