Can A Math Major Become An Engineer?

"I’m really good at math, and I want to major in math because I enjoy it, but I don’t want to get a degree that is going to be useless. I want a good job, and I was thinking maybe engineering would require a lot of mathematics knowledge. So my question is, can I become an engineer with a math degree? What about with a math degree and maybe some extra classes? I am basically looking for a reason to justify majoring in math. If that’s not going to work though I guess I could consider majoring in engineering."

asked by Joey from San Francisco, CA

While engineers generally do need to be good at math, and it is a pleasant thought that a math major could become an engineer, in real life this does not work. Think about all the things that engineers need to know that you are never going to learn in your theory-based math classes. Depending on the type of engineering you are interested in (which you do not seem to have given much consideration yet), you might need experience and learning in areas like circuits, design, strength of materials, heat transfer, and computer science.

That should not entirely discourage you, because math really is a great foundation for engineering—but not by itself. From the sound of things, though, you are far more interested in math than you are in engineering.

Have you done much research into different engineering fields? I only recommend pursuing engineering if it is something you think you would truly enjoy. There are so many different directions you can go with engineering that there is probably something you will like. Look into civil engineering, software engineering, biomedical engineering, and other engineering disciplines.

The best approach to becoming an engineer is to major in engineering and get the appropriate licensing for the field. You can fill your elective spaces with math classes, and it will be almost like double majoring.

Alternately, you could consider actually double majoring. Another idea is to major in math and fill your elective spaces with engineering classes, but this could cause problems with licensing. An adviser could help you to sort out these details and make sure you do not make a major misstep.

Another item of advice to consider when it comes to engineering is hands-on experience. Even engineering majors who take all the right classes before they graduate often find they are not ready to handle real world projects immediately out of college. This is because college focuses so much on theory, and engineering is very different in real life.

It is a great idea to start working on some engineering projects in your spare time (develop a program, build circuits, etc.), and also to pursue an internship. That way when you graduate into the real world, you will have a better foundation than a lot of your peers. This will make you more competitive as a job applicant, and also help you to find your feet when you start working on real life projects professionally.

Career Spotlight: Mathematician

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