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Math major wanting to be a programmer

  1. Feb 19, 2015 #1
    I am a math major and I will be a senior next semester. I am wondering if I can get a career in programming without a CS degree? Should I stay in school and get a second degree or can I go get a masters in programming? Or I don't have to do either and still land a career in programming with only a math degree?

    I will definitely ask my advisor soon about this but I will be glad to hear your advices and recommendations.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Have you taken any programming courses? In particular data structures or algorithms and a programming language like Java or C++?
  4. Feb 19, 2015 #3

    I have taken three courses worth of programming: Java, Python, and computational Physics.
  5. Feb 19, 2015 #4
    And by algorithms do you mean courses like numerical methods? Because I took two numerical method course.
  6. Feb 20, 2015 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    It seems you're on the right track. Your best bet is to look for jobs that are software based but require a fair knowledge of math.

    Also another area you might want to take a course in is web application programming as that may give your resume an added appeal.

    Ideally though, companies looking for CS grads will go after CS unless you can show them something more.

    Personally, I think math majors make great programmers.
  7. Feb 20, 2015 #6


    User Avatar

    In programming, nobody cares about anything other than whether you are a good programmer. A degree (of any sort) is pretty much irrelevant except to HR departments and other brands of officialdom, and maybe in getting your first job. And certainly if you have a math degree, nobody will have the slightest interest in whether you have a CS degree too.
  8. Feb 20, 2015 #7
    You want something more like this, although numerical is good, too:


    I just got a job that I haven't started yet as a financial software developer with a math PhD and CS minor. Was pretty hard to get, though. Hacker schools are one possibility that would help bridge the gap. Also, it's good to work on your own projects and study books like this to be ready for interviews:

  9. Feb 20, 2015 #8
    Programming is like art. You show them what you can create with code.
  10. Feb 20, 2015 #9

    I think an issue might be that you don't know enough (or the right) programming languages. Sure, everybody sees you can learn the programming language easily. But if they need to choose between you (who can learn it easily) or somebody who already know C++, the choice is clear. They will go for who knows it already.

    So perhaps it is not a bad idea to teach yourself important languages like C++. You might then put on your CV that you know it by self-studying and perhaps refer to a program that you have written using your knowledge. That way they can see immediately what you're capable of.
  11. Feb 20, 2015 #10


    Staff: Mentor

  12. Feb 20, 2015 #11
    Interesting!! I had no idea!

    But yeah, it was just an example. I guess the gist of my message was to learn more programming languages and to make examples of projects you wrote.

    Besides, if you know C++, then don't you technically also know C?
  13. Feb 20, 2015 #12


    Staff: Mentor

  14. Feb 20, 2015 #13
    List is only place 32 :(

    Take your bracket: (((((((( ))))))))
  15. Feb 20, 2015 #14


    Staff: Mentor

    Lisp = Lots of Insipid Parentheses
  16. Feb 20, 2015 #15
    I am not a programmer by profession, but I always thought that the most important thing was that you can code shippable code in one language. Then, knowing one or two more languages is a big pro, and something that probably comes alongside with it. But that knowing a lot of languages for it's own sake isn't very important. They are similar enough that if you can code in one language, you know how to learn a new one.

    While most programming I did myself was in C/C++, there are other languages just as useful as a core coding base. Sure, if your main language is something that is more akin to a scripting language like php, javascript or R or Matlab, I can see the problem.
  17. Feb 20, 2015 #16


    Staff: Mentor

    Another theme for jobs that's been hinted at here is doing software projects on your own time. Something you could share in an interview. Interviewers like to see self starters more than someone who has Java or C++ on their resume because they took some courses in it.

    It's far better if you've done significant programming in an internship or on your own and you've used the tools of the trade like netbeans/eclipse for development, ant/maven/make for building, git/SVN/cvs for source code management, debuggers and performance monitors.... Whatever you can learn will make you a more viable candidate.
  18. Feb 21, 2015 #17
    Thank you all for your advice.

    @jedisrfu I will definitely take you up on your suggestion about software projects.
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