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Other Numerical programming/modeling jobs with no credentials

  1. Sep 11, 2016 #1
    I have a Masters in pure mathematics and wanted to do my PhD in the areas of category theory, homotopy theory, and related fields, but I was not accepted into any programs despite not trying to attempt at all for the "brand name" schools and aiming for what I believed were the less competitive programs (if there is such a thing at the PhD-level). I have been working two jobs, one at Walmart for the past year (stocking shelves, working the registers, etc.), and another as a data entry clerk (literally just typing in medical records into the computer all night), so I have no crendentials or industry experience, but have been self-studying C++ and numerical methods, and have also dabbled with programming in general since high school, so I have a bit of personal experience as well, but no projects to show for it.

    The reason I am asking about careers involving numerical programming and mathematical modeling is because I was told that this is a popular position in finance for physics PhDs. But since I don't have any research experience involving programming or at the very least a PhD, I assume I will never be able to get my foot into the finance industry as a programmer/researcher/math modeler, especially while working 2 completely irrelevant jobs and no prior industry experience. I know I have made a mistake in life trying to go for a math PhD when I don't possess the necessary intelligence to pursue one, but I don't want to look back on it now, and would like to pursue a career I enjoy, which is programming strongly tied with numerical methods as well as independent research and mathematical modeling (I do have experience in independent research in academia, with minor results to show for it, i.e. no publications or anything significant).

    So I would like to know what other careers there are matching this type of position, since I don't care about making a lot of money, I just want a job that I enjoy; something entry-level that I would be able to prove myself, especially since I have been able to study or work 75-100 hours every week for the past several years, I know at the very least possess the work ethic and discipline to march through even work I do not enjoy (does anyone enjoy stocking shelves at Walmart for many years?). I also live in the U.S. (NYC, specifically) and don't mind relocating to anywhere within the contiguous states. Thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 11, 2016 #2


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    Would it be an idea to try and apply for a PhD position in applied mathematics? I do not consider either pure or applied mathematics superior to the other, but there may simply be more funds available for such a position, and it may give you the additional training, experience and credentials needed to find an interesting job in your new direction of choice.

    Incidentally, in his book "Analysis for Applied Mathematics", Ward Cheney writes: "A look at the past would certainly justify my favorite algorithm for creating an applied mathematician: Start with a pure mathematician and turn him or her loose on real-world problems." I like his way of thinking.
  4. Sep 12, 2016 #3


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    To the OP:

    I know you stated that you have been working 2 jobs since being rejected from graduate school. Have you looked at why you were rejected? Did you apply to enough schools? What was your academic record in your undergraduate and Masters programs (i.e. GPA, research experience, etc.)? What about your letters of recommendation from professors?

    I would look carefully at all of these, and see if it's possible to work on these and then re-apply for graduate school (in either pure math, as you originally intended, or in applied math, as you stated your interest in work related to mathematical modelling).
  5. Sep 15, 2016 #4
    I just assumed the competition in any field for a PhD is competitive, regardless of the area, since more funding means more applicants and I was not a strong applicant for a pure math PhD program, so I wouldn't believe I have any more advantage applying to an applied math program. Besides, I haven't studied any math in over a year (since I have been working so many hours every day) and have not been able to keep in touch with anyone who will write me letters of recommendations.

    I applied to about a dozen schools, did a lot of digging to find lesser known schools so that I might have a better shot at getting into any program. I had fairly weak letters of recommendation since I was just an average student. During undergrad the classes were easy (had a 4.0/4.0 overall GPA), so I took some PhD courses with other PhD candidates at another nearby school (with permission from both schools to obtain credit) and I performed average (got mostly Bs, but never below that). My Masters program was very weak as well; did not require a thesis. Most of my graduate course credits carried over so I was able to obtain it fairly quickly just by taking a few additional classes and completing some basic examinations (easier than the PhD courses I took). So overall, my grades were average (3.6 math GPA), and no major research experience since the school I attended was very weak and professors usually don't do research with students there. The research I did was mostly just independent with some discussion with other PhD students and their research.
  6. Sep 16, 2016 #5


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    Given what you've described above (especially given that you don't have any industry experience in software development either), I really don't see how you'll be able to get into a numerical modelling/programming job without a minimum a Masters degree in computer science or applied math. A 4.0 overall GPA + 3.6 GPA in math in undergrad is quite impressive, and so you should have been able to apply directly to a PhD program without resorting to a Masters program (I'm also surprised you never considered doing a REU, which would have given you opportunities for possible research experience in other universities).

    At any rate, my suggestion would be for you to apply for a second Masters degree in computer science or applied math (computer science being the preferred choice) with a thesis or project option, and then apply during your masters for an internship position. I would also advise you to develop projects on your own and set up a Github account where you can post your code, as a means of demonstrating your programming knowledge/expertise.

    If you have any interest in machine learning or statistics, then there are masters programs in data science or statistics may be something you may want to consider.
  7. Sep 16, 2016 #6
    I did directly apply to a PhD program straight out of undergrad. I did the Masters when I didn't get accepted into any of them. From what I saw from other applicants, I don't feel like a 3.6 is very impressive at all, especially from a no-name school. I did also apply to REUs my last summer while still an undergrad, but I didn't get into any of those, either.

    I had to pay for my Masters out of pocket, so my main concern about entering another Masters program is not being able to afford it since I burned through my savings making the academic mistakes I made. I would like to do a PhD in this area if I could, so do you think I can get into one if I perform well in a Masters program? Thank you for your assistance
  8. Sep 16, 2016 #7


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    There's no guarantee you can get into it, as PhD programs are often highly competitive, but if you do well in a Masters program (and get strong letters of recommendation, as well as have a chance to do research work, internship, or some other type of experience relevant to your studies), I would expect your chances will certainly improve.

    As far s paying for your Masters program, are you eligible for additional student loans to pay for another Masters program, say in CS (any PhD programs you get accepted to in the future will come with funding)? I understand any reluctance in taking on more debt, but in this specific instance, the payoff may be worth it.
  9. Sep 16, 2016 #8
    I'm not sure about student loans being eligible for graduate programs. I've never taken any loans before, so if Federal loans are available to Masters students, then yes, I think I would be eligible but I'd have to double-check.
  10. Sep 16, 2016 #9
    I'm not sure that establishing credentials is programming is a effective way to get into financial physics. With this background, there are probably more possibilities for game programming.

    One possibility with a Masters in math and a willingness to relocate is to look at USAJOBs for entry level government positions which may involve programming . Be sure to play up any experience in numerical algorithms (e.g. Numerical Recipes, IMSSLLIB, etc) in your resume. These jobs require US citizenship and (likely) a squeaky clean background check.

    Your steady employment (two jobs) will probably speak well for you.
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