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Applied Math vs. Computer Science vs. Statistics

  1. Apr 8, 2009 #1
    Applied Math? vs. Statistics? vs. Computer Science?

    First of all, I enjoy all of these, and was wondering which you would pick based on other factors...

    Which one will have the most job opportunities in the near future (10 years approx)?

    Which one will have the most chances for lucrative careers?

    Which is more marketable (meaning, which one pretty much encompasses the skills of the other in an employer's eyes)?

    Which is the most stressful? least?

    Which is the hardest/most time consuming/GPA killer in college?

    Anything else is appreciated :)
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2009 #2
    I think that employment opportunities are great for both.

    Also, I think that most jobs open to any of these majors are open to all of them, although certain jobs may be more or less easy to get into with one of the three degrees.

    I would go with CS or statistics, just because I guess I see them as more technical (and probably more employable) That's what I did, anyway.

    I'm biased towards CS... but I think that entrepreneurs make the most money, and it's relatively easy to be an entrepreneur in the CS world. I also think that salaries of people with comparable educations is a little skewed towards CS.

    I know CS is, for me, about 50/50 as far as stress. Sometimes it's very stressful, sometimes it's pretty easy. I think it's probably about the same in math and stat, although the differences between the most and least stressful classes could be lower. A lot of this depends on what you, personally, are good at. I know CS, in general, has more projects and such than math would. No idea about statistics.

    I wish there was a list of college GPAs by major. I don't know of one.
  4. Apr 8, 2009 #3

    Again, CS.

    Based on my observations of other people I would rank it (from most stressful to least): CS, Math, Stats. But that will obviously depend on you and what you like.

    At my school, both the math and CS programs are highly ranked and are both "GPA killers," but of course, there are still people with very high GPAs. Stats seems easier and the professors are not as harsh with grading. This will most likely very from school to school, but in general, because of the projects, CS is most time consuming.
  5. Apr 8, 2009 #4
    GPA killer courses are most often technical courses which material you hate.

    Other than that it depends on the professor.
  6. Apr 8, 2009 #5
    Don't you also start out taking a lot of math courses in CS anyway? Do math majors take CS courses?

    Also, when employers try to hire someone w/ a math degree, do they assume that a math major has the capability to program, or at least the capability to learn how to program?
  7. Apr 9, 2009 #6
    "Don't you also start out taking a lot of math courses in CS anyway?"

    At my school, CS majors have to take Calculus I and II, Linear Algebra, and Discrete Math. Also, there's a math elective requirement, which can be any high-level math class or differential equations.

    The software engineering majors here have to take Cal I-III, Linear algebra, DiffEq, and discrete math. I don't think there's a math elective.

    In practice, many CS majors take more than the minimum amount of math.


    Math majors at my school have to take little in the way of CS. I worked with the best student in the math department on this interdisciplinary research thing, and honestly she wasn't very good at programming. I mean, she had done it before, but... I don't know, I don't think that being able to program a summation into Matlab counts as "CS". And anything beyond programming, definitely not.

    "do they assume that a math major has the capability to program"
    That would be unreasonable, if the math majors at my school are any indication.

    "or at least the capability to learn how to program? "
    This seems much more reasonable to me. I don't think any employer expects a math major to just "pick up" the same sorts of software skills as a CS major would bring to the table, but the math major should be able to pick up enough programming to get his/her job done (and this, in turn, should be "not very much" in the way of really writing professional software).
  8. Apr 9, 2009 #7


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    are you talking to a pure mathematician or an applied mathematician? I heard applied maths take a good deal of programming classes.
  9. Apr 9, 2009 #8
    Some, if not all, of the best comsci majors at my school are math-comsci hybrid. Anything significant beyond programming requires a certain degree of math proficiency, beyond that of Calc, Linear Alg, Discrete, more like combinatorics , graph theory, etc. However, if it is just programming, you can pick it up fairly easy regardless of either major.

    If you are looking for lucrative careers, I would advise to go for double math in applied math & comsci.
  10. Apr 9, 2009 #9
    It is usually very possible to double major in math and comp. sci. I agree that this is probably a good idea for most people.

    If you just take the minimum amount of programming courses required of a math major, that in no way qualifies you to do anything related to making software. You might be able to hammer out a little python script to evaluate a partial sum of some series, but that's not any harder for a CS major than doing implicit differentiation is for a math major.
  11. Apr 10, 2009 #10
    So I'm guessing that CS teaches you how to work on large-scale software projects, whereas applied math or statistics won't cover that?

