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Statistics degree for personal development?

  1. Aug 20, 2014 #1
    Greetings guys with highest IQ's on planet earth,
    Mine is not a physics question and my first post, but on a search I found other answers to this area of math so hoped someone might be able to help.

    I'm a 38 year old senior logistics manager without college education, looking to get an assoc degree( or 2 year qualification) to make the next level, Aka project/strategic management or VP/MD level where they can have anything from arts, IT, law, accounting, engineering degrees on their mantlepieces.

    I thought math would be a good angle for me, being I really liked it at highschool( 20+ years ago!) and personally hate fluff degrees like business management and arts etc. I would not be pursuing a statistics or analysis position myself , its not usually needed in my field(disaster response/3rd world supply corridors). This would purely be for professional development as mentioned.

    My concerns are

    1. The wisdom of taking on math as a ''CV booster'' being its general difficulty, the 20 years since I have studied, (and the fact I could probably do much easier fluff options like business/supply management online or part time as I will need to study whilst working).

    2. I am thinking in the field of maths, statistics is at least more relevant to my industry than applied and pure math, and probably easier too?( though I am sure I can get into trouble making comments like that)

    3. Do all ''math degrees'' generally start the same in first year? Would I be doing same things as the pure math guys generally and then start statistics the second?

    Welcoming any help, advice, laughter or plasma torching whatever you feel fits the bill :)
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2014 #2
    Hello, are you looking to do online programs or will you be attending night classes? Do you have such programs in your area if this is the case?

    Yes, applied, pure and statistics should all start with Calc 1-3, and usually a linear algebra class. From here they typically differ. Sometime a Stats major will take differential equations and proof writing as well, but not always the case.

    Good luck to you! I am sure a more experienced poster will be in here soon enough!
  4. Aug 20, 2014 #3
    Thankyou thekracken, the idea is to study by online methods due to my work taking me away, and seek personal tuition as needed. I'd also be studying a reduced load and take as long as necessary to complete it.
  5. Aug 20, 2014 #4
    also regards High school level math, which in our region there were two advanced subjects, I must clarify I was only a 'B' student.I studied only moderately hard at the time but must admit I was not the natural ability of the 5-6 people in my year who breezed through all maths getting A+. Therefore is it possible university math may be too hard for me? Or is there some leeway to get through with more hard work if you find you are not the most natural math whizz?
  6. Aug 20, 2014 #5


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    If you haven't actually done any (advanced) math since high school and that was over 20 years ago, you may want to start by taking a course or two at a local community college rather than diving in head first. This will give you an idea as to whether you're cut out to pursue it any further.

    The good thing about doing something like this as a CV booster is that your focus won't be on getting into graduate school, so even if you don't get top marks in the subject, it will still be of use for you.

    At this point too, I think it's important to pursue the things that you think will be interesting, rather than those you think will be easy. Things that interest you will likely continue to interest you. Things you think will be easy, may not be. And then you're stuck doing something that's hard that you're not interested in.
  7. Aug 20, 2014 #6
    A statistics degree is certainly not easier than a math degree. If you go deep enough into statistics, then it basically becomes mathematics. Things like stochastic differential equations and brownian motions can be as hard as mathematical analysis.

    You should start by asking yourself how much mathematics you still know. Try to find some calculus exams or calculus homework questions online and try to solve them. Do the same for linear algebra and for other relevant mathematics. That way you will know what how well you still remember those things.

    If your math knowledge has degenerated too much, then you might consider taking classes at a community college. Otherwise self-study might help.
  8. Aug 20, 2014 #7


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    To the OP:

    Welcome to PF! I'm a statistician with over a decade of experience, and who started out with a BS in math. Let me address a few points here on the questions you raised:

    (1) First of all, I don't necessarily think university level math will be too hard for you. One of my classmates during my time in undergrad was a political science/philosophy major (with a minor in CS) who had worked for a number of years in IT before returning to school to earn a second degree in math, and continued on through to a PhD. So while it will require hard work and careful planning and preparation, it is certainly something that is doable and achievable (and many have done so).

