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Interested in my future as a mathematician

  1. Aug 2, 2014 #1
    I am currently working on my B.S. in Applied Mathematics at AMU; and then plan on doing a M.S. in Computational Mathematics at WKU.

    How is the job market for Mathematicians and can I get a job in the mathematical modeling sector with just a M.S. or do I need to pursue a PH.D?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

  4. Aug 3, 2014 #3
    Not very useful because they don't specify what they mean by mathematician.

    The job market for mathematicians isn't that great, but computational stuff might be ok. I have a PhD in topology, and it's pretty useless for getting jobs. Actually, the issue here isn't so much that I can't get a job. I probably could if I was any good at getting jobs. The bigger issue is that the jobs all have nothing to do with what I studied. Most of the former grad students I know who got jobs in industry are just doing straight software development type stuff, with not a whole lot of math involved. I know several who just have completely standard programmer jobs, and some who do some machine learning or data science.

    Computational math might be different, though--I don't know. And not only that, but I believe that someone who spends graduate school with an eye towards getting a job in industry the whole time and learning the appropriate skills, beyond just the name of the degree, will have a much better chance of finding something.

    The exercise I recommend is to do a mock job search to see what's out there. It's hard to find very clear statistics about it because the stats don't really tell you the full story. For example, the 2012 AMS statistics say that close to 1/3 of math PhDs got jobs in industry, but I'm not sure if there is data on what they studied specifically, and whether or not they are doing something totally different from what they studied in grad school. I think for most math PhDs, it really is a career CHANGE when you move to industry.

    If you search for math jobs on Indeed or something (not that Indeed is necessarily a fair sample, but still), you get a lot of actuarial jobs (which generally turns out to be only a math-flavored job, rather than a math job, they'll think you're overqualified if you have a PhD, and if that weren't enough, the entry-level market is totally saturated, so it's really hard to get your foot in the door), data science, and some quantitative finance stuff. You'll come across some engineering jobs, too, but usually, when you look at the detailed requirements, it tends to become clear that although they will accept a math degree in theory, they are really looking for more of an engineer. So, that's why I'm sort of scornful towards my degree right now and feel like I wasted my time, even if I do get a job, even if it's high-paying and so on. But, in theory, if you get internships and stuff, you might get the kind of contacts and experience you need to qualify for a more suitable industry job.
  5. Aug 3, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

  6. Aug 3, 2014 #5
    I do view programming as a kind of math, and that's kind of old news (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curry–Howard_correspondence), but the problem is that it's a kind of math that you ought to just get a BS in computer science for, at least for the standard jobs or maybe MS in computer science with lots of math classes for the more mathematical ones. Masters/PhD in math is suitable for very few jobs. A lot of get people degrees in English and get jobs, so you can always find something if you have some kind of degree plus outstanding job-searching ability. The trouble is that it probably won't have much to do with what you studied. Studying math to be a programmer makes about as much sense writing a dissertation in non-commutative ring theory if you want to be a complex analyst. Maybe there's some connection, but you're going to have a lot of catching up to do if you devote your time to something that's tangentially relevant (and for the math/programming connection, as far as grad school goes, tangentially relevant is being generous, unless your research specifically involves programming).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Aug 3, 2014 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    what I was suggesting was to get interested in doing proofs by computer as math is trending that way ie learn more about coq and how its used to do proof checking.
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