    I guess I like programming, but mainly for small to medium scale projects, not really for anything too fancy lol

    The best I've ever created was a handwriting recognition AI, and that was about 10,000 lines of code.
  12. Apr 10, 2009 #11
    CS also teaches you CS theory. It is more than just programming; There are many different sub-disciplines in CS: computer architecture, computer graphics/vision, artificial intelligence, computer security, etc... And then there's also theoretical computer science.
  13. Apr 10, 2009 #12
    Software Engineering is the side of CS that deals with real world applications. Most of the stuff you will learn in CS you will forget very quickly, unless you are working in a very technical job.

    To AUMathTutor, I was working on large programming projects at companies involving more than a few people when I was still in high school. You don't need a cs degree to be a programmer.

    http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/itaa.real.html#tth_sEc5.7.1. I would advise you to read this to understand some of the problems and myths in cs currently. Do not let it deter you if you are interested in the material though.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2009
  14. Apr 11, 2009 #13
    I mean, why would someone want to take all the extra courses required for something like NeuroBio when he/she can just take Stat to contribute to Neuro research/development?

    Don't get me wrong, but the Stat major will have to study a LOT of NeuroSci in order to provide any useful research, but the thing is I highly doubt he will have to sit through 4 years of schooling and classes to understand the very specific (or even a slightly broader scope) topic he is working on. I'm sure not even NeuroBio majors have memorize or remember every aspect of the brain, and highly doubt they need to know everything in order to provide useful work. So why not have a solid background in Stat if you're not sure whether you want to do NeuroBio, Electrical Engineering, Social Science, etc, and when you can always study aspects of that specific topic later in your career?
  15. Apr 12, 2009 #14
    I don't think anybody thinks you need a CS degree to be a programmer. If I said this, I must have been feeling funny since I usually say just the opposite.

    I do have faith in the value of a college education, though. I know lots of people don't, but I do think that having a degree in CS or SE helps you write better software (if, by nothing else, exposing you to lots of ideas and different people and making you leave your comfort zone). You don't need a degree to do most things, and working in software is no exception.

    And companies like Microsoft and Google place lots of value on a strong understanding of the theoretical fundamentals underlying CS. So all that math and theory isn't a complete waste of time.
  16. Apr 13, 2009 #15
    In terms of employability, you will not do too well with just a BS in Stats. You will at least need a masters, and a lot of the senior statistician jobs require PhDs (these jobs pay VERY well.) At the Masters and PhD level, however, employment looks pretty good. On the other hand, you could do pretty well with a BS in Computer Science. I'm not so sure about apply Math.

    In terms of difficulty, I'd say Computer Science is probably the most time consuming. I've taken four Computer Science courses, and they were extremely time consuming - not necessarily tough, but lots of looking stuff up, trial and error etc... Also, CS majors seem the most stressed of all three, but thats just an observation of the handful of CS majors I know.
  17. Apr 13, 2009 #16


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    so do you think a double major of Applied Math and CS would be ideal?
  18. Apr 13, 2009 #17
    "so do you think a double major of Applied Math and CS would be ideal?"

    If you're only interested in maximizing employability, you might just go CS all the way, and focus on as much depth as you can possibly get.

    You should only double major if it's for passion. You can always pick up a math minor, which may or may not be a close to a double major, depending on where you go to school.

    I'm double majoring in Physics because I want a hook into doing modeling and scientific computing applications... and I'm hoping to go to graduate school. If grad school isn't high on your to-do list, sticking with one subject and taking higher-level courses (depth instead of breadth) might lead to more immediate career benefits.

  19. Apr 13, 2009 #18


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    My first passion is mathematics. I'm just thinking of the possibility of double major in Applied Math and CS to keep my options open.

    I'm probably going to grad school and getting a Ph.D. in Applied Math, but IMO having some CS knowledge wouldn't hurt, especially during these times.
  20. Apr 14, 2009 #19


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    Having some CS knowledge I think is important especially nowadays. Applied mathematics relies a lot on the aid of computers and testing models (not just say in Maple or Mathematica) is a pretty standard thing to do. Not to mention the optimization aspect of programs or models where a mathematician might want to implement some random number algorithm for monte carlo simulation or even some graph theoretic algorithm to solve a complex path problem.

    A mathematician that has the ability to contribute effectively to a repository of source code is obviously going to be that much more valuable to a research team, company, project or any associated entity that they are working with/for.

    I would try to learn at a minimum procedural programming with data structures and do some minor work as part of a project (not as big as one that a comp sci student would do). The project could be anything from adding a feature to an existing program to coding up a set of library routines. Obviously you most likely won't have the depth that a CS student or SE student would have but at least if you can do things like have the skills to contribute to a repository in a clear, concise, and structured manner, then you will be very employable and beneficial.
  21. Aug 25, 2010 #20
    i'm currently working on my applied math degree (first one) but i always liked the work of a programmer/cs if i go for a cs degree after applied math what will be my career options and if my career focuses on cs does that mean i will have a disadvantage because of my applied math degree (competetion wise)
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