If you are deciding between majoring in computer science or finance, you might want to know more about what each major has to offer. This post will show you the key facts about each major and help you to decide which would be a better degree for you.

FinanceApplied Mathematics
Payscale reported
average pay
$71,737$76,007
Ease of finding a jobGoodModerate
Types of jobs
you can qualify for

Financial analyst
Data analyst
Investment analyst
Accountant
Financial advisor
Credit analyst
Data analyst
Data scientist
Software engineer
Math teacher
Actuarial analyst
Financial analyst
Difficulty of the
major
ModerateHard
Key things to noteMost finance jobs
require longer working
hours than most applied math
jobs.

Can qualify for a number
of jobs with just a bachelor’s
degree.

High potential pay at the
senior levels.
Requires a very large
time commitment.

Only moderately
employable
by itself.

Very employable if
you combine it with
a more employable
minor such as computer
science.

Also employable if
you combine it with
programming and
data analysis skills,
especially in Python
Source for finance salary and jobs
Source for applied math salary and jobs

There are many things to consider when deciding between the two degrees. Also, there are other things to consider if you do decide to major in either of them such as what classes you should take.

Details about a finance major

Below are some details about the finance major.

Average pay

According to Payscale, the average pay of someone with a finance degree is $71,737 and the hourly rate is $20.64 dollars. This is similar to the hourly reported rate for applied math which is $22.43. However, most finance jobs will have low initial pay, when compared with jobs that math majors typically get, but the finance jobs can quickly rise in pay once you have a few years of experience and often have very high ceilings in terms of your potential salary.

Types of jobs you can qualify for

A finance degree can qualify you for a number of different types of jobs that are available to people with just a bachelor’s degree. This is not something that can be said for many other degrees where a master’s degree is often required to be competitive in the job market.

With that being said, some jobs, such as investment banking, will be very hard to get into if you do not have a degree from an ivy league university or an ivy league equivalent university.

Jobs that you can qualify for with a finance degree can include:

  • Financial analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Investment analyst
  • Accountant
  • Financial advisor
  • Credit analyst
  • Budget analyst

Something to consider about the jobs you will qualify for is that they are often reported as being stressful jobs. This is likely to be due to high working hours, high levels of competition, some of them being commission-based and the fact that you will be dealing with other people’s money.

With that being said, the major does have a below-average unemployment rate, so you should not have too much difficulty finding a job, there is good pay and finance jobs are expected to grow by more than the average across all jobs.

Difficulty of the major

A finance undergraduate degree can have some moderately difficult classes. However, there will not be many math-heavy classes. Overall, you can expect a finance degree to be a lot easier than a degree in applied mathematics.

Classes

Classes you can expect to take in the major can include:

  • Microeconomics and macroeconomics
  • Personal finance concepts
  • Project management
  • Accounting
  • Fundamentals of marketing
  • Principles of business
  • Corporate finance
  • Managerial accounting
  • Other upper-level finance courses as available

Details about an applied math degree

Below are details about the applied math major.

Job outlook

According to Payscale, the average salary for someone that has an applied math degree is $76,007. However, this amount will be lower for people fresh out of college.

Jobs you can get with an applied math degree

Since applied math is used in many different fields an applied math degree will open you up to many different job opportunities.

With that being said, something to consider is that many of the more lucrative jobs will often require a master’s degree.

Jobs that you could get with a master’s degree in applied math could include:

  • Data scientist
  • Quantitative researcher
  • Math teacher
  • Cryptographer
  • Machine learning engineer

However, there are many jobs that an applied math bachelor’s degree will qualify you for.

Jobs that you could get with a bachelor’s degree in applied math could include:

  • Business analyst
  • Financial analyst
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Data analyst
  • Software engineer
  • Market researcher
  • Actuary

The jobs you will qualify for will depend a lot on the classes that you choose to take. The reason for this is that, while an applied math degree will qualify you for many jobs, having knowledge for that specific domain will be very useful.

For example, if you want to get into data science then taking lots of statistics, computer science and data analytics classes will help you a lot. It would also help to complete data science projects so that you can showcase your skills.

Also, while it is true that many data science and machine learning jobs often require a master’s degree, it is also the case that many people have gotten those jobs with a bachelor’s degree. If you can showcase your ability in data science or machine learning with projects, you should be able to make yourself competitive for these roles with just a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to taking classes relevant to the field that you want to enter it would be very helpful to try and get some internships in that field while you are an undergrad.

You’ll likely be taking a number of computer science classes as part of an applied math degree. Many applied math majors go on to become software engineers since it is a highly rated job for people with a bachelor’s degree. Getting a computer science minor would likely improve your job prospects significantly.

Classes you will be taking in applied math

An applied math degree will allow you to take a number of classes from a number of different fields.

There will be a number of math classes that you will likely be required to take which could include:

  • Calculus
  • Linear algebra
  • Discrete math
  • Differential equations
  • Partial differential equations
  • Graph theory
  • Number theory
  • Combinatorics
  • Abstract algebra
  • Real analysis

However, the specific math classes you will have to take will depend on your specific program.

For most applied math degrees, you will be able to take classes from other related fields and count them towards your major.

Classes from other fields that you might take could include:

  • Computer science
  • Algorithms
  • Statistics
  • Probability
  • Big data
  • Machine learning and data science
  • Physics

Difficulty of the major

An applied math degree can have some very difficult classes but this will depend on what classes are required in your specific program. In some programs, there are a lot of proof-based math classes that are required including real analysis and abstract algebra. These classes can be a lot more difficult than computational classes such as calculus or linear algebra.

Alternatives to an applied math degree

If you are thinking of getting an applied math degree then there are a number of other degrees that you might want to consider which can include:

You can click on their links to see what I have written about them as majors themselves.

Is an applied math degree marketable?

How marketable an applied math degree will be will depend a lot on what you do in your time in the major and the classes you take.

If you take classes relevant to the types of jobs that you want to get upon graduating then it will be a very marketable degree. It will be especially marketable if you also can get some summer internships and do some projects in the field that you want to enter.

If you just take the traditional courses, while in the major, it will still be marketable for many different jobs such as data analytics. But you will have to do some extra work to increase your skills in that particular area. It will also be important to learn things such as programming in your own time.

Reasons to choose a finance major

At the undergraduate level, you can expect a finance degree to qualify you for more jobs when compared with an applied math degree by itself. Also, a finance degree will require a lower time commitment, this should help to give you the time to apply for summer internships and to complete projects related to the jobs that you are interested in. Additionally, a finance degree will usually have higher potential pay in the long run.

However, finance jobs tend to require long working hours and the jobs often have low job satisfaction ratings. Before choosing the degree, it would help to consider what sort of working environment would suit you the most and what you would find satisfying personally.

Reasons to choose an applied math degree

While an applied math bachelor’s degree won’t qualify you for as many jobs by itself, it can still help to qualify you for very interesting jobs if you take classes related to that job, complete projects and get summer internships.

Currently, a very popular job among applied math majors is data science. If that is what you are interested in, it would help to make sure to learn to program in R and Python and to take statistics, data analysis, computer science and machine learning classes.

An additional way to improve your job prospects would be to minor in another degree that also has good job prospects such as computer science. Doing this could help you to qualify for more programming type roles and could help you when applying to graduate school for things such as machine learning or computer science.

It could also help to consider other STEM degrees such as computer science or statistics which can have better job prospects. However, it will still be important to take classes related to the job that you are interested in.

Author

I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.