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Masters in math: Job options

  1. Mar 4, 2012 #1
    Right now I'm in my junior year working on an accounting degree, but I'm finding this clearly isn't my passion. I'll still finish for the degree because I believe it has value, but I plan to also minor in math and then apply to a masters in math program.

    I've had a lot of questions about the discipline however; one of which is whether applied math has any more value than pure math in the job market? It makes sense for applied math to have more value, but a friend from school who is in a math program said to go for pure math, because it teaches you the fundamental skills that can translate to other things easily.

    Also, is the value in a masters in math degree truly worth the costs (time, money, effort) even if I do enjoy the discipline? My thinking from reading some posts here is that if you tailor your degree to a specialty or niche, you can have good prospects, but mainly from that niche. Is that true? My intent of going for a masters is to have a wider range of opportunities so if that were the case I might not. I may have more questions but that's it for now, thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2012 #2
    From what I have seen applied mathematics majors make significantly more then pure math majors. This is purely because much of pure math yet to has applicable uses.

    You might want to check out a few links:

    That being said, a certain level of pure math is required to understand all of which is in applied mathematics, so you will likely be learning pure math also anyways.
  4. Mar 4, 2012 #3
    Thanks. I've actually run across all those links before but I guess they still don't tell me what I want to know. Maybe I'm looking for personal experiences from people who have been in a math program and are now looking for employment, or know others in that situation.
  5. Mar 4, 2012 #4
    Out of my friends who did some sort of applied math, the ones who are employed and doing well are in more of the business side of applied math: actuarial, finance, systems optimization, etc...

    My friends with graduate degrees in applied math who are unemployed or underemployed are the ones who did stuff like biological mathematics, engineering math (specialized in ODEs, PDEs, or numerical analysis). They have all found it hard to get jobs because they either don't have enough "job experience", they lack engineering certs, or they aren't quite as good at programming as pure programmers or they're "over qualified" whatever that means. It probably doesn't help their case that (out of an already small sample ... cuz I don't have THAT many friends who did applied math) two of them are not willing to relocate from the current city they are in due to family / personal reasons.

    Don't take this the wrong way, because I know very little about accounting, but will you actually be able to take enough math before you graduate (I assume next may due to your post saying you're currently a junior) to even stand a chance at getting into grad school for math? Most require a bare minimum of the standard 3 semesters of calc, linear algebra, differential equations, and some sort of class where you are exposed to a bit of pure math and proofs (algebra, analysis, combinatorics & graph theory, etc...). And to be competitive, you normally need to have done quite a few of these upper level courses and done well in them (showing you should be able to handle graduate mathematics).

    I'm certainly not trying to dissuade you. I have a M.M. in trumpet performance, so I clearly took an alternate route to grad school for applied math + MD/PhD, but yeah just making sure you didn't have an unrealistic picture of what is usually required for admission into graduate math programs and that you have that in mind while planning your last couple semesters of undergrad ... since, as far as I knew, most accountants only took a class, maybe two in business calculus.
  6. Mar 4, 2012 #5
    Trust me I'm glad to be prepared to know that kind of thing. I was told on another forum that with about 18 credits in the right math subjects I would be able to apply to most grad schools (and yes I only have Calc 1 under my belt). Is that off? I think a minor is 15 credits and I was just gonna take one or two more classes in addition to it. That would be an additional semester for me to complete my undergrad, but if that's what it took to get me into grad school and I'm set on that then it's no problem to me.

    But since you say from your experience only those tailored to the finance side have good prospects, I may have to reconsider if I continue to see this is the case.
  7. Mar 4, 2012 #6
    "It is desirable that the applicant's undergraduate background include courses in calculus, linear and abstract algebra, differential equations, and real and complex analysis."

    "... a student should have mastered material ... including: three semesters of calculus, one or two semesters of differential equations, one semester courses in modern algebra, linear algebra, geometry or topology, advanced calculus of one and several variables. In addition, a student should have completed at least three additional mathematics courses and at least two courses in related fields such as statistics, computer science, or the physical sciences."

    "Undergraduate coursework equivalent to a major in mathematics from an accredited university. This should include a one-year course in either analysis or abstract algebra."

    These three quotes were from a top 5, top 30, and otherwise "unranked" school's master's in math programs ... so i'd imagine your 15 credit minor might look like:

    calc 1
    calc 2
    calc 3
    intro ODEs
    linear algebra

    which wouldn't cut it for any of those three tiers of programs. you'd probably have to add:

    real analysis
    complex analysis
    abstract algebra

    ... bringing it up to 27 credits rather than 18 for a solid chance at getting into programs without being accepted as a remedial student. Some of those programs did say that they accept otherwise strong applicants but that they are expected to make up remedial preparation within the first semester.

    The minor in math with just 15 credits and a strong everything else will probably be ok for getting in on remedial status but yeah the whole point is to be able to start the three big (algebra, analysis, topology) sequences your first semester and pass quals after the first year and do all your applied stuff during the 2nd year of your masters ... at least at most schools.

    Good luck, I'd also suggest talking to the graduate math advisor at your school (if applicable) and seeing what he/she has to say about how you should best prep for the possibility of math grad school.
  8. Mar 4, 2012 #7
    Well that's certainly helpful to know so thanks for your input. Probably the only thing in the way of math I'd consider for now then is a second bachelors in it. But that doesn't even have much of an added value with employment does it?
  9. Mar 7, 2012 #8
    I think how much math you need to get into a master's program depends on how exclusive the school is. Most programs really prefer you to have had real analysis and/or abstract algebra, but some schools are willing to let you make those up if you're missing them. I am a math minor and the highest class I will have taken at graduation is discrete math/formal proof, but I have been accepted into mathematics MS programs for next year. The thing that gets a little tricky is funding.
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