If you are deciding between majoring in engineering or mathematics, 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.

At a glance:

EngineeringMathematics
Average pay$85,100$76,684
Ease of finding a jobGoodModerate
Types of jobs
you can qualify for
Software engineer
Mechanical engineer
Civil engineer
Project engineer
Structural engineer
Electrical engineer
Industrial engineer
Chemical engineer
Data analyst
Data scientist
Software engineer
Math teacher
Actuarial analyst
Financial analyst
Difficulty of the
major
HardHard
Key things to noteCan give good job
prospects with just
a bachelor’s degree.

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

The jobs you will
qualify for will depend
a lot on the specific
type of engineering
degree you choose.
Not a very employable
degree by itself if you
do not take applied
electives.

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

Also employable if
you combine it with
programming and
data analysis skills.
Source for math salary and jobs
Source for engineering salary and jobs

As you can see from the table, there are many similarities between the two degrees. However, there are many things to consider when choosing between the two degrees.

Details about a math degree

Below are some key details about the math major.

Current pay

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for mathematicians (and statisticians) 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 $76,684.

Something to consider is that many of the more mathematical and well-paid jobs, such as a data scientist or machine learning engineer, will often require a master’s degree and that you take classes related to data science and machine learning.

Types of jobs the degree will qualify you for

Since mathematics is used in many different fields, a math degree will open you up to many different job opportunities.

However, 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 will qualify for.

However, math is a general degree that is not specific to a certain type of job in the way something such as computer science or the different engineering degrees are. This means that you should take courses from the field that you want to enter and do internships and 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 statistics classes)

With that being said, there are some people that have gotten data science and machine learning jobs with just a bachelor’s in math. It would greatly improve your chances if you were to make sure to complete machine learning and data science projects and to do internships in those fields as an undergrad.

Types of classes you will study

As a math major you can expect to take the following classes:

Differential calculus
Integral calculus
Multivariate calculus
Differential equations
Linear algebra
Discrete math
Abstract algebra
Real analysis
Number theory

You can also expect to have the option to select from a range of other advanced math classes or related classes from other disciplines such as statistics, computer science, physics and engineering.

How difficult it is as a major

The math major is generally considered as being one of the hardest undergraduate degrees available. It becomes especially hard when you enter your junior year since most of your classes will be proof-based which tend to be much harder than the more computational classes.

Some things to consider about the major

A math degree can open up many different possible avenues for yourself and can be a very good degree when combined with a more applied minor. This is because the mathematics taught in a math major is useful in a wide variety of fields but you will need to supplement it with some field-specific coursework.

A very good combination would be to major in mathematics and to minor in computer science. Doing this would open you up to job roles such as data science, machine learning engineer, data analysis and software engineering. Alternatively, majoring in computer science and minoring in mathematics is also a very good combination.

If you want to go down the data science or machine learning route, it would also help to make sure to take some statistics and data analysis classes. However, in this case, it would likely be better to major in statistics and to minor in CS or minor in stats and major in CS.

More details about the math major

I have written more about how to do well in a math major here and I have written more about whether or not a math degree is worth it here.

Details about a degree in engineering

Below are details about a degree in engineering.

It can pay well

According to Payscale, the average salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in engineering is $85,100. This puts engineering among the highest paying degrees to obtain.

Engineering is also a major that will give you good job prospects with just a bachelor’s degree.

However, many of the better jobs will require a master’s degree. Getting one will also improve your long-term pay prospects. However, this can be said for most majors.

Something to consider is that the average salary will vary depending on the specific field that you are intending to enter. You can look here to see what the median and average pay is for each of the different types of engineering degrees.

Also, the job progression and working hours will depend a lot on the specific field you want to enter.

Before choosing an engineering degree, it would help a lot to do lots of research on the specific type of engineering degree that you are interested in and to make sure that it has good job prospects. It would also help to make sure that it is something that you would be interested in doing.

Job prospects are projected to improve

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics it is expected that there will be a total of 139,300 new jobs by 2026 when compared to 2016. You can look here to see how each of the different types of engineering jobs are projected to improve.

Many people with engineering degrees go down the software engineering route. These jobs tend to pay well and be less demanding unless there are deadlines coming up.

With that being the case, picking up a minor in computer science will help to broaden your job prospects significantly. Make sure to take computer science algorithms and data structures since that is what gets tested in software engineering interviews.

It can be difficult to get a high GPA

Engineering majors are, usually, majors with a high dropout rate. There are many possible reasons for this but one main reason is that an engineering major is more challenging than people would expect.

Engineering will make use of a lot of mathematics. In engineering, you will need to learn, single and multivariable calculus, linear algebra, discrete math and differential equations. These can be difficult classes that will require a lot of time spent studying. Many students are not willing to put the necessary amount of time into studying for these classes so they end up not doing very well in them.

However, if you are also interested in a math degree, it is likely that you will be able to do well on the math side of an engineering degree which is where most students struggle. Also, the math classes in an engineering degree are rarely proof-based so they will not be as difficult as the advanced math classes in a math major which are proof-heavy and often very difficult.

Another thing to consider is your level of interest in the subject. If you are interested in engineering then you will likely have an easier time motivating yourself to continue studying when you are struggling.

Engineering degrees will often require more credits

Another reason that people have a hard time doing well in engineering is that it will often require more credits to graduate than some of the other majors.

This means that you will likely have to take more classes in each semester as an engineering major and you will have to spend more time studying.

Alternative degrees

There are a number of alternatives if you are thinking of getting an engineering degree.

The alternatives can include:

  • Computer science
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Computer engineering
  • Physics

Things to consider

An engineering degree is more applied than mathematics so it should give you an easier time when job searching. However, it can still be difficult when job searching especially right after graduation so it could help a lot to improve your job opportunities by also taking classes from a discipline such as computer science. With that being said, a math degree can also be very employable if you also combine it with computer science and statistics.

Another thing to consider, is that the mathematics in an engineering degree will be much more computational than in a math degree. If you have not taken proof-based math classes before, it might be the case that you would actually much prefer the math in an engineering degree than in a math degree.

Reasons to choose a math degree

While a math degree is not as applied to a specific type of job like the different engineering degrees are, it can still be very employable if you combine it with something such as computer science and statistics.

Also, math can be very useful when applying to graduate school as it is a lack of math classes that often makes students less competitive. Although, again, it will still be important to take classes related to the discipline that you are interested in.

If you do choose to get a math degree, it would help a lot to consider what you would like to do after graduating and to make sure to take classes related to that. It would also help to try to complete projects and to do summer internships related to a job you are interested in to make your job search much easier after graduation.

Reasons to choose an engineering degree

As mentioned above, most engineering degrees have much better job prospects than a math degree by itself. Getting an engineering degree should be a reliable way to put yourself in a good position after graduating. However, it would still help to try to do internships along the way.

Also, the math used in an engineering degree will usually be much more computational than the math in advanced math classes. Most students tend to prefer these computational classes over the proof-based math classes.

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.