Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advice

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Kulak
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Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advice

Post by Kulak » Thu Mar 07, 2013 12:11 pm

(I suppose I should also include physicists, economists, people working on the theoretical side of engineering/CS, et.al.)

Me
I'm 36 and have $400K in the bank, a cushy job, and no kids yet. Standardized tests indicate IQ around the 99th percentile (but not the 99.9th). I show very high ability in concept organization, classification, etc., but low in idea productivity. The most advanced math I have taken was Calc 1. :( The one class in high school that really hooked me was geometry, using Harold Jacobs' textbook.

My pipe dream
About 1 1/2 years ago I got bitten by the math bug. There were several factors that came together, and I'll spare the details but it has become an obsession. First was just getting a handle on all the areas of math and how they relate, where they overlap, etc., and learning how to learn. This by itself took more than a year but I feel like I'm mostly there now. And I believe there are helpful pedagogical resources today that didn't exist when I was in college.

Contra Mr. LeBoeuf's sensible dictum to "work very hard at something that comes easy to you," I know I'm no Ramanujan but I have so much respect for you folks and what you know that I'd rather be a bad mathematician than a good anything else, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I know I lack the imagination for pure mathematics. I can't see myself ever proving a new theorem or landing a professorship. But I would like to master all the undergrad-level material and its applications, find some kind of specialization at the graduate level, and become an applied mathematician, statistician, something like that.

My question for you
I'm seriously thinking of quitting my day job and going all-in on this. Would appreciate any advice on academic and career planning, how to study, what you wish you'd known back then, what you like and hate about your job, the jobs available at various degree levels, etc.

And if it's harsh realism along the lines of "you probably aren't smart enough" or "you're too old," that's welcome too. Maybe I should forget it. I mean, if I decided at 34 that I love nothing so much as basketball, that wouldn't mean trying to make the NBA. (But perhaps becoming the local high school coach?)

Thanks!
Depriving ourselves to boost our 40-year success probability much beyond 80% is a fool’s errand, since all you are doing is increasing the probability of failure for [non-financial] reasons. --wbern

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Watty
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Watty » Thu Mar 07, 2013 12:55 pm

I'm seriously thinking of quitting my day job and going all-in on this.
I'm not a mathematician but what is your day job?

I'm thinking that there might be some overlap.

I know someone that is a bit older than you and has gone through several career changes and he is just finishing up a program this spring where he will get certification in the SAS statistical software (it might be part of a degree, I'm not sure) and he seem very optimistic about his career prospects with that.

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Chan_va
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Chan_va » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:02 pm

Just a word of caution. The greatest hobby in the world can turn into drudgery when its your livelihood.

I love the game of bridge and am quite good at it. For a little while, I tried going professional - I hated it when it became work.

TerryDMillerMBA
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by TerryDMillerMBA » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:07 pm

You're more than smart enough. Most mathematicians (hell, even doctors, engineers, and lawyers) AREN'T geniuses. Just very, very bright, and possessing at least some level of personal discipline. Your IQ is genius-level. Your horsepower in your engine is fine.

Sit back, and be honest with yourself. What really stopped you from pursuing this in the past? To continue my metaphor from the previous paragraph: what stopped you from entering your car in the race before?

travelnut11
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by travelnut11 » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:19 pm

Watty wrote:
I'm seriously thinking of quitting my day job and going all-in on this.
I'm not a mathematician but what is your day job?

I'm thinking that there might be some overlap.

I know someone that is a bit older than you and has gone through several career changes and he is just finishing up a program this spring where he will get certification in the SAS statistical software (it might be part of a degree, I'm not sure) and he seem very optimistic about his career prospects with that.
I'm a SAS programmer and work with a lot of statisticians in the pharma/clinical research area. I think if you're interested in applied work rather than theoretical work then a bio statistician position might be a good match for you. It is fairly common for clinical SAS programmers to go back to school to be statisticians but I have no interest in doing so as I enjoy the logic, problem-solving and "production" nature of programming outputs for FDA clinical trials. Statisticians in my world do a fair amount of writing as well eg. statistical analysis plans, clinical trial protocols, clinical study reports so you might want to consider if you would like to do ALL analysis work or partial analysis/partial writing.

