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Does the space industry hire mathematicians?

  1. Apr 8, 2015 #1
    Hi all,

    I'm currently an applied mathematics student in my third year, and I plan to attend graduate school for pure or applied math.

    Physics and engineering deeply interest me, so I'm naturally drawn to the aerospace industry. Dazzling leaders like NASA and SpaceX are truly inspiring, and it would be amazing to work with them.

    So here's my question: What are the odds that a mathematician could get a job in the space industry? Does the space industry even hire mathematicians?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2015 #2
    I guess they would primarily be looking for engineers, but applied math is of course highly relevant for precision engineering.
    I don't think it's likely though that you will see a company such as Space X going for a big recruitment drive for mathematicians.
  4. Apr 9, 2015 #3


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    To the OP:

    The odds of a mathematician getting a job in the space industry would be highly dependent on what skills the said mathematician would bring to the industry (the same as in any other industry). There are (applied) math majors with backgrounds in scientific computing/numerical analysis or in control theory who I can certainly imagine would find open positions within the space industry. It's also worth pointing out that depending on the specific program and courses taken, it is not at all unusual for an applied math major to pursue graduate studies in physics or in engineering (in the case of engineering, most typically in electrical or mechanical).

    Since you had stated that you are a 3rd year applied math student, could you perhaps tell us about your current skills or courses taken? Do you have a solid programming background? Have you taken courses in physics and/or engineering (since you stated that you were interested in these areas)? Have you pursued any internships? It would be helpful to know more about your background.
  5. Apr 9, 2015 #4
    I'd love to offer some more information.

    Of course, I'll get all the basic math courses from my degree: Calc I, II, III, and DiffEq. I also have Abstract Algebra, Real Analysis, and Proof/Calc based Prob & Stats. On the science side of things, I will have two semesters of Gen. Chemistry and two semesters of Calc. based Physics. I have a minor in Computer Science (trying to get a double major), so I will have substantial exposure to programming. The programming classes I will have taken include two semesters of Intro to Computer Science (C# and C++), Organization of Programming Languages, Algorithms in C++, and Computational Physics (math and programming heavy).

    In grad school I definitely want to study one of the things you mentioned. I may opt for scientific computing, numerical analyses, or control theory since my applied math degree would allow me to segue more smoothly. But if a master's / PhD in Physics or EE is feasible with an applied Math background, I would seriously consider it.
  6. Apr 11, 2015 #5
    Of course the space industry hires mathematicians. You won't see many job titles or job postings that say "mathematician," but look at the skills being asked for. Practical applications like your applied math degree rather than theoretical development is probably the better option. As others have stated, tie that in with programming skills and you're golden. Sell your skills, not your degree.

    A graduate degree in math is likely overkill but probably wouldn't hurt. A grad degree in engineering or science is ore useful. You can use that time to tailor your skills and make connections.

    Best of luck to you!
  7. Apr 18, 2015 #6
    I did a mathematics B.S. and now I am finishing up a master's in physics. Next, I'm going back into math to do a PhD...(in numerical analysis and differential equations from physics!)
  8. Apr 19, 2015 #7
    Nice! Did you take one of the GRE subject tests for admission? If so, was it the physics or mathematics subject test? I would love to consider getting a master's in physics, but I'm not sure how well I would do without all the normal classes.
  9. Apr 19, 2015 #8
    Actually, I slipped through a bit of a loophole on that one. I did my masters in the UK which doesn't require GREs, and I submitted an application for a PhD in the US without taking any subject GRE test which was a real longshot. I got extremely lucky and was accepted to the program of my choice, but I wouldn't recommend this method. If you want to do a master's in physics you'll probably need to take the physics GRE. I wouldn't recommend doing grad school in physics without taking a classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and E&M class first. It's doable without some of them, but it will be a lot more difficult and more difficult to score well on the exam.
  10. Apr 19, 2015 #9
    This. I don't know how many times I've said it, but for Physics grad school you ABSOLUTELY have to be proficient in Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism, and Quantum Mechanics. Considering you have a math background you don't need to worry about math, but those 3 subjects are completely essential to any sort of high level physics.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
  11. May 1, 2015 #10
    Someone needs to tell the engineers what to do/think.

    *joking of course* sort of.
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