If you have an interest in both computer science and applied math, you might be wondering which would be a better major. This post will show you the advantages and disadvantages of each and help you decide which would be a better major for you.

Quick overview:

Applied mathComputer science
Average pay$76,007$85,235
Ease of finding a jobModerateHigh
Types of jobs
you can qualify for
Data analyst
Data scientist
Software engineer
Math teacher
Actuarial analyst
Financial analyst
Software Engineer
Software developer
Web developer
App developer
Data scientist
Data analyst
Difficulty of the
Key things to noteCan be very employable
depending on the
specific program.

Many of the more
lucrative math
jobs require
a master’s degree.

The degree is a lot more
employable if you
combine it with computer
science and data analysis.

The difficulty will depend
a lot on the applied
math classes
you choose.
A very employable
degree with just a
bachelor’s degree.

A well paying degree.

Can give you access to
data science and
machine learning roles
if you choose the right
Source for CS salary and jobs
Source for applied math salary and jobs

There are many things to consider when choosing between the two degrees and there are also some important things to be aware of when choosing either of them.

Details about a computer science major

Below are some of the key details of the computer science major.

Current pay

According to Payscale, the average salary of a person with a bachelor’s degree in computer science is $85,235. This makes computer science one of the best paying degrees available right now. However, some of these salaries may be slightly inflated since a lot of computer science jobs are in very high cost of living areas such as San Francisco.

Many of the alternative degrees to computer science will also have high average salaries including applied mathematics. However, not only is computer science one of the best paying degrees but it also puts you in a good position with just a bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, many of the alternatives require a master’s degree to be competitive when seeking a job.

Also, many people that get alternative degrees to CS actually end up finding themselves in CS type roles. For example, it is not uncommon for applied mathematics majors to find themselves working in programming roles after graduating. This is why computer science can also be a very good minor, especially when combined with degrees like applied mathematics.

Types of jobs the degree will qualify you for

There are many different types of jobs that a computer science degree will open you up to. These can include:

  • Software engineer
  • Database administrator
  • Data scientist
  • Machine learning engineer
  • App developer
  • Web developer
  • Computer systems administrator

Most CS majors will end up taking jobs as a software engineer which is one of the highest-rated jobs available. When interviewing for these roles, you will be tested mainly on algorithms and data structures that you’ll learn about during your time in the major. Make sure to be very comfortable with algorithms and data structures when interviewing.

Data science is another career that is becoming popular among CS majors. If you want to get a job in data science, it would help to take classes in data analysis and machine learning, to learn Python programming, and to complete data science projects. A CS degree combined with classes relevant to data science should put you in a good position to get data science and software engineering jobs.

It would also help to try to get internships during the summer since that will also help you a lot in getting into big tech companies that have very high salaries.

How difficult it is as a major

When compared with an applied math major, most would likely agree that computer science is the easier major. Although, this will depend a lot on the specific CS and applied math programs being compared since they can both vary in difficulty depending on the program. Also, a CS major will still require you to spend a lot of time studying.

Types of classes you will study

Some classes that you can expect to take include:

Data structures
Assembly language
Computer architecture
Computer networks

You can also expect to take some mathematics classes including:

Linear algebra
Discrete math

If your university does not require that you take those math classes, I would strongly recommend that you take them as electives. This is because they are key classes for machine learning and, if you want to go to grad school, they will be important classes to have on your transcript.

Some classes that you might have the choice of taking could also include

Machine learning
Artificial intelligence
Computer graphics
Computer networks

Important things to be aware of when taking the degree

Before you start taking the degree, it would be very important to consider what you think you would like to do with the degree. By doing so you will be able to optimize your classes to be suited towards what you want to do after graduation.

If your goal is to get into data science or machine learning type roles, it would be important to make sure to take machine learning classes, to do machine learning projects, to take classes in data analysis and to take some statistics classes. It would also be important to make sure to take calculus and linear algebra as a freshman or sophomore if they are not required in your major.

Whereas, if your goal is to get a job as a software engineer, it would be more important to take classes that focus on algorithms and systems architecture type classes.

If you think that you want to go to grad school, it would be important to take up research opportunities and to take classes related to what you think you would like to research as a grad student. It would also be important to look at what classes graduate schools want to see when accepting CS master’s applicants.

More details about the computer science major

I have written more about the computer science major here and I have written more about how hard you can expect the major to be here.

Details about an applied math major

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.

Jobs you can get with an applied math degree

Since applied math is used in many different fields and since it has many different use cases, 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 require a master’s degree.

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

Also, 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.

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.

If the applied math degree at your college does not require a data structures or an algorithms class, it would broaden your job opportunities a lot if you were to choose them as electives.

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

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

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.

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.

Most of the classes you will take will be math classes and will often 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.

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 degree in computer science

A computer science degree is a very employable degree to get. By getting a degree in computer science, you should be able to put yourself in a good position upon graduation especially if you also do well in algorithms and data structures, get internships and do some software engineering projects.

In addition, computer science will usually be slightly easier than applied mathematics so you should have some extra time to focus on applying to internships, jobs and focusing on completing projects. If you want to go to graduate school, it could also give you the extra time to do some undergraduate research as well.

Reasons to choose an applied math degree

An applied math degree can also be a very marketable degree as well, as long as you take classes that are related to the job you want.

Combining it with a minor in computer science would also put you in a very good position upon graduation. This combination would also likely work very well if you are interested in machine learning and data science job roles or you are interested in graduate school for machine learning or even computer science.

Bottom line

When comparing the degrees by themselves, the edge would have to go to computer science since it will give you better job opportunities and you should have some more free time to job hunt since the major is usually slightly easier.

However, an applied math degree can also be a very good degree. If you do choose applied math, make sure to choose an applied math program that features classes related to the job or graduate program you are interested in and minoring in computer science would likely improve your job prospects significantly.


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.