Clearly a statistician job is going to require a graduate degree. For some very small operations you might get away with a master's but if you want to work for big pharma you're going to need a PHd. Just something else to consider. I guess I'm not sure on the job prospects of a statistician...maybe slightly less good than for my position (which has good job prospects) simply because the programmer to statistician ratio is higher. For example, the current study I'm working on has 12 programmers and 4 statisticians. That's actually more statisticians than normal because we're at the stage of checking our efficacy results to decide if we want want to file with the FDA. Typically we would only have about two statisticians for regular work...that is not directly before a filing.
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Stevee
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Stevee » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:26 pm

I'm an actuary (long time, my whole career), and I like it.

But honestly, it's a niche, not for most people. One of the prerequisites is that you have to be good in math.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by DVMResident » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:35 pm

I like Watty's idea on SAS. SAS/JMP/R are fairly easy program to become proficient in. I think short-term retraining is a more realistic idea that you may find stimulating.

~~~

I work in academics at a major public university. I have a doctorate of veterinary medicine and completed residency. Now I'm getting a PhD in molecular pharmacology and may enter in the faculty track (haven't decided yet)

Current economic environment aside, the job prospects are poor and been trending down for decades. Academics simple produces too many PhDs given the number of job spots. Therefore, there has been devaluing of degrees and you need to be a speculator grad student (e.g. multiple, high impact publications and a track record of funding via grants, the life blood of academics) and/or have multiple degrees (MD/PhD do well in my area).

For a professorship, you need a PhD. If you started grad school tomorrow, it'll probably take you 5-10 years to complete. Post-docs are common, typically range 2-5 years. Then you can start at the tiers of the professor tracks (or an intermediate step called "researcher" for 1-5 years). So you're looking at 7-15 years after starting school to become a professor. That's a long time.

There's 2 positives:
(1) Grad students are often paid positions, generally ~$30k (at least in the sciences-the humanities are different...don't know about math). That means no loans, putting you light years ahead of other professional students that need higher salaries just to pay the loans back (still feel bad for my vet school buddies who took $200k at 4~6.8%). This will be especially important for you at 36.
(2) The profs tend to voluntarily work well beyond retirement age (mostly because they're workaholics and the work enviroement is stimulating). There are many enjoying their work well into their 70's. Even through the training phase is long, so is the earning phase.

All that being said-it's still a job, and probably take you over a decade to get there. Unless you want your job to be your identify (and many professors do), you can probably find more fulfilling activities with the time grad school will take.

DetroitRed
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by DetroitRed » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:44 pm

Take a look at this data analytics job board --

http://www.icrunchdata.com/

The core skill sets are generally being very adept with statistical software and having good stat analysis skills. If that's the kind of thing that interests you, there are lots of opportunities, they pay well and there's every reason to believe this area will continue to grow.

MathWizard
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by MathWizard » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:02 pm

I am a Mathematician (PhD in Applied Mathematics, BS Engineering Physics).

I taught Calc at the college level, and it is much different from upper level math.
I would say that the fact that you liked geometry rather than Calc is actually more
in your favor than the other way around. I was actually quite confused in Calc I & II
because I was asking all the questions that a mathematician would ask, when the course
is really meant for engineers, and the material came at you very fast I didn't know
that of course.

This was very disconcerting for me. I started learning algebra in my own in the 4th grade
with help from older brother's and their HS textbooks. I was also in the upper 1% of US
HS seniors based on both the ACT and SAT, and on scholarship.

Since you use the same book for 3 semesters, I took the book home that summer
and read through it at nights after work. That extra time allowed me to make sense of
continiuity, differentials, episilon-delta proofs, math induction proof, etc. Calc III
and beyond was a breeze. (You might like number theory. I used to leave that for last
in my homework as sort of a reward for finishing the more boring engineering problems.)

Try a logic course and a programming course before you jump in with both feet.
