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Applied Math with economics and some programming

  1. Apr 13, 2014 #1
    .....so am I screwed in getting a job???

    For my programming, I learned Python and C++ very well (they're fun). I loved probability. I'm one semester away from finishing. My Math GPA was a bit over 3, but my overall GPA stinks (around 2.6....I hated humanities and I started as a sociology major....didn't like it, then switched to education....REALLY didn't like it and those dragged me down).

    I'm taking the first Actuary Probability exam (seems easy to me), but that job doesn't seem too exciting, and I'll need 2-3 exams before I can get that job anyway.

    So am I screwed?? What jobs can I look into??? Would non-math jobs be impressed with a math guy (I could work in something else while taking Actuary exams)??? I'm just really lost. If anyone can give some advice and life experience (a story maybe???), I'd appreciate it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Of course you aren't screwed.

    You simply may have to do some graduate study in an area where jobs are good - but that's where the action is these days anyway - not udergrad.

  4. Apr 13, 2014 #3
    The 2.6 is pretty restrictive. There are lots of jobs that could use your background, but it would help to have some track record of success. Grad school is an option, but some office work with a good reference would help a lot too.
  5. Apr 13, 2014 #4
    Usually, 3.0 is required for grad school, though, so I'm not sure if that's an option, either. My impression is that actuarial jobs are hard to get if you have a low gpa.

    My impression is that there are programming jobs where they only care about what you can do, rather than your credentials. There are exams you can take for some programming jobs to demonstrate your skills, in addition to coming up with your own portfolio of programs to show people.

    http://www.cppinstitute.org/?p=5 [Broken]

    You should also see if you can get an internship. It's a bit harder once you graduate, but there are some internships that you can do soon after graduation.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Apr 13, 2014 #5
    I'll look into the internship idea. I only have two classes left, and that is from September-December. For June-August I'm all free, so I'll see what my university can offer.

    And are there other ways to stand out in the programming world without having a Computer Science degree?? The thing that stinks is that I just last September I learned about programming, and only now started liking it (liking it to the point of almost mastering Python, and leaning c++ on my own). Needless to say it's too late now to switch degrees, since I'm only two classes from graduating with a math degree.

    And about the Actuary thing, I just assumed that if you have 2 or more exams, someone somewhere will hire you. Is it true that they also consider GPA big time??? I would think those exams (which are nothing easy) are what weeds out the people who really want it from the people who don't.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Apr 13, 2014 #6
    I was thinking of just getting ANY job (meaning a non-math, non-programming job) even if the pay is not great, and in the mean while study for the Acturial exams (again, to me they seem easy, and probability was fun for me), while trying to learn programs on my own (I learned c++ on my own...and even though I took python in college, I mastered it on my own). This way I get some real life work experience, and I better my resume. I really don't want grad school, because I don't want another 4-5 years in school (I'm 28 now..I started college late.....I'd like to find a girl and start a family so still being in school in my mid-30s isn't something I'm looking forward to).

    IF I had to go to grad school, I could only realistically do economics or math, mainly because I already did all the pre-requisites for their graduate classes. If I was to try say computer science in grad school, I'd be spending a good 2 years or more (I need to work at the same time so....) just doing the pre-reqs (the only computer science class I have is into to Python).

    I know my GPA is restrictive, but I've seen plenty of people with similar overall GPAs or lower get great jobs. A friend, who was such a person, told me that it's more who you know (and who can like you personality-wise) rather than what you know (and this explains why I've seen plenty of 3.5+ GPA guys without work lately). I'll have to better any charming skills and begin to network.
  8. Apr 13, 2014 #7
    There may have been a time, years ago, when 2 exams got you a job. Now it's a bare minimum, as there are lots of grads with solid GPA's, internships and 2+ exams out there. The entry level market really got hit hard in the recession; it's improved, but you still need to shine. (The market for credentialed actuaries is another topic altogether; it's very tight, especially in P&C and health)

    Also note that not all jobs are equal. The actuarial jobs you can get with a low gpa and minimum exams may not be ones you want. . .

    Success in underwriting, business intelligence, business consulting, and other business information jobs would rapidly take the spotlight off that GPA.

    Programming can offer you the chance to prove yourself without additional schooling, and prior to getting a job, since there's lots of open source programming done by volunteers and amateurs. Of course, then you're working for free. . .
  9. Apr 13, 2014 #8


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    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Don't underestimate the appeal of Python to employers. Python is hot now for good reasons. You might add statistics to your probability knowledge. If those are your interests, there are engineering/programming jobs that you can probably find.
  10. Apr 14, 2014 #9
    Thank you for your honest response.

    I have gotten so many different answers from many actuaries online. Some say, "just get 2 or 3 tests and someone somewhere will hire you". Others have said that 1 test and an internship is gold. Others have told me that if I'm good at programming, that'll put me over other candidates. Though I'm still a year away from graduating, what you said about all jobs not being equal seems logical. But I ask what is so bad about the actuarial job with a so-so GPA and minimum exams??? I would think that just getting hired is an achievement to start with, and from there I move up??? In other words, I may get the crappy company that hires me, but at least while I work I pass more exams, get real world experience, and I can move around after. I'm always told that after the first job, no one will really ask about GPA.

