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Hi guys, I am sure you receive hundreds of posts like this all the

  1. Feb 5, 2013 #1


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    Hi guys, I am sure you receive hundreds of posts like this all the time so please be patient :). I need to apply for university and I'm very lost. Originally I was thinking of doing Math and Physics but then my brother (an E. Eng.) confused me. He says that since Eng. is so similar to Math & Physics, I should just do Eng. because there are more job opportunities. I really like math (doing Cal III at college now) , more than bio or physics and the applied math major looks very interesting (and the related careers such as cryptanalysis).

    So I'm back at square one. Here are my interests:

    1. Math (I've always liked and done very well in it. However, I'm not interested in spending the rest of my life doing pure math research or teaching)
    2. Physics (not as much as math but its alright)
    3. Neuroscience (computational neuroscience seems VERY interesting. don't know about the career prospects though. maybe math & neuro double major?)
    4. Engineering (probably electrical. R&D jobs might be interesting) But apparently the career opportunities are really good compared to the choices above.)

    By interest: Math>Neuro>Eng=Physics

    I'd like to study something that will allow me to do research (I will probably do at least a masters, regardless of what I choose) in an interesting applied field (either physical or bio related). Most importantly, my interests change very often. So I'd like to study something that, at least for the first couple years after graduation, will allow me to work in many different fields. From what I've read online, applied math seems to be a very versatile degree. Finally, a degree that won't make finding a decent paying job too hard.

    Sorry for all the info. :) Does anyone have some sort of suggestion as to what major(s) I should choose? Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2013 #2
    Re: Math/Physics/Neuro/Eng

    I don't know about salaries right now, or how that will change in roughly 5-10 years, when you have a PhD, but I do know that a math degree *can* be versatile.


    Check this out. You can apply to the program in computational biology through the math department. There is also a program in probability. Atmosphere and Ocean Science. And even materials science. All from the perspective of applied math.


    This guy's research looks pretty awesome though. I don't have the necessary background to understand it, but just reading about it sounds cool.


    Engineering degrees are quite versatile as well. You could major in engineering, and take extra math courses (which shouldn't be a problem because you're already 3 classes ahead), and then apply to applied math PhD programs. From what I gather, the entry requirements do not usually specify a bachelor's in math. And the good thing is if you change your mind by the time you graduate, you would have an easier time finding employment than if you had graduated with a degree in math, physics, or neuroscience.

    At least, the path to a job would be much more linear. Engineering grads get hired for engineering jobs. Simple.
  4. Feb 5, 2013 #3
    Re: Math/Physics/Neuro/Eng

    If math is what interests you most, then do math. You won't have trouble finding a job. There are literally hundreds of branches and all are very exciting (knot theory etc.) I am doing an applied math major and I would say that if that is what you find interesting, take linear algebra and Diff. Eq. next semester if you haven't already, and then try out Partial Differential Eq's. PDE's are really interesting and applicable to real world problems.

    Or if you are more into the discrete math/ CS/ cryptographjy stuff go for it (I always hated that stuff).
  5. Feb 6, 2013 #4


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    Re: Math/Physics/Neuro/Eng

    Yes, probably an graduate with an engineering major and a minor in math would be more employable than one with a math major. I guess I just have to decide whether I want to study neuroscience or engineering with math.

    I took Linear Algebra last year, however it was a very shortened version. We didn't even cover egenvalues/eigenvectors. Learned of bit about them on my own though. I haven't done diff. equations though. I enjoy studing proofs in class and doing challenging questions. I've also been doing math competitions since I was in grade 6. I am not the best but I do fairly well above average. The thing that frightens me with majoring in math is finding a job afterwards. I mean why would an employer hire a mathematician when instead they could hire a physicist, engineer, ... or some other graduate from a field directly linked to their research areas.

    Thanks for the advice Mépris and Hercuflea. I am always to open to more suggestions.
  6. Feb 6, 2013 #5
    Re: Math/Physics/Neuro/Eng

    I don't think I'm fit to give out any advice. It's just some things I know, or have heard, and I put it here.

    As Hercuflea, math majors do get hired. One question I asked myself is: "If not a math major, then what kind of major would be required for a business-type roles?" And as it turns out, no specific major is required.

    It's just that the typical math major wasn't writing jokes for the school paper, playing lacrosse, volunteering to teach inner city kids twice a week, and didn't intern as a business analyst over the summer.

    Instead, he probably pulled straight As in his math classes, didn't care too much about his general ed requirements, took a couple of grad courses, and did research over the summer.

    Who sounds more employable for a "regular" job?

    If you wanna get a more "technical" job, then everything changes. But if that's what you want, it's just so much more straightforward to major in engineering or CS. Look up ParticleGrl's posts in the career guidance section. Lots of useful stuff there. And if you just search for "physics" in career guidance, you'll find lots of threads popping up with people finding it difficult to find work.

    What I did here was just echo what everybody else said, as well as add in a few of my own thoughts. They could be wrong, but they sound pretty reasonable, and not far-fetched at all.
  7. Feb 8, 2013 #6


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    After considering my options, I realize that I don't like engineering or physics enough to major in one or the other. I want to study something neuroscience related or will prepare me for graduate studies in this field. Since I like math a lot, I'd really like to tie it in somehow. Turns out that the university I'm applying for (McGill) does not allow you to do a double major in Neuro & Math. However, they do offer a couple interesting joint programs and some major/minor combinations. Which one of these would you suggest? (Please refer to the provided links. It contains the list of classes one can take) Thanks.

    Major Biology and Mathematics
    Within this stream, one may choose the neurosciences stream.


    Major Physiology and Mathematics
    Don't think there is any "stream" that one can choose.


    Honours Applied Mathematics + Minor in Neuroscience
    Not so sure if this is will allow me to do graduate studies in Neuroscience but it will give me a much broader foundation in Math. They also have some classes that look very interesting.
    If graduate studies in neuroscience is possible with this combo, I'd personally be inclined toward this option.

    Applied Math

    Neuroscience Minor


    Neuroscience Major + Math Minor is NOT an option because I'm missing a biology prerequisite for the former.

    To Mods:
    For some reaon the title of this thread is not what I had typed in originally "Math/Physics/Neuro/Eng". Would someone be kind enough to please change this? Thanks.
  8. Feb 9, 2013 #7
    Many (most?) Canadian universities will allow you to change your major part way through your degree. I don't think you need to plan out your exact path before applying, just declare something close to what you think you want. Neuroscience and math sounds pretty cool, but you might develop new interests along the way.

    Also, if you are missing a prereq, it should be possible to fill the gap in your first year.
  9. Feb 10, 2013 #8
    My advice would be not to major in "just" an academic subject if you don't want to go to graduate school in that area. Since you say that you aren't interested in pure math research, I'm guessing you probably want a job after you graduate, or at most after a masters. In that case, I'd go for something engineering related. Then depending on your school and how easy it is to do something like that over there, you could maybe double major in math and engineering. A common combination at my school is mathematics and computer science double major. From what I can tell, those dudes make a lot of money straight out of college. A physics BA (at my school that means a much easier version of a physics BS) and an engineering double major is also something pretty common. Math and economics is another one that quite a lot of people seem to be doing.
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