Non programming jobs for math majors

In summary, you should consider taking a class that teaches Python or doing a project in that language to increase your chances of finding a job in programming.
  • #1
Wanderer_
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Whenever I ask what are the potential jobs for math majors, it's related to data science or software engineering where being proficient in programming is required.

I notice that it's generally okay for programmers to be bad at math, but math majors are usually expected to be good at programming. As a math major, I'm not looking forward to be a software engineer when I graduate based on my experiences with a couple of CS classes. I had an assignment in a data structures class where I had to implement a doubly linked list with a dynamic array and maintain the same time complexity. That assignment took me 6 hours straight and it gives me anxiety thinking about doing any programming related to that in the future.

Maybe I'm just not good at programming, I don't have the interest or I don't really know what programming is. If I inevitably end up as a programmer, I don't get why not I just major in CS to get more programming experience instead of writing proofs- what is the point in majoring in math then.

What I can get out of a math degree is what I've been asking myself lately. I'm not looking forward to attending grad school for a PhD but starting to care more about having a lucrative job given that I pay $60k a year to attend this university. I do enjoy math and would like a career related to math that also pays well, but it's starting to feel like a delusion.
 
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  • #2
Are you saying the world owes you a job - one of your choosing - because you majored in math? I'm afraid the world doesn't work that way, and is a recipe for disappointment.

MAA has career advice and jobs on their web site, but I can tell you "no computers", "no data science" is going to close off a lot of them.
 
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  • #3
Wanderer_ said:
I notice that it's generally okay for programmers to be bad at math, but math majors are usually expected to be good at programming.
That is not a reliable or healthy way to understand the relationships.
 
  • #4
Vanadium 50 said:
Are you saying the world owes you a job - one of your choosing - because you majored in math? I'm afraid the world doesn't work that way, and is a recipe for disappointment.

MAA has career advice and jobs on their web site, but I can tell you "no computers", "no data science" is going to close off a lot of them.
I do not feel entitled for a job as a math major. I understand the argument on both sides about the purpose of higher education, but it does not help that my university costs an arm and leg to attend so I feel like I need a lucrative job after graduation. You don't provide any solid advice about alternate career options for math majors and it does not help my situation by saying I'm not entitled to get a job. Perhaps I should just not major in math then and study something more vocational like engineering or computer science.
 
  • #5
Wanderer_ said:
I do not feel entitled for a job as a math major. I understand the argument on both sides about the purpose of higher education, but it does not help that my university costs an arm and leg to attend so I feel like I need a lucrative job after graduation. You don't provide any solid advice about alternate career options for math majors and it does not help my situation by saying I'm not entitled to get a job. Perhaps I should just not major in math then and study something more vocational like engineering or computer science.
In that, you have some idea what to do if you want a lucrative job, which could at least, rely heavily on Mathematics. Explore what else accordingly you might choose, and decide how to.
 
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  • #6
Math majors are expected to be smart, and logical, which are two useful skills for software development. Implementing data structures is actually a very small subset of what programmers do. I would recommend taking a class that develops a small app or does a project in python.
 
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  • #7
I feel as though I've given this advice in another thread somewhere, but it bears repeating. Just because you don't enjoy programming, doesn't mean that you absolutely need to steer away from it career wise. There are likely a lot more math-related jobs that are programming-lite compared to those that are programming-free.

Some fields you might want to check out:
  • actuarial sciences
  • bio-statistician
  • economist
  • accountant
  • auditor
  • teacher
 
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  • #8
Wanderer_ said:
Maybe I'm just not good at programming, I don't have the interest or I don't really know what programming is. If I inevitably end up as a programmer, I don't get why not I just major in CS to get more programming experience instead of writing proofs- what is the point in majoring in math then.

What I can get out of a math degree is what I've been asking myself lately. I'm not looking forward to attending grad school for a PhD but starting to care more about having a lucrative job given that I pay $60k a year to attend this university. I do enjoy math and would like a career related to math that also pays well, but it's starting to feel like a delusion.
Change of major field would be in your near and further educational planning. Maybe something in Engineering, or other science related field which has much focus on applications. Check your own interests to help make that decision.
 
  • #9
Actuaries and pharmaceuticals. Actuarial work can be quite mathematical and pays quite well.

Pharmaceutical companies are wealthy beyond the dreams of Midas and are required to have a statistics PhD supervising the work. Too bad the companies are corrupt and will pressure you to certify bogus drugs.