    And I don't mind doing open source stuff in order to show some skill. It is way better than doing 3 or 4 years of a masters in computer science (I don't have the pre-reqs so assuming I got into a computer science program, I would have to take time just doing the pre-reqs and I work so...). I'm glad that there are platforms where people can show their programming skills. Are there any other particular platforms I should know of?
  11. Apr 14, 2014 #10
    I am enjoying Python actually. Learning it wasn't too difficult, and I am having fun with it. Just randomly looking online, I see plenty of entry level jobs asking for Python and c++ as requirements. Other require Java, something I haven't touched yet, but plan too once I REALLY master Python and c++ the way I intend to. What stinks is that other than intro to Python, I have no credentials indicating that I know these languages well. I would like to know how one can display their programming abilities to would-be employers. Any help in that would be great.
  12. Apr 14, 2014 #11


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    Education Advisor

    List that you know these languages on your resume. I never assumed any potential applicant took a class on every (or any) language they stated they knew. I, probably could only prove by credentials that I know java (even though I touch Java maybe once a year), but I commonly list C/C++, SQL, Python, Fortran, Matlab, SAS and R. If a specific language is needed for the job, you can be sure that in the interview someone will ask you few specific questions about the language to assess your skill.

    Lastly, as previously mentioned, you could look for an open source project and see if you can write some simple objects for them. Otherwise, you can create your own programs. On my personal website, I have a section dedicated to academic and work related code that may appeal to people. (Such as optimization methods, search methods, models, and ping pong.)
  13. Apr 14, 2014 #12
    That's a good attitude to have, and a reasonable course of action. Maybe just being aware that there's a range of actuarial jobs and some are much more engaging/interesting than others will help you. If you get that first job and it doesn't look like something you'd like to stay with, know that there are other options - and those options may not be available at that first company.

    Some examples of difficult starting roles: Most actuaries hate pensions; if you get a job like that, switch out in a year. Employer benefit consulting is pretty drab, too, but has better prospects than pensions (with some overlap, obviously). Medicare Advantage/PDP work, while interesting, requires tremendously long hours in bid season, especially at consulting shops. But it will prepare you for other, less crushing work.

    The differing opinions on whats required to get a job may depend on when they actually looked, and how closely they monitor the employment situation.

    Just some thoughts in case you end up down the actuarial route. Wish you the best of luck.
  14. Apr 16, 2014 #13
    I was in a really similar boat when I graduated in late 2007 with a math degree. My GPA was a 3.1, I had 2 actuarial exams under my belt, but just never interviewed well enough to get a job offer. I worked a terrible retail job for a few months, then entered a really local, easy to get into masters in computer science. Spent a term studying to get a great GPA, then got an internship immediately in network support at a local hospital and worked through the rest of the program.

    Some comp-sci programs that struggle to fill seats might let students in and make up the undergrad pre-reqs as they go. The benefit here is that you can probably pretty quickly find a local tech position and work all the way through the program. There's also a lot more to tech than just programming. A lot of help-desk and network support type positions are available. They're not interesting at all, but they pay decently if you enter the right org, like a hospital for example.

    I also worked for quite a while as a SAP consultant/technical implementer while in grad school. SAP is basically a fancy piece of business/accounting software for manufacturing firms (ERP), but there's quite a few people using programs like that that will need technical help. Most of that was writing reports in T-SQL or Crystal reports, cleaning and importing data into new installations (stuff like customer lists, open invoices, inventory, etc), and doing basic database admin tasks. The only technical requirements for this job are a solid understanding of the basics of SQL (know how to put together a select statement), a bit of database admin (like knowing how to back things up, the various database objects, what log files do, etc), and maybe some basic networking/server admin skills in windows. Might be worth a look, and it's an interesting foray into business and business intelligence.

    In general, I think too many math majors are too quick to jump to actuarial science as a solution to the job problem. It might be worth it to explore a bit more broadly and not bottle yourself up into one set path. That said, I'd check out tech. Especially the ERP and CRM realm of tech. It's a blend of business and technology that might have a lower barrier to entry than you expect. And regardless of where you go as an entry level employee, you want to take on the attitude that you're willing to do whatever you can to help an org and that you will learn as much as you can as you spend more time on the job.

    Also should note that you might want to look into software testing jobs as well if you're looking in the tech realm. I get the impression they're still a bit more willing to take on entry-level people than most.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
  15. Apr 17, 2014 #14
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Software testing sounds fun. I'll need to brush up on my coding skills on my own. I only have one Python class to show on my record, and I only got a B+ in it. When it comes to programming, I learning everything on my own. Big thanks.

    Anyone else here with stories/advice???
  16. Apr 17, 2014 #15
    Yep, just felt your situation is close to something I experienced myself in the past.

    As was previously mentioned, you really do need to have something that shines on your resume to get that interview regardless of career. Once you've got that interview, the most important thing to do is to ask enough questions and learn enough about the job and tasks you'd be asked to do that you're confident you would be able to do it and can relay that understanding back to the interviewer. As an entry-level employee, most firms probably already have an idea where you would fit in the grand scheme of things and most of the time it might involve freeing up the time of more senior people already there by taking on some of the more mundane tasks.

    If you're really interested in digging into software testing as a starter, you might want to check into some of the software testing methods that are out there as well. Check out how to create a "requirements traceability matrix." There are some aspects of testing that are technical and some that are not and more business/process oriented. A lot of the time, you'll be creating and executing test cases and working with developers to find and resolve bugs.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2014
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