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Possible to pursue math at the graduate level with only a math minor?

  1. Nov 13, 2011 #1
    I am curious about the possibility of pursuing pure mathematics at the graduate level while only having a minor in math from undergrad. Can this be done?

    Currently, I am an engineering student, but I am not all that enthusiastic about what I'm studying. It's not that I dislike engineering, I just enjoy my math courses a lot more. I find learning mathematics enlightening and do not want to shut the door on a possible career in it. So is a math minor a valid way of keeping my options open or will not having a BS kill my chances? If the former is possible, which upper-level courses do you recommend taking?
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 13, 2011 #2
    Probably not. I know at my school, you have to hit the ground running on the first day of grad school, and there's little time to fill oneself in on background while taking a full course load.

    But you could double major. Then you could go to grad school for either engineering or math, and you'd have a marketable degree if you don't get into (or fail out of) grad school. Also, you'll be awesome at math, and more prepared for graduate classes than most pure engineering grads I know. (A bunch of them are required to take a grad level numerical analysis class from the math department - they usually suck at it.)

    If you insist on getting a minor though, you should pick real analysis, abstract algebra, and a more advanced class in differential equations than the one you were required to take.
  4. Nov 13, 2011 #3
    yeah, talk to some departments that you are interested in, you might have to do a year of coursework in preparation before your quals.

    i know people with accounting / compsci degrees that get into a math phd program here, and they all do ok, after taking some coursework.
  5. Nov 13, 2011 #4
    I remember some of the places I applied to said that they would consider other majors for very strong candidates. I think having the actual degree might not be that big of a deal. I think it has more to do with coursework and recommendation letters.

    In my program, I would say a prerequisite would have to be a year of real analysis and at least one semester of abstract algebra because that's what the first set of quals covers, and you have to take those right away until you pass. You only get 4 tries.

    But, I would think if you have taken those classes, you probably have a shot, as long as your application is strong. As far as other classes, it just depends on what you want to do, and also what program you are applying to. Look at what kind of qualifying exams they have. Typically, you'll have real analysis, complex analysis, geometry/topology, and algebra.

    Just look at the department websites and see what they say.

    I changed my major from EE to math and it took me an extra year, and then I stayed another year in the master's program where I was. There was a prof at my undergrad who did his undergraduate degree in EE and CS, and I think he got into Minnesota or something, which is pretty high ranked.
  6. Nov 13, 2011 #5
    The key to doing a minor and surviving: make sure you have the foundations to pass a prelim at a math PhD program. That means knowing your abstract algebra, real analysis, and fundamental stuff. The main difference between a minor and major should be that many electives would be taken in some cross-listed area. As long as you have a clear reason what you want out of math grad school (i.e. how researching something in mathematics would further you along the path you want to go) it's not a terrible idea.

    Do not attempt this just because you don't know what else to do. Figure it out carefully.
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