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Computer Science vs. Applied Math?

  1. Oct 11, 2014 #1
    Hi, I'm currently a computer science student in my third year. I'm thinking about switching to applied math since I've ended up more interested in math, but I'm not sure whether this will limit my opportunities in the software industry.

    I've taken almost all of the computer science classes for the major and have a good deal of programming experience. Would I have any trouble getting hired by large companies / getting past HR because I have an applied math degree instead of a computer science degree?

    Also, if I decide to stay with the computer science major, how difficult would it be to get into grad school for applied math? I plan on taking most of the classes required for the applied math major, even if I continue with computer science.

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 11, 2014 #2
    What area of applied math are you specifically interested in? Computer science at the graduate level could still be what you are looking for. Like the material in your discrete math and theory of computation courses? Plenty of that in graduate school if you want. Like differential equations? Tons of Mathematical Modeling is done in most computer science graduate programs. I think if you are worried about employment then finish the CS degree while taking extra math courses and continue on to grad school if you wish.
  4. Oct 12, 2014 #3
    If you are almost done, why not finish?

    The inside scoop from someone I know who works at a top tech company (and interviews people, etc) is that people who screen resumes often look for a computer science degree from a department that they like. So, the word on the street is, yes, it will hurt your chances. Also, you might expect the nasty question of why you didn't finish the major to pop up in interviews.
  5. Oct 12, 2014 #4


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    My question to the OP is this: if you have an interest in math, why not take more math classes and double major in computer science and math/applied math? Is that not an option available to you? In that way, the option to pursue further graduate studies in either computer science or applied math is open to you, as well as not raising any potential issues with HR screening.

    That being said, onto homeomorphic's point, the word I hear is precisely the opposite of what he states -- the specific knowledge or experience in programming (particularly in specific languages/platforms) is more important than any specific degree (although the question of why you didn't finish a major could indeed come up). But this may depend more on specific companies than anything else.
  6. Oct 12, 2014 #5
    I agree that it's more important than the degree, but not having the degree will still make more people toss your resume. At the top tech companies, usually they care more about your problem-solving ability than knowing specific languages/platforms, so the best thing for those jobs is just to be ready to code on a whiteboard, otherwise the interviews can catch you off guard. The person I am referring to actually said that is the most important thing. Being able to get through a technical interview. She also said having some good projects can make up for a lack of a degree. So, if you wind up not finishing the degree, that's another option.
  7. Oct 16, 2014 #6


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    In many tech companies that I'm familiar with, the requirements usually state the following, in addition to specific requirements for knowledge of particular programming languages or software suites: "a degree in a quantitative discipline e.g. mathematics, applied mathematics, computer science, engineering". With such a description, someone whose resume has the words "applied mathematics" on it likely won't have their resumes tossed.

    I do agree that for software development positions, the ability to get through a technical interview as above is the most important thing, as it demonstrates the ability of the candidate to be able to work in that environment.
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