If you are deciding between majoring in math or mechanical engineering, 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:
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note|
A hard major.
Lots of possible job paths.
Average predicted job growth.
Good reported job satisfaction.
|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.
Source for mechanical engineering average pay and jobs
There are a number of things to consider when choosing between the two degrees. Below, are details about each major, their differences and reasons to choose one or the other.
Details about a mechanical engineering degree
Below are some details about a degree in mechanical engineering.
According to Payscale, the average pay of a mechanical engineer is $80,251. This is higher than the average pay of most degrees including most engineering degrees including civil engineering. However, it is lower than the average reported pay for computer engineering ($87,000), electrical engineering ($92,000) and computer science($85,000).
The predicted growth rate for mechanical engineering jobs is 4%, in total, over the next decade and the number of mechanical engineering jobs is said to be 320,000 (source). This, by itself, would give the mechanical engineering major moderately good job prospects.
However, mechanical engineering can also qualify you for jobs in related fields including industrial engineering which has a 10% predicted growth rate. This means that mechanical engineering can have good job prospects, provided that you choose to take classes relevant to areas that are growing and which already have a large number of jobs, at least above 300,000.
Jobs you can qualify for with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering can include:
- Mechanical engineer
- Manufacturing engineer
- Design engineer
- Project engineer
- Aerospace engineer
Mechanical engineering is a difficult major. It will include a lot of math classes, a lot of physics classes, and the mechanical engineering classes, themselves, can be difficult which also include a lot of physics and mathematics. Overall, you can expect mechanical engineering to be similarly difficult to a math major which is also a hard major.
Below are some classes you can expect to take in mechanical engineering:
- Differential equations
- Fluid dynamics
Things to consider
Mechanical engineering is a major that will involve a lot of study time. If you are choosing the major purely for the job opportunities, there are better alternatives that do not require as much study time such as computer science.
However, mechanical engineering can be a pathway into very interesting careers that are very satisfying. Before choosing mechanical engineering as a major, it would help a lot to research the different jobs you could get and to see if they are things that you would truly enjoy doing.
Details about a math degree
Below are some key details about the math major.
According to Payscale, the average pay for someone with a bachelor’s degree 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.
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.
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. 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:
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
Reasons to choose a math degree
While a math degree is not as applied to certain types of jobs like mechanical engineering is, 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.
Also, I would recommend choosing applied mathematics over pure mathematics because applied mathematics tends to be the more employable of the two.
Reasons to choose mechanical engineering
When compared with a math degree by itself, you can expect a mechanical engineering degree to qualify you for more jobs at the entry-level.
Also, the math used in a mechanical 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.
Furthermore, the jobs that a mechanical engineering degree can qualify you for tend to be very interesting jobs that have high levels of satisfaction. However, a math major can also qualify you for interesting jobs in data science and machine learning if you take the right classes.