Both will likely require computer use, but more as an end user rather than as a systems programmer.

Wall Street looks for experts with statistics and differential equations. Propaganda outlets often use statistics these days.

By the way, I feel many of the responders here have been rude to the point of hostility.
 
  • #10
Wanderer_ said:
What I can get out of a math degree is what I've been asking myself lately. I'm not looking forward to attending grad school for a PhD but starting to care more about having a lucrative job given that I pay $60k a year to attend this university. I do enjoy math and would like a career related to math that also pays well, but it's starting to feel like a delusion.
Why do you exclude grad school and a job in the academia?
 
  • #11
Wanderer_ said:
it does not help that my university costs an arm and leg to attend
That was your choice. Don't blame us for that.
Wanderer_ said:
ou don't provide any solid advice about alternate career options
Bull..ony. I pointed you to the MAA site. I can't help it if you don't find any jobs there that are worthy of you - or if you didn't bother to look. I will say that with your attitude,I wouldn't hire you for any job whatsoever. I would definitely consider how you are coming across and whether that is in your best interest or not.
Hornbein said:
Both will likely require computer use, but more as an end user rather than as a systems programmer.
Sure, you won't` be ``writing ope`rating systems. But SAS. for example, does require some programming. More than a little. There is little or no light between "programming" and "custom queries".
 
  • #12
Wanderer_ said:
Maybe I'm just not good at programming,

Two CS classes doesn't tell you anything about whether you'd enjoy or be good at any number of jobs that require programming.

I'm not interested in trying to get you to become a software engineer, but I do want to see if I can get you to think differently about programming.

I've done a tiny bit of web development for personal projects. I've done some work designing algorithms, I've done my fair share of scripting & automation (especially building large data and/or machine learning pipelines), and I've done a mountain of analytics work. These activities are not the same. They require different outlooks, they emphasize different skills, they have different challenges.

When I sit down at my current job I don't think "alright, time to link these lists without increasing the complexity". I think things like "I wonder why we can't get deliveries to Australian customers on time", or "I wonder how Input X correlates with user satisfaction surveys", or "I wonder how big a sample size we need to see if this change to the room benefited the guest?"

The programming I do to answer those question is nothing like the programming the software engineers I work with do, and it's the reason I do what I do and not what they do. My current job has me asking questions - every step in the process I'm either gathering data I need to answer a question, or writing code that takes the question in the next step.

I love that kind of work. I also really enjoyed the data & ML automation/engineering. On the other hand, I'll go be a farm hand before I ever do front or back end web development. I have no interest in maintaining accounting software code or building API's for tools. It's just not my thing. And btw, a lot of programming folks I work with hate to do what I do. I live in a world of uncertainty. I don't know if the answer is there, I don't know what the answer is, and it can be hard to tell if I've found it. That kind of uncertainty doesn't exist in putting a widget on a web page.

If you think you're going to get away from programming becoming an engineer, you might be right, as a few jobs still exist like that. But you'll have severely limited yourself in doing so, as many jobs exist that require programming. We live in a computerized world, and programming is the language computers speak.

Programming is just a tool, and the way you use it and the circumstances you use it in matter. Reconsider how you think about this.
 
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  • #13
Hornbein said:
Actuaries and pharmaceuticals. Actuarial work can be quite mathematical and pays quite well.

Pharmaceutical companies are wealthy beyond the dreams of Midas and are required to have a statistics PhD supervising the work. Too bad the companies are corrupt and will pressure you to certify bogus drugs.

Both will likely require computer use, but more as an end user rather than as a systems programmer.

Wall Street looks for experts with statistics and differential equations. Propaganda outlets often use statistics these days.

By the way, I feel many of the responders here have been rude to the point of hostility.
@Hornbein , first of all, I've worked as a biostatistician for the pharmaceutical industry for over 15 years, and I can make the following statements:

1. A statistics PhD is recommended but not required. A MS degree is sufficient to break into the industry, but a PhD will result in higher initial pay and more rapid promotion (I myself have a MS degree in statistics).

2. Throughout my professional career, I have never witnessed any corruption, nor specific pressure to certify bogus drugs. Of course, questionable or unethical behaviour can be found within the pharma industry, but this is no different than any other industrial or business sector, and I can say that my experiences are not that different from others.

