Career and Education Questions: January 05, 2023

This recurring thread will be for any questions or advice concerning careers and education in mathematics. Please feel free to post a comment below, and sort by new to see comments which may be unanswered.

Please consider including a brief introduction about your background and the context of your question.

Helpful subreddits include /r/GradSchool, /r/AskAcademia, /r/Jobs, and /r/CareerGuidance.

If you wish to discuss the math you've been thinking about, you should post in the most recent What Are You Working On? thread.


Long story short: I moved to Switzerland (because of my dad) with the family but we don’t speak German, except for him. The education here is… weird. Firstly classes 7,8 and 9 learn in the same classroom , a few of each. Secondly, biology, chemistry, science and physics are all in one, all taught by the same teacher. There are other classes that have been mushed together but this one is by far the worst (ex. history and geography, ethnics and idk what else). I want to know, is there any math online course or curriculum available for the public that I can follow?


One good source is Khan Academy.


How can I find math grad schools with applications that are still open? I just finished submitting to all the schools on my official list (10 schools), but now want to apply to a few more that are open. If it helps, I'm looking for schools with good topology departments (specifically, algebraic topology).


I'm not sure that there's a good way to do this other than to just check school-by-school, sorry.


Hi everyone. I'm currently a undergraduate freshman and I'd like to do a PhD after I graduate. I'm trying to keep my grades as high as possible and I have A+'s from every class yet today I did terrible on the Physics final. My midterm grades were also very high in Physics but I'm expecting around a C+/B- from the final. I was looking to go to one of the "top" schools. How much should this freak me out? I'm sorry if this questions seems very repugnant to some of you but I really wanted to have a 4.0 and been working really hard for it, albeit physics is kind of my weakness and even though I could figure out how the systems work in the exam and put together equations, I'm terrible with numbers and have terrible exam anxiety which made me completely bomb the exam this time. Sorry for rambling.


If you're really concerned and going to major in physics, crushing the upper level version of the course you got a C in would be a mark in your favor. All in all, probably not a huge deal to get a c in intro physics if you want to do math.


This basically won't matter. Like, don't make a habit of it, and do well in the important maths courses, but no-one's going to care about one grade outside your major. Even if it did matter a tiny bit, it would be way less important than other aspects of your application, like your research experience / REUs.


Don't freak out about it too much. One C won't hurt your chances. Besides, it sounds like physics isn't even what you want to do your PhD in? You might want to address your exam anxiety and number manipulation though; these seem like the issues to work on rather than stressing about one C.


I'm currently studying my graduate degree and I'm considering apply for a Japanese scholarship to do my masters degree, however since I still don't know the language very well I'm having trouble finding any real connection to someone whom I could work with. My main interests are in logic, particularly in Model theory and set theory, but recently I've been really amazed by how much results appear elegantly in category theory (and that might be a more active field too) so if you know any professor or contemporary japanese mathematics literature I would be really gratefu


So this is my 2nd yr at CC and I'm a CS major who is delayed due to starting off as a General studies major. I have taken most of my general electives + pre-requisite math courses already, and am going to start taking actual CS and college-level math courses now. I took two sections of pre calculus last year (during the spring + summer 2022), I did well in both courses and I was enrolled to take Calculus 1 last Fall semester but I ended up dropping it because I felt that I wasn't prepared enough to do well (didn't review enough pre-calc in time), and also so I could focus on my other courses at the time. I initially planned on reviewing pre-calc all throughout last semester with the new free time I had, but I never ended up reviewing at all, not until now which is a week away from the start of the spring semester. My question is whether I have enough time to review important pre-calc topics to be able to do well in Calc 1 this semester, or if I'm better off using this semester to review pre-calc + learn calc in preparation for the summer. I don't like the idea of postponing this course again, but I wouldn't want to take it now just to end up failing.


Just take calculus. Unlike pre-calc (which you have already taken and done well in), it's actually interesting. No point in spinning your wheels by repeating the same thing over and over again. Edit: When you dropped calculus before, was it because you were specifically having issues with pre-calc material that the class expected you to know already?


I dropped it because I was way behind and was having trouble understanding basic things like the concept of a limit. It would’ve taken me too long to catch up at the moment


Yeah, an extra semester of pre-calc won't help at all with that. You just need to devote more time to the calculus class from the very beginning to keep the same thing from happening again.


Yes you’re right, thank you!


Hi!, i am trying to relearn high school math, i took a break with some gigs after high school and want to go to college but math is the bane of my existence. I have seen websites like [brillitan.org](https://brillitan.org) and khan academy but i dont know if they are reliable ways to relearn math.


