1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Switching from Engineering to Applied Mathematics?

  1. Dec 28, 2009 #1
    Hey guys, I've been going through a dilemma lately. I'm currently an engineering major and I've completed all the math and engineering courses available at a JC. But for some reason I don't feel truly happy or excited about engineering. I got A's in all my engineering classes but I honestly do not feel interested in the stuff. I am a math tutor at the school and whenever I help people or study new topics in mathematics I feel more excited and anxious regardless of how hard it may be. I enjoy helping students that struggle in whatever math they are in and I would like to teach Algebra one day. Math gives me a "drive" for lack of a better term as opposed to engineering. As of now I'm looking into switching to Applied Mathematics. Its great to see how math applies to everyday things and I think I would enjoy it a lot more. But anways, what do you guys think...this is the Academic "Guidance" area anyways. During these times, is applied math just as good as engineering? What are the job opportunities with a B.S., M.A. a couple of years from now? Do you know anyone studying it or have already graduated and working? What are they doing? How do they like it? Any advice, insight and guidance appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2009 #2
    I'm in New York, where the financial sector has taken a hit but still hires lots of math BS/MA's. I've got a friend who did econ/math and is currently working for the Federal Reserve, and she seems to really like it. But she's been doing math professionally since high school, when she was calculating marketing stats like popularity and occurrence of cover images for a magazine. Another option in the states is teaching; schools are desperate for math teachers and there are dozens of fellowships to pay for your masters in exchange for a two/three year commitment.

    Check your countries equivalent of the bureau of labor statistics (or the bls if you're American) and find out what the pay is like.

    Don't choose engineering for the money unless it's a great motivator for you, 'cause the types of courses in JC are still the easy and fun ones. The material gets more specific and technical and you start wanting to rip out your hair because you're not into it. Just wait until you do a dance 'cause you barely passed some course you had to drag yourself to and totally expected to fail.
  4. Dec 29, 2009 #3
    Try to do work that you will enjoy. While getting my BS in computer science, I fell in love with math. I went to work for a year as a code monkey, then I went back and got my MS in applied math. I feel like it was a very good decision.

    With an applied math degree you will be able to teach or work in a wide variety of industry. Plus, engineering changes so rapidly. Sure the foundations remain, but every so many years the industry relevant course content changes. With mathematics you get some consistency across time. You will spend your efforts learning techniques that you will be able to use for your entire career. Good luck!
  5. Dec 29, 2009 #4
    I'm falling in love with math everyday I tutor. I know I'm just dealing with the basic algebra, trig and calculus where I work but it has definitely influenced me towards a career in math. neergmas, were you a genius in math or did you just like the subject? Reason why I ask is because I'm not the brightest bulb when it comes to higher level math, but I enjoy studying math regardless of the "I don't get it" moments. What are you doing now with your M.S. in Applied math? What's your job like?
  6. Dec 29, 2009 #5
    Math is the langauge of the scientific and engineering field. You can't go wrong. It is very important to work in the field you like. Take it from me that worked closed to 30 years already. You have to follow your heart. Life is too short working 40 hours a week in a field you don't like.

    Granted you might change your mind, but with good math background, it is very easy to switch back to engineering. For example, you study PDE, real analysis and complex analysis, you study a lot of the electromagnetic or electrodynamic theory already.

    My passion is electronics. I have been an engineer and manager of engineering for close to 30 years. My original major was Chemistry and I don't like it at all. I started over again into electronics. I am a self studier. I always get tripped up by Math!!! everything is written in Math, you don't understand math, you can't even read those books. I am not working anymore, but I still studying PDE and all now. That is how important math is. Go for it.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  7. Dec 29, 2009 #6
    No, I am not even close to being a math genius. During my undergrad degree it was the most challenging and rewarding subject (chemistry and physics were also challenging, but for some reason I did not find them nearly as rewarding). I had to, and wanted to, study hard for all of my math courses.

    Like yungman, I am interested in electronics and I study a lot on my own. I now work for an electronics prototyping company writing software. There is a lot of math that goes on in electronics and I plan on going deeper into that area.

    My other M.S. Applied Math friends went on to a wide variety of fields: electric utility company analyst, college teacher, h.s. teacher, computational fluid dynamics PhD, data miner. Quite a variety, huh!?
  8. Dec 29, 2009 #7
    yungman, neergmas thanks for the insights. I really appreciate it. I think I'm mostly worried about how my parents and family would react to me switching out. They would question whether or not I would even be able to land a job as opposed to engineering. When someone says they are a math major, a lot of people assume they could only teach. Anyone know what the employment is like for Applied math? I would assume that an Engineer applicant has the advantage over a Applied math applicant due to the amount of hands on, labs, design projects etc.
  9. Dec 29, 2009 #8
    Engineering is not the best job in the world!!! Really over work!!! You better like it or else you'll be misserable.

    True there are very few jobs for pure math, but it would be so easy to switch to other trade if you are strong in math. I am into electronics, I can tell you if you are into RF and microwave, PDE, linear algebra, probability, statistic would be very useful. You don't even have to choose now, you still have a year of math before you really need to choose. A lot of school don't require PDE for engineering, but you'll be so far ahead if you learn that. That is the reason I am here right now, PDE!!!!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook