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Math How good are job prospects for math majors?

  1. Mar 27, 2012 #1
    Hi. I'm planning on doing a double major with psychology and mathematics.

    My parents are opposed to this, and they think that I should major in psychology and do premed. They are doctors and all their doctor friends are employed and having a good life in general. The only people that they know with degrees in math is this math tutor I had and 2-3 other people who are unemployed. With a degree in math, i'm not sure what I want to do, because there are so many options. They think that if I don't have a clear career path, then I should go for premed. It's easy for premed students to say what their career path is--be a doctor! However, not everything is clear-cut and it's rather hard to pick specifically what job you'd like to do if you are not pre-med, engineering, or even pre-law.

    I do admit that after getting a MD, my chances of unemployment is very low. However, I don't think I would enjoy the job and I am terrible at biology and chemistry.

    How is job prospects for people with degrees in mathematics? If you majored in math and could go back in time, would you major in math again?
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 27, 2012 #2
    You might want to show this to your parents. It just might change their minds. (Although I'm a bit skeptical of their 'job satisfaction' table; other sites I found put math majors in 5th place. Still, that's not bad, either.)

    As for job prospects, all I can say is that unemployment among mathematicians is - as far as I'm aware - very low. Your parents' view of math majors might be a little skewed because the people who studies math they know just happen to be in that category. There are dozens of different jobs to choose from, and even more if you learn a little bit of programming along the way.

    And seriously, if you think you wouldn't enjoy a job in medicine, that should be enough for your parents. Telling you child to do premed when he/she a. doesn't like it, and b. wants to major in something equally valuable is a stupid thing to do, in my humble opinion.
  4. Mar 27, 2012 #3
    It depends.

    It depends on what you compare them to or what baseline you use. Do you mean what are the chances of getting a job or getting a job that pays well? It depends on whether you care if they’re employed in a job that is related to their degree or not and it depends on which degree you mean (BS? Masters? PhD?). It depends on whether you include things like statistics, biostats etc. in the same category as “Math” or not.

    You’ll likely spend a lot less time in school getting a math degree (short of a PhD at least) than you will becoming a doctor, so it depends on the time value of money. It depends on the length of education and it depends on the discount rate you use to calculate the NPV of both careers. It depends on mortality, morbidity and disability, which will also depend on working environment. What risk premium do you include to cover handling people with MRSA, anyways? You’re including that in your analysis, right?

    It depends on which type of work you enjoy more, and how flexible you want your career to be. Medical professionals are needed in many more places than people with math skills, which may or may not mean anything to you.

    It depends on what happens in the future. Will the massive growth in health care continue, or is it a bubble waiting to pop? Will your parent’s doctor friends stay on the gravy train as the government becomes increasingly involved? Will our society be able to fund the medical benefits we’ve promised those now retiring?

    So which is a better career option, math or medicine? I don’t have a clue, and neither does anyone else. You’re probably the only person who can answer the question, and you won’t have enough information to do so until it’s too late.

    I will, however, jump out on a limb and say that psychology degrees are a freaking joke and that you’ll be sorry you spent the time getting one.
  5. Mar 28, 2012 #4
    I like the link from Hobin. I'd like to ask then why do so many of us know so many unemployed mathematicians and artists? It may be that many mathematicians grow a bit lazy in their profession, in which case that is the market I want to compete in!

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