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What Jobs are Available for Math Majors? 301

Asmor asks: "I'm currently a CS major/math minor in college, who's strongly considering a role reversal. I like working with computers as a hobby, but I'm not so sure it's what I'd want to do for a living. On the other hand, I love math, especially in its pure and abstract forms. I would like to get a doctorate some day, but ideally I'd like to find a job as soon as I get my bachelor's. I've expressed this interest to important people in my life (like my parents and such) and the general consensus is that there aren't any jobs for math majors. I can't really disagree. Aside from teaching it, something I'm not sure I'd want to do, I can't think of any jobs for math majors. So, what options are out there for me if I did decide to switch? Would my future consist of high school math classes? Also, how much work is involved?"
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What Jobs are Available for Math Majors?

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  • by jasonla ( 211640 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:33PM (#15822612)
    Having a math degree basically opens a lot of engineering jobs to you. Maybe a job as an engineer with NASA? Google? Any large tech firm you want? Since you will have a major/minor in Comp Sci, more doors will open for you.
    • by PaulBu ( 473180 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:17AM (#15822838) Homepage
      ... of all! -- National Security Agency, or NSA (for short) -- really, the largest employer of mathematicians of all...

      Paul B.
      • Graduated but no idea about what to do?

        As an employer I prefer someone who knows exactly what he wants to do but not so many diplomas, rather than the opposite.
        Having an objective is the best way to achieve it. NASA or NSA, they make sense if you have an objective and will give you more
        chances during recruitment.

        Hopefully all math students don't become teachers. What are willing to do your mates?
        • by MattW ( 97290 ) <> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @11:11AM (#15824976) Homepage
          It's only natural for the most talented people with the widest array of knowledge to not know what they want to do - too much interests them.

          For someone with a focused desire, what's their excuse for not pursuing it with a diploma?

          Aside from which, in 95% of work, if a would-be employee tells you the job you're offering is just what they always wanted, it's just a line. If people were honest, 75%+ of resumes would start with:

          Objective: Make as much money as I can, with as little time as I can.
      • I had a math teacher in high school that the NSA tried to recruit just out of college. He decided against it because they wouldn't tell him what his job would be until after he had the full security check and agreed to work for them. So, as I'm sure you've already figured out, he ended up working as a teacher.
    • I thought engineering degrees open up engineering jobs. What engineering jobs at NASA are available to 4 year math majors?

      The poster is talking about a 4 year degree in math, and probably doesn't yet have an area of specialization. Specialization would determine what areas a mathematician might go into, which are basically teaching, crypto, Wall Street, or some branch of science.

      With only the basic math knowledge from a typical 4 year degree, the guy could be looking at getting some entry level science job,
      • by patomuerto ( 90966 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:23AM (#15823381)

        the degree is worth more than you think.

        Math majors get hired all the time. The major appears more esoteric than electrical engineer but there are lots of jobs out there where a variety of degrees can meet the requirements. In addition to that alot of fields prefer job candidates with more applied math skills like machine learning, computer vision and medical imaging. And, like mentioned above, financial companies have math heavy positions to look for credit card fraud and market modeling (but to work on wall street you will probably need an advanced degree).

        When I was getting my degree (computational physics) I too was worried about my qualifications and felt I had to "specialize" or else I wouldnt be marketable. I am glad I did it but in the end what mattered more is I could show that I could do decent work by having a senior paper. My first job was doing semiconductor device fabrication in a research lab and I had almost no experience in the field. Now I am doing machine learning and work with mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers. We all have our strengths but we all do very similar work.

        And, for what it is worth, if you go to [] and search for jobs with the keyword AST (aerospace technology), the qualifications say

        "Basic Education Requirement: A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with major study in an appropriate field of engineering, physical science, life science, computer science, or mathematics (not engineering technology). "

        Those are the NASA jobs avaliable to math and engineering majors
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Mod this up higher! I used to be in CS and am now working on my M.Sc. in math. I've gotten a lot of job offers from strange areas. It's not the "knowing math" part, it's the "here's a book on a topic, you've got a month to figure it all out" part. Just about all of the recruiters I've talked to have said that, by far, the best people they've found for that are math majors. Not sure why, but that's what they like.

          About the Wall Street job: actually, math modelling doesn't take much, maybe a book or tw

        • You're kind of proving my point:

          with more applied math skills like machine learning, computer vision and medical imaging.

          Without the story poster giving us information about who he is and what he is interested in, we can't really tell him what he's good for. And as far as your career goes, you wouldn't have gotten in if it wasn't an area that you were at least interested in, let alone prepared for.

