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What are some career opportunities for a student who is majoring in mathematics and interested in engineering?

I plan on majoring in mathematics next year, but I am very interested in engineering. The college I will be attending does not have a major in engineering, so I am curious to see if math can get me to engineering in graduate school. #engineering #mathematics #mis

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Pete’s Answer

Most engineering graduate schools in the U.S. require an undergraduate degree in engineering from an ABET accredited engineering school. However, even if it is the case that some graduate schools may not require an engineering degree at the undergraduate level, you would be at a significant disadvantage to study graduate engineering without having done it at the undergraduate level first. I would strongly recommend against this approach. It will be very important to have done hands-on engineering in the various laboratory classes at the undergraduate level in classes such as physics, chemistry, and upper level engineering courses, depending on the branch of engineering you study, before you embark on the specialized tracks of engineering graduate school.


Given that, I would rethink the choice to attend a college school without an engineering program. If engineering truly is your interest, then decide which kind of engineering you would like to study (e.g., electrical, mechanical, chemical, etc.) and then find an engineering school which has such a program that you can attend and afford.


One possible scenario is that you attend your planned college for a year or two first and take plenty of mathematics (up to multi-variable calculus and differential equations), chemistry (1 year) and physics (3 semesters) as well as English courses. These courses make up the bulk of the first two years of most undergraduate engineering programs. Then, you can apply and transfer to an engineering school that excels in the area of engineering that you wish to focus on.


As for career opportunities, the same theory above applies. Most companies will likely not hire you based on a mathematics degree but an “interest” in engineering. Instead, lots of students, such as yourself, with strong interests in both mathematics and engineering tend to major in either computer science and/or electrical engineering where the mathematics component is prevalent.


Next steps for you to do is try to narrow down your interests and research schools in your area. Of course, don’t be afraid to look at out-of-state schools either. Also, talk to professors, your high school counselors, and people in the profession and find out what they do. At this stage, information gathering is key. Once you have the information, your gut will lend a hand in helping to make a decision that is right for you and your career.

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Jochen’s Answer

Madison,

I have degree in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science and to be honest, when I was entering university, I didn't necessarily think about career as much. I enjoyed Mathematics and (mistakenly) thought it would be an easy major.

If your dream is to become an engineer - then I would follow Pete's advice and reconsider your choice of college.

But if you are in general looking at career options, Mathematics is a good choice. Aside from the facts, theorems, algorithms and theoretical concept what you really learn when studying Mathematics is problem solving. Literally everything I learned in Mathematics (except for problem solving) has been irrelevant in my career. What you really learn in Math is to break a big problem (which seems unsolvable) into many small problems which are solvable and to combine that into the solution of your big problem - that is a skill set that you need is most (if not all) jobs.

So my advice to you is to answer the following questions:
1) Is a specific field or discipline critical for you when you think about your career? If it is, then plan to set yourself up as best as you can for it.
2) What do you enjoy doing? If you are not really sure about 1) then start with something you enjoy and in time you will likely find the answer to 1) and can make adjustments to your path.

Hope this helps,

Jochen
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