What can I add to my math degree to improve my job prospects?
September 21, 2011 12:16 AM   Subscribe

I have a B.S. in Math, but I haven't been able to find a job in my field. What can I add to my undergrad degree to be more competitive in the job market?

I searched for math-related jobs for many months before finally giving up and taking work in the field that got me through college in the first place (high volume printing). It seems like almost everything math-related requires a master's degree or a PhD. While in school, I really enjoyed mathematical modeling, but now I understand that my grasp of it is probably not firm enough to be useful to most employers.

Since then I have worked for an online game company in my spare time, as a developer. This is about 20 hours a week and in addition to whatever else I have going on at the time. Unfortunately this is an old game and isn't well known, and the skills I have acquired there are sort of specific to that game. The language I work in is proprietary and the format isn't modern or cool. I really love the game and enjoy the work tremendously. It's basically a volunteer position, though, since the pay is very little.

I'll have the opportunity over the next few years of getting a master's degree online at very little expense. Unfortunately, it has to be online because I'm living abroad for the next few years I don't speak the local language well enough to go to school here (shameful, but I'm working on it).

What sort of degree would be best for me if I want to try to continue with game development? What about generic computer programming? These seem a little more approachable than mathematical modeling, but maybe I am mistaken about that? Is there anything else I should be doing, or taking into account? I mainly just want to position myself so that I can finally nail down a challenging job that will get me above the poverty line, and I think I could be happy doing any of those things.
posted by ZeroDivides to Work & Money (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: That would be a degree in Computer Science. But depending on the employer, a degree in math plus a few years of experience (start coding your own projects for fun and experience!) would be just as good.
posted by tremspeed at 12:20 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: Are you sure that graduate-level courses aren't taught in English where you are? They are at many european universities.

A math degree is a good sign of analytical ability and capability to do hard work. As tremspeed said, add a couple years experience in your new field and potential employers should be impressed.
posted by Ian Scuffling at 12:43 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: Math is a surprisingly versatile degree, meaning that it can lead you to a variety of fields that are not math related.

What did you specialize in? Statistics or applied math? Or were you a pure math nerd? Did you get a minor? This info might help.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:49 AM on September 21, 2011

Response by poster: My degree was technically for pure math, but I took a fair number of the applied math courses because in the end I found the application stuff more interesting (scientific programming, mathematical modeling, game theory, cryptography, number theory, as well as statistics if that counts). I did my undergrad research (modeling lipids) under one of the applied math professors.

My minor was in French.
posted by ZeroDivides at 1:11 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: It's not gaming, but if you brush up your stats skills and learn about about specific areas of social science or economics, I know in my country, at least, Government departments and public service agencies have quite a demand for statisticians, modellers and policy specialists.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:44 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Look for entry-level "business analyst" positions. These jobs often focus on statistics and data—although the math you'll be doing won't be exciting at all.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:43 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nth-ing Statistics as the way to go - there are jobs in Quantitative Market Research, internal data analysis, consulting, and what is now sometimes called "data science" (wince) going begging for want of statistics bods.
posted by Wylla at 4:48 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: Market research is a possibility -- statistics (both simple and advanced) as well as modeling. Discrete choice and conjoint; survey research.
posted by lathrop at 4:54 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: most game developers you would want to work for won't hire you unless you show a desire to actually build out your own things, so begin by learning how to code at home and create simple games. Work your way out of that and into more complex math in the games and that might get you a foot in the door.

other ways would be to frequent message boards where you know game developers may hang out.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:16 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: How about becoming a quant?

From what you have described, this type of job seems tailor made for you.

Good Luck!
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:33 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: The market for insurance math people (actuaries, underwriters) is fine. If you could pass the probability exam or bond pricing exam you could get a foot in the door in many parts of the country.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:14 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas, everyone. It's given me some options to consider and some perspective which I greatly appreciate.
posted by ZeroDivides at 6:44 PM on September 25, 2011

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