          The part about his being fucked and that his degree is "as good as an Art History major" was a joke. I forgot t

  • Actuary (Score:3, Informative)

    by rlp ( 11898 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:35PM (#15822623)
    But only if you're REALLY good at math. I'm told that the exam is a extremely difficult.
    • Re:Actuary (Score:3, Interesting)

      by texaport ( 600120 )
      But only if you're REALLY good at math.

      Or really good at shoveling snow. At one time not long ago, 75% of all available actuarial jobs were within a couple hours of Hartford.

    • Re:Actuary (Score:3, Informative)

      by daniel_mcl ( 77919 )
      According to the sample syllabi at d ex.cfm?fa=summary [] the mathematics involved are of the sort that a good high school student will pick up if he/she takes the AP Calculus and Statistics courses. Failing that, the math would surely be easily within reach of a mathematics major at a university. Of course, only the first 3 out of 7 tests deal with pure mathematics, so I can't say much about the others, but it doesn't look like these tests really require any
    • Re:Actuary (Score:5, Informative)

      by mattmacf ( 901678 ) <mattmacf@optonMO ... et minus painter> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:50AM (#15822965) Homepage
      But only if you're REALLY good at math. I'm told that the exam is a extremely difficult.
      Exams. That's plural. Times 9. I'm currently working toward becoming an actuary (with a possible minor in CS, coincidentally) and I suggest you look into it if you're at all interested in math. I have a couple of family members who work closely with actuaries, and from what I hear, the career path can't be beaten. The work is incredibly difficult, but unbelievably rewarding financially. If you go through a decent program and take a few of the exams, it's not unheard of to be making six figures right out of college. Employers will also pay for you to take classes to pass the rest of the exams, and give paid time off from work to do so (i.e. you only actually work 4 days a week). Fully certified actuaries can then essentially write their own meal ticket doing whatever they desire. Early retirement (before age 50) is common, as is moonlighing as a private consultant. If that isn't good enough, IIRC, a significant portion of CEOs begin work as actuaries. Not to mention the unemployment rate for actuaries is virtually zero. There is incredible demand in the insurance industry, as well as with almost any company working in the financial sector.

      To the OP: this may not be the best path for you if you're more interested more in pure and abstract mathematics, but if you can handle some mind-numbing drudgery every once in a while, it might not be a bad idea to look into becoming an actuary. The first two exams [] aren't all that difficult, so I highly recommend checking out some of the sample questions to see if this kind of thing might be right for you. Buy a book or two and spend some free time studying and you could be well on your way. The best of luck to ya =)
    • Re:Actuary (Score:3, Informative)

      by humblecoder ( 472099 )
      I feel EXTREMELY qualified to talk about the actuarial profession, since I am a recovering... er... former actuary.

      First of all, it is definitely a profession that you can go into right out of school with a BS in Math. In fact, you can go into it with a degree in pretty much anything as long as you have the requsite math aptitude.

      Second, unlike other careers, your career is pretty much defined by passing exams. This can be a double-edged sword. On the plus side, it provides an objective means to determin
  • by vistic ( 556838 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:36PM (#15822625)
    I took an Intermediate Calculus course this Spring as an elective, and I was the only non-Math major in the room (I'm Computer Science)... I asked around and I'd say 99% of the people in that class planned on getting a teaching certificate to become grade school math teachers.

    I suppose the other 1% goes on to get a Masters and PhD in Math and stays at the University forever.
    • I took an Intermediate Calculus course this Spring as an elective, and I was the only non-Math major in the room . . .

      Where were the physics/chem majors? In my undergraduate days we outnumbered the math majors in any calc course.

      And the people after teaching certificates were why such courses always finished with about a third of the students they started with. They changed majors to English or Media studies, eventually got their certificates and went on the teach primary and secondary math anyways.

      • Amen
        B.S. in Biology from my state's flagship institution, just as qualified to substitue as a kid with 60+ hours of college credit in any subjects in my state's farked up educational system. If I actually want a full-time job teaching I have to go back, take enough garbage credits for a BA in education (useful 12 hour semester as a student teacher not included). That's why I'm a sysadmin and not teaching.
        • by kfg ( 145172 ) * on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:49AM (#15822962)
          My mother had been teaching full time for ten years when they first started the whole certificate thing in my state. She had the highest rating in her district. In fact, her supervisor wrote in his last report that she was the finest teacher he had ever seen.

          One day they called her in and told her she had to get a Master of Education. She said, "Riiiiiiiiight!" They let her go.

          Because she had a Bachelor of Fine Arts, ceramics, a specialty whose department she had created at her college; and thus wasn't qualified to show primary school children how to play with clay.

          She became a photo journalist, travel. Had the time of her life and made more money with less grief. The only ones who really lost out were the children. Won't someone please think of. . .oh, wait, we're talking about "education." Nevermind. Children have nothing to do with that.

