Should I Major In Mathematics?

"I am just starting out college and am in my first semester. I entered in undeclared, because I just honestly had no clue what interested me. I didn’t like math much when I was in high school, but since starting college calculus, I have really been enjoying it. I am picking classes for next year and have already put a couple more math classes in my schedule. It occurs to me that I am on my way to becoming a math major. Is it really a good idea though? Are there any jobs in math, or should I give it up and do something else?"

asked by Dave from Sitka, AK

Your options in the field of mathematics are a bit constrained, but they are not nonexistent. And if mathematics interests you largely for academic reasons, you might very well consider a career in teaching. If you do teach, I would certainly advise you to aim to do it at the university level (unless you have a desire to teach younger students). The advantage is that you may be given funding to do further research in the field of mathematics.

For many professors, the classes are just a way to procure support for academic work. And if you are compelled by the idea of teaching, that is even better. If you want to teach at the college level, you will need to plan on earning a higher degree.

Outside the field of teaching, there are other opportunities, but you would probably want to start picking classes that prepare you for them.

For example, many mathematicians end up in computer programming. But if you never take a computer science class and you do not learn anything about programming on your own, you will not really be in a position to work in that field after college.

Likewise, a number of mathematics majors go on to do math in a business capacity. You cannot become an accountant without getting a certification in accounting, but there are accounting-related jobs which are suitable for mathematicians.

That might be something where you would just want to take some extra courses and prepare yourself for the CPA exam if that is something you could really see yourself doing later.

I always advise when a student is trying to make a decision like this that you get further advice from the advisor in your own department. Your mathematics department has probably answered this question for a lot of other students, and they can also give you a better idea of what opportunities might be available in your geographic area.

There is no reason to give up on your dream of majoring in mathematics if you believe that one of the careers associated with this field would interest you after school. You also might check into other majors (such as sciences) which involve a lot of applied mathematics but could open the door to other opportunities. You might discover that one of these fields suits you even better.

Career Spotlight: Mathematician

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