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Math & Computer Science Double Major - What Graduate Degree?

  1. Aug 18, 2012 #1
    I am heading into my Freshman year in college. I know it's going to be far in the future, but I want to start brainstorming what my 5-10 year goal is. Any help is appreciated.

    With these majors, I'm planning on getting a masters in Computer Science, but what should I do with the math degree? I'm torn between:

    1. Pure Mathematics PhD (I love the theory behind math),
    2. Masters in Actuarial Science/Applied Statistics w/ Minor in Econ & Business or Econ & German (Good money)
    3. Economics
    4. Or what would you recommend? What school? Anything is helpful, I just need to brainstorm so I know what to focus on the next 4 1/2 years.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2012 #2
    Besides the fact that this is only about what YOU want to do, it's too far away to even be thinking about right now. I had plans too, but they dramatically changed after my first two years in college. There are so many possibilities that it's just pointless to try and figure it out at this stage in the game. Just focus on doing well in your math and computer science courses and take other courses that you think you might be interested in.
  4. Aug 18, 2012 #3
    My issue is I'm interested in all subjects (except essay-style writing classes). Although statistics is my least favorite math, I still find it interesting. I guess I'll find out what I want in the future.

    Thanks for the reply!
  5. Aug 18, 2012 #4
    Well since you said Statistics is your least favorite math, I would probably stray away from that. When you get to the higher level statistics, it also uses a LOT of higher level math theory (Calculus, Discrete Math, esp. Linear Algebra). If you really do like math theory then a Pure Math PhD. might be good for you but there really aren't a lot of jobs unless you want to either be a Professor or work at some kind of investment banking think tank in New York (which use more Statistics and less pure math anyways).

    I am an ex-econ major and the reason I left was because I hated the vast amount of statistics that they require at the higher levels. In order to get into most Econ graduate programs in the US, you will need to have taken probable two semesters of upper-level statistics, Linear algebra, Real analysis, Calc 1-3, in addition to intermediate undergrad Econ classes. Not that this is a bad thing, but I found when I was taking senior level econ classes that it was largely statistics-based and they really only used linear algebra and calculus as a crutch to help analyze the statistics, lol.

    Im a math major now and my school lists some of the employers that math graduates work for. I'd say about half of them are in computer science fields, and another 20% or so are actuaries. You could definitely land a job in a computer related field with a dual-degree in Computer science and math. Make sure you take discrete mathematics as it is probably the most used field of math in computer science.

    I have to disagree. I think the more planning you do the better off you will be. I wouldn't want to graduate with a college diploma and just sit there wondering what to do next.
  6. Aug 18, 2012 #5
    Originally I hated trigonometry the most. Then I entered calculus 2 and began to love trig (it is so much like algebra). If the higher level statistics uses a lot of math theory, I might be more apt to try it.

    I'm wanting to stray a bit from discrete mathematics because I will be getting much of that from my computer courses. I want to see if I can mix them to possibly improve my critical thinking.

    What type of jobs in computers would use these degrees? How well do you think they pay?

    This is why (although I know I'll be changing it fairly often), I have the next 4 1/2 of college scheduling planned. It is better to plan now and change it later, than to blindly jump into something.
  7. Aug 18, 2012 #6
    Stengah's advice is good. Why do you want two graduate degrees? Sure, have a general goal such as graduate school, but no need to focus on that so early. Degree programs usually have enough room for you to take electives that might interest you. Just dip your hands in everything; you won't know what you'll like.
  8. Aug 18, 2012 #7
    The OP hasn't even started college yet. And he/she is trying to plan what he/she is going to do AFTER his/her first graduate degree. Think about that. It's like making a Christmas wish list in January: sure it's fun to think about, but it's going to change.
  9. Aug 20, 2012 #8
    How good an idea this is depends on what country you're in. In the US I would discourage a Actuarial Science major or masters.
  10. Aug 20, 2012 #9
    Yes, you will use trigonometry until the cows come home in your college math classes. It's good to get a good start on it in high school, so you will be prepared in college. It's really not bad, trig is a lot of memorization. I did it the hard way and learned trig through calculus instead of taking a trig class.

