If you are deciding between majoring in physics 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.
|Ease of finding a job||Moderate||Moderate|
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note||Gives better job prospects|
when compared with
a pure math bachelor’s
degree by itself.
Many of the more
physics oriented jobs
will require at least
a master’s degree.
Combining the degree
with an applied minor
such as computer science
will improve your job
Doesn’t typically feature
the proof heavy advanced
math classes that tend to
be very difficult.
|Not a very employable|
degree by itself if you
do not take applied
Very employable if
you combine it with
a more applied minor
such as computer
Also employable if
you combine it with
data analysis skills.
Having a strong math
background can help
when applying to
Source for math 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.
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.
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
With that being said, even with just a bachelor’s degree there will be many different jobs that you will qualify for.
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)
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.
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 pure math major you can expect to take the following classes:
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
Details about a physics degree
Below are some details about a degree in physics.
According to Payscale, the average pay of someone with a bachelor’s degree in physics is $86,600. This is a lot higher than the reported average pay of someone with a math bachelor’s degree.
This could be because a physics degree is slightly more applied to job functions than a pure math degree.
However, something to be aware of is that the average pay of someone fresh out of college with no work experience will likely be a lot lower than that.
A physics degree can give access to a wide range of job opportunities. However, like a math bachelor’s degree, a physics degree can be quite general in nature and it can be difficult to find a job with just a bachelor’s degree in physics. However, this will depend a lot on the classes that you choose to take. You can also greatly improve your job prospects by minoring in something more applied such as computer science, completing programming projects and getting summer internships.
Jobs that you could get with a bachelor’s degree in physics could include:
Physics can give good job opportunities if you combine it with more practical skills. Currently, data science is a popular career path for physics majors. If you are interested in data science, it would help to learn programming, data analysis, machine learning to complete data science projects and to take a number of computer science classes including data structures and algorithms.
A physics degree can also be a very difficult degree and you will have to put a lot of time into the degree. However, when compared to a pure math degree, the more advanced classes should be slightly easier than the advanced math classes which tend to feature some hard proofs.
You can expect to take math classes such as:
Partial differential equations
In addition you can expect to have the option to take more math classes if you would like. You might also have the option to take some classes from related disciplines such as statistics, engineering and computer science.
You can also expect to take physics classes including:
Introduction to physics
Mechanics and waves
Electricity and magnetism
You can look here to see an example of required classes in a physics degree.
Reasons to choose a math degree
While a math degree is not as applied to a specific type of job like computer science or the different engineering degrees are, it can still be very employable if you combine it with a minor in 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.
Also, instead of a pure math degree, an applied math degree would also be an option for you especially if you do not know if you like proof-based math classes yet. An applied math degree also should put you in a better position when searching for jobs. I have written about a pure math degree vs applied math here.
Reasons to choose a physics degree
When compared to a pure math degree, a physics degree will usually qualify you for more jobs by itself. If you also combine it with an applied minor such as computer science, do programming projects and get summer internships, it will also put you in a very good position upon graduation.
If you like mathematics, but you have not taken a proof-based math class, there is a high chance that you will actually find that you like the math used in a physics class more than in advanced math classes. This is because the math in the physics classes will generally be much more applied and computational than the math in the advanced math classes.
I found the video below to summarize the two majors pretty well. I would recommend taking a look at it if you have not already.