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Math Engineering vs. Actuary/Finance?

  1. Aug 4, 2016 #1
    Hello all,

    I just finished my junior year in high school and it's time for me to decide my major in college (I will be studying in the UK, and the system there is different - the major has to be declared beforehand and included in your essay, and I think it can't be changed).

    I have always been interested in mathematics (and I'm pretty good at it too), and so I want a career that has to do with maths. I also love astronomy, and am very interested in it, but a career in astronomy wouldn't be very rewarding in my opinion. Because of that, one of my main options came to be Aerospace Engineering. Mechanical engieering is also an option, but aerospace seems more interesting to me.

    My second option is Actuarial Science - lots of mathematics in there, probability etc. However, I have to take some hard exams to be certified.

    My third option is finance - also has to do with math, and from what I've been reading it seems like a major in finance opens up the doors to a lot of interesting careers.

    I think I would enjoy a finance career because it's dynamic and I interact with a lot of people. However, the essence of the job might not be as interesting as engineering. On the other hand, I think with an engineering major I would be able to easily transfer and go into finance, but my salary and position would be way lower than if I had graduated with a finance/actuarial science degree.

    People who have experience in Aerospace Engineering/Astronomy/Finance/Actuarial Sciece - please share.
    Any help is welcome, I feel pretty lost in between these three main options.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2016 #2
    You need to consider what you like about math, which aspects. It wasn't until about a year into my engineering degree that I started to really enjoy math. Unfortunately, the way math is used in engineering is rather.. Abusive? In other words, it's simply a tool that is applied. Often is the case in engineering (and other applied science fields for that matter) that math isn't really appreciated. So if you have an appreciation for math at its core, then maybe you won't enjoy engineering.

    And this might be totally fine with you (I get the impression that it is). If you're happy to just apply it, then engineering like fields could be good for you.

    I can't comment on the finance stuff because I don't really know. Although a lot of people I know that have done it say it's really boring xD.

    What I can say though, is that engineering, for the most part is about design. I was lured into studying engineering for the sort of technical things, and you'll get plenty of opportunities to be technical, but the end game is design. And the end end game is management, overseeing of projects etc.
  4. Aug 4, 2016 #3


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    I started my career in Finance. I'll simply say that the culture there is quite different than engineering and Actuarial science. When you're managing assets that go into the high millions to billions, stress is high. Hours tend to be long, and you tend to get a weird skew of what success is. With that said, I didn't particularly enjoy it, because while there some big firms that may employ high level math, the majority of what you tend to do is linear programming. A lot of VBA scripting and a lot of headaches. Also it's rather hard to get into working for a Big Firm if you are not from a school they recruit from. So keep that in mind.
  5. Aug 4, 2016 #4
    Well, you can get any one of the other degrees and still take the actuarial exams, so there's at least one way to hedge your bets.

    I disagree about it being easy to change from engineering to finance. It is doable, and easier than the other way around, but I still think it's harder than often made out to be.
  6. Aug 4, 2016 #5
    Why? It's just a change of learning/thinking style along with a few other things.
  7. Aug 5, 2016 #6


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    Depends on the finance position. In my interview I was asked what is the expected return of a stock on a blacked-sholes model? Switching to finance would still require you to learn specialized knowledge. If an engineer planned to switched to finance that person would still need to learn the fundamentals of finance to get an entry level job. To get a more interesting job, you'll need to learn more advance concepts and math.

    I think Locrian main point is, don't expect to go into finance simply because you have an engineering degree. You still need to put the effort into learning about finance.
  8. Aug 5, 2016 #7
    MarneMath makes good points. If given the chance between hiring a finance major with little domain knowledge and an engineer with no domain knowledge, who are they going to pick?

    With something like a PhD in physics, you can at least claim the applicant may have technical skills that even many mathematically advanced finance BS don't have. I do not agree you can say the same about engineers.
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