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Math A math major who doesn't know what to do after graduation

  1. Aug 31, 2008 #1
    Hi all,

    I just finished my first year at a university, and I'm kind of clueless when it comes to finding out what I want to do after college.

    When I first entered the university, I was a biochemistry major, thinking about either becoming a doctor, a pharmacist, or a medical researcher. But as the school year went on, I found mathematics to be a lot more interesting, and biochemistry to be less interesting, so I switched my major to mathematics.

    During my first year, I took intro to DiffEq, linear algebra, vector calculus, number theory, and elementary analysis, and I've received A's in all of those classes, and I've also completed the "core" requirement for my math major.

    So far, I've liked both pure and applied aspects of math; I like learning about new theory, and application of that theory as well. If I want to do bare minimum, I only need 4 more quarters of math, but I'm certainly going to take far more than the minimum requirement. Also, I'm thinking of double majoring in physics, because I really liked physics in high school (I found this out second semester of my senior year... what a good timing). So starting this term, I'll be taking the first-year physics course (calculus based, of course) to see if I still like this subject, and have an energy to complete physics major on top of my math major.

    But the problem is, as I've stated on the title, I'm still not so sure what I want to in future yet. It seems like I've got a lot of options, but all of them come with some conditions.

    So here are what I've thought so far:

    I. Academics
    I'm friend with some graduate students, and people who are thinking of going to grad school, and right now I want to go to grad school as well. I don't know in what field yet (probably either math or physics), but doing research in an area that I'm interested sounds fun. But I also realize that there are many Ph. D holders than the number of jobs available, and I wouldn't know if I really like working in academia, so I might want to have a back-up plan as well.

    II. Engineering
    After reading some threads on here (note that I just found this site recently, as you can tell from my # of posts), engineering sounds like something that I should at least give a thought. The problem is, though, the school I go to does not have an engineering program at all, and from reading here, it seems like it's extremely challenging to go from non-engineering degree in undergrad to an engineering degree in a grad school. The local community college offers some pre-engineering classes (statics, dynamics, etc.), but I don't know if taking those classes, alongside of math and physics classes, are enough. Furthermore, I don't know which area of engineering interests me, so this option seems to need a lot more thinking.

    III. Teaching
    I've been doing some math tutoring job, and it's been quite a fun. But I don't know if I really want to work in K-12 (I might prefer community college), and my greedy mind wants to earn a little more than an average teacher (Note that I don't need to be filthy rich, but I do want a relatively good-paying job). But if I found out teaching is something that I'm really passionate about, I won't talk much about the money.

    So far, these are the only things that I can think of. Obviously, I don't know that much about my options that is available to me yet, and it would be nice if you can give me some advice on either what I'm thinking and/or what I haven't mentioned here. Also, feel free to ask any question to me if you have one.

    And one last thing, I don't really want to become an actuary or work in a financial sector. They might pay you well, but the work condition isn't appealing to me (but who knows? They might be actually interesting than I think they are).
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2008 #2


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    perhaps try some of the jobs you think you might love temporarily. then if they are not as rewarding as you thought go back for more training. i did that.

    i taught in a small college and discovered i liked it but was not well enough trained to stay with it, so went back for a phd. that wasn't perfect either but kept my attention mostly for the past 30 years.

    now i am back in your shoes, i.e, college teaching is getting same old, same old, and i need a new challenge, maybe a new research project or a new educational project. i am looking to research first, but am also interested in helping students access good books affordably.
  4. Aug 31, 2008 #3
    Not to add to your confusion, but were you interested in biochem for any particular reason? Something that would keep it interesting to you even if the classes are kind of boring?

    I'll make an analogy; physicists don't spend their days pushing blocks down ramps, or applying Gauss' law to spherical conductors in a vacuum... In fact, real research physics can be a lot of fun! Some of my most motivated peers had read "A Brief History of Time" or "The Elegant Universe" before college and almost left physics as a major due to the mind wrenching boredom the intro classes elicited (luckily for me, personally, I don't care much about string theory or quantum gravity, but man did I love pushing blocks down ramps).

    Basically, intro physics classes are for the billions of uninterested engineering students and suck for people who are good at, or at least are innately interested in, physics. Thus the analogy draws to a close and I remind you that intro biochem classes are for the billions of uninterested pre-med/pharma students, and that the material becomes much more interesting later, if it was something that ever interested you at all.
  5. Aug 31, 2008 #4


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    i think i agree. i hated or was bored by too many of the math courses i had to take in college, but luckily after graduation still believed i might be in love with math and gave it another try in grad school. there i fortunately encountered maurice auslander, a real researcher of brilliance who showed us what math was like first hand. it is sad the subject is presented so poorly by so many professors, but if you love it, do not let us poor teachers discourage you,...the subject is really beautiful. do as abel advised, read the masters.
  6. Aug 31, 2008 #5
    That might be a good idea. For some reason, I get this idea that once you're out of schooling, you can never come back, so I usually forget the idea of coming back for more training.

    I was mainly interested in biochemistry because I liked chemistry back in high school, and I was also fascinated by neuroscience. However, I didn't really like biology due to the amount of memorization that required in AP Biology, but I thought it was only because I had a horrible teacher.

    The course I took was "Adv. General Chemistry Lab" (I passed out of the lecture using AP credits). Back in high school, I used to like chemistry a lot, and I still think it's a great subject. That lab course actually did a lot more than just a regular first-year chemistry; for example, we were introduced to stuff like crystal splitting field from inorganic chemistry, and protein folding from biochemistry. The materials seemed interesting, but somehow they didn't click to me very well. In fact, I found myself not fascinated when I was reviewing the stuff like chemical bondings, molecular geometry, chemical reactions, and some other basic chemical principals that would probably be important in more advanced chemistry courses. I don't know why that change happened once I entered college, but I took that course for the entire year and I still couldn't find myself enjoying the material.

    Then I switched my major, and I personally think that was a good decision. Then again, I would never know unless if I continue my study of (bio)chemistry, which means by taking organic chemistry. I might change my mind in future, but I personally want to take a little break from chemistry, and discover other subjects to see what my real interests are (besides math).
  7. Aug 31, 2008 #6
    Hm, maybe I should give one more try to biology, or biochemistry/chemistry in general. But man, I wish there weren't that many classes that starts its sequence only in Fall--if I want to try out something new after this term, I basically have to take that class next year.
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