Do I Need To Be Good At Math To Be A Computer Programmer?

"I want to become a computer programmer after school. I know a few programmers (offhand), and they seem to live well-paid lifestyles, though I don’t know any of them well enough to have a long conversation about starting a career. Here’s my question. I am bad at math. I don’t like doing it either. I actually hate math class. But I always hear people talk about computer programmers like they are all math wizards. I am never going to be one, but does that mean I can never become a computer programmer either? That seems really disheartening."

asked by Josh from Baton Rouge, LA

You do not necessarily need to be great at math to become a computer programmer. I say “not necessarily” simply because there are so many different routes you could take your career in if you major in computer science. You should be able to get through your degree requirements. Yes, you will have to take some math classes to graduate, but they will not take up all your time at school, and you can handle them.

As to whether you will need to use math in your day to day life as a computer programmer, let’s come back to the “it depends” answer. What do you want to do as a programmer? Have you thought much about it yet? If for example you want to create a 3D engine for computer graphics, you definitely need to know a ton of math.

There is a lot of low-level programming that requires math as well. But there are also many programming applications that do not require much math at all. You don’t need to be good at math to do most business and web design computer programming applications, and there is a lot of opportunity in that kind of programming.

You will meet many software developers who neither like math nor are good at it, and they are able to get along fine. You may hear some people say you need a “math mindset” in order to become a programmer, but they are not talking about memorizing or executing strings of formulas. They are referring to being able to think logically.

Oftentimes, the mathematical formulas you need to use in your programming will be given to you (especially in business programming), and all you have to do is insert them into the program in their logical place. You are not as likely to have to develop a new algorithm.

Some knowledge of mathematics can give you an edge over other programmers, but it is not essential. This is why you will be required to take a few math classes as part of your degree requirements. Your university just wants to make sure you have a bit of that knowledge before you jump in.

But you do not need to take any extra math classes if you do not want to, and if you aim for work as a business software developer, you should do just fine with your computer science degree and a logical mindset.

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Join The Discussion - 3 Comments

  1. Daniel C. says:

    To me, the way I see it, you will definitely need to be good/ok or even excellent in math before taking a CS begging class. As you were told, you need some math courses such as Discrete Mathematics, Linear algebra, and so on. Et, some school/colleges will ask you to take Calculus (I, II, and III) as prerequisite courses before you take the courses I have mentioned above.
    Now, if you don’t like or hate math, then I suggest you to consider another career.
    “YOU NEED TO BE GOOD IN MATH” and that is true. If you don’t believe it, take some time and ask some computer science students in any college.

  2. Santiago Juliao says:

    What kind of math do I need to develop sotware programs in combinations/permutations and for most of the business sofware developments…? Please advise,

  3. Maycee Dukes says:

    I think that a lot of people assume that you need to have a high level of math skills to succeed in CS/programming. While it is helpful, it’s entirely unnecessary.

    Hopefully more and more people will realize this and it will help attract more people to the field.

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