• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Math degree useless without knowing programming?

  • Math
  • Thread starter Shackleford
  • Start date
  • #1
1,654
2

Main Question or Discussion Point

Is it? I don't any languages. I don't really care to learn them, but I know I'll be at a great disadvantage in the job market. Are there computational jobs that allow you to learn/acquire skills on the job?

If I don't learn any languages, generally speaking, what careers would be open for me? Math major, physics minor.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Depends how good you are at maths!

A lot of maths 'programming' is matlab/mathematica etc, not having to learn templated STL iterators in C++. There are also often 'pure maths' roles even in finance programming where the chief mathmo invents the algorithms and mere physics PhDs implement them - although you had better have a phD in financial maths to grab those jobs
 
  • #3
gb7nash
Homework Helper
805
1
Not really, there are lots of math jobs that don't require much programming: theoretic mathematician, actuary, most things that have the term "analyst" in them. Lots of companies want people who can think. Having a major in math opens your mind to a lot of logic and it's a nice major to have to broaden your options when you're looking for a job.
 
  • #4
arildno
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
9,970
132
Scientific fieldwise, maths is probably the field where the least programming competence is needed (compared to physics, chemistry, biology and so on).

Computers are still not able to much revolutionary proof production, for example.


There are extremely few jobs for pure mathematicians, though, so you need to be really good if you want to make maths into a career.
 
  • #5
1,654
2
Thanks for the replies so far, guys.

I was a physics major, math minor up until I swapped them recently. So, I have an equally strong interest in physics. I suppose if I want to go into some kind of science or engineering position, at the very least I should probably be familiar with MATLAB, maybe Maple and Mathematica. Is that correct? If I don't go into some kind of science or engineering position, then I have other options that don't require any kind of "programming."
 
  • #6
Unless you are working in a very specialised area of maths, or you enjoy solving equations longhand then you are going to come across symbolic algebra packages like maple, matlab, mathematica - which one you use is just a personal choice, or depends what your school uses.
 
  • #7
1,654
2
Unless you are working in a very specialised area of maths, or you enjoy solving equations longhand then you are going to come across symbolic algebra packages like maple, matlab, mathematica - which one you use is just a personal choice, or depends what your school uses.
Oh, okay. So, those packages are pretty common. Actually, I had a few assignments in ODE class with MATLAB, but I really didn't learn how to use it. I also downloaded a student version of Mathematica from my school's website. But, I haven't learned how to use it.
 
  • #8
Most industrial maths jobs need an answer - computers are a lot less work than pen and paper!
Other than teaching I can't think of many 'real world' maths jobs that don't need at least some familiarity with these kinds of packages.
They aren't that difficult to use (they are designed for mathematicians!) really knowing what sort of question to ask is more difficult than remembering the syntax of a particular package.
 
  • #9
319
6
Thanks for the replies so far, guys.

I was a physics major, math minor up until I swapped them recently. So, I have an equally strong interest in physics. I suppose if I want to go into some kind of science or engineering position, at the very least I should probably be familiar with MATLAB, maybe Maple and Mathematica. Is that correct? If I don't go into some kind of science or engineering position, then I have other options that don't require any kind of "programming."
If you want to go into an engineering position then from what I've seen you'd be better off doing an engineering degree.
 
  • #10
1,654
2
If you want to go into an engineering position then from what I've seen you'd be better off doing an engineering degree.
I don't want to get an engineering degree. My goal is not to be an "engineer." However, that line of work would still probably be available to a math major/physics minor, on some level.
 
  • #11
I don't want to get an engineering degree. My goal is not to be an "engineer." However, that line of work would still probably be available to a math major/physics minor, on some level.
It depends where you live. Here 'engineer' is protected so only people with an engineering degree can be 'engineers'. This leads to a certain amount of friction where you have a bunch of PhD physicists working on a radar imaging sat but their manager has to be an engineer.

But in general physicists do all the jobs an engineer can do and more.
 
Last edited:
  • #12
I suppose if I want to go into some kind of science or engineering position, at the very least I should probably be familiar with MATLAB
MATLAB on it's own would be fine (you could also check to see if you can take a stats class that uses R - which is also pretty useful). It's in use across lots of disciplines, and will be a good start into learning something like C++ if the need ever arises.

It would be good for the CV to be able to say you're familiar with something like MATLAB, but I wouldn't fret too much about it. If you can put some time into learning it, then great.
 
  • #13
phyzguy
Science Advisor
4,502
1,446
Why the aversion to programming? Computers make a lot of tedious tasks simple and easy, and programming is not hard to learn. A computer is simply a tool. It's as if you are saying that your only mode of transportation will be walking. This greatly limits what you can see and experience in your life. Similarly, by saying your only calculational tool will be pencil and paper, you greatly limit what you can accomplish in your career, whether it be math, physics, engineering, or whatever.
 
  • #14
1,654
2
Why the aversion to programming? Computers make a lot of tedious tasks simple and easy, and programming is not hard to learn. A computer is simply a tool. It's as if you are saying that your only mode of transportation will be walking. This greatly limits what you can see and experience in your life. Similarly, by saying your only calculational tool will be pencil and paper, you greatly limit what you can accomplish in your career, whether it be math, physics, engineering, or whatever.
Well, I mean, besides working through a difficult major and minor, it just seems like something else to do, more work. Of course, I certainly understand and appreciate the utility of computers. When I have the time, I'll make myself learn something. I probably can't escape it. Should I take classes or teach myself? What are some good online resources?
 
  • #15
1,306
19
hmmm...strange. I always thought math degrees typically came with a lot of programming classes.
 
  • #16
gb7nash
Homework Helper
805
1
hmmm...strange. I always thought math degrees typically came with a lot of programming classes.
There are two big branches of math. There's the applied mathematics and pure mathematics. Applied mathematics is just what it sounds like. You use math skills that you've learned in college to solve real life problems. A lot of problems in the industry rely on computer skills and numerical methods. Maybe you want to find the shortest route from A to B. Maybe you want to model bacteria growth. Many of these optimization problems require a decent enough background in computer science.

However, pure mathematics deals less with computing and more with the actual theory. Delving into pure mathematics, you're more interested in why something works rather than applying it in a job setting. Pure mathematicians generally have a Ph.D and do research either in a college setting or for someone else.

There's a huge market for both of them. But as far as programming goes, it just depends what you want to do with your degree after you graduate.
 
  • #17
Well, I mean, besides working through a difficult major and minor, it just seems like something else to do, more work.
As a general rule PhDs who play with computers take twice as long!

The optimal solution is to learn the minimum amount you need to do what you need to do now - for a maths degree that probably means some symbolic algebra package.

As long as you aren't totally computer-phobic you can learn a specific language when you need it for a specific job.
 
  • #18
1,817
180
Not really, there are lots of math jobs that don't require much programming: theoretic mathematician, actuary, most things that have the term "analyst" in them.
I don't exactly disagree with this statement, but I'd like to qualify by saying that some solid programming, R, SQL etc. experience will make getting work as an actuarial student much easier. Most actuarial fellows don't need those technical skills, but lots of entry level people do.
 

Related Threads on Math degree useless without knowing programming?

Replies
35
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
6K
Replies
9
Views
4K
Replies
1
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
13
Views
5K
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
8
Views
5K
Replies
15
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
1K
Top