If you are thinking of choosing a math major then you are probably wondering whether or not it is a good major to choose.
This post will show you whether or not math would be a good major for you and some things that you can do to make your time in the major go more smoothly.
So, is math a good major? Math is a difficult major. Data shows that 52% of people that initially choose the major switch to a different one before graduating. However, it can be a rewarding major that is well paid with a strong job outlook especially when combined with computer science classes.
Whether or not a math major would be right for you will depend on a number of factors and there are a number of things to consider when choosing the major.
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.
The reason for this is likely to be that students that did well in high school math either expect college math to be similar or they find themselves in over their heads.
How difficult a math degree will be for you will depend on a number of factors
If you have already studied a lot of math in high school and done well in your classes then you will be more likely to also be able to do well in a math major.
Whereas, if you did not study much math in high school and you have not taken classes such as calculus then you will have a lot more work to do.
With that being said, even if you do not feel very well prepared for it you can still make up for it by studying more. As long as you satisfy the prerequisites for a class it will be possible for you to do well in it provided that you study enough.
Another factor to consider is your level of interest in the subject. There will be times, especially in your junior and senior years, where you will be struggling a lot with the problems. If you are interested in the subject then it will be much easier for you to push through and to stick with it until you get to the solution.
Whereas, if you are not so interested in the subject and you even get frustrated with it at times then you’ll probably have a hard time in the major.
Another thing to consider is the college that you will be taking the major up in. If you are going to a highly selective college then you will likely find that the major will be a lot more challenging since you will usually get through a lot more material in a semester.
Math at colleges with open admissions policies can also be challenging mainly depending on the professor.
The upper-division classes are proof heavy
Something else to consider is that the upper-division math classes are mostly very different to the lower-division math classes such as calculus or linear algebra.
In upper-division math classes, it will be necessary for you to prove the underlying mathematics in a rigorous way. Many people struggle with these classes and their level of difficulty will likely be a step up from what you are used to.
With that being said, most universities will offer introduction to proofs classes that you should make sure to take before taking any proof-based classes.
You can also prepare for them yourself by self-studying from books that teach how to approach proofs such as this one.
Also, not all upper-division mathematics classes are heavily proof-based. The classes outside of pure mathematics such as probability theory, mathematical statistics, differential equations or partial differential equations will tend to be slightly more analytical. However, even they will tend to involve at least some proofs.
If you enjoy classes that are more computational in nature then consider getting an applied mathematics degree instead of a pure math degree.
Applied math degrees will tend to be more computational in nature and less proof heavy at the undergraduate level. They will also tend to be more employable since you will be taking more classes in disciplines such as statistics or computer science.
It will require a lot of work
The material in math classes can be difficult to understand on the first attempt, there will be many ways to ask the same questions and there tends to be a lot of homework that gets assigned. This means that the major will require you to put in a lot of work outside of class.
It is one of the highest paying degrees
Even though a math degree can be one of the more challenging degrees to obtain it can also be one of the most rewarding degrees from a jobs perspective.
Math occupations had a median annual wage of $86,700 in May 2018 according to https://stats.bls.gov/ooh/math/home.htm. The pay is also expected to rise by 28 percent from 2016 to 2026.
Types of jobs that a math degree will open you up to
Math gets used a lot in many different disciplines. With that being the case, having a math degree will open you up to many different possible job opportunities.
Jobs that a math major can help open you up to can include:
- Data scientist
- Software engineer
- Financial planner
However many of these jobs require a master’s degree to enter especially the ones that are more math-focused. In addition to that, it will often be necessary for you to have knowledge of that particular job in addition to the math degree. For example, a job in software engineering will require knowledge of computer science algorithms.
If you decide to pick a math major then my advice to you would be to make sure to take elective classes in the subject area that you want to work in.
If you want to put yourself in a good position with just a bachelor’s degree then a good option would be for you to take a number of computer science classes at least up to computer science algorithms.
You will often find that there will be a number of computer science classes in the math degree anyway but you should make sure to cover algorithms if they’re not required in the degree. This is because you will be able to interview for software engineering roles and it will help for data science positions later on as well.
If you want to get a math major for the jobs then there are other much easier majors that you could choose that would put you in an even better position with just a bachelor’s degree. But, as mentioned above, if you take elective classes from the field that you want to enter then you should be able to put yourself in a good position to enter that field.
If you are interested in getting a math degree then there are a number of other degrees that might also interest you such as:
- Computer science
Ways to make a math major easier
If you do decide to get a math degree then there are a number of things that you can do to make your time in the major go much more smoothly that I will mention below.
Avoid taking multiple difficult classes at the same time
It would help to try to separate the difficult proof-heavy classes as much as possible. If you take multiple difficult classes in the same semester then you will have to put a lot of effort into multiple classes, you might struggle to keep up, you might get stressed and it might hurt your GPA.
As soon as you do decide to take up a math major it would be helpful to plan out the entire degree. This is so that you are able to take classes in an appropriate sequence and so that you can avoid having lots of difficult classes at the same time. You can do this with the help of an academic advisor from the math department.
Consider who is teaching the class
The professor can have a big impact on the difficulty of the class. The professor will dictate the pace of the class, what gets covered and what goes on exams. Some will give study guides and others will tell you to know everything from the book.
Before selecting a class it would help to see what other students have said on ratemyprofessors.com. Make sure to select your classes early since the recommended professors will have their classes fill up quickly.
In your junior and senior years most of your classes will only be offered by one professor. In these cases, you can either take a different class, take the class anyway or take the class in a later semester if the professor is not recommended.
Make sure to do well on the homework
A normal weighting for the homework in a math class will be around 20%. Many students do not take the homework very seriously but you should. 20% is enough to make up for a poor exam score and it is enough to bump you up a grade. It is also enough to drag your grade down if you do not do well on it.
You can make sure you do well on the homework by starting on it early, making use of multiple resources such as other books, Youtube and Google and getting help when you get stuck from your professor or TA.
Read the textbook before jumping to the problems
Many students jump straight to the problems before reading the chapter from the textbook in an attempt to save time. The problem with doing this is that the professor might have skipped sections of the book and the problems will be based on what is in the book.
Before tackling the homework problems it will normally be more time-efficient to read the chapter from the book beforehand. You will be able to understand the material more easily and the questions will be easier to understand and answer.
Prepare for the class before taking it
One way to make your classes much easier would be to prepare for the class before taking it. By doing this you will be able to understand the material from the lectures much more easily and you’ll have a much easier time on the homework and exams.
You can prepare for the classes by reading highly-rated books from Amazon or you can watch Youtube playlists.