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Deciding Between Second Major to go with Maths

  1. Maths Extended + Statistics

    1 vote(s)
  2. Maths + Computer Science

    1 vote(s)
  3. Maths + Physics

    2 vote(s)
  1. Feb 20, 2014 #1
    So I'm entering the second year of my undergrad degree (in Aus) and am majoring in maths. I have enough space to add a second major to my degree - however I've been torn between three options I think I'd enjoy and benefit from.

    First is a physics major - I really love physics, however the only career path I can see coming from physics (that can't already come from maths) would be research and I don't think I could stay in research long term. That being said I do feel I'd be missing out on some really cool subjects, but ultimately this major would be primarily for my own interest in the end. On top of that I can find prac work in physics frustrating and the way the physics classes I've taken so far hasn't always suited me.

    Second option is computer science - I've had a fairly limited experience with computer science in an academic setting (have had a subject where some basic coding etc.. was taught) but I have enjoyed the aspects of my maths courses involving algorithm efficiency, coding and what not. I've also had some experience playing around with some high level codes before, though I'm not expert. My favourite parts of maths I've studied so far have been the discrete/abstract courses and I've been told in higher level computer science I can play around with such mathematical knowledge which appeals to me. Furthermore I can think of a lot of jobs I'd likely enjoy and I imagine having skills/the qualification from computer science would be desirable in a number of workplaces. Overall I'd say that computer science is a practical and logical option for me, however due to my in experience in the field on an academic level, I'm not entirely sure how well it'd suit me.

    A problem with both of these major choices is it limits the number of maths courses I can do - I will still be able to do the core courses (mainly analysis) as well as the abstract algebra, design and other analyses course I'd enjoy - however I would miss out on a few specific subjects I imagine could be useful such as partial differential equations and so forth. There is potential to switch my plan around next year, but I would have more limited maths options for my undergraduate (thought in honours I can catch up on some things apparently).

    My third major choice (a middle ground option in my mind) is statistics - it allows me to choose more maths subjects (getting an extended maths major as well as the statistics major, unlike the other two options) and in science I've done in the past I've found data analysis quite interesting and kind of fun. That being said I've heard that whilst you can work in a lot of industries with statistics - you'll always end up working with the data - something which I think could frustrate me down the track. Ultimately I think I'd prefer the other two options over stats, but it is a good option that I still like and allows me to develop my mathematical abilities further.

    So sorry for the long spiel but I have a few questions:

    1) Based on this information what sounds like the best idea?
    2) Which of these qualifications (half the reason of picking up the second major is to have something to make employers interested in me eventually after all) tend to be the most desirable in a maths graduate? (Note: I'm not sure which level of qualification I'll aim to complete - I suspect at least honours or masters, haven't decided on PhD yet).
    3) Which qualification is hardest to master in a non-academic setting? (This doesn't really include physics I guess, mainly asking about stat and comp sci).
    4) Which of these areas would my stated areas of interest in maths be most useful/involved with?

    I've probably missed some points, but I think I've written enough. :p Thank you for any advice you can give me! :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2014 #2
    I vote computer science.

    My reasoning is this. If you can't decide between physics and computer science, then presumably, they are sort of on the same level. It's obvious which one is a better career choice. Physics is only a good choice for someone who can't see themselves doing anything else because for most people it's a dead-end in terms of a career. If you have an option that you'd like equally well, it doesn't make sense to stunt your career by doing physics.

    I suspect maybe you actually do like physics more and the career path is what is bring CS up to par with it, though. There is something very compelling about delving into the basic laws of nature and how things work, so I can understand that. There's a lot of deep stuff in computer science, too, though, like artificial intelligence, so I think it's a broad enough field that you'll find something.

    If you have more money/time/career change skills, that gives you more power to explore the options more before committing to one. Depends on your priorities in life.
  4. Feb 20, 2014 #3


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    Gold Member

    It depends on whether you want a comprehensive math degree or you want to use the math portion of your degree to supplement another field.

    If getting a comprehensive mathematics degree is important to you, then it sounds like the Statistics option would be better, if by "getting an extended maths major as well as the statistics major" you mean that you will not have to sacrifice any of the aforementioned math classes like partial differential equations that you stated you wanted to take.

    If you have enough time you might think about throwing a computer science minor in there.
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