If you like the logic course, that will be more what you would be doing later on
in Math. Many math majors go into computing, (I did) because programming logic
is much like proving theorems. You may like that instead.

For all the screaming you hear about "we need more STEM majors", the salaries are
not that great in Math. I passed on an engineering job after my BS to go to grad school for Math.
Years later, with a PhD and 2 publications under my belt, and 4 years of consulting
work with large computer companies, my staring salary was the same in real terms
as what I was offered with my BS. In fact, the initial offer was low, and I countered
with $4K more just to get where I would have been financially years before.

For all the news about needing STEM majors, you'd think recruiters would be beating down my door,
throwing money at me, but alas there is not. Oh well.
Last edited by MathWizard on Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.

nimo956
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by nimo956 » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:08 pm

I'd be concerned about fully committing to this because you have only taken Calc 1. Do you realize what you're getting into and how difficult some of these classes are (primarily the proof-based classes)? You will have a lot of undergrad math classes to make up before you can even start a math graduate program. You will most likely need to be familiar with:

Freshman/Sophomore Level:
Calc 2
Calc 3
Differential Equations
Linear Algebra

Junior/Senior Level (mostly proof-based):
Analysis
Linear Algebra
Number Theory
Probability and Statistics
Geometry and Topology
Combinatorics

You can't take these classes all at once, because some are pre-reqs for the more advanced classes. I'd imagine it would take a few semesters before you are ready to apply to graduate programs. Can you afford to take all this time off?
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statsnerd
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by statsnerd » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:18 pm

I have a Ph.D. in statistics and I work for a large tech company. One job that's all the rage these days is data scientist, which admittedly can mean a few things. Statisticians in general is a term that can apply to many areas (e.g. finance, pharma, tech).

Data science is a good mix of statistics, mathematics, computer science, and general problem solving skills. I don't know if I'd recommend you completely quit your job, but there are some good resources to see if you like the area. Coursera has had some data science courses (this next one starts in May, you may be able to find lectures from the past one but I'm not sure) https://www.coursera.org/course/datasci. Here's a good list of free data science textbooks http://www.p-value.info/2012/11/free-da ... books.html. I would strongly recommend Elements of Statistical Learning. If you can get through that book and understand the concepts and do the problems you're in good shape. Another buzzword often used alongside data science is big data. You may have heard of the Netflix prize which became quite well known where Netflix open sourced some of their data for ratings and asked people to come up with a system that better predicts a user's rating for a movie, given that user's current ratings for movies. One company had that idea to start this as a business and I would highly recommend kaggle http://www.kaggle.com/, sign up, play around with the data and see how well you can do at predictive analytics. It would also be a good starting point to learn some of the computing languages necessary. We all have our biases but I would say learning Python to pre-process data and then R to analyze the data is the best route. Best part is they are both free software unlike SAS.

Also, if you tend to be more mathematical, there are subtle differences about what's important in statistics and just reading an intro statistics book could be quite helpful.

southwest_stacker
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by southwest_stacker » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:22 pm

I have a composite math / science minor. Took some graduate level math classes.

I did not start as late as you but I did not really take any prep math classes in high school and was just kind of thrown into it in college. This was back before they had the placement tests or likely I would have not started where I did.

I started out with Cal 1 and never even had any trig.

Good solid math education can be applied to many fields.

If you like it go for it.

Rodc
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Rodc » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:27 pm

I have a PhD in theoretical math (BS in both math and physics), though I wrote an applied thesis because I knew too many unemployed pure mathematicians. That was back in 1990, and I think things are largely the same today.

36 is old for a pure mathematician, but not for an applied mathematician. Of course those are generalizations and there are plenty of counter examples.

There are many jobs, near as I can tell, for someone with an applied math background, but it helps to have a practical minor to which math applies.