They are most certainly reliable ways to learn maths.


What are some possible careers/jobs in Physics/Math/Statistics/Computer Science R(& or)D? The focus of this comment is mainly on Math and Statistics, however, ANY area of advice is welcome! (especially noting the transferability of knowledge and skills between these fields) I know three things, one: I love math, two: I want to work in R&D and three: I don't want to be unemployed. To elaborate: I am a high schooler going into her last year who is deeply interested in doing research and/or development work, I am very interested in my passions and am not interested in working just to put food on the table, I want to want to do what I do even if I had infinite cash under the bad, otherwise I will most likely be deeply unsatisfied with my life. I am mostly interested in math, I love the abstraction, the logic, the modeling of these complicated systems, the specific tools etc... I don't want to give any specific areas I'm interested as I don't know nearly enough about them to say with confidence that I'm gonna work in Statistical Mechanics or AI or whatever, also because at this point I''ll accept anything on the table, but math has to be a very substantial part of it. Now, what do I want exactly? I want career options that involve working on interesting and hard mathematical/scientific/engineering/other problems from a mostly mathematical perspective, I want to work on things which aren't just, for example, managing cybersecurity for an IT company or data science for an insurance company, I want to do something which makes me feel proud every time I wake up and look in the mirror, something that made all the years of hard work worth it, something that adds to the life of people, that furthers science, or that is just really fucking cool, those are my motivators, it involving math is what makes it fun.Getting further education than a Bsc is no problem and in fact is mostly desired, I do not want to work with slot machine level probabilities, I do not find that interesting. that is very important. This whole shebang started because getting an academic job that's not mainly teaching-based and will last more than a microsecond seems harder than becoming president, and when I look for jobs for applied math PhD people the answers are finance (no) switch into a software developer position (which I'm trying to "switch out" of) or something like data science, which are cool tools, but I don't want to use them to spend my time analyzing market data, I'd rather study engineering... or become a doctor, haha I'll give some examples to clarify: ML algorithms research that goes on at a lot of Big Tech places, Cryptography too, though at an even smaller rate, NASA engineering contractors, Bell Labs/IBM tier electronics, quantum computing etc... research, Nvidia computer graphics research, an institute in my country has a consultancy center where they've done work for a medical company doing AI to help use data from X-rays+ to diagnose conditions that usually would require an MRI, things like these. Programming isn't a problem too, I will also be finishing up what is somewhat like an one-year associates degree in IT (best way I can explain, no equivalent in most of the world) and also I am currently doing an IT cybersecurity internship, which I'll probably do until 2024, might get hired full time too, which is important as I'll probably work for 1\~2 years for money, and I wonder if the programming and network experience will add to my cv, I also find programming fun. Again, anything at all is welcome, thank you for your time.


I think the best thing you can do here is to try a variety of different career options during your summers - for instance internships in tech or finance, or research REUs.




I'll be another voice suggesting that try out learning python or something from an online course (Coursera?), and see how much you like that. You don't necessarily need formal classes for this.


Almost everyone I knew in school who didn't pursue academia (myself included) felt similarly and learned to program on their own, or went back after and did some sort of shortened CS degree, or a 2 year game development program, something like that. It's certainly not the only option but job searching is WAY less stressful when you have a specific hard skill you can leverage, like programming.


Not in the US, but here are a few ideas: 1. high school math teacher 2. actuary (at least in Germany it’s an additional qualification that you can study for whilst already being employed by an insurance company) 3. do a Math phd and focus on probability theory and stats 4. do a statistics PhD


Computer science isn't the ticket so much as programming ability is. It feels a bit trite to trot out the old "learn to code" chestnut, but it is the best way into an industry job. Unless you have some prior objection to it, coding is fun! and not that difficult to pick up for a maths graduate; the big constraint would be time, so unfortunately it wouldn't help you in the short term. Longer term, though, it's definitely worth it.


I just graduated from FSU with a B.S. in Applied and Computational Math. I have 2 minors, one in computer science and another in interdisciplinary science. I have experience with Python, C++, pandas, matplotlib, unix, Tableau, HTML, CSS and some minor experience with SQL. I also have had about 10 years of costumer service experience. I have an AA in physics. I briefly owned my own salon. I have applied to about 50-70 jobs and I have gotten 1 interview and I didn't get the job. I'm applying to a range of jobs, anything that I'm qualified for (entry level data analyst, business analyst, software engineer, software dev, programmer, etc). I'm trying to stay motivated but it is so discouraging. Does anyone have advice? Or, at least, can anyone tell me that I'm not alone?