3. I agree with you, however, that some of the responders have been rude to the point of hostility.

Especially @Vanadium 50 , who has a history of hostile responses to any career queries
 
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  • #14
Locrian said:
Two CS classes doesn't tell you anything about whether you'd enjoy or be good at any number of jobs that require programming.

I'm not interested in trying to get you to become a software engineer, but I do want to see if I can get you to think differently about programming.

I've done a tiny bit of web development for personal projects. I've done some work designing algorithms, I've done my fair share of scripting & automation (especially building large data and/or machine learning pipelines), and I've done a mountain of analytics work. These activities are not the same. They require different outlooks, they emphasize different skills, they have different challenges.

When I sit down at my current job I don't think "alright, time to link these lists without increasing the complexity". I think things like "I wonder why we can't get deliveries to Australian customers on time", or "I wonder how Input X correlates with user satisfaction surveys", or "I wonder how big a sample size we need to see if this change to the room benefited the guest?"

The programming I do to answer those question is nothing like the programming the software engineers I work with do, and it's the reason I do what I do and not what they do. My current job has me asking questions - every step in the process I'm either gathering data I need to answer a question, or writing code that takes the question in the next step.

I love that kind of work. I also really enjoyed the data & ML automation/engineering. On the other hand, I'll go be a farm hand before I ever do front or back end web development. I have no interest in maintaining accounting software code or building API's for tools. It's just not my thing. And btw, a lot of programming folks I work with hate to do what I do. I live in a world of uncertainty. I don't know if the answer is there, I don't know what the answer is, and it can be hard to tell if I've found it. That kind of uncertainty doesn't exist in putting a widget on a web page.

If you think you're going to get away from programming becoming an engineer, you might be right, as a few jobs still exist like that. But you'll have severely limited yourself in doing so, as many jobs exist that require programming. We live in a computerized world, and programming is the language computers speak.

Programming is just a tool, and the way you use it and the circumstances you use it in matter. Reconsider how you think about this.
@Wanderer_ , I think @Locrian above gave a great reply regarding the use of programming in various types of jobs.

I'll only add that your experiences in the data structures class does not represent the work that you would be involved with even if you had decided to become a software engineer, so the fact that you had difficulties with that class does not reflect on your abilities in that area, if you had shown any aptitude or interest. It also does not involve the kind of responsibility you would be involved with as a data scientist.

Furthermore, there are many career paths open to you as a math major that is not software engineering. Also, math majors are often looked upon favourably for those who intend to pursue professional programs like law or medicine.
 
  • #15
Vanadium 50 said:
That was your choice. Don't blame us for that.

Bull..ony. I pointed you to the MAA site. I can't help it if you don't find any jobs there that are worthy of you - or if you didn't bother to look. I will say that with your attitude,I wouldn't hire you for any job whatsoever. I would definitely consider how you are coming across and whether that is in your best interest or not.
@Vanadium 50 , I think you are being way too harsh on the OP, who has legitimate questions about what career paths are open to them.

I should add that you have a history of needless and uncalled-for hostility to any career queries. Perhaps you have too short of a temper, and so should consider how you are coming across on threads here on PF.
Vanadium 50 said:
Sure, you won't` be ``writing ope`rating systems. But SAS. for example, does require some programming. More than a little. There is little or no light between "programming" and "custom queries".
While what you state is true to an extent, there are differences between "some programming" and "software development". And the extent and nature of the programming involved can vary significantly between different jobs.

For example, as a biostatistician working in the consulting sector, my programming experiences are largely limited to relatively simple analyses in SAS and R. There are others in the very same sector who are much more deeply involved in the software development side of things.
 
  • #16
No, just the unrealistic/entitled ones.

And I do think that it is a problem that people think that a college degree entitles them to the job of their dreams. A job is worth what people will pay for it. No more, and no less.
 
  • #17
Vanadium 50 said:
That was your choice. Don't blame us for that.

Bull..ony. I pointed you to the MAA site. I can't help it if you don't find any jobs there that are worthy of you - or if you didn't bother to look. I will say that with your attitude,I wouldn't hire you for any job whatsoever. I would definitely consider how you are coming across and whether that is in your best interest or not.

Sure, you won't` be ``writing ope`rating systems. But SAS. for example, does require some programming. More than a little. There is little or no light between "programming" and "custom queries".
Sorry, but I don't know what "MAA" stands for and you could've hyperlinked. I'm looking for discussions about types of career paths math majors can take which other commenters have provided and not just a simple list I can google search, otherwise why would I make this post?
 