Make sure you are a very proficient software professional as well. You most likely will not get a job doing math with paper and pencil.

Best of luck.
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Professor Emeritus » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:43 pm

As an academic lawyer you already outrank me on math, but I have written a number of influential joint papers on the regulatory use of mathematical models. My partners did the all heavy math lifting
Model building and statistical analysis both require expertise in the math and the subject area domain. My suggestion would be to find a program where you can get the applied mathematical tools to exploit the subject area which you already know.
In our area this is 2-3 years of part time study for an MS. The graduates are very marketable.

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Kulak
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Kulak » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:45 pm

Forgot to add
- As a kid I programmed a lot in structured BASIC for fun. I know some Python now and work with software engineers but have never programmed professionally.
- In college I took two semesters of logic (listed under philosophy) -- predicate logic, Cantor, Frege, Godel's incompleteness theorems, some on Turing machines and computability, etc. -- and really liked it.

Since fiddling with this, I've read some "proof" books like Velleman's How to Prove It and Polya's Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning, and skimmed parts of Baby Rudin and Serge Lang's books, but I haven't really worked them. From what I've seen of number theory so far, I don't like it and (aside from cryptography) feels pointless -- so that might count against me. Also, algebra (while clearly very important) I find very intimidating, almost a necessary evil, whereas differential geometry and topology have an obvious beauty to me.

I guess one of my questions is how to gauge my aptitude for abstract math and attaining "maturity" before jumping in. If I understand right, linear algebra is typically the course that weeds people out? (EDIT: So statsnerd's advice to work through a particular book is exactly the sort of advice I'm after.)

MathWizard: I heard one opinion that math majors should pretty much skip calculus (as taught); get the concepts, do a smattering of problems, then just jump into analysis. What do you think of that?
Depriving ourselves to boost our 40-year success probability much beyond 80% is a fool’s errand, since all you are doing is increasing the probability of failure for [non-financial] reasons. --wbern

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by DTSC » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:55 pm

IMHO, KEEP YOUR DAY JOB and keep math as a hobby!

How many people can have $400,000 in the bank AND a "cushy job". Sure, there are doctors and lawyers and engineers who have that much net worth at age 36, but I can assure you that none of those folks have a cushy work life. Just keep on accumulating wealth doing what you're doing now and retire early to pursue whatever passion you have then.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:37 pm

Try some Coursera courses, the one recommended by statsnerd and possibly others. edX had an excellent bio-statistics course last Fall.

Good luck,
Victoria
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Default User BR » Thu Mar 07, 2013 4:21 pm

Kulak wrote:I heard one opinion that math majors should pretty much skip calculus (as taught); get the concepts, do a smattering of problems, then just jump into analysis. What do you think of that?
If you're looking to get a degree, then that probably won't work. Here're the basics for a BS in Math at a local university:
Core Requirements

Introduction to Computing
Applied Statistics I
Analytic Geometry and Calculus I
Analytic Geometry and Calculus II
Analytic Geometry and Calculus III
Introduction to Differential Equations
Elementary Linear Algebra
Discrete Mathematics
Real Analysis I

Also required are the following:

Complex Analysis I
Introduction to Abstract Algebra
Linear Algebra
I certainly don't think you're too old. I changed paths from Electronics Engineer to Computer Science about that age. However, I kept working and got an MSCS at night.


Brian

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BL
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by BL » Thu Mar 07, 2013 4:40 pm

I don't think you are too old to learn mathematics, but it sounds like you are in a good spot to retire early and pursue your dreams without side-tracking your retirement goals. In the meantime, you could work in your free time (assuming you have any) to master the undergraduate courses in whatever way suits you: online, community or other college in area, or totally on your own. As mentioned, many are sequential and it might take some time before being qualified to work on graduate level mathematics. Learn about various areas that use mathematics as a foundation. For instance, programming requires a good mathematics foundation. I believe life-long learning is essential for many reasons.