      • The physics and chem guys were all taking math courses that had some applicability to their fields... Intermediate Calculus is all about proofs and theory... definitely only of interest to math majors.

        It's the same reason I guess that the CIS majors don't ever take theoretical computer science classes, which is for CS/CSE.
        • Intermediate Calculus is all about proofs and theory... definitely only of interest to math majors.

          Oh, yeah, I can see where Stokes'/Green's/Taylor's Theorems and being able to prove them wouldn't be of any use to a physicist.

          Next thing you know I'll be expecting them to learn stuff with no applicability to the real world at all, like tensor algebra and the fundamental theorem of metric geometry. What was I thinking?

    • Most good math majors would have already gotten their calculus out of way in high school, so the math majors you took calc with were probably mainly the slow ones.
      • Well this was Intermediate Calculus.... which was all about proofs mainly and was pretty tough. Keep in mind this course is MAT371 at ASU and you take it after you've taken Calc 1, Calc 2, Calc 3, Discrete Math, Linear Algebra, etc...

        For a lot of the math majors in my class, this was the last course they needed to graduate, and they had been putting it off until the last minute. For others, they had already tried to take this class before, and were re-taking it, and this was the only class they were regis
    • by fermion ( 181285 ) * on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:52AM (#15822971) Homepage Journal
      This is pretty much it. With a minor in math you probably have enough credits to become a highly qualified teacher under NCLB. If you take some hard science classes, you can probably pass the composite science certification tests as well. And being a CS major, you might be able to do AP computer courses, which appear to all be in Java. It is not so bad, as such teachers are in high demand so not so disrespected.

      As far as other jobs, I find that for long term employment most people are looking for a masters degree. As far as I can tell, the resume filter tend to spit out anything without and engineering of CS degree on it, unless there is also a masters degree. A MS even helps if you are a teacher, and will allow you make some extra money teaching community college.

      You could even go over to the dark side and get a masters of education in educational assessment. Due to NCLB, huge amounts of money are being funneled to the test makers, and they cannot get enough people to make the tests. It is a mathematical and computer based situation no matter what subject is being assessed. Who knows how long the gravy train will last, but at least until 2008, when all the bought and paid for elected officials get booted out of office. It is not that testing does not have it's good points, but a lot of parents are pissed off that their kid isn't graduating just because they can't pass a single assessment. One thing that I learned about assessment, and in my science classes, is that a single measurement is merely a guess.

      A smart person will find a way to make a living no matter what degree they have. Some of it just has to do with luck. If you do teach, there are programs that will give some extra benefits if you go through them.

    • That's pretty much what happened here. When I took physics, during the first lab the instructor went around the room asking what our majors were. I told him "economics" with a smile. He said, "I've never had an economist before." I didn't have the heart to tell him (he's with the gamma-ray observatory team) that I could have taught the course in my sleep. Stupid fraggin' breadth requirements.
  • Math major (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:36PM (#15822626)
    "Would you like fries with that? By the way, I'm just doing this job to pay the bills. I have a number of leads on professorships. Uh, the ketchup is behind you. Did I tell you I have a Ph.D.? Er, we're out of the red clown toys in the kid's meals. But I could calculate the approximate centroid region of one, if you want!"
  • Many I've seen lately seem to be going towards advanced programming (algorithm development, protocol development, etc) fields...
  • A list (Score:5, Funny)

    by Eightyford ( 893696 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:37PM (#15822628) Homepage
    1. McDonalds Fry Cook 2. Math Teacher 3. ???
  • Quite a few people end up making a living doing something not directly related to their major. Some who get post-graduate degrees get them in something different than what they got a B.S. or B.A. in & then start a career which is yet again different. So, your options are open. Common choices other than academia are investment banking or some other field of applied mathematics.

    If you eventually want a Ph.D., why not get it now? You're used to a low standard of living & may be paid a meager wage t
    • "Quite a few people end up making a living doing something not directly related to their major."

      Exactly. Math was one of my majors. I am in charge of IT where I work--never had a comp sci class in my life. There are a lot of career opportunities in business/management for Math majors--ever test your logic/reasoning skills against an MBA (outside finance or econ concentration)? Most business school graduates lack quantitaitive analysis skills.

      My advise--make sure you have a well rounded background. Take some
    • If you eventually want a Ph.D., why not get it now? You're used to a low standard of living & may be paid a meager wage to get your degree & you won't be interrupting your career path.

      Yup. I couldn't agree more.