  • #18
martinbn said:
Why do you exclude grad school and a job in the academia?
I am thinking of pursuing masters or a type of professional masters program to improve job outcomes, but I rule out academia because I realize I do not actually have the patience to do research for multiple years. Also the fact that academia is competitive which I'm sure most people understand.
 
  • #19
Wanderer_ said:
Sorry, but I don't know what "MAA" stands for and you could've hyperlinked.
A little surprising for someone who is a math major -- it's Mathematical Association of America.

Back when I was in grad school (for a Math MS) back in the late 70s, my advisor recommended taking some CS classes. My first CS class some years before had turned me off to programming, as the programs we wrote were on punched cards, and there was about a day turnaround time between when you submitted the job, and when you found out that your program had bugs.

Not too many years later, things had changed significantly, and you could write a program that did math calculations and see the results almost instantaneously. That led to a sea change in how I felt about programming, and I have been writing code in a bunch of different languages ever since.

You are doing yourself a disservice by letting your reaction to one programming class cloud your perception of how valuable a tool programming can be to a mathematician. As an example, I recently wrote an Insights article about some Python code that ties in with the Cayley-Hamilton Theorem; i.e., that a matrix is a solution of its own characteristic equation -- https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/pythons-sympy-module-and-the-cayley-hamilton-theorem/.
 
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  • #20
StatGuy2000 said:
@Wanderer_ , I think @Locrian above gave a great reply regarding the use of programming in various types of jobs.

I'll only add that your experiences in the data structures class does not represent the work that you would be involved with even if you had decided to become a software engineer, so the fact that you had difficulties with that class does not reflect on your abilities in that area, if you had shown any aptitude or interest. It also does not involve the kind of responsibility you would be involved with as a data scientist.

Furthermore, there are many career paths open to you as a math major that is not software engineering. Also, math majors are often looked upon favourably for those who intend to pursue professional programs like law or medicine.
This is quite reassuring. Thanks for @Locrian for giving an in depth response about the nuances of programming. I guess my opinion of computer science will change as I take more CS classes and I'm making judgements too early.
 
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  • #21
Wanderer_ said:
Sorry, but I don't know what "MAA" stands for and you could've hyperlinked.
And you could have Googled. Or looked it up in Wikipedia.

It's the Mathematical Association of America. As Wikipedia says "the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) is a professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level." It's surprising that one could get a degree in mathematics without having heard of them. Maybe even problematic.
 
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  • #22
Wanderer_ said:
Also the fact that academia is competitive which I'm sure most people understand.
Wait, you are looking for a non-competitive field? Maybe you should look into manual labor or something. My son finally got a CS job after a year of looking (modulo the Pandemic), and is doing well now. He is quite bright and productive -- CS is a competitive field.
 
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  • #23
Vanadium 50 said:
And you could have Googled. Or looked it up in Wikipedia.

It's the Mathematical Association of America. As Wikipedia says "the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) is a professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level." It's surprising that one could get a degree in mathematics without having heard of them. Maybe even problematic.
That is not necessarily what I mean. My understanding is that academia is far more competitive than many industry jobs especially for adjunct professor positions.
 
  • #24
Wanderer_ said:
That is not necessarily what I mean. My understanding is that academia is far more competitive than many industry jobs especially for adjunct professor positions.
It looks like it's been at least 15 minutes since you posted this, so I guess I have to reply again. So you think that industry CS jobs openings are not very competitive? I'm guessing that you would not do very well in my interview...

I'm redacting these comments of mine after seeing the good point raised by @f95toli in post #28.
 
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  • #25
Vanadium 50 said:
And you could have Googled. Or looked it up in Wikipedia.

It's the Mathematical Association of America. As Wikipedia says "the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) is a professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level." It's surprising that one could get a degree in mathematics without having heard of them. Maybe even problematic.
I know what the Mathematical Association of America is and recall going to that website and had looked up the list of jobs before making this post. I don't know the acronyms commonly used in certain communities which can be spelled out differently in different communities- big deal. However, I am not looking for generic advice and appreciate that you tried to help. I'm sorry that because I don't recognize the meaning of an acronym you implied or would not like to engage in a discussion about purpose of college that it would seemingly make you feel hostile towards me. You do not have to keep replying to this thread if you don't want to discuss about potential careers to me.
 