One of my pet peeves is that there are so many who avoid the basic math and science courses in college and thus lock out many majors that require this foundation.

DTSC
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by DTSC » Thu Mar 07, 2013 4:55 pm

Or just do MIT's Open Courseware lectures


http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/

MathWizard
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by MathWizard » Thu Mar 07, 2013 6:53 pm

Kulak wrote:[MathWizard: I heard one opinion that math majors should pretty much skip calculus (as taught); get the concepts, do a smattering of problems, then just jump into analysis. What do you think of that?
It would probably never get into the course catalog that way, but I think that you are correct.
Real analysis and measure theory are the basis for Calculus. These are senior or graduate level courses.
So we have the absurd situation of teaching freshman a subject that has a graduate course as a pre-requisite.
The problem is that few of my fellow engineers understood why I asked the questions I did. They just wanted to
know the secret formula, and how to apply it in usual cases. This did make them much more productive,
since they did not have to worry about convergence, existence or uniqueness theorems.

Calculus gets taught first because it is so useful for engineering, physics, statistics,...
The problem is that as you say, analysis is the foundation for calculus. So math majors have the problem
of: forget what you know about integration and start with measure theory, and now prove what you have
been doing for 4 years.

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Kulak
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Kulak » Thu Mar 07, 2013 7:09 pm

Rodc wrote:Make sure you are a very proficient software professional as well.
Could you be more specific about this?
Depriving ourselves to boost our 40-year success probability much beyond 80% is a fool’s errand, since all you are doing is increasing the probability of failure for [non-financial] reasons. --wbern

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by HurdyGurdy » Thu Mar 07, 2013 7:34 pm

Congratulations Kulak. I started my undergraduate coursework in Math and Stats at 36. I'm finishing a masters in Applied Stats at 40. I also loved Geometry and don't like Number Theory.
I guess one of my questions is how to gauge my aptitude for abstract math and attaining "maturity" before jumping in.
You can't tell. After taking the basics (Calcs, LinAlg, DiffEq, a Geometry class, a Probability/Stats theory class), you will see.

For good books, check out the Basic Library List, http://mathdl.maa.org/mathDL/19/?pa=con ... nodeId=959. (But you should also browse the library shelves, randomly. You won' t believe the things you'll find).

It is not easy. I find that mechanical skills stick less the older you are, but that one has better taste and imagination than average undergrads.

I don't know about the job market. Sadly there are more job openings for "data-mining business analytics" than for traditional Math/Stat skills.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by JW-Retired » Thu Mar 07, 2013 7:53 pm

Kulak,
There is a Stanford MOOC course on Intro to University Level Mathamatical Thinking that has just started..... first week. I'm auditing to help my daughter. It's certainly looking very different from my engineering math of 50 years ago. No charge. Pretty sure it's not too late to start.... you just signup on line. See what you think.

https://class.coursera.org/maththink-002/class/index
JW
Retired at Last

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by grok87 » Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:27 pm

Kulak wrote:(I suppose I should also include physicists, economists, people working on the theoretical side of engineering/CS, et.al.)

Me
I'm 36 and have $400K in the bank, a cushy job, and no kids yet. Standardized tests indicate IQ around the 99th percentile (but not the 99.9th). I show very high ability in concept organization, classification, etc., but low in idea productivity. The most advanced math I have taken was Calc 1. :( The one class in high school that really hooked me was geometry, using Harold Jacobs' textbook.

My pipe dream
About 1 1/2 years ago I got bitten by the math bug. There were several factors that came together, and I'll spare the details but it has become an obsession. First was just getting a handle on all the areas of math and how they relate, where they overlap, etc., and learning how to learn. This by itself took more than a year but I feel like I'm mostly there now. And I believe there are helpful pedagogical resources today that didn't exist when I was in college.

Contra Mr. LeBoeuf's sensible dictum to "work very hard at something that comes easy to you," I know I'm no Ramanujan but I have so much respect for you folks and what you know that I'd rather be a bad mathematician than a good anything else, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I know I lack the imagination for pure mathematics. I can't see myself ever proving a new theorem or landing a professorship. But I would like to master all the undergrad-level material and its applications, find some kind of specialization at the graduate level, and become an applied mathematician, statistician, something like that.