Applying for jobs is hard and stressful, and you're not alone. It might be helpful to ask for advice from colleagues, mentors or professors - perhaps they would be willing to look over your CV for you and make suggestions, suggest jobs that you might apply for, or suggest other ways to make your applications stronger.


Consult someone! Preferably someone who knows all about CV's, application processes, job interviews, etc. Universities tend to have careers centres that do free consultation, but you can also pay another professional (make sure to check backgrounds beforehand). Having an employable skillset is one thing, presenting it to an employer s.t. you get hired is different.


Hello. I am an incoming college freshman who has only taken up to Honors Precalculus in high school. I didn't have much interest in math until Algebra II in 11th grade where a switch flipped for me. I started really enjoying the subject. I am coming into college this year (took a gap semester to save a little money) as a math major, but I am unsure if this is a wise choice. I know that I am well behind other math majors) especially considering the fact I took a gap semester), and I only scored a 690 on the math portion of my SAT. By all means, my academic showings are probably at best mediocre for a student pursuing a math-y major (something like engineering or chemistry, etc.), and I can only imagine they are severely subpar for a student pursuing a major concerned purely with math. Based on the information given heretofore, should I consider switching to something else? What can I expect from the curriculum to come in an undergraduate math degree given my background?


If you're enjoying your maths courses and could imagine yourself working in the area, then stick with it and don't worry about being 'behind'. In general for people studying maths, I'd advise making sure to keep a backup plan open, for instance studying some stats or programming as well, because there's a decent chance that you don't end up going on in maths academia. (But this is just because most people don't, not anything about you being behind)


Some of my cohorts in grad school had started with precalculus in college. Even more started with calculus, I started with calc 2. Yes, there are 'advanced people' early on, but you eventually catch up to them and, say in mid grad school, everyone's pretty much on the same page. Being 'ahead' is really only convenient early on, or if you want to catch the eye of advisors who can help you with stuff. That said, try to take your university's course on logic/proofs/beginner set theory as soon as possible because that's what math becomes like later on, and it doesn't require much math knowledge before hand.


Don't beat yourself up about being "behind." It's really not a big deal. No one will ever care about your SAT score either. What to expect: You'll start with the calculus sequence and linear algebra. Then there is a big change where everything is about making definitions, proving theorems, and getting familiar with abstraction. The more advanced math classes aren't really about solving problems but much more focused on creativity and conceptual understanding. If your university has an "intro to proofs" class, I'd advise you to take it as soon as possible so you know what's coming and whether or not you like it.


I'm looking for advice on how to narrow down a field of study for a Master's degree in math. I've always loved math but the more I learn about how grad school works, the more intimidated I get that I will choose the wrong thing. I'm going back to school for a year to complete a minor in math (was halfway there with my engineering degree), and I am hoping that while I'm there something will inspire me, but that's not for another 8 months and I want to get ahead. For anyone who has done grad school, how did you decide what you wanted to do?


The field chooses you as much as you choose it. You will know when it's time.


I jumped straight into a PhD after undergrad (am in the US), thinking I would work on something analysis or physics related since that's what I had done a little bit of in undergrad. Honestly though, around the time I started I began to get really interested in questions in computational social science, a branch of social science that uses data science tools (among other things). To give myself the opportunity to branch out into this later, I transitioned into more applied math kinds of things (won't be specific cause this is the internet, etc). I also felt like if I was going to spend a bunch of my life in academia, I wanted to do something that I could talk about in multiple fields, and applied math naturally lends itself to that over pure. The job prospects outside of academia are a big consideration too, because academia isn't for everyone. I made the decision to switch about two years into my program - a bit late, but not too late thankfully.


I had never heard of computational social science before, but it sounds like exactly what I want to pursue. You've just unlocked a new realm of research for me. Thank you.


For sure! I'll link you the paper that inspired me to try and pursue it: https://www.reddit.com/r/MensLib/comments/c289kp/im_a_researcherformer_grad_student_who_just/


This is incredible! What an interesting read. Thank you for sharing.


I did a year of my masters and really there's little specialization right away. You'll have time to settle in and meet some professors and talk about their work. You should have an idea of pure vs applied before walking in, but you don't really even need to decide on like algebra vs topology/geometry vs analysis/pde stuff until you're done with your base classes. Your first few semesters will be pretty set with intro classes for algebra and analysis and teaching. You'll get one maybe two classes that you actually get to choose these semesters. So those are a good time to explore what you MIGHT be interested in, but its not binding.