Masters in Eng/CS after a Math Bachelors

  • #1
insupliquitous
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I'm currently an undergrad finishing up a bachelors in pure math. I have no prereq's in CS or Engineering.
I'm looking at a couple of "bridge programs" (BU LEAP and Tufts CS postbacc) that will allow me to get a masters in Electrical/Computer Engineering and Computer Science, respectively.
My question is: are either of these common routes for people with math degrees?
Will I be at a disadvantage in engineering employment not having had the Bachelors (according to my state's PE licensure board, I can become a PE after 8 years with a math undergrad degree)? Does the same apply CS/software?
Further, has anyone heard about either BU LEAP or the Tufts CS postbac? Are either of these legit programs? In the case of Tufts, I would probably continue to the Tufts CS Masters. However, I am concerned about the ranking of the program (~75). Does that not matter for Masters degrees?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
jasonRF
Science Advisor
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I will try to answer some of your many questions - I am an electrical engineer so don't know as much about the CS world. But you need to provide some more information if you want useful advice.

First, what are your objectives?

You write that you have no prereq's in CS or Engineering - have you at least taken some physics? If so, how much? Do you have any programming experience? Can you take at least one or two CS classes before you graduate?


I'm currently an undergrad finishing up a bachelors in pure math. I have no prereq's in CS or Engineering.
I'm looking at a couple of "bridge programs" (BU LEAP and Tufts CS postbacc) that will allow me to get a masters in Electrical/Computer Engineering and Computer Science, respectively.
My question is: are either of these common routes for people with math degrees?
Not sure what you are asking. Clearly a tiny fraction of the 20,000+ students graduating with math degrees each year end up at BU LEAP or Tufts CS postbacc.

Will I be at a disadvantage in engineering employment not having had the Bachelors (according to my state's PE licensure board, I can become a PE after 8 years with a math undergrad degree)?
For some jobs there will be a disadvantage, but there are also plenty of jobs for which it is no disadvantage at all. I've worked as an electrical engineer for 20+ years and most of the engineers I work with are not PEs - it just isn't required for many electrical engineering jobs.

Does the same apply CS/software?
I am not in that field, but I doubt it. I know plenty of successful programmers that have no CS degree of any kind. Many have engineering degrees, and some "just" have a math degree - which is why I am wondering what your objectives are.

Further, has anyone heard about either BU LEAP or the Tufts CS postbac? Are either of these legit programs?
I have heard about BU LEAP before, and just glanced at the Tufts program. Yes, they are legit programs. Whether or not they are the best (or most affordable) way for you to meet your objectives may be an entirely different matter.

In the case of Tufts, I would probably continue to the Tufts CS Masters. However, I am concerned about the ranking of the program (~75). Does that not matter for Masters degrees?
What are your objectives? If it is to get a good programming job then it often doesn't matter.
 
  • #3
insupliquitous
4
1
Hi, thanks so much for the advice.

I have not taken any physics or CS. If I went into either of these programs, it would be to prepare for a career either in software development (for the CS program) or electrical engineering (for the BU program). Hopefully in the case of software development I could try to get a managerial/more theoretical role which is why I'm considering the masters rather than just trying to get a job with the math degree.

I should have been clearer in my question. Basically, I'm wondering whether it's common for people with math degrees to go get masters degrees in engineering or in computer science (not necessarily at the programs I've named). I tend to think it's common to go into comp. sci. masters programs after math but maybe not as common (though not unheard of) to go into engineering programs after math, and I was just wondering if anyone would be able to corroborate my thinking.

That's good to know about the PE situation, and the legitimacy of the programs. Thanks!
 
  • #4
jasonRF
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Yes, people do go from math undergrad and do graduate work in other fields. I don't know any statistics of how many, but it is common enough. My wife did exactly that, but along with her math degree she had most of a physics major wrapped up, including a couple of very practical electronics classes. She started in a physics graduate program doing experimental work then migrated to electrical engineering, almost by accident.

The main challenge is that, just like math, CS and engineering disciplines build on each other. The most interesting and useful courses sometimes have pre-requisites that can stretch back 3 or 4 or more semesters (if you haven't taken calculus 1, how many semesters would it take before you could take a functional analysis or differential geometry course?). If you can get even one semester worth of these classes before you graduate then when you go for further study you may be a full semester ahead because you can start at the next courses in the sequences. For CS this may be intro CS and discrete math if you haven't already taken it; for engineering it may be intro physics and perhaps differential equations or numerical analysis if you haven't taken them.

How useful the bridge programs are certainly depends on what fields you go into and what your background is. If you want to be in photonics, then you need to start with a year of intro physics so you can take electronics and upper division electromagnetics and before you know it you are two years into a program and have only taken the prereqs for the courses in the topic of interest. If you are more interested in computer engineering, then it might a be faster road since digital logic design by itself may immediately lead to useful courses in microcontrollers, etc.

For CS, it is common for at least the first two semesters of computer science courses to be prerequisites for pretty much all subsequence courses. So if you are thinking CS and cannot take any before you graduate, it might make sense to get a job that uses your current skills, and after you are settled in take a sequence of two or three CS courses at a local community college (or local state university or any convenient and affordable place) to see if you even like programming and to get the first year or more of CS courses out of the way. Then if you decide to do a "bridge" program you will be able to get into the more advanced and useful stuff and get more for your money. You may also want to see if career placement from the more expensive programs justifies how much more expensive they are than less expensive options. The schools you list are in or near Boston so I will assume you are in the area - UMass Boston is certainly cheaper than Tufts for CS. Is it as good? I have no idea as I am not familiar with their programs or folks that went there - but if it were my money I would think it is certainly worth investigating. If you are closer to Lowell then I would recommend looking at UMass Lowell since it has very solid engineering and CS programs; in my opinion it would hard to go wrong there.

Just my 2 cents.

jason
 

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