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Best double major with math for employment?

  1. May 2, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone, I am a community college student and plan to transfer to a UC for a mathematics major. I am very interested in pure mathematics and all of my math professors (those with phds) say I would be exceptionally good at it. I am still worried about getting a career though. Possible double majors I am currently considering (feel free to throw some out there)

    Computer Science
    Electrical engineering
    Aerospace Engineering

    I don't think I will enjoy programming at all....I took a class and then dropped it because I just absolutley hated debugging my code. But there are areas of computer science that sound really cool like Machine learning and AI, that appear to also be very mathematical. Not sure how much coding those will require compared to the math.

    Electrical Engineering and Aerospace engineering both seem really cool. I am not sure how much I will understand all the wiring stuff but I am sure I would be taught. I would like to go more into theory. Any opinions on these majors and which I could apply more mathematics to?

    As for stats, well probability theory seems cool. Not sure if I would like things to do with sampling and such.

    All help is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2014 #2
    There are limited oppurtunities for "thereotical" mathematics in general. Keep in mind that, if you are to pursue these engineering degrees, I'd assume that you'd want to get a job in those fields, but the tons of math you would have learned would be mostly useless in a practical setting.

    Electrical engineering can be a bit theoretical, though. It's the closest to raw physics than all of the other engineering majors. It also has good employment prospects.

    An aerospace engineering major may not be ideal because of the unpredictable market in aerospace. Additionally, aerospace is usually a subfield of mechanical engineering, and you can basically get any job that you could get with aerospace with that major.

    For theoretical work and research you will need to get a PhD.
  4. May 2, 2014 #3
    I understand my employment opportunities with a pure math degree will be extremely limited, this is why I would like to double major. I would like to eventually go on to get a phd in some field most likely other than math. I want to work on exciting projects though. I don't want to be managing a power plant or something. What sort of exciting top jobs are their for electrical engineers at the PHD level? Something in signal processing maybe? I am not really too sure about all of this, I just want to make sure I live comfortably after all is said and done.
  5. May 2, 2014 #4
    I'm not too well-versed in this area so take what I say with a grain of salt. The majority of PhD graduates in engineering are going to be in industrial or academia research positions, the latter being less abundant. Engineers with MS degrees actually earn more than Engineers with PhDs, so that is something to keep in mind. You probably won't be managing a power plant as a PhD in electrical engineering. Maybe so with nuclear engineering, but that's a much smaller field.
  6. May 2, 2014 #5


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    I am an EE and there is some work in that field that is very mathematical. Communications and information theory, controls, and signal processing come to mind. Many graduate students in those fields take a handful of classes from the math department (essentially the core of the undergrad math major). Some jobs even require them to use that level of analysis - I can hardly read some of the papers those engineers at my company write because my math isn't strong enough.

    By the way, most engineers and computer scientists I know spend at least some time programming, the main exception being managers.

  7. May 2, 2014 #6
    In my opinion these majors (along side maths), have the best employment:

    • Actuarial Science
    • Electrical Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Quantitative Finance
    • Statistics
    • Operations Research
    • Econometrics

    Edit: CS is not all about programming. There are many maths intensive parts of CS like machine learning. Machine learning is advancing quickly and the demand for experts in AI and machine learning is likely to be high in the near future by major companies like Google and Facebook.
    Last edited: May 2, 2014
  8. May 2, 2014 #7


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    I would add statistics, economics and operations research to the list mentioned above (assuming in the case of economics that you decide to pursue further graduate studies in that field).

    I would also add that CS is much more than programming; besides machine learning, there are very many areas within CS that are math-intensive. Some examples include scientific computation/numerical analysis, symbolic computation, computational graphics/imaging, and theoretical computer science (the mathematical study of computation and its limits -- this would include analysis of algorithms, computational complexity, algorithmic game theory, algorithmic information theory, cryptography, quantum computing, etc.)

    In general, math is a great degree to hone the analytical and quantitative skills that are often highly sought-after by employers if in addition you gain a comfortable level of skill in programming (not necessary to be an expert coder if you don't plan on working in software development, but at least a comfortable knowledge is important) and communication skills so that you can effectively be able to explain the results of your work to people who may not necessarily have the same level of mathematical sophistication as yourself.
  9. May 2, 2014 #8

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    I think you are suffering under two misconceptions. One is that the degree gets you the job. What you learn gets you the job - but these are two very different things. The other is that you have had enough math to get a good idea of how well you will perform in college. You haven't had calculus, much less a proof-based class, and so upper-division and graduate math will be very different from what you have experienced up to now. You might be better at it, you might be worse, there's really no way to tell.
  10. May 2, 2014 #9
    Well, I do infact have experience with some upper level mathematics. I do independent studies with a professor. Things like set theory, number theory and analysis come to mind. We also discuss topology, abstract algebra and other fields. In no way am I trying to come off cocky, I am still very new to all of it, but I do have a idea. And it is very interesting to my self.

    As for the rest of the answers, I appreciate them all very much! Currently CS and EE seem to be top choices for me. I really would hate to do all of those dreary programming courses and electronics classes. I definatley wouldnt mind doing some, but I feel like it is not dirrectly applicable to my interests.

