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BA in math in the spring now what?

  1. Aug 9, 2010 #1
    I graduate next spring from Rutgers with a BA in math, and am considering trying to get into grad school the following fall. However, I haven't taken too many courses regarding abstract topics (only linear algebra and an analysis class I'll be taking in the fall); I hadn't really considered that graduate schools would be looking for those kinds of classes in particular. Currently most classes with those sorts of topics are filled up, and I have plans to go abroad in the spring, so I'm kind of stuck.

    So once I graduate, I'll have a degree that seems no good for finding a job but with classes that seem no good for getting into grad school. My grades are pretty good (3.77 overall, ~3.9 in math), but I have no clue what to do. Is there any chance I could get into an applied math program, or do they also want me to study abstract stuff as well (I can't imagine why they would, but I'm not sure)?

    In short: what should I do, or, rather, what can I do?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2010 #2
    Wait -- so what classes have you taken?
  4. Aug 9, 2010 #3
    If you've taken a class in Differential Equations, a sequence of Analysis and a few others (think topology, number theory, algorithms etc.. ) you'd be okay.

    If you haven't taken those classes, I'd contact and advisor and maybe stay an extra semester or two to get the needed classes in -- especially if you'd want to go to grad school. It would be a worthwhile set-back in my opinion.
  5. Aug 9, 2010 #4
    So far I've taken:
    Single and Multivariable Calculus
    Differential Equations
    Linear Algebra
    Numerical Analysis
    Linear Programming

    Next semester is a course in analysis and one in number theory, but considering the advice I've been getting on grad school so far I'm going to try to replace the number theory with abstract algebra.
  6. Aug 10, 2010 #5
    You might be alright to get into an applied math program. Maybe try and take another class in Analysis.
  7. Aug 10, 2010 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    sEsposito, according to your posts you've taken less math than the OP. Are you certain you want to be giving him advice?

    jasons89, I recommend you look at the grad admissions policies of several math departments and see where you stand with respect to them. You should also talk with your academic advisor.
  8. Nov 3, 2010 #7
    I consider myself to be a mathematician, but I ended up getting my undergraduate degree in Biology, a master's in information systems, and I'm currently working as a chemist. I promote college, because it's good to have more options available to you, and I believe that math or science degrees are best for teaching problem solving skills, but based on the job market and advancement opportunities, science is a nice hobby. If you're after money, get an MBA, medical, or law degree. This is why math is only a passion and a hobby for me. Unless you go into an academic career, most people won't respect your education or know enough to know what you can do. Outside academia, the best career paths for mathematicians are statistics and actuarial science. The best thing to do is diversify and combine your math skills with another area of study. Engineering is the best way to do this. Besides, I sort of see mathematics as a tool kit, and mathematicians are people who are looking for things that need to be explained. By stepping away from pure mathematics, you can discover new challenges that are waiting for someone with your skills to discover new patterns or prediction models.
  9. Nov 3, 2010 #8


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    I wasn't aware of the possibilty of getting a BA in mathematics with only those "light" courses. This is certainly not sufficient for a graduate program in pure math, but I am wondering if applied mathematics programs will consider this as enough preparation.

    Why didn't you take stuff like differential equations, analysis, groups/rings, topology, differential geometry, measure theory/functional analysis, set theory/logic, etc.?

    An abstract algebra class is definitely advisable. I suggest to take a look at schools that offer applied mathematics, and see what they expect you to have under your belt.
  10. Nov 4, 2010 #9
    The first thing that you'll have to do when to step out of college is stop thinking like an academic. I've been there, and I was a fool. The classes you take and the degree you earn are similar to merit badges for a boyscout. The real world wants to you earn your merit badge everyday. Only academia will offer you tenure, so that you can prove yourself while you are young, and rot in your old age. I'm getting old myself, so I can understand the appeal to not having to work so hard pushing the envelope. I'd like to retire and perhaps teach part-time at a community college so that I can share my experience and a lifetime of learning. I guess that is why I'm here on the Physics Forum. I'm looking for ways to share some of my own discoveries and see if there can be any application for them. I've also learned to never let anyone size you up by your so called credentials. You will decide on what your abilities will be. My formal education in mathematics only went through differential equations, but I've taught myself statistics, discovered partitions on my own, and a lot of other things that I'm trying to write up before I get too old and loose my memory.

    I'm highly recommending a well rounded education. Unless you are wealthy, the job market doesn't need philosophers. When I was in high school, the counselors said that we could be anything that we set our minds too. But, they never warned us that clowns don't make that much money, and some careers restrict where you may live.

    Furthermore, I sometimes get frustrated by the lack of diversity that is sometimes apparent. Pure mathematicians often lack enough understanding of other subjects, to fully understand how their skills may be applied or how to solve the problem with full consideration. Economics is a perfect example of mathematicians who place themselves on a pedistool, but time eventually proves them to be fools. On the other side, you'd be surprised at how many chemists lack basic math skills. We need people who can speak fluent math and aren't afraid to take their tool kit with them into the real world. I'm tired of seeing the field of bioinformatics dominated by molecular biologists. We need to get some mathematicians in there.
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