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Programs Second undergrad after PhD!

  1. Dec 19, 2012 #1
    So, as the title says, I'm considering doing a second undergraduate degree having recently completed my PhD. I've searched for advice on this online and I can't see anyone else who has asked this before, which hasn't made my decision any easier.

    My educational background is an undergraduate degree in electronic engineering, and a PhD in wireless communications. During the PhD I became very interested in mathematics and this is what I'm thinking about going back and doing.

    So my motivation for doing this is purely out of interest. And I'm very interested (this might be the most important aspect to note). Even if I don't go back to college, I would probably keep reading some maths books in my spare time, so I figure why not actually get the qualification while I'm at it?

    I think with my current knowledge I could skip a certain amount of the standard maths course and complete a maths degree in 3 years. I have the opportunity to do this in a fairly high rated university, and for very little financial cost (sounds good doesn't it!).

    I guess this question is mostly targeted at employers, would it look unusual to do this? And more to the point, would it be unusual in a negative way? Make me look too academic? Ultimately I still would like to work in an area related to my PhD when I finished maths.

    So here's my brief list of pro's and con's as I see them:

    • I'm currently very interested in mathematics on a very broad scale (yes, even statistics)
    • I have few personal commitments at this stage of my life, so could dedicate significant time to it
    • I can study at the top university in my county for effectively very little cost (maybe even get paid if I obtain a scholarship, which is a possibility).
    • Being in college, it would give me a decent amount of free time which I could use to plan my future career - and enjoy what's left of my 20's!
    • An undergradute degree is the broadest treatment of mathematics as opposed to a master's - which suits my personal interests well
    • Currenty very motivated to learn maths, this might not still be the case if I got a job and started the daily grind, so I feel I should use this interest while I can.

    • Possible negative opinion from employers
    • I still want to work in engineering, so adds little/nothing to my immediate career options.
    • Being around immature students again (but this time I'm not immature with them, could be painful - but then how crazy can mathematics students be?).
    • Delaying the start of my career proper.
    • Being kinda poor, while the course might be free, living is not. Might be talking banks loans, borrowing from parents.
    • Might be hard to actually work in the real world after all this academia.

    So, as you can see, I've thought about it a good bit. My personal opinion is to just do it. And my general philiosophy is to do what I think I should.

    So it's up to you to convice me not to. Go for it!

    Thanks for reading everyone.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 19, 2012 #2
    If you could potentially do it for free and it interests you, I don't see why not. I'm a math major myself. You could always just leave it out of your resume if it bothers you.
  4. Dec 19, 2012 #3


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    Do you think it would be possible to obtain a job working in your field and take classes as a non-traditional student? I do a similiar thing with biology classes.
  5. Dec 19, 2012 #4


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    Completion of a PhD suggests a large time investment in your field. You could begin contributing to the field, either in a Postdoc, industry or similar. I think if you spend 3 years just getting another bachelor's it will raise some questions. Even if you leave it off your resume, people will be curious what you were doing for 3 years.

    You have a PhD, surely you know how to teach things to yourself! Buy some books and fill your spare time with mathematics. I don't see what gaining another bachelors degree will serve to do. You only live once, live efficiently.
  6. Dec 19, 2012 #5


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    Hey BackEMF.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you could jump into a relevant post-graduate program and do it that way instead of undergraduate.
  7. Dec 20, 2012 #6
    Have you looked into the free open courseware by MIT? They offer free online classes that will get you the formal aspect you are looking for without stopping your entire life to do so.
  8. Dec 23, 2012 #7
    I have looked into this. It doesn't seem like a possibilty anywhere near where I live. There's no evening universtiy classes in mathematics for the purpose of obtaining a degree in the country, as far as I can tell!

    Thanks for the advice. I am considering a one-year postdoc position at the moment, and I think I will take this. So hopefully this will allow me to publish some more papers in my area.

    I think I would be completely capable of teaching myself mathematics, perhaps even to full degree level. Althougth to do this, and work at the same time, would require an awful lot of my time, possibly to the point of being impractical. I think 3-years to obtain degree level mathematics knowledge would much more efficient way.

    What you say about my doing the degree, and maintaining links with the university when I completed my postdoc, and publishing some papers while studying at the same time? So kind of like what you suggest, only the other way around. At least this way it would look like I was contributing to my field, while obtaining a formal qualification in maths at the same time.

    I'm not sure exactly what you mean here. Would that not mean entering a master's or PhD course? Or is there some way to take undergrad courses through a postgraduate entry? Keeping in mind that I would rather not confine my study to a specific area of mathematics.

    Yes I've watched a lot of those videos, they're great! It's great to see what lecturing is like in the US. I wish they would upload some of the more advanced courses, however.
  9. Dec 23, 2012 #8


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    Basically I mean jumping straight into a Masters program instead of undergraduate.

    You have a relevant undergraduate degree (in physics) so you would meet the pre-requisites for many Masters programs that focus on getting you up to speed provided that you had enough calculus and linear algebra (and maybe a bit of probability and statistics to boot).
  10. Dec 24, 2012 #9
    You mad bro? You already spent 4 years doing an undergrad, followed by 5-6 years doing a PhD (I assume) and now instead of moving on with your career and finally getting a job, you wanna go back and get another undergrad degree just because of you're having a phase where math sounds interesting to you? Sounds crazy to me. Like a poster above already said, you have a PhD, so by now you should be able to learn things on your own. If you really want to learn math (and see whether you're even interested in the first place), I would recommend that you pick up some books and start working through them. You already said that you don't have other commitments, so finding the time shouldn't be hard if you really want to.

    Here is one book for each important subfield of math which I found user-friendly and of an introductory nature:

    Abstract Algebra: "A Book of Abstract Algebra" by Pinter.
    Linear Algebra: "Linear Algebra" by Friedberg, Insel and Spence.
    Real Analysis: "Real Mathematical Analysis" by Pugh
    General Topology: "Topology" by Munkres
    Mathematical Physics: "Mathematical Physics: A Modern Introduction to its Foundations" by Hassani (optional but is a very good book on physics-flavored math i.e math that is of an applied nature).

    These 5 books should be a great start and should also keep you busy for quite a while.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2012
  11. Dec 27, 2012 #10
    What kind of math subfield are you interested in learning? If you are an "algebra person", then all the applied math and (mostly) real analysis in the world won't be of much use to you in your pursuit of algebraic topology or some such thing. With you engineering, you will already have studied all the "math courses that still use actual numbers" ad nauseam. The only thing from an undergrad degree you would thus be missing is 1) abstract algebra, 2) topology, and 3) real analysis. Therefore, I agree with the previous: brush up on these, take the math GRE and go to math grad school. I fear otherwise you will be spinning your wheels a lot.
  12. Dec 27, 2012 #11


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    it sounds like delaying taking physical and financial responsibility for your life. you can learn math on your own. a pure math BA will not enhance your earning power beyond your present specialty, and it almost sounds as if by declining to pursue the field you are highly specialized in you are dismissing the hard work you and your advisers have invested in you. i also think your parents deserve a break, and that only the most indulgent parents would approve this plan of a child with a PhD still borrowing tuition from them.

    when i finished my phd nothing could stop me from diving as deeply into my specialty as possible. it was the most interesting thing in the world. the fact you do not feel that way makes me wonder why you still want to ultimately work in your current field. if that is true now is the time to do it.

    life is really short, don't spend it all in college. no matter how prestigious your college is, it will be viewed less so in your case. i am surprised anyone at your college is going along with this plan. it almost sounds as if something else in your world has fallen off the rails lately. maybe you should get some good career counseling, (professional, not anonymously here).
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
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