If you are thinking of getting a math degree then you are probably wondering whether or not it will be worth the effort.
This post will show you whether or not a math degree would be worth it for you and some things that you might want to consider.
So, is a math degree worth it? The BLS shows that demand for mathematicians will rise by 33% by 2026. It is also a degree that can be applied in a wide array of fields. However, it will be necessary for you to take courses from the field that you want to enter and math is a hard major with a high dropout rate.
Depending on what you do during your time in the major, the math major can either be a difficult degree to get a job with or one of the easiest ones. There are also a number of alternative degrees that you might want to consider.
Job outlook for a math degree
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for mathematicians will rise by 33% by 2026. This is mainly due to the surge in data that companies have been receiving in recent years that they need people with mathematical and statistical skills to make sense of.
According to Payscale, the average pay for someone with a bachelor’s in mathematics is $75,000 which is $14,000 more than the average across all bachelor’s degrees.
Something to consider is that many of the more mathematical and well-paid jobs, such as a data scientist or machine learning engineer, will require a master’s degree.
Jobs you can get with a math degree
Since mathematics is used in many different fields, a math degree will open you up to many different job opportunities.
However, as mentioned above many of the jobs that mathematicians tend to seek such as a quantitative researcher or machine learning engineer require a master’s degree.
With that being said, even with just a bachelor’s degree there will be many different jobs that you could qualify for.
However, math is a general degree that is not specific to a certain type of job in the way something such as engineering is. This means that you should take courses from the field that you want to enter and do internships and do projects in that field as well in order to be competitive when seeking a job.
For example, many math majors go into software engineering after graduation. If you want to qualify for software engineering jobs then make sure to take a data structures class and an algorithms class and try to get some internships as a software engineer while in college.
Before choosing your electives I would strongly recommend that you consider what you want to do after college and make sure to take classes related to that.
Examples of jobs that you could qualify for with a master’s in math could include:
- Machine learning engineer
- Data scientist
- Quantitative researcher
- Math teacher
Examples of jobs that you could qualify for with a bachelor’s in math could include:
- Financial analyst
- Insurance underwriter
- Data analyst
- Software engineer
- Market researcher
- Actuary (requires lots of stats classes)
Types of courses you will be taking in a math degree
As a math major, you will be taking courses primarily from mathematics. However, you will also have the opportunity to take classes from computer science, physics and statistics.
Unless you will be transferring AP classes, in your freshman and early sophomore years you will typically be taking classes including:
- Single and multivariable calculus
- Linear algebra
- Discrete math (which usually functions as an intro to proofs class)
- Introduction to computer science
- Physics 101
- Data structures
In your junior and senior years you can expect to take classes including:
- Computer science algorithms (if your program doesn’t require this class I would highly recommend that you take it since it will help you in getting a software engineering job if you want one)
- Differential equations
- Abstract algebra
- Real analysis
- Graph theory
- Complex analysis
- Number theory
Would an applied math degree be better?
If you are considering getting a pure math degree then you might also want to consider getting an applied math degree.
The advantages that an applied math degree has are:
- It is more marketable since you’ll be taking more applied classes such as from statistics, algorithms and probability.
- Many would agree that it is an easier degree since the classes will be less proof-heavy and less theoretical.
- It will normally allow you to take more courses from different subjects.
However, there are some issues with an applied math degree.
Often, most of the classes choices will revolve around differential equations which won’t necessarily make it more marketable. It will only be more marketable if you take courses from areas directly applicable to jobs such as statistics, machine learning, data analysis or algorithms.
Also if you want to go to grad school for math then you should consider the type of math that you want to do there. If you want to get a traditional math master’s then a pure math degree would make you more competitive. However, if you want an applied math master’s then obviously an applied math undergrad will be the better option.
Is a math degree marketable?
While math is generally applicable in a wide number of fields, it is not always directly applicable and to make use of it in certain fields it will require some extra knowledge.
For example, while machine learning does make use of a lot of mathematics, it also makes use of computer science, statistics and it requires you to specifically learn about the machine learning algorithms.
If you just get a math degree without taking classes from a certain field that you want to enter then you will likely have a hard time marketing it. With that being said there will still be some jobs that you will be competitive for such as in insurance or as some kind of an analyst.
Is a bachelor’s degree in mathematics sufficient?
Many of the more mathematical jobs will require a master’s degree.
However, there are many jobs that you can get with just a bachelor’s degree in math. To maximize your employability as a math major it would help for you to take courses from the field you want to enter and to try to get internships in that field while you are at it.
If you are considering getting a math degree then there are a number of other degrees that you might want to consider.
They can include:
- Computer science
- Data science/analytics
If you choose either a pure math degree or an applied math degree, it will be very important to think carefully about the classes that you will be taking. It would help a lot to think about what you want to do after getting the degree and to choose your classes accordingly.
Right now, software engineering roles are very popular among math majors so it would help to make sure to at least take a class in data structures and algorithms since this is what most software engineering interviews test on.
In addition, data science is becoming more popular each year and more roles are opening up to people with just a bachelor’s degree. So, it would also help to take classes related to data analysis, statistics and machine learning or at least to study it on the side and to complete data science projects.
It is one of the more difficult majors
According to the NCES 52% of those that initially major in mathematics switch to a different major before graduating. It also says that this is the highest rate out of all of the different majors except for natural sciences.
There are many possible reasons that math has a high dropout rate but one of the main ones is likely to be that the classes are much more difficult than what most students are used to.
In a math major, you’ll be taking courses such as calculus or linear algebra in your freshman and part of your sophomore year. While these courses will be a step up from what you did in high school, they are still computational in nature and similar to what you will be used to.
However, starting in your sophomore year you’ll start taking proof-based math courses which are where you have to show something to be the case in a mathematical way. The classes can be very abstract and most people find them to be a lot more difficult than the math that comes before them.
If you are considering getting a math degree then consider taking an introduction to proofs course before fully committing to the major. Since the other majors, you’ll probably be considering, will also require calculus and linear algebra make sure to take those as well while doing the proofs class. That way you won’t be behind when you decide on which major you want.
How difficult a math degree will be for you will depend on how much math you have already done. If you took a lot of math classes in high school and you even participated in some math competitions then you will likely do well in the major.
If you did not take many math classes in high school then you will have a harder time in the major. With that being said, the major will be designed assuming that you have not already taken calculus so it will still be possible for you to do well in the major. But you will need to study a lot more than what you are already used to especially in your junior and senior years.
Another thing to consider is your level of interest in the subject. If you are highly interested in mathematics then you will be able to motivate yourself to study more when it becomes difficult.
I have written about how to study for a math degree in this post.