      Transitioning into grad school is never going to be easier than immediately after your undergrad degree. If you know for a fact you want to go to grad school, then just do it. (Or take a year and travel the world, join the peace corps, start a band, or do other things that aren't half-hear

  • Author (Score:4, Interesting)

    by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:38PM (#15822633) Homepage
    Don't laugh. Larry Niven's degree is in math with a psych minor. The way he tells it (and he should know) is that he spent two years taking required clases and whatever looked interesting then worked out a major that would fit.
    • Ha, that is what I did. Made life in the final year a bit tricky, when I had to do 2 first year subject, 3 second year subjects and a full year of third year subjects to fit into some crazy requirements that the Bachelor of Computer Science had at my school. Lucky those 1st year subject were a joke, and the 2nd year weren't too hard. Got to actually sit next to some pretty girls as well (go economics 1a!)
  • what about teaching? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ericbrow ( 715710 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:39PM (#15822635) Journal
    Being a math teacher with a very strong background in computers I know that math teachers are hard to find, and programming teachers are nearly impossible. I don't really like programming all that much, but our district needs it badly. I voulenteered to do Java, and advanced web design (with php and mysql) this next year. The last person who tried to teach programming was the physics teacher who taught logo about 20 years ago.

    I'm a high school teacher, but there are plently of community colleges in the same fix (I do them part time on occasion as well). I know the community colleges around here allow their teachers to also work tech if they desire. This way, they can keep their skills sharp and up to date.

    • My son's high school had a math teacher who took on the AP Computer Science course, even though her previous computer experience had been Pascal 20 years prior. During the summer, she took one of the training courses [] from the College Board, and that was it -- she was an AP teacher.

      Out of about 1100 juniors and seniors, 19 took the AP CSci course. She seemed to do well with the kids. My son liked her, anyway, and came home and asked pretty insightful questions. I believe all but two of her students pas

  • There is a lot of demand for applied mathematician in the financial service field. Investment analysist, economist, and statisticians are just to name a few. I find it unfilling personally but there is a lot a money in it. I suggest you go career builder or some other job website and see for yourself. Physics and engineering majors are also welcomed.
  • Vegas! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Starji ( 578920 )
    No seriously. The gaming industry (in particular gaming machine manufacturers, i.e. slot machines) requires people good with statistics skills to determine if a new game idea is valid (read: will make them money over time). It may not be the most glamorous work, but it's necessary.

    Another job one of my math professors in college had was essentially data analysis for a mining company. They would place sensors in the ground and take some sort of reading, returning a huge amount of data that needed to be an
    • Yup. I work for a slot machine manufacturer and we love our math majors. They take all the hard statistics and mathmatical algorithmic work away from us so that we can work on the programatic issues. A lot of the math majors that I know that work here actually seem to like it. I don't know if it takes a certain type of person or what, but it might actually be interesting to math people.
  • by Blorgo ( 19032 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:48PM (#15822674) Homepage
    Search back issues of the Wall Street Journal. A few months back (March-to-May timeframe I think) there was a front-page article (might have been on the front page of section B or C) that mentioned a specific teacher, a specific statistical class, and the 6-figure incomes that graduates of this class got in Wall Street finance firms. Basic subject of the class was how to calculate the value of each part of a transaction and figure out the risk/reward for it as an investment. Derivitives and how to calculate them are big now, it is what Hedge Funds are doing.
  • My dad has a BA in math. When he graduated from college, he says he was offered a job figuring out flight paths of missiles. That's not what he ended up doing, but apparently that's something you could do with a degree in math. Although nowadays with computing power as available as it is and since the end of the Cold War, I suppose that those jobs are far less plentiful.
  • Do what you want! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Usquebaugh ( 230216 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:49PM (#15822684)
    Jeez how old are you?

            Do the Math Major/Compu Sci minor. If you're good enough to get a Phd then the problem of getting a job after your BSc will be trivial. With a Math major no decent software company will care. Likewise most financial companies will snap you up.

            Are all college kids this dumb in the US?
  • Career Possibilities (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jazzer_Techie ( 800432 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:49PM (#15822685)
    Here a few possibilties

    1. Actuarial Science
    Lots of probability and statistics if that's your thing. I've heard the qualification exams are pretty tough, and since you haven't really devoted study to it as an undergrad, you'd have to get some graduate education before you could even hope for a job.

    2. Biostatistics (and other things like this)
    Again, this would require some more education, but there's a good chance of you getting a job. Biological research is only going to continue to grow, and there's always room for someone to do the important mathematics.

    3. Computer Science
    I'm sure other people will point this kind of thing out, but places like Google, etc. definitely don't mind having mathematicians with CS background for things like algorithm development and the like.

    4. Mathematics
    Stick with it and get your PhD in pure (or applied) mathematics. Get a post-doc, and then a professorship, and enjoy a rewarding (intellectually) life in academia. If you really love it, this is a great way to go.

