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Studying Applied math or pure math? + Stats

  1. Feb 22, 2017 #1
    Hi, I am wanting some advice on about studying applied math or pure math.
    I have finished my 2nd year at uni and will be starting my 3rd year soon and have been thinking about changing my major from pure to applied (I also major in statistics as well).
    After I graduate I would love to do something along the lines of financial mathematics/ actuary maths/ financial analyst etc and I am stuck whether if studying applied math would be a better option or not if I want to head towards finance related jobs.
    I would appreciate any advice! thank you :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2017 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    I really think that applied mathematics is more useful for a life outside the academic one. At least in content and in the case potential employers look at it. Moreover it is far closer to real life problems. Furthermore financial mathematics is full of statistics and probability theory, and calculus, if it gets in the area of macro economics or prize building.

    My experiences with the financial industry have been, that the essential point is less the mathematics but far more the different mentality, which is far from what mathematicians get used to at university. It's a completely new world and applied mathematics prepares you better for this world as it is far closer to problems, that actually occur.
  4. Feb 22, 2017 #3


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    To the OP:

    I really think it depends on the particular curriculum within the applied math program at your school (you did state that you are also majoring in statistics). My own personal leanings would be to switch to applied math; however, regardless of what choice you make on this, if you intend to go down the path of financial math or actuarial path, it is important to develop an understanding of statistics and probability theory, as well as develop some programming/computing skills, as these tend to be the types of skills that employers look for.

    In addition, if you are interested in actuarial work, it is also important to write and pass the various actuarial exams (have you at least written the introductory exams yet?). Perhaps adding some coursework in economics as electives will also be helpful.
  5. Feb 23, 2017 #4
    Thank you for the advice! and I also have taken a couple computer science papers about the basics of python(loops, trees, classes, functions etc) would this be considered as programming skills when I look for a job? if not I would consider taking another compsci paper.
    The stats papers I have taken are Bayesian Statistics, Time Series and I will be doing advanced statistical modelling and a paper that teaches you how to model with SAS. So I think taking Bayesian Statistics was a good idea since it is probability theory :)
    Another reason why I would like to change to applied maths is that I took one proof paper last semester and I did not enjoy it at all and I feel like abstract math is not for me and I do much better in the calculus and DFE parts of the course I have done so far.
  6. Feb 23, 2017 #5


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    I think the computer courses you've taken is a good start, since it teaches the importance of loop, trees, classes, and other basic algorithms. This would be considered (introductory) programming skills. Another CS course wouldn't hurt, but it's probably better to simply practice programming on your own, using Python or some other programming package.

    Regarding your statistics courses, I'm really glad you've taken Bayesian statistics and time series, and that you will be taking advanced statistical modelling with SAS. Those are skills (especially advanced modelling) that are valuable for statisticians, and a solid exposure to Bayesian methods are really helpful in a range of areas.

    From the description you've given, if you're not too fond o the most abstract aspects of math, then applied math may indeed be a better choice for you.

    Feel free to PM me or reply back if you have any more questions. Best of luck!
  7. Feb 23, 2017 #6
    It's not quite clear to me what you want to do but here's my experience. I have a BS in physics and graduate degrees in physics, applied math, and finance. I am also an associate actuary. After all that I teach college mathematics because it's what I love.

    If you want to be an actuary you should study applied math with as much probability theory as you can. If your school has an actuary program you should be there because the coursework is geared to match the actuary exams. You should have a full calculus sequence and some upper level coursework in diff eqns, probability, and maybe analysis. You won't need the typical coursework required for a pure math degree such as algebra, topology, etc. Virtually all of actuarial work is contingent risk done in spreadsheets. It is very interesting though.

    It's not clear what you mean by financial analyst but 99% of the people who hold those jobs don't need much math. A corporate financial analyst needs coursework in corporate finance and accounting. Programming is useless, you will use spreadsheets with add-ins for anything special. Statistics beyond an intro course is extraneous.

    If you mean you want to be an investment analyst most of the same advice holds but you should be taking investment finance classes instead of extra math. A firm foundation in math will allow you to succeed in your finance courses but nobody will hire a mathematician anymore to be an investment analyst if you don't understand financial instruments. If you are thinking of quantitative portfolio management you should realize that you probably won't get a job because everyone, despite what you hear, has realized that you can't predict the future and the evidence is very clear. Time series don't predict equity prices, prices are not normal and don't even follow any reasonably predictable distribution over any time scale of interest. The days of investment firms hiring rocket scientists has passed. The overwhelming majority of job opportunities for investment finance graduates are commission based jobs selling things to people who don't need what you're selling. You have to consider whether you're willing to do that.
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