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Math Possible careers for a high school compsci/math expert?

  1. Mar 2, 2012 #1
    so I'm a sophomore in high school.
    I'm great at math, winning state level math competitions and competing in national level competitions, so a math major is also considerable.
    I know many languages in computer science: HTML, CSS, javascript, Flash/AS3, PHP, mysql. I enjoy web developing and game programming as a hobby. (all languages self taught)
    I know some basic xml, java, c

    Up until now I've wanted a career in web developing.
    However, I found out that web developing can be rather unreliable, and rarely pays well.
    Not to sound like an idealist right now, but I'm looking for careers that will eventually yield a decent salary, six digits.

    so I was hoping somebody could give me ideas on possible future careers, and their salaries.
    And what majors, and what steps I would have to take to end up there.
    I'm looking for some career revolving around computer science, math, and possibly finance. Engineering is a no, I have never worked with hardware before and have very little interest.

    My math and computer science skills are both adept, so I'm wondering which one(s) I should boost up to help my future. I take an immense interest in finance, and am studying by myself a bit on it, so if any career paths involved finance that'd also be great.
    I also live in NYC, so finance is an incredibly viable option.

    For example I was thinking about being a quant analyst, where I would simply work my way up with math while learning java/c, the necessary languages which I already have some basic knowledge of.
    I don't want any strictly financial careers, such as financial advisor. I want to incorporate parts of my computer science/math somewhere, as they are so prominent it'd be useless dropping them altogether.

    Thanks for the help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2012 #2
    as far as I know, being a quant usually entails having at least bachelors or masters in applied math or finance/economics and being pretty handy with programming. I suppose you could learn a lot of that stuff on your own and be ok, but doing the standard 4-6 years of college and grad school is probably a more standard route. Last year, I spent some time investigating how easily I could switch to a career in quantitative finance and I found a forum with a few people talking about the interview process and how extensive it usually is. It sounded like it's commonplace to be grilled about your experience with spectral analysis, programming background, monte carlo simulations, functional analysis, Black-Scholes pricing, and partial differential equation theory, so you'd really have to know your field to stand a chance at getting a job.

    as far as I'm aware (Locrian will probably swoop in and clarify after I post, he's a very reliable source for information about his field) actuarial positions can be obtained without a degree in math/business/finance if you are able to pass the exams. I only know one actuary personally and she took three of her exams (not exactly sure how many standard ones there are) while she was an undergrad studying statistics. It probably helps significantly if you have a college degree in something, but it could be an option if you're motivated enough to just start passing exams and with all the state/national awards on your resume, you might have a shot.

    computer science is pretty hardcore when it comes to math later on (like masters/PhD level stuff). getting into applied mathematics and numerical analysis is another thing you might want to look into. That might be a bit more open (as far as career possibilities) since you could end up doing anything from engineering to computer modeling, to efficiency and optimization in manufacturing / warehousing, and myriad other things.

    good luck, I'm sure loads of other people will contribute to this thread, but some of the above stuff is a starting place for your search.
  4. Mar 3, 2012 #3
    You might enjoy electrical engineering it has plenty of math, and computer science type things, involved just usually lower level, it pays pretty well. Unless your more into software development. You can get plenty of jobs in finance with a degree in computer science, usually working for banks processing transactions or something similar.
  5. Mar 3, 2012 #4
    Definitely look into computational physics and engineering sorts of things. There are certain areas of engineering where you can do a bunch of math and hardcore computing applied to physical problems (some are more theoretical in the math than others, e.g. aerodynamics is less intense mathematically than, say, optics, but typically more computationally/numerically intensive). There are other areas of science that also require some similar skills, particularly molecular dynamics, operations research, large-scale networking, high performance computing, etc. They all require different types of math, which as a high school student you wouldn't be aware of so make sure to keep an open mind about everything. Some of these things will require a Ph.D, or at the very least a masters degree, so it is a bit early for you to plan that way right now (it's fine to think about, just be sure not to convince yourself that it is what you have to do).

    I would recommend taking some applied math classes, some physics, and computer science classes so that you're sure to be exposed to all areas that might pique your interest. Applied mathematics combined with programming skills can be very useful and can lead you down interdisciplinary areas that you might not expect.

    Also, being an engineer usually doesn't mean having to work directly with hardware or anything like that.
  6. Mar 4, 2012 #5
    I have to be somewhat blunt to you: You're likely not an expert compared to the average entry level employee. The computer skills as you listed may well become irrelevant by the time you start working. What will not become irrelevant is the theories of computer science, which is covered in every undergrad cs curriculum. Also, that you can teach yourself new languages is a great asset, although the languages themselves might not be.

    So if you want a career in computer/math, getting a degree in cs is really good. If you're interested in math, try to minor in physics or math. I must suggest you not be limited by your curriculum, and go take history/economics/art/literature. Not that these things will directly help you, but it's valuable, as a person, to understand how the world works. It makes you think deeply about why web development pays bad and what a finance career might look like when you eventually step into it. Knowing what happened in the US when the Soviets launched a satellite might help you when someday the Chinese lands on the moon.
  7. Mar 4, 2012 #6


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    My advice would be not to worry too much about it right now. You have lots of time to figure it out. Continue pursuing your hobbies and interestests. Once you get to university you can major in either computer science or mathematics, or do a combined degree, or branch out into something different. The first year for both paths is reasonably similar so if you pick one and decide you'd really rather do something else, it's easy to switch.

    Have you considered a career as an actuary? That can pay very well.
  8. Mar 4, 2012 #7
    The number of exams in total will depend on which society you're getting credentialed in, but the first five are the same for both:

    Financial Mathematics
    Life Contingencies
    Financial Engineering
    Actuarial Models

    I've seen discussions between actuaries about whether someone could work as an actuary without a college degree. Many seem to think it possible, but no one has ever heard of anyone doing it. I think it would make things outrageously difficult. Pass exams, enjoy college, get an internship, then look for a full time job.

    And yea, saying "actuary" around here is like saying "Candyman" five times, except you only have to say it once, and I don't kill people.
  9. Mar 4, 2012 #8


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    In Australia, I know for a fact that at least one person has done it. He only went to high school, got hired by an insurance company and eventually got full accreditation from our actuary institution.

    In the British system, you can get access to completely specialized set of notes from a company called ActEd: depending on what you spend you not only get the core notes (which I have for some subject and they are very very good) but you can get mock exams, extra material, and assignments that can be graded externally amongst other things.

    Also for the higher subjects like investments which is known as a Part III compulsory subject, people can get access to tutors even for these kinds of subjects here in Australia.

    It turns out that many actuaries are part of the process when it comes to marking exams for things like Part III (investments, final GI exams, LI exams, super/pension exams etc) and they take out some of their own time to do this which is pretty good considering how busy many of them are.

    You have to pay for the notes but considering what actuaries make once they have passed all the Part I and Part II exams, it's really not that much at all. For the Part I exams, it's still not that much considering how much you normally pay for university textbooks and notes.

    The big killer though is the exam: to just sit the exam you have to pay quite a premium so you really only want to do it once. Also AFAIK in the british system, you can only sit an exam a certain number of times and if you go over, you can't become an actuary at all.
  10. Mar 5, 2012 #9
    I second both these posts. The valedictorian of my high school had a path for after graduation, go to college...study optical sciences...make 6 figures. The real path was...go to college...study optical sciences...drop out and become a bartender at a college bar.
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