    I did not like the more statistically inclined Economics classes like Econometrics, but I did very much enjoy Microeconomics, which uses a lot of Calculus, and Macroeconomics, which uses a little bit of everything.

    One class of Discrete math is going to be required in both your Computer Science degree and also your Math degree. You will probably get 4-5 classes worth of free electives to choose from as well. I suggest you take the second course in the Discrete Math sequence (if your school offers one) in order to put yourself on a solid foundation for graduate school in computer science. It is a great idea to take a wide variety of classes to improve your horizons and critical thinking ability, but using one slot for some extra depth in Discrete will do you much more good than harm. You will still have plenty of opportunities to pursue other interests.

    I believe GaTech actually offers an entire degree program in Discrete Math.

    I am not in computer science, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I have heard that Computer Engineering and Software Engineering are where the big money is in computers. I believe it is possible to make >$150,000/year easily as a Computer or Software Engineer. Of course most of the people making this much probably have at least a Master's degree, if not a PhD. They are in very high demand and you will probably have no problem finding a job.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but an example of something that a Software Engineer would work on would be, say, being a member of a design team on the newest version of Microsoft Windows, or perhaps developing specialized software for an engineering firm like Lockheed-Martin. A Computer Engineer might do something like building the latest and greatest eight-core processor or high end videocard. Of course these are just off the top of my head.

    I think double majoring in Math and something else is a great idea. I am a double major in Math and Spanish myself, and I'm going to apply to PhD programs in Nuclear Engineering next year. I am also planning on taking the CPA exam in a few years if I can knock out the required classes by then. So math is very versatile and it is a course of study that will make you think analytically about any general situation, and it will certainly help you in graduate school.
  11. Aug 21, 2012 #10
    It can't hurt to plan ahead. You can always change your future, but you can't change your past. This will help me choose what math/computer classes I want to take. I already have 18+ credit hours before starting college. I'm already doing 2nd year math courses. It's time for me to start thinking of what I want to do so I can focus on the appropriate major.

    As to everyone, thank-you for the advice! I'm pretty sure of what I want to focus on now. Have a nice life!
  12. Aug 21, 2012 #11


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    If you don't like statistics you can rule about being actuary. Although you are more of a business professional than a statistician you need to pass exams and passing exams means doing lots of statistics.

    Given that a lot of your goals revolve around math, it makes sense to be a math major. In the right school you will be able to take a few electives (like econ) and then decide if the whole math thing is right for you or not.

    Also be way about the pure math part: if you like it great, but there is a chance you won't.

    All the different areas of mathematics have their own unique focus and thinking: this applies for applied math, statistics and pure mathematics just like you have different thinking for say physics vs engineering.

    With mathematics you can sample all of these and decide based on what the experience you had was like and I think this is definitely one plan of attack you should think about.

    The reason is that if you like at least one strand enough to stick with it then the whole thing hasn't been a waste: if you don't like any stream (statistics, applied, pure) then you will probably decide after the first year or maybe the second.

    You may think the allure of pure math is interesting now, but you might want to wait after you do a few proof based courses. If you like it then great, but keep in mind that again each type of mathematics has its focus, it's thinking, its requirements and they all do certain things.

    A pure mathematician may hate the way a lot of applied mathematics and even applied sciences use results that are "hacked" together (i.e the results are fine but they aren't rigorous enough) and the applied and statistics people might think that all the formality just "gets in the way". There's credit to both arguments, but the point is that soon enough you will decide which side of the fence you sit on with regards to what you want to focus on.

    So considered what the options are, my recommendation is to take a mathematics degree, fill it up with electives (like econ) and then see how a year of math treats you.

    If you decide you are interested in becoming an actuary then take all the statistics you can and look at the VEE requirements so that you can take courses at schools where you get exemptions for certain exams like accounting and economics. If you don't like stats though, forget it because you'll need to do quite a few of these exams.

    Also I'd recommend you go to the actuarial websites for you country like SOA and CAS and actually take a look at the exams, and see what you have to do to actually pass or to get an exemption like the VEE with accounting and economics but remember that it's all about statistics!
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