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What did you do with your Math degree?

  1. Jan 12, 2015 #1
    I graduated with a Math degree from a 4 year university. No concentrations, just math. I went through a couple switches in my major and ultimately chose math because I knew I was good at it (more like good at studying it). I also enjoyed it (until I got into all the theory which I HATED).

    I never really thought about careers and post grad. I was just going on what I thought I was good at and what people said was a good major. I see now that it is a good major ONLY if it is paired with something else. Now I have no clue where to go from here. Anyone have or had a similar situation?

    Ive thought about going back to school for Engineering but even thats gonna take 3 more years or so. I also thought about an MS in Comp Sci. Heck i'm even considering trade school now. Any advice?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2015 #2
    I changed the title of this forum because that's really all I want to know. What kind of jobs were you able to get with your BS in Mathematics?
  4. Jan 12, 2015 #3


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    You're = you are. 'Your' is the second person possessive pronoun form.
  5. Jan 12, 2015 #4
    Learn some programming languages (C++ and Python are good starts) and apply as a software engineer. Many companies like math majors for their analytic ability. I don't think you will have any trouble finding a job if you live in the US or Europe. You DO NOT need to have a CS or Engineering degree to program.
  6. Jan 12, 2015 #5
    In the USA there are lots of jobs for a BS in math:
    1) Learn a programming language (C++ and Python are good) and apply as a software engineer. We hire lots of math majors for their analytic ability, no engineering degree necessary or even wanted. This is also true of physics majors.
    2) Schools have a great shortage of math teachers
    3) Financial organizations hire math majors.
  7. Jan 13, 2015 #6
    Same situation here, but with a PhD, and it was kind of the opposite intially, in terms of the theory, although eventually I ended up hating it, too, once it got complicated enough (the frontiers of research) and wanting to do something more practical.

    In my experience as a math PhD, it's not very easy to get a software engineering job. I've gotten quite a bit of "not qualified to do this work" sort of responses, even with my CS minor, and a couple not great, but still substantial projects in my portfolio. I might possibly have a job lined up now, but it was far from being easy to get, and it's conceivable that I will be back to square one, but I have gotten very far into the interview process, and one of the interviewers acts almost as if I already have the job, so this time, even with my luck, I think there's a good chance it will pan out. You have to put a lot of work into networking, programming interview skills, getting a portfolio, or else just luck out. It's easier if you are prepared for it before you graduate. Some places do want a CS or software engineering degree, some don't. Just depends. I think people care more about what you can do, but in that case, that's where it helps to have a portfolio and be able to ace programming interviews. There are a lot of jobs, but a lot of competition, too. You can also try hacker school. There's one in NYC that's free and there are also some where you don't have to pay until you get a job. For most of them, you have to learn a little programming beforehand to get in, but not that much.

    You might have more options if you took classes in various subjects.

    You might be able to break into the actuarial profession, but the entry level market is fairly tight, so it helps if you can network your way in, and it takes a bit of effort to pass the exams.

    While I was waiting, I've just been tutoring.

    A tip on searching for jobs is that you can use company websites to try to find who might be the hiring manager and just send them your resume directly. You can also try to call them. Usually, you just call the company, and you'll get a receptionist, and then you ask for the hiring manager by name. I haven't had any luck with this, but supposedly, it's more effective than applying to positions directly. Getting a job is kind of brutal these days, so it just takes a lot of aggression and persistence. It's pretty hard to be sought after if it's your first job, even if you picked a good major. It's like you have to drag companies kicking and screaming to get them to hire you because they usually want someone experienced. They don't want to do the dirty work of initiating the newbies into the working world. That's why like half of the new graduates are ending up underemployed or unemployed right now.
  8. Jan 13, 2015 #7


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    homeomorphic said this:
    What do you believe were the reasons for your being told you were not qualified?
    Also wonder, what goes into a portfolio like that?
  9. Jan 13, 2015 #8
    Lack of CS degree/relevant job experience. In some cases, this was explicitly stated.

    Not sure what you mean. I'm not sure what's considered a great porfolio, but I had stuff that involved keyboard and mouse input and some simple graphics. What I had probably isn't something you'd be able to sell to anyone, and maybe that's the ideal. To have written a program someone would pay for or at least have some practical use for.
  10. Jan 13, 2015 #9
    I also had trouble with some of the interviews and programming tests that I had. I handled all the easy questions, but they often ask you fairly in-depth things that you have to put a lot of thought into beforehand, in order to be able to do it on the spot. It's a good idea to know what a hash table is and how to use it. Same for linked list and array list, as well as other data structures, and what the advantages and disadvantages are for each one. But you can know all this stuff in theory and still not know it well enough to do well on interviews.
  11. Jan 13, 2015 #10
    I'm an actuary, and while I have a physics degree, most of the people I have worked with have math degrees. Not all of them are actuaries.
  12. Jan 13, 2015 #11
    You could get your masters in some area of engineering, I know a math major who did her masters in electrical engineering and now she does semiconductor fabrication work. She obviously had to do catch up work like taking circuits, electronics, signals, and other undergrad courses but it worked out. Contact masters programs you think you might qualify for and check requirements.
  13. Jan 13, 2015 #12


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    To the OP:

    As part of your math degree, did you take any courses in statistics? Because one option you may want to consider is pursuing a MS (or further) in that field, which as of this moment is highly employable, particularly if you have some programming knowledge. Many graduate programs in statistics offer their students a chance to gain experience in consulting projects (either internally within different departments of the college/university, or through external clients that approach the department), which you can leverage as work experience analogous to an internship.

    Many math majors have also pursued PhD studies in economics (and an economics PhD is considered among the more employable graduate programs, both within academia and in business/industry/government). Locrian has already mentioned about opportunities in the actuarial field.
  14. Jan 13, 2015 #13

    Thanks for the advice everyone! I did take a couple Statistic and Computer Science courses while in school and am leaning a bit toward Computer Science for graduate school.
  15. Jan 13, 2015 #14

    Thanks! I've been programming in Objective-C for a couple months now and am getting pretty good at it! Just curious how good of a programmer you need to be and how many languages do you need to know before you can get a job?
  16. Jan 14, 2015 #15
    There's no universal standard that will just "get you a job". I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few people out there who would just hire any plain old generic math major who has never written a line of code in their life. However, finding those people, assuming they exist at all, is like finding a needle in a haystack, and even if you find them, if you're not lucky enough, they might not be hiring and so on. So, it more of a spectrum of how easy it is to get a job, rather than some sort of bar at a certain height that you have to jump over, after which you get a job. Also, in some ways, finding a job has more to do with sales and marketing ability than it has to do with being qualified for the job. Qualifications, like computer science degrees, could just be viewed as a kind of advertisement, anyway. Now, of course, this isn't the whole picture because usually, programming interviews have a large technical component, and PART of marketing is actually having something to back up your claims.

    In my case, it's now clear that I "can" get a programming job, but only with great difficulty, due to my lack of marketing/sales/networking ability and modest programming skills. I'm still waiting on the results of my current interviews, but it's really a matter of luck at this point whether I get it because at least one of the interviewers was willing to hire me.

    I think in order for it to be EASY to get a programming job, you have to be fairly impressive, with some combination of projects, interview skills, and ability to market yourself.

    Learning a lot more languages should probably be fairly low priority. Some employers might really want you to know their specific language, though, and maybe even specific libraries for that language. Other employers disagree with that philosophy completely and just want you to know to program and problem-solve in general, with specific knowledge of languages not being very important because they figure you can learn that as needed.
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