    I think the main theme of this post is probably that the best way to ensure that you get a job (that does not involve teaching minors) is to keep going in your education. That is not to say that you can't get a job with a BS, but I think you'll find there's a lot more open to you in today's world with at least an MS.
    • Actuarial Science

      It is also said to be the profession for people who find accountancy too exciting....

      Very well paid though.

    • Have a look at derivatives trading.

      Most larger hedge funds, market makers, etc. will hire guys/girls (mainly guys tho for some reason) straight out of coledge (with a Bachelors or a doctorate) and train them up.

      Lots of opportunities in that area, it you can stand the heat that is....
    • 4. Mathematics
      Stick with it and get your PhD in pure (or applied) mathematics. Get a post-doc, and then a professorship, and enjoy a rewarding (intellectually) life in academia. If you really love it, this is a great way to go.

      Just be sure that you can handle teaching students in the most basic math class that your future employer offers. Because, to put this rather bluntly, it can be a shitty job that nobody else wants to do, so you eill get to. It is stressful and doesn't pay well for the first few years
  • by swillden ( 191260 ) * <> on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:55PM (#15822718) Homepage Journal

    First, my credentials: I did a dual major in Math and CS. I went to school planning on getting the CS degree, but, like you, I enjoyed the math so much that I ended up with two majors. Actually, I ended up with all of a CS major and 1.5 times as many math credits as I needed for that major. I also seriously thought about going on for an MS and PhD in math, but decided I wanted to take a break for a while and get a job.

    Well, I got the job, and a wife, and kids, and while I don't regret any of how my life has gone, and wouldn't change it a bit, I'll tell you that if you're really serious about getting the post graduate degrees, do it now, don't wait. If you wait, odds are very good that you'll never get the other degrees. My math professors told me that back then, and I didn't believe them, but I now know just how right they were. You can even get married while still going to school, if you want, and I even know people who've finished their doctorate with a couple of kids, but they were smart enough not to stop going to school.

    As for what kinds of jobs you can get with a math degree, there are lots, actually. A BS in math won't get you a "math job" (except as a schoolteacher), but it can certainly help you get lots of jobs that have an element of math in them. For example, if hiring a programmer, I'd generally hire a math major with a CS background over a CS major. In general, people look at a resume that mentions a math degree and automatically assume that you must be a bit smarter than the other resumes in the pile. So if you enjoy the math, you might as well do it, because it's never going to hurt you.

    If you want a job where mathematics is the primary focus of your job, though, you really have to go on and get at least a master's degree. With that in hand, there are lots of engineering and research organizations that need someone with serious math skills. The best area of mathematics to pursue to for employability is almost certainly statistics. With a little additional effort you can become a certified actuary, for example.

    A Ph.D. will get you into a lot of the same positions as an M.S., plus it's pretty much a requirement if you want to teach math at a university. Be warned, though... those math faculty positions can be hard to get. A good friend of mine is the chair of the math department at a local state university and every position they advertise nets them 200-300 resumes, many of them from very competent people. From what I hear, if you don't have anything seriously wrong with you that makes you unhirable, you will be able to get a job teaching math, but it might take a couple of years, and you'll have to be willing to live wherever the job is.

    If math is what you really enjoy, though, I'd focus less on the job prospects and more on doing what you like. You'll be happier, even if you don't make as much money.

    • by akratic ( 770961 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:11AM (#15823205)

      I'm in a Ph.D. program in the humanities. I worked for two years between college and graduate school, and I'm very glad that I did.

      When I was in my senior year of college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Here are some of the things I considered: doctoral study in any of several fields, law school, management consulting, high school teaching, the clergy, working in the non-profit world, working in government. I was in no position to commit to a seven year Ph.D. program that would prepare me for only one job--or to a three year law program that would leave me with a pile of debt.

      So I found a job working for the government in Washington, D.C. and stayed there for two years. A year and a half out of college, it became clear to me that I really wanted to be in academia. Taking time away from school was necessary for me to make a mature decision. It also gave me the chance to see what the "real world" is like and to spend some time in a fun city. (Washington is a great place to be if you're right out of college.)

      I don't feel that two years away from school hampered my academic ability at all. Maybe things are different in math. I hear that mathematicians tend to produce their best work at a young age. If that's true, there's an advantage to being in graduate school early. (In my field, people tend to do their best work at least a bit later in life.) I also don't know how graduate admissions committees look at people who take time away from school. Clearly it's not seen as a problem in my department, but maybe the sciences are different. Some professional schools (law, business) prefer students who have work experience.

      I know nobody who's regretted taking time to work before going to graduate school. I also know nobody who had concrete plans to go to graduate school, took time off to work, and never followed through on the educational plans. (To be fair, I also don't know anybody who was planning to go to math grad school, in particular.) I know lots of people--lawyers and law students, mostly--who regret going straight from college to a graduate or professional program.