    Would maybe doing a mathematics major with courses in statistics, high level computer science and signal processing be enough to have myself admitted to these graduate schools? I don't think I would mind much of the course work required for a EE major, because all of it would be interesting to me, but a lot of lower division Comp Scie classes seem so borring to me, while all the upper division required seem very intersting. So my dillema is, would a major in any of these subjects be neccisarry? Or could I just take a bunch of electives of interest only in the fields I would like to possibly futher study? ie. Economics, stats, CS and EE.
  11. May 2, 2014 #10
    It does seem like you probably have some potential in pure math, but at the PhD level, things are pretty unpredictable. Given that you have other genuine interests, I would be inclined to say you should study those. I don't think pure math is something you should inflict on yourself, unless you feel like you have to.

    One thing you didn't address is how you feel about teaching. If you feel good about teaching, pure math might be an okay option.

    In EE, you'd probably just have to take one electronics class. I believe that was the way it was in my EE program before I switched out of it. You might not mind digital electronics as much. At least, I didn't. I would tend to agree with you about the other electronics class I took.

    Programming can be awesome, though. Maybe you should give it more of a chance. To me, it's like a form of math, in a way. Not to mention it is a good way to make use of some math.

    I am programming some games these days, so that I can demo my work, and last night I was just hooked on it because it was just so cool what I could do with it. So far, I haven't done anything very math intensive, but once I have warmed up a bit, I want to throw in some more graphics-intensive stuff, so that I can bring in some nice geometry calculations and have objects that I am rotating and eventually throw in some physics and lots of cool stuff that uses some semi-advanced math. So, I'm considering something along these lines as one possible job, as a defected pure math guy. Just as with most other fields, there aren't too many opportunities to use a lot of topology or abstract algebra, but there is potentially some substantial math, especially if you get into physics simulations and that sort of thing:


    Of course, being a game programmer can be a bit of a bummer because it's a very competitive field, so that people are willing to work for less with more hours than in other programming jobs. But there are some other places besides games for this sort of thing. I'm not sure where I'll end up--I just know programming is a pretty good general purpose skill to go along with math, and programming games is a good way to learn it and have something to show, not to mention, it can be a lot of fun. It can be a good hands-on way to apply a little math (and hands-on stuff is often helpful to master it).
  12. May 2, 2014 #11
    I just look at the university I was intending to transfer to has us do 3 quarters of upper division Electronics classes, but I am sure I wont mind too much. The thing I really enjoyed about math though was the fact I could go to many different grad schools from it. Would a EE degree allow me to pursue things like economics or computational neuroscience afterwards? I want something that will prepare me for a wide range for grad schools.
  13. May 2, 2014 #12
    Thank you, fixed it :)

    At my university, statistics and OR are specializations in the maths major. The maths major has 4 specializations: pure, applied, stats and OR so I didn't list them.

    I am personally thinking about doing computer science + stats and either get a job once I graduate or go to grad school and do a master of financial engineering, master/PhD of CS (AI) or master of EE. We will see what happens in 3 years as I am changing my mind all the time.
  14. May 2, 2014 #13


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    I only just recently realized that computer science isn't just menial programming like you mentioned. Graph theory, discrete mathematics, combinatorics, algorithms, theory of computing... A lot of it is actually really proof-based. Even certain data structures have some pretty neat proofs. And then there's stuff like cryptography and machine learning. If I had seen the "magic" sooner I'm not totally sure I would have switched back to physics.

    Once you get to that point in computer science I bet you would find it pretty interesting.
  15. May 2, 2014 #14
    How far are you with a CS degree? Also, how are you finding the lower division CS course work? I am really not sure how exciting I would find coding and debugging all day which seems to be the main focus of the lower division course work. Many people are making it sound very mathematical though which is very exciting to myself! I would love to tie in topics like probability and maybe some other advanced topics as well. For the degree at my intended university, I will have to take lower division course work in
    Computer Organization
    Data Structures
    systems Design
    Intro to software engineering

    All of these sound rather boring, but then you get to the upper division course work of
    Design and Analysis of Algorithms
    Intro to AI
    Machine Learning/ Data mining
    Computational Geometry.

    All of these sound very exiting! Will it be much different than those lower division courses that seem so momentous?
  16. May 2, 2014 #15
    I know some python and C so I skipped all the boring classes and went straight to design and analysis of algorithms, which is very rigorous and interesting. Can you do that?

    Discrete maths can be very rigorous and proof based but that may depend on the university.
    Have a look at this discrete maths lecture series for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_9WjWENWV8&list=PLB4-_5f7lOiuVWKEdGVokI7sJR0h_beTE

    I think you shouldn't take electives in EE, finance, stats, economics, etc. but instead focus on 2-3 things, may be do maths + CS or maths + EE and take finance as electives to see if you like it.

    Edit: if you want to become a financial quantitative analyst, you don't need to do an undergrad major in finance or economics so doing maths and CS or maths and EE as main majors is better IMO.
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