    One advice is for you to determine at what level your mathematical knowledge is at the moment. Perhaps start out with some basic pre-calculus or calculus or linear algebra courses (either available online or through what you can find at community college) and determine how comfortable you are at the moment.

    (2) As far as a CV booster is concerned, I'm not certain whether earning a BA or BS will necessarily boost your credentials to a significant level given your already advanced level of work experience. It can't hurt obviously, and certainly a degree in math is unique enough to gain at least some notice, but you should keep a clear mind of what your ultimate end goal is. How do you envision earning a math degree will aid in your professional development? You need to think about this if you want to make the most of your education. Of course, if this is just for fulfill your intellectual curiosity, this may not be as much of an issue.

    (3) On note (2), certainly statistics is generally speaking more applicable in industry compared to pure math, at least from what little you mentioned about your current job, but it is not easier than a math degree. A statistics degree, depending on the school, can have pretty much the same requirements as a pure or applied math major in the beginning, so I concur with what micromass has stated.

    (4) As I mentioned in (3), whether all math degrees start out the same in first year varies considerably depending on the school.

    I hope you find my points above useful, and I wish you all the best in your studies!
  9. Aug 20, 2014 #8
    A real mathematical foundation in statistics can be pretty heavy stuff. However, the actual difficulty of statistics classes can be very low, depending on what it covers (most statistics classes in the business department will barely touch on the mathematics behind the work).

    My advice, considering your situation, is to break it into two separate problems – you need a degree to progress in your work, and you’d like additional education for personal and professional reasons.

    So you need a piece of paper saying you have a degree. Get one on the cheap from a community college, online, or other such low cost operation. There's nothing wrong with making this one business management or something similar. You’ll probably have to take prep math classes that will apply to a more formal college degree, and you may have the chance to take some simplified statistics classes. Choosing somewhere that may have classes that transfer would be nice.

    Once you have that, if you still have the urge for self-improvement, maybe you’ll be ready to move to a formal math degree. You’ll have had a chance to review some math and get back into the whole classroom thing, and hopefully that will give you a leg up.

    What you don’t want to happen is to end up spending 6 years trying to get a math degree, while your career languishes at work.

    Best of luck!
  10. Aug 21, 2014 #9
    Well a lot of great replies above and several have intuititvely hit on some of my concerns.
    Excusing not quoting handles directly but yes I would be looking to refresh first before attempting, definetly too rusty to jump straight in.
    I also figured on not needing stellar grades since I don't need the degree to feed myself afterwards.
    As mentioned by statguy2000 I liked the uniqueness of a stat/math degree and in this regard its as much about some sort of prestige over the usual commerce or business admin guy going for the same position. I also just want to feel smart again :) its been 20 years of unstable regions and warzones and yelling at people who can barely speak english to "buy this, get that, build that , don't put that there' and sometimes you wonder if you have lost IQ...

    I understand as mentioned any area of math or science will become as mathematically difficult as another if you want to push it. The description of more business/industry related 'math or stats 'courses being lower powered though and only brushing on the math behind them is sort of what I may aim at in order to give myself the best chance of completing the courses and calling myself a stats guy.

    Now these may be all the wrong reasons to attempt the degree being I did like math but just want the paper the easiest way I can, and am working of 20 year old reminiscences from school. So the last gents advice , getting the easier obvious business degree (which I can probably receive some pre-credit for too) is duly noted.

    I think I will probably weigh this up when it comes time to start refreshing myself on math.If I find the reality of stumbling around basic calculus makes me feel like a punchdrunk boxer coming out of retirement, I may write the whole idea off as "a nice reality check I had from some physics folks on a forum" and move back to reality. This may indeed occur. I will just have to see if I still enjoy it.

    Thanks again folks, nice replies.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2014
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