      I'm sure that for some people, going straight to graduate school is the right decision. For instance, it's probably a good idea if you know that you want the degree, but you hate school and want to get it over with. Or if you're planning to start a family as soon as possible, and you don't want to do that while you're still a student. But for a lot of people, taking time between college and graduate school is the way to go.

      • I also took time off after school. I got an SB in physics and a master's in electrical engineering, then spent about 4 years working. After that experience, decided I really wanted to go on in physics and am now a couple years in to my PhD.

        It's not an easy thing to do, though. It's not easy to switch from 6 figures to a grad student stipent. It's very different being good at working to being good at grad school and it can be frustrating to feel like you've got more experience but are still junior. Plus
    • by Sage Gaspar ( 688563 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @02:27AM (#15823243)
      A BS in math won't get you a "math job" (except as a schoolteacher), but it can certainly help you get lots of jobs that have an element of math in them.

      Actually, you can get into the NSA straight off undergrad. They have pretty extensive in-house training (or subsidized extra education) as far as I understand for any specialty you end up working, so they're mainly worried that you're bright and you have the fundamentals down. They even have a semester-on, semester-off undergrad intern program that sounds pretty neat if you're really interested in it.

      I'm sure it's not trivial and the PhD probably helps a lot, but the option's there.

      Actually, come to think of it, this guy I know at Yale said that stock firms on Wall Street were recruiting their majors straight out of undergrad for pretty sick pay. He might have just been blowing ivy league smoke up my ass, but I tend to believe him.
  • Lots of options (Score:5, Informative)

    by blate ( 532322 ) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:56PM (#15822724)
    I was rather like you when I was in undergrad (in the late 90's). I started out as a Math major (Operations Research) which required certain CS classes. As I learned more about CS, I found that there is a very rich mathematical basis for Computer Science -- from the theories of computation to graphics to algorithm analysis. Almost any serious PhD in CS involves a heavy dose of mathematics in one form or another. Think of it as applied mathematics, in a geeky twisted way :)

    Part of what I'm saying is that you can do CS and not end up as a programmer, per se.

    The other half of the equation is that there *are* significant (well-paying) jobs for mathematicians. Now, I doubt that you'd want to (or could) seriously pursue any of them with just a BS, but a PhD need not be a requirement. My S/O's employer has several math/statistics majors on staff who perform marketing analysis, trending, etc... some of it rather high-powered stuff. If you look into the Actuarial or Operations Research fields (if that floats your boat), there are awesome opportunities.

    Whatever direction you choose, I strongly encourage you to go past a BS -- at least stay in school through an MS program. For one thing, it opens more doors down the road (I've gotten at least two jobs partially because I have an MS/CS). More importantly though, IMHO, it makes you a better professional; you learn a heck of a lot more in grad school than in undergrad -- at least that was my experience. You study your subject in far more depth and with far more rigor than in undergrad and you're treated more like a colleague than a student. It's an awesome experience, particularly if your're more of the geeky theoretical type :)

    Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it. Of course, you can always go back and get a second degree in underwater basket weaving or Anthropology, but it's a heck of a lot easier to get it right the first time. The sooner you identify a career path (at least vaguely), the better choices you can make in courses, internships, research focus, etc.

    Good luck to you!
  • Go to Wall Street, make money, then do whatever you want.

    Of the best people we had on our DARPA Grand Challenge team [], one is runnning a hedge fund in Santa Fe, and one is working on derivatives for a Wall Street firm.

  • ...cartoonist. No, seriously. Bill Amend of Foxtrot fame is a Physics major [] and is the only strip to have real, working equations and code.
  • would have no trouble finding a top-flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries. []

    Seriously, though, you should look into grad school and seek work as an economist.
  • NSA (Score:2, Informative)

    The NSA is the largest single employer of mathematicians in the world. ... Or you could do finance.
  • Be careful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rm999 ( 775449 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:10AM (#15822808)
    "I'm currently a CS major/math minor in college, who's strongly considering a role reversal."

    Make sure you are prepared for it. A lot of people I know who did well in calculus and differential equations (and other appliable engineering classes) weren't really prepared for the theoretical nature of high-level math classes. Try taking a low-level number theory class or something similar with a lot of proofs to determine if you are up for taking the high-level analysis classes.

