If you are thinking of choosing applied math as your major then you might be wondering how hard it will be.

This post will show you how hard applied math is and things you can do to make it easier.

So, is an applied math major hard? It is typically considered a hard degree. However, it is also generally considered easier than pure math and requires fewer proof-based classes.

There are actually a number of factors that will influence how hard an applied math degree is for you and there are a number of things that you can do to make it easier.

How hard applied math is

It depends how well prepared you are for it

How difficult the major will be for you will largely depend on how well prepared you are for it.

If you took a lot of mathematics classes in high school and you did well on them then you will likely be well prepared for an applied math degree.

Whereas, if you didn’t take many math classes such as calculus in high school or you did poorly then you find the major to be challenging. With that being said, people have been successful in the major in the past. However, you will need to be willing to put a lot of effort into the class.

It will be necessary for you to study a lot outside of class

The classes in applied mathematics can be challenging and it might not be easy for you to follow along in lectures at times. This means that applied math is a major that will require that you study a lot outside of class.

In addition to this, there will be many different ways to phrase the questions so it will be necessary for you to look at as many possible variations as you can before exams.

Furthermore, applied mathematics is a major where there tends to be a lot of homework that gets assigned. A typical applied math class will have weekly homework problems where you will have to answer assigned questions from the textbook. The homework will also, often, have a reasonably high weighting on your grade as well.

Lower-division classes tend to be easier

Classes that you can expect to take in your freshman and sophomore years can include single and multivariable calculus, linear algebra, an introduction to proofs class and discrete mathematics. If you did a lot of math in high school then you will likely be able to get credits for a number of these classes.

These classes will tend to be more computational in nature and will be similar to the classes that you will have taken in high school. If you did well at math in high school then you should also be able to do well in these classes. However, these classes do tend to be a step up from high school so you will need to put some extra work in and they won’t necessarily be easy.

Upper-division math classes can be much harder

Upper-division math classes can get much more difficult. In upper-division math classes you will be required to prove things. This is where you will have to construct a mathematical argument that shows something to be true or false. These classes will tend to be the first exposure to proofs that students get.

However, the difference compared to a pure math major is that you’ll take classes from a variety of disciplines and fewer abstract proof classes. This means that there shouldn’t be too many heavy proof-based classes that you will have to take with an applied math degree.

The main one that you would likely have to take as an undergraduate in applied mathematics would be real-analysis. This is a class that can be very challenging to many students so make sure to take an intro to proofs class before taking real analysis.

However, many of the classes that you will take as an applied math major will include statistics, probability, combinatorics, computer science and other more applied topics in math such as differential equations. These classes tend to be a lot more computational with fewer proofs.

Ways to make a math major less difficult

Try to avoid taking multiple difficult classes in the same semester

It would be beneficial to avoid taking multiple difficult classes in the same semester if you can help it. By taking multiple difficult classes you will have to put a lot of time into studying than usual, you might struggle to keep up, you could get stressed and your GPA might go down.

While it may not be possible to avoid taking difficult classes concurrently in your junior and senior years it would help to segregate them as much as possible. You can plan on how to do this by getting help from an academic advisor from the math department.

Consider the professor

The difficulty of a class can be influenced a lot by the professor. The professor will usually set the pace of the class, what goes on exams, how much homework there is and what gets covered in class. Some professors will go heavy on the proof-based questions while others will not ask any proofs at all.

Before choosing a class it would help to consider the professor that is teaching the class. You can look at ratemyprofessors.com to see what other students have said in the past.

In your junior and senior years most of your classes will be offered at one time. In these cases, you can either take the class anyway, take it at a later semester or take a different class.

Plan the schedule of each class out in advance

Something that you should always do to make your classes go much more smoothly is to plan out the semester when you receive the syllabus for each class.

By planning out when the homework will be due and when the exams will be you will be able to avoid missing out on deadlines and you will be able to spot weeks where multiple exams and assignments will be due.

Make sure to always do well on the homework

In most applied math classes you will find that there will be a reasonably high weighting on the homework. This means that it is important to make sure that you do well on the homework. By doing so you will be able to do better on exams, improve your grade and make up for bad exams.

You can ensure that you do well on the homework by reading the book before starting it, avoiding waiting until the day before it is due and using resources such as Google and Youtube to study parts that you get stuck on.

One other option would be to use the website chegg.com where they will give you to solutions to the different textbooks. However, it is important to make sure that you actually learn the material and avoid simply copying the answers otherwise you will struggle on the exams.

Get help when you get stuck

Getting help when you get really stuck will be very helpful. By getting help you’ll be able to show the professor that you are putting an effort into the class, avoid having gaps in your knowledge on the exam and you will be able to have a higher homework grade.

However, while it is important to get help when you get stuck it is also important to try to figure out the solution yourself beforehand. This means that you should reread the relevant chapter, look at tutorials on Youtube and look at any lecture notes that you might have first.

Revise material that you don’t know already

Math classes almost always build upon each other. Before taking a class it would help to make sure that you are familiar with the prerequisites. In most cases you will find that there will be classes that you must have taken before taking a certain math class.

However, even if you have already satisfied the prerequisites there may have been areas that you didn’t understand very well that you might want to brush up on.

Prepare for the class before taking the class

One way to really help make your classes easier and to boost your grades is to self-study the material before taking the class. I personally received a 3.8 GPA as a math major and this is what I would say really helped me in achieving that.

By doing so you will find that it will be much easier to understand what the professor is teaching and it will be easier for you to understand why they are teaching it.

Before taking a class that you think might be challenging you should look on Youtube, Edx or Coursera to see if that class has a series that you can watch online before starting the class.


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.