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Math Math degrees for jobs

  1. Feb 2, 2012 #1
    Hi! I am a senior undergraduate student. I am really interested in math and would like to pursue it further, but I will not have time to finish a math major before the end of the year. (I'm close, but I started as a creative writing major and haven't had time to pick up the last 3 or so math credits I would need.) My options right now are going to grad school or taking another year of undergrad. So far I have been accepted into two master's programs in math--one in pure math, and one in general math with options for applications. If I stay at my undergrad school for another year, I could complete a math major and pick up some programming experience.

    My question is this: If I want to get some kind of job in math, which degree is more useful, the master's or the bachelor's? (I am not at a point where it makes sense to think about doctorates. Yet...) Is one kind of experience better than the other? Is it super important that I learn to program if I want to get a math-related job?
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  3. Feb 2, 2012 #2
    If you've already gotten accepted into graduate programs and want to eventually earn a graduate degree in math, I'd suggest doing that. There's no real point in going an additional semester or year just to get an additional word on your undergraduate diploma.

    I've been told by quite a few wise friends / advisers / bosses / etc... over the years that Masters > Bachelors > PhD > Associates > High School as far as (average) earning potential and total investment vs payoff over a career.

    As far as the programming is concerned: yeah you should probably know some stuff if you want to go out into industry as a mathematician ... it is the 21st century after all. Learn to code over the summer (assuming you're graduating this May and will be starting grad school in September). You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish just teaching yourself over the course of 3.5 months. There are loads of resources out there online to help you learn almost any language (pdf textbooks, video lectures, MIT open courseware, youtube, etc...).

    Good luck.
  4. Feb 3, 2012 #3


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    My usual two cents....as has been said over and over on this board....

    Take your masters in some type of engineering...electrical, mechanical, civil or whatever. Math jobs are lower paying and in lower demand. Engineering jobs are high paying and in high demand. And obviously, your math skills will shine in engineering.

    Catch my drift?
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
  5. Feb 3, 2012 #4
    Thanks, guys.

    I don't think engineering is a viable option for me, since I don't really have the physics/CS/chem background for it. :/

    I'd thought about trying to teach myself. What languages/skills are good to know? I have taught myself a tiny bit of Python, and I know how to write small functional programs in Mathematica.
  6. Feb 3, 2012 #5


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    All the stuff in bold is set up perfectly for math. You just need to learn how to think a bit...and be a bit of a problem solver. And if you are good at math, you are half way home on both areas. I'm not saying you have to get a masters in engineering....but I do believe it is a good option that could pay off. Talk to your fellow students, teachers, advisers...etc.

    In general, the math is the easy part of engineering....setting up the problem is where the real thinker comes in.
    And yes, I'm an engineer and will always be partial to engineering. Would you expect anything less?
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
  7. Feb 3, 2012 #6
    This question is a really hard one to answer because it depends a lot on what you will be doing specifically...job or career-wise, as certain programming languages lend themselves better to certain situations.

    My suggestion would be to look at what they are teaching in the computer courses you had thought about taking and borrowing a book from your library on the same subject since I'm working under the assumption that most universities have old editions of the same book they use in their classes.
  8. Feb 3, 2012 #7
    That makes sense. Thanks.
  9. Feb 4, 2012 #8
    That is a little hard to believe but I am extremely biased on that part.

    Most of the people I know other than my professors who have math PhD's are in finance and I can guarantee you that just 1 of those guys makes more than all of the undergraduate math degree holders I know. Like I said I am extremely biased so take this with a grain of salt.
  10. Feb 4, 2012 #9
    Finance like derivatives? Or financial math like actuarial and accounting sorts of things?
  11. Feb 7, 2012 #10
    I was very skeptical at first when some people started to tell me that, but after networking a lot more over the past few years (since I'm crossing over from being a professional musician to now getting into mathematics and biophysics), I do see a huge difference and the people who told me that tend to be accurate. The first person I heard it from was my one former boss was a guy with M.S. Computer Science + MBA who lead a large team, with many of them being PhDs who made half his salary.

    This observation of (Masters>Bachelors>PhD>Associates>High School over an entire career) may be due to the path taken rather than the actual annual salary of each person in question. Like the PhD might make slightly more per year during the middle / end of a career (outside of academia), but they spend an additional 4+ years in school making peanuts while the masters holder was starting at 50-60k. The PhD guys I know often took an additional 5 or so years at post-docs in academia ... again working for peanuts while the guys with masters already had the company they got into pay for their MBA and then got promotions to 6 figure salaries. All that time the PhDs spent in academia without landing professorships really adds up since most of their earnings are spent on basic living and no increase in capital.

    Considering a prof (at a PhD granting institution) probably advises 10-15 students over their 35-40ish year career, when they retire only 1 position opens up ... and eh, maybe a 3rd of those PhDs will want to try and stay in academia (the other 2/3 going into industry of some sort) ... that means 5 of them are going to try and stick it out for a while but average of 1 will get a permanent academic job. So those other 4 spent how many years working post-docs for peanuts before they went out into industry / finance and started making $.

    This whole system is really similar to that of professional classical musicians (what I have my Bachelors and Masters training in). Most guys spend 4-6 years in school going into some debt, then get out and spend another 4-6 years auditioning for jobs. Auditions for symphonic trumpeters consist of 100s of applicants sending resumes / CDs then 50ish being invited to audition live. after the first day, they usually narrow the field down to 3-10 guys to come back a second day and do in depth playing with the brass section or additional solo playing. Ultimately only 1 guy gets the gig. There is a nice website (musicalchairs.org) that keeps track of all the open trumpet jobs in the U.S. and around the world. Each year maybe 30 jobs are available with literally hundreds if not thousands of grads from conservatories and major music universities trying to win them. Eventually, you get tired of the lifestyle if you don't win a job and 90% or more will end up quitting to move on to a career where you can settle down, get married, buy a house with the white fence and have 2.5 kids.

    Think how many years that is of not making much money (sure you get weddings and other substitute gigs, dinner theaters, teach private lessons, etc... to feed yourself). It's the same type of thing for those PhD friends and acquaintances of mine. That's why I truly believe the whole Masters>Bachelors>PhD>Associates>High School thing as an average over an entire career. Sure there are going to be many cases where PhDs make more, but again, an average over a lifetime.

    As far as the TS is concerned, I still say going back for a 2nd Bachelors is a complete waste of time and money compared to taking remedial classes and then going for a Masters ... but to each their own ... go with whatever you think will make you most happy, it's hard to put a price on that.
  12. Feb 7, 2012 #11


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    One thing is for sure....there is great incentive to never get a PHD!!
  13. Feb 7, 2012 #12
    Awesome. Thanks, that's a helpful way to look at things. :)
  14. Feb 9, 2012 #13
    Nothing is good or bad, only the way you think matters. Thanks to all of you for the nice conversation.
  15. Apr 11, 2012 #14
    Math Worksheets

    I am really interested for math.i would like a engineering post..The math is very good subjects for us...they really help of a lot thing ...Its very interesting job....Thanks for this ...
    Math Worksheets
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