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  • #26
berkeman said:
It looks like it's been at least 15 minutes since you posted this, so I guess I have to reply again. So you think that industry CS jobs openings are not very competitive? I'm guessing that you would not do very well in my interview...
I guess I did not express myself clearly but I do not imply that I want to find a job that will only take a couple of applications and not expect over a 100 applications, but my understanding as I mentioned is that finding a researcher or teaching role at universities is far more competitive than most industry jobs including CS job openings. Regardless of how difficult it is to end up working in academia, I do not think I like the lifestyle and other reasons.
 
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  • #27
Wanderer_ said:
That is not necessarily what I mean. My understanding is that academia is far more competitive than many industry jobs especially for adjunct professor positions.
You need to look-into a career path including the education for Engineerings, Computer Science, and even other Natural Sciences.
 
  • #28
berkeman said:
It looks like it's been at least 15 minutes since you posted this, so I guess I have to reply again. So you think that industry CS jobs openings are not very competitive? I'm guessing that you would not do very well in my interview...

I don't think that is very fair.
Finding a permanent job in academia is VERY hard simply because there are so few positions out there.
It is not that a specific job opening in industry can't be as competitive as one in academia; but there is a much, much bigger pool of jobs in industry to apply for.
Moreover, you are extremely unlikely to find a "local" job in academia which means that most people will need to move long distances (often between countries) multiple times throughput their career. Some people really like that aspect, but for many it is simply not possible due to family commitments etc.
 
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  • #29
Vanadium 50 said:
No, just the unrealistic/entitled ones.

And I do think that it is a problem that people think that a college degree entitles them to the job of their dreams. A job is worth what people will pay for it. No more, and no less.
To @Vanadium 50:

First of all, nothing in the OP's first post or in their subsequent responses suggest to me any sense of entitlement. And it seems that in most of your replies to people in the Career Thread, you automatically default to assuming that the respondents are somehow entitled. Makes me wonder why that is.

Second, there is no one in this thread who thinks that a college degree entitles them to a job of their dreams. I repeat, no one! That is a strawman argument -- something you are projecting onto the OP.
 
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  • #30
f95toli said:
I don't think that is very fair.
Finding a permanent job in academia is VERY hard simply because there are so few positions out there.
That's a good point, and I was not taking that into account. Thanks.
 
  • #31
When making difficult decisions, I try to write down a list of the factors which are important to me in the decision-making process. It can be a prioritized list, or a random list which can prioritized later. Prioritizing allows you to make more rigorous decisions.

For example, you could make a list of things which you want to achieve in your career, and order them according to their priority:
1. Doing math
2. Having a lucrative salary
3. Not getting too deeply into debt
4. Avoid becoming a SW engineer

(I made up some random priorities here). Keep this list at hand when comparing whether a career meets these requirements. Refine the list as you better understand why you rejected some careers and favored others.

Write down another list of things which drew you to math:
1. I am curious why mathematical objects behave the way they do.
2. I am good at math.
3. Math requires intense creativity.

Make as many lists as you need.

Choosing a career does not necessarily mean making an exclusive choice of one field over another. You can have a backup or fall-back career plan that is consistent with your lists, just in case it becomes apparent that your primary career choice is not going to happen.
 
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Related to Non programming jobs for math majors

What types of jobs can math majors pursue outside of programming?

Math majors have a wide range of career options available to them, including roles in finance, consulting, data analysis, teaching, and research.

What skills do math majors possess that make them valuable in non-programming jobs?

Math majors are highly analytical and have strong problem-solving skills. They also have a strong foundation in quantitative reasoning, data analysis, and critical thinking, which are highly sought after in many industries.

Do non-programming jobs for math majors require specific coursework or degrees?

While some jobs may require a specific degree, such as a teaching position, many non-programming jobs for math majors value the skills and knowledge gained through coursework in mathematics, statistics, and related fields.

What industries typically hire math majors for non-programming roles?

Math majors can find employment in a variety of industries, including finance, insurance, consulting, education, government, technology, and healthcare.

How can math majors market their skills and knowledge to non-programming employers?

Math majors can highlight their problem-solving abilities, quantitative skills, and attention to detail in their resumes and cover letters. It is also beneficial to showcase any relevant projects, internships, or coursework that demonstrate their abilities in a specific industry or field.

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