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Where can I go with a degree in mathematical physics?

  1. Mar 30, 2012 #1
    So I just got accepted into the University of Waterloo's mathematical physics program and I don't know anything about the program. What kind of career could I expect to get if I graduate from the program? If I take this program could I still get a major in accounting, actuary sciences, etc.?

    Is the demand high for graduates?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2012 #2


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    Hey moneytin and welcome to the forums.

    For actuarial work, the exams and materials can be done and sourced externally. The profession has its own body which administers the exams and possibly may also grade them as well. I would look up your national body and go to their website (they are bound to have one). You can in many countries, take the exams whenever you feel you are ready at specific times of the year and you will have to pay a fee to sit and get the exam marked, but beyond that nothing is stopping you.

    I really don't think you should consider accounting if you are signing up for a mathematical physics program. You will miss out on all the stuff that accounts need to know and you will probably have to either get the right experience through a job or do another undergraduate degree. In other words, if you want to consider accounting, then do that initially rather than something else.

    Having said this, I'm sure that there is a lot of work out there that you could have a good shot at, but you will need to consider all the other things that are not necessarily about mathematics or physics. Things like how you communicate, your personality, how you work with people (particularly with non-technical backgrounds), your attitude towards doing work that isn't technical (or even interesting in any way) among other things are important.

    My only other advice would be to talk to people that are working about what they have found important in the workplace and factor the answers in when you are training or studying so that you are at least aware of some of the realities in working and also for applying for work.

    Mathematical Physics is a hard degree and I wish you sincerely all the best with your studies. Don't worry too much about jobs at the moment, just get settled in and enjoy your learning experience both academic and otherwise. Good luck.
  4. Mar 30, 2012 #3
    So what kind of jobs could come out of this degree? I'm not worried about the difficulty; I'm much more concerned with finding a well paying job after I graduate.

    I listed actuarial science and accounting because they're the only jobs I know that could come out of math, other than teaching or research.
  5. Mar 30, 2012 #4


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    You will have to flexible in your job hunting approach, but if you can work with other non-technical people, communicate to non-technical people results that are technical in a way that they can digest and appreciate for their particular task, and have the attitude to be flexible in your tasks, then you will have a lot of opportunities.

    Remember the degree doesn't define you in this instance: a degree in medicine maybe (and even then maybe not), but not for you.

    In terms of the actual jobs, the thing is that they have so many different names I wouldn't do any justice by mentioning any of them. Some are called analysts, some might be programmers, some might be consultants, advisers, managers and so on. The point is that there are so many titles that are not 'mathematician', 'statistician' or 'physicist' out there that hire them, and it's important you be aware of this because if you only look for the jobs you think you will work in, then you will be limiting yourself to a huge number of jobs that you would otherwise be a good candidate for.

    Also remember that there are well paying jobs that don't fall into the standard categories. If you are someone who is really good at what they do, and is doing something that has a high barrier to entry (time commitment, entry commitment (medicine), legal commitment (actuary with exams)) and has the skills that are also hard to get (usually through experience, experience in a particular setting, etc) then chances are you will be able to command more money. You will at some point have to assess how you are worth, and the above kinds of things could give you a place to start.

    The point is, how useful are you for someone else. Initially when we start working, most of us are fairly useless because we don't really know anything or have any experience and that's ok. But if you pay attention, think about what you are doing, constantly evaluate yourself, and choose your decisions based on this and what you really want, then chances are you will get the kind of experience that will differentiate you in some way to other people and its the differentiation and the nature of the differentiation that will help decide the kinds of things like 'how much you get paid'. In terms of the non-private sector, then I think there will be some discrepencies to the above.

    Remember the key thing about differentiation: if you and a hundred other people all apply for the same job and you are all the same, then it might end up being more of a lottery than anything else (imagine say getting into a top university like MIT where all of the candidates are really good candidates).

    But if you have a hundred applications where 90 of the applications are the same, but 10 of them really stand out in a particular way that gets the eye of the employer (or hirer) and shows some kind of positive differential that the other 90 don't, then it's going to be an easy decision for the employer to throw away the 90 applications and focus on the other 10.

    Knowing what the differentiation is, is something you need to figure out either on your own by doing your own research and analysis, or by asking other people and then forming your own opinion.
  6. Mar 30, 2012 #5
    Alright, thanks. Seems like math physics is too obscure of a faculty for me.
  7. Mar 31, 2012 #6
    If you are only interested in money certainly do accounting. Do not attempt a mathematical physics degree unless you are absolutely passionate about the subject as you will likely fail and will have wasted your time.
  8. Mar 31, 2012 #7
    Quaestion, why did you apply for math. physics in the first place?
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