    I personally think a math major is somewhat useless if you want to be an engineer. The most it will do for you is teach you how to think in a more analytical way, but you won't learn as much as you may think. My school offered an applied math major which I think is a lot more useful and interesting.
    • Indeed! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by woolio ( 927141 )
      Parent makes a very good point.... To quote Asmor:

      I love math, especially in its pure and abstract forms

      Heh....Sure ya do... I suggest he take the following two courses:
      • Abstract Algebra [nothing 8th-grade related here]
      • Real Analysis

      If his desire for "pure and abstract" math is no less diminished, well then he is truly *unique*.
  • by wanax ( 46819 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:16AM (#15822833)
    I was a math/history double major, and am now doing neuroscience... but that's besides the point.

    With a pure math BA you can basically go to any engineering, physics, biology, neuroscience, finance, econ, cs, etc masters or PhD program and do just fine. The important part about a math degree, is that it gives you the background and experience required to learn specific applications really quickly. There's a huge demand out there for people who are talented at math, although most of this demand isn't 'pure' math per se, there are a lot of interesting applied problems you can work on that do have theoretical interest to a mathematician.

    You should really have no problem finding a job or getting into grad school in almost any tech/science type field that you're interested in coming out college with a BA in Math. The great thing about a math major, against a more specific applied major, is that you learn how to think about many of the applied problems in a deeper way, and since you're aquainted with the underlying theory, you can much more easily link various ideas that are only taught at a plug and play level in the applied fields (for example, most IOE curriculum is just rather narrow subset of graph theory & combinatorics).

    Personally, I was interested in a lot of things as an undergrad, and decided to major in math since it basically kept all my options open on a grad/job level, and I certainly haven't regretted that decision.
  • In the same boat as you, actually I was a CS major and was about to shift to a EE major - but unlike High School, all the math is finally clicking (in my head) with me. Perhaps I'm a late bloomer, but now I find the math much more enjoyable than hacking code*, as hacking code seems to be just that so far, usually a bunch of hacks that barely stay together to make a program (in my experience so far). Math, otoh, seems much more elegant and solid. Anyway, enough philosophizing, I just wanted to say I am re
  • Bioinformatics (Score:3, Informative)

    by xplenumx ( 703804 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:28AM (#15822877)
    Speaking as an Immunologist, we're screaming for bioinformaticists at the moment and it's certainly an area that I would look at if I was in your position. Throw in some side work as a statistician, and you're set.

    I think you'll find the bioinformatics field to be broad enough to meet just about any interest that you may have - work ranges from programming pattern recognition/alignment software (for protein or DNA work) to mathematical modeling of protein networks. Don't worry if biology isn't your greatest strength as you'll be working as a programmer/mathematician solving a biological problem, not as a biologist working with computers (in fact, graduate level programs in bioinformatics tend to recruit computer science majors as the biology/biochem/etc majors don't have the required background).

    Some links for further information:
    International Society for Computational Biology []
    National Institute of Health []
    UCSD []
    Stanford []
    IBM []

  • Retail - Analysis of purchasing habits. You don't need to have a marketing background to understand what people like or don't like. You'll find it out more accurately through analysis of purchasing data.
    Fast food - model what areas the company should expand into.
    Science - help design statistically meaningful experiments
    Industry - Help create failure models
    Financial - Actuary

    Pretty much the running theme is that as a mathematician you will be expected to analyze data and create models. Most often in a
  • You can pick CS Major, but keep Math anyway. For practical porposes expirience is more important then CS theory (though of cause CS useful too). And you can pick whatever CS knowledge you need by yourself if need arise. To learn really serious math by yourself is a lot more difficalt. And moder cutting edge computing become more and more math hungry. Computer Vision/signal/speech/image processing, serious 3D graphics, search alogorithms, AI all require strong math background.
  • As someone with a graduate degree in math, I hope my advice is worthwhile. First, a Bachelor's degree doesn't give you anything beyond basic skills. You can not take a degree (any degree) and walk right into a job, unless that job is mundane (and everybody starts there). What you are getting is a general education with possibly some exposure to specialized concepts or techniques. That's not a criticism, it's reality. Whatever career path you take will build on those skills, and you are just starting ou
  • I loved studying math, have never regretted it, and having done so is a huge advantage to me even today (20 years later). But I have never gottem paid purely on my ability to do math, and all the jobs I know that do that (like teaching) did not appeal to me.

    Programming makes it far easier to use math but you need a third thing to be really valuable.

    Finance and economics are your best bet as they are so universally in demand, but any carefully chosen engineering disipline will also do.

    Be careful about gettin
  • Actuary, Quant (Score:2, Informative)

    by peterxyz ( 315132 )
    as other posters have pointed out becoming an actuary is one career choice - its quite a big committment in terms of working your way through the exams (lots of people are quite pleased to see the end of them when they finish university)
    My experience is that the math in the exams will probably start at about what you could comfortably do at 18 (but may have forgotten since ;) and in some specific cases extend from there a little bit. But its by no means hard abstract math - more applied specific math.
    The ke
  • cryptology is just math, and they need you to break it.
  • Actuary has already been mentioned. But Economics is wide open to skilled mathematicians, and there are a lot of places you can use that bizarre theory stuff. Places like the National Security Agency hire math heads to do hard core analysis, and I've heard it's a very interesting place to work.

