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Math Intent on getting pure math PHD, start plan B now?

  1. Nov 15, 2011 #1
    Basically what I mean by my title is that I am intent on getting a PHD in pure math because I love the subject, and am still young enough to do it without throwing the rest of my life into disarray. But beyond that I need to have a plan. Plan A is clearly to go on to do several post-docs followed by a tenure track position as a research mathematician. However, it has been made abundantly clear to me that the prospects in academia are quite bleak, hence I need a plan B.

    The two career options I hear over and over again for math phd's are software engineer or financial mathematician. Of these two I think I would prefer being a financial mathematician, as, in contrast to software engineering, it seems to intersect non-trivially with some advanced topics in math, specifically measure-theoretic probability and real/fourier analysis ( please correct me if I am misinformed in regard to this assumption ). Plus I find economics and finance interesting subjects in their own right, although of course not hardly as interesting as I find pure mathematics.

    My question is: should I start preparing now? I will probably be applying to PHD programs either next fall or the fall after that, depending on how many graduate courses I want to take before I apply, so should I just buckle down on the pure math for now and worry about preparing for plan B maybe as I'm finishing up my PHD? Or, should I begin studying finance and applied math, and learning to program, now?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2011 #2


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    It never hurts to prepare early. The programming is a good idea to learn
  4. Nov 16, 2011 #3
    Most people working in mathematical finance have to have both computer skills and mathematical skills. Measure-theoretic probability and fourier analysis are heavily used in finance, but in most situations you are applying them to input data, which means that there are non-trivial software engineering issues.

    Also the really, really valuable skills require deep knowledge of both math and software engineering. It's the difference between being able to program in Mathematica and/or Maple and being able to program Mathematica and/or Maple from scratch.

    It won't hurt to start learning to program now.

    Also, getting a job in industry is plan A. Getting a tenure-track position is if you win the lottery and that's plan B.
  5. Nov 16, 2011 #4
    lol, fair enough, so what you're saying is that the finance can probably wait as what is really important is that I'm a programming god by the time I start interviewing for positions?
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