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Math Is there any truth with regards to this? (Stats BS over Maths BS)

  1. Jun 28, 2011 #1
    I've had a fairly long winded conversation with a friend recently and he seems to think that doing a Stats BS as opposed to a Maths BS would "open up a lot more doors", as far as direct employment after the bachelor's degree is concerned. He insisted that doing mathematics would limit me to a purely academic path and what not.

    In any case, I find that it's a bit of rubbish. Granted, a Stats BS would be much more specialised and I can understand how the skills gained in a Stats degree can be relevant but I just don't see how a Maths degree can fail at doing the same! Generally, at the undergrad level, isn't it a combination of pure and applied maths that is studied? In most programs I find (not US-based, ergo, less flexibility), the courses tend to be composed of lots of Analysis and Algebra with the remaining courses being in more "applied" fields, like Physics, Computer Science and Stats/Probability.

    Then he also said that a Physics BS would be a better option than a Maths BS. FFFUU.

    Thoughts on this?

    Note: I haven't done any Stats yet, therefore, I don't want to commit to anything yet. My main choice of BS, as of right now, is a flip between Maths and Physics.


    Another important thing that I've been wondering. How does one find himself an internship in banks and what not while still doing his course? Just apply and see what comes out of it? It appears to me that this and networking are key in landing a job.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2011 #2


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    Hello Thy Apathy.

    I'm in the final stages of an undergraduate math bachelor and I'm choosing both a major in stats and another major in other math just so you know where I am coming from.

    With regard to your comment on specialization, the university I go to for the stats major offers a standard year long introductory course in the 2nd year (you need a full calculus sequence Calc I and Calc II sa prerequisities) and a host of courses in the 3rd year (GLMs, sample surveys and experimental design, statistical inference, and markov + financial probability, plus special topics courses one in stats, one in probability).

    There are masters courses in my country that are Masters in Stats, Actuarial Studies, Biostatistics, and Financial Mathematics. Some of these courses in these masters degrees are stats courses that you would do in an undergrad (typically 3rd year), but a lot of these requires a full major in stats with prerequisite 3rd year subjects.

    So to answer about specialization, in my case that is not true. Like other mathematical disciplines, a lot of the specialization comes in postgraduate work, or on the job.

    As for a "Math BS" being lesser than a "Stats BS", I don't think its cut and dried like your friend said. The one thing with stats is that because of the nature of availability of data whether it comes from scientific experiments, purchase data from a major corporation, search history from google users, or census information for a country, it needs to be analyzed. This alone can give you insight to why there is a need for statisticians and why they are in demand: there's a tonne of data out there from every sector (government, private sector, academia), but making sense of it requires a large amount of training.

    Again this is from my experience and my degree program. When you do a math degree here you choose to major either in statistics, applied/pure, or some kind of double degree (comp sci/math, physics/math, law/math, etc) or a double major in stats and pure/applied (which is what I'm doing). The math degree requires you at minimum to do Calc I, II, III, IV, Group Theory, a Complex Calculus Course, Linear Algebra, and then specific units that contribute to a particular major. We also have to do one programming unit.

    Stats majors have to understand enough pure maths to know what they are doing. You have to understand Calculus III not only for things like evaluating non-trivial probability calculations (like say P(X < Y < Z)) and linear algebra (To do decent things with markovian type problems like deriving models from first principles and understanding them) and optimization (minimum variance design for surveys). Sure a lot of stats is about "mean and variance", but the stats makes use of a lot of different areas of math, and any competent statistician has to be skilled enough to know what all of it means in the context of their field.

    With regards to maths other than stats leading purely to an academic path, I think if you look hard enough you can find counterexamples to everything and this is no exception. Everyone has to specialize at some point, but if you have good communication skills to complement technical ability, I see no barrier for you to work in the government, or the private sector. Just remember to keep your communication skills sharp.

    Also when I say communication skills, I'm referring to those skills of communicating with people that are not academics. If you can take a highly complex set of results and concepts and communicate in a way that non-technical people can understand that is both minimal (short, don't blabber on) and concise (not too short that it misses detail), you'll have a good chance at that kind of work.

    I don't know if I've answer your questions, but I hope that at the very least, I've given you something to think about.
  4. Jun 30, 2011 #3
    I really appreciate your input. Thanks man. Where are you studying, if that's not too much to ask? Your university seems fairly flexible.

    Well yeah, specialisation really starts at the postgrad level - that's what I thought too! But yeah, that gave me a bit of scare. "What if I do this and hit a dead end, WITH DEBT to boot?"

    In any case, thanks.
  5. Jun 30, 2011 #4


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    I'm studying in Australia.

    In Australia we have whats called Commonwealth Sponsored Places (CSP). The way it works is that the government pays for education, but some of it is payed by you. When your income goes above a certain level, you pay part of that income to the government through your tax.

    The debts are adjusted for inflation, but there is no interest per se on the loan.

    You can only rack up so much debt however, so if you screw around too much you get kicked out.

    I know there are other countries where university is free, but personally I'm glad I don't live somewhere like the United States where the cost of education is absolutely ridiculous.
  6. Jun 30, 2011 #5
    If you go for a Ph.D. in the US, you get most loans deferred, and you will incur no new debt. Financially, Ph.D.'s are a great deal.
  7. Jun 30, 2011 #6
    Even for foreigners? It does sound like a godly deal.

    I was, however, talking about getting indebted for UNDERGRAD study. I never thought much about it. Because everybody went abroad, I took for granted I would as well. Then I understood undergrad programs are standard pretty much anywhere and it only came down to other things, that on the long run, are more important. (say, whether you like the place or research opportunities)

    I don't think it's worth spending 70k (in pound sterling) on http://workspace.imperial.ac.uk/registry/Public/Student%20Financial%20Support/Tuition%20Fees%202011-2012%20-%20UG.pdf" [Broken] alone. Not to mention that there's a chance I will not like the place, teaching will be bad and I will end up disgusted with the course. Perhaps I'm looking at it from too much of a negative perspective but when there's that much money involved, I don't think there's a "wrong way" to look at things. If I were to go to India, I would be spending approximately 1/28th of that amount, including living expenses. And I happen to have found just the right place. The next step here, is gaining entry there.

    Ah, Australia. It makes sense.

    According to Wiki, an Australian or Kiwi can finish the course without any debt at all. From what I understand, the student contribution is adjusted according to grades obtained. How far does this hold true?

    While I do agree that tuition fees in the US are ridiculous, I don't think I'm in a right position to comment any more on that!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  8. Jun 30, 2011 #7
    Most students could probably finish without any debt. The maximum contribution is approximately $9000 a year, which could be paid off if you have a part time job. NZ students have to pay upfront however they do get the reduced rate.

    Not true at all. The loan is interest free, however it is adjusted for inflation every year.
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