    I did the opposite: I have a degree in Math, with a Masters in Economics, and I am a partner in a IT support firm, doing support for small businesses. But if you can wrap your head around math, you can pretty much

  • I have a Ph.D. in Math (from UC Berkeley) and I've been tinkering with computers since middle school. Well more than tinkering - I worked as a programmer for a year between undergrad and grad school and have done everything from GUI to device drivers.

    Anyway, the combination of Math+CS seems to do the trick. Every time I was looking for a job I got two or three offers. Usually from two areas biomed research and engineering, with engineering offers consistently being significantly better ($$$). Right now I'

  • Thanks, everyone! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Asmor ( 775910 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @03:03AM (#15823326) Homepage
    I just wanted to thank everyone for the advice (even the Starbucks/McDonalds crowd). You've all really opened my eyes to the opportunities available, and just after perusing your replies I've got an idea of where I'd be interested in going with my math degree, which is far more than I could ever say about computer sciences. Specifically, some of you mentioned that the NSA/DoD are both big on hiring mathematicians, and I've always thought that cryptography was very interesting.

    I haven't made my decision, but I've got strong leanings towards taking the switch. I think that next semester I'm gonna go a lot heavier on the math classes and dip into some of the more advanced stuff to make sure it clicks. Thanks again!
    • Microsoft Research hires math majors. I know this because they hired me, and I am a math major. The only catch is that you have to have a Ph.D to work in research. Still, it is definitely something worth considering, if you have interests in both math and CS and want to major in math.

      Of course, it takes quite a few years and a lot of work to get a Ph.D, so take that into consideration -- make sure you like it.

      Another option that a few people have mentioned is financial services. A lot of brokerage firms

  • I'm with swillden (191260) []. With a math major and a CS minor, you can pretty much write your own ticket and yes, I'd recommend at least going on to pick up a masters if not a Ph. D. For credentials here, I started with a dual major in statistics and comp. sci. with a strong math minor. By the age of 14, I was teaching both in the lab at the university and picked up my first consulting gig (yeah, I was the ultimate geek). Three years later I joined the US Navy and added nuclear, electronic, electrical, m
  • First, you are far less likely to return to school after leaving with your BS. Secondly, there is tons of math-heavy work in finance. applied math, of course, but then we all need a day job. some good pointers here - []
  • Pure math is limited although with a self study attitude and good general knowledge various companies may hire you. It would depends on the job, and possibly be research on methods and algorithms (so CS would be of much use as well). Other options include:

    -Statistics: What I chose, decently easy and amazingly good opportunities it seems. Highly diverse as well so you can pretty much work in anything: finance, biology, insurance, accounting (of sorts), consulting (in various industries), data mining (ie: mos
  • Banks like Maths (Score:3, Informative)

    by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @04:13AM (#15823512)
    I used to work at an international bank that had a room full of serious math heads who used various heavy duty software packages and insane Excel sheets to perform complex analysis and prediciton on share prices. This, along with the last 5 years' prices for the various stocks were fed in to the bank's modelling systems running on a Cray to predict their exposure on the markets in real-time to ensure they didn't close the day with balance ratios that broke the banking regulations. They earned insane money but IMHO they deserved it. I sat in on a presentation they did that was supposed to be a high level overview but frankly I was lost after the 'Good morning ladies and gentleman' bit.
  • The insurance industry hires a lot of mathematicians and even most of their executives are mathematicians, but you need to take the actuary exam. How well you do at is a large factor in determining what kind of starting position/salary you can get. So take a look at what those exams are like (I don't know any more than what I just wrote).


  • If you are interested in "abstract" mathematics, rather than applied mathematics you might as well continue on to grad school. Once you get a job it is hard to continue on to a masters and doctorate.
    You will find you don't have time. In my opinion most jobs available to a 4 year degree person majoring in mathematics would be fairly low level mathematics - at least one with no experience. I doubt that the "actuary" carreer path mentioned in previous posts uses much math beyond calculus and simple statisti
  • The field of Ops Research (OR) started in WWII to find shipping routes that minimized encounters with U-boats. While it is typically considered a more applied field, it relies heavily on theoretical mathematics for its basis and many of the good OR companies employ a lot of theoretical math phd's. some companies to check out:
    SPA: []
    ILOG: []
    Metron: []
    DA: []
    MITRE: []
    LMI: []

    There are ple

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.