My question for you
I'm seriously thinking of quitting my day job and going all-in on this. Would appreciate any advice on academic and career planning, how to study, what you wish you'd known back then, what you like and hate about your job, the jobs available at various degree levels, etc.

And if it's harsh realism along the lines of "you probably aren't smart enough" or "you're too old," that's welcome too. Maybe I should forget it. I mean, if I decided at 34 that I love nothing so much as basketball, that wouldn't mean trying to make the NBA. (But perhaps becoming the local high school coach?)

Thanks!
keep your day job and start taking the actuarial exams
http://www.beanactuary.org/
cheers,
"...people always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them"- Jane Austen

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market timer
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by market timer » Thu Mar 07, 2013 9:36 pm

Math is a broad subject. As several responses have indicated, you'll most likely find employment that uses a math background through a data analytics role, where programming proficiency is critical. How do you see yourself using a math background?

If I were you, I'd keep math a hobby for now, and just read and work through undergrad textbooks on the following courses: differential calc, integral calc, multivariable calc, and linear algebra. This is basically the first two years of math course work.

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Epsilon Delta » Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:12 am

market timer wrote:Math is a broad subject. As several responses have indicated, you'll most likely find employment that uses a math background through a data analytics role, where programming proficiency is critical. How do you see yourself using a math background?

If I were you, I'd keep math a hobby for now, and just read and work through undergrad textbooks on the following courses: differential calc, integral calc, multivariable calc, and linear algebra. This is basically the first two years of math course work.
If your doing it for a hobby you can pick and choose. You could become an expert in many areas without having any proficiency at undergraduate calculus, I'm thinking of things like number theory, set theory, logic, algebra, ... . Heck you could probably do real analysis without a passing familiarity of calculus (although without some calculus the why won't make sense). The reason schools teach calculus first is so the dropouts can become engineers :twisted: .

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:24 am

Kulak wrote:(I suppose I should also include physicists, economists, people working on the theoretical side of engineering/CS, et.al.)

Me
I'm 36 and have $400K in the bank, a cushy job, and no kids yet. Standardized tests indicate IQ around the 99th percentile (but not the 99.9th). I show very high ability in concept organization, classification, etc., but low in idea productivity. The most advanced math I have taken was Calc 1. :( The one class in high school that really hooked me was geometry, using Harold Jacobs' textbook.

My pipe dream
About 1 1/2 years ago I got bitten by the math bug. There were several factors that came together, and I'll spare the details but it has become an obsession. First was just getting a handle on all the areas of math and how they relate, where they overlap, etc., and learning how to learn. This by itself took more than a year but I feel like I'm mostly there now. And I believe there are helpful pedagogical resources today that didn't exist when I was in college.

Contra Mr. LeBoeuf's sensible dictum to "work very hard at something that comes easy to you," I know I'm no Ramanujan but I have so much respect for you folks and what you know that I'd rather be a bad mathematician than a good anything else, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I know I lack the imagination for pure mathematics. I can't see myself ever proving a new theorem or landing a professorship. But I would like to master all the undergrad-level material and its applications, find some kind of specialization at the graduate level, and become an applied mathematician, statistician, something like that.

My question for you
I'm seriously thinking of quitting my day job and going all-in on this. Would appreciate any advice on academic and career planning, how to study, what you wish you'd known back then, what you like and hate about your job, the jobs available at various degree levels, etc.

And if it's harsh realism along the lines of "you probably aren't smart enough" or "you're too old," that's welcome too. Maybe I should forget it. I mean, if I decided at 34 that I love nothing so much as basketball, that wouldn't mean trying to make the NBA. (But perhaps becoming the local high school coach?)

Thanks!
Don't quit your job.

Do an undergrad maths degree part time. With some research you should find a good one. the structure, rigour and breadth of an undergrad degree in math will tell you whether you want to pursue it as a field. Be warned, the upper year maths courses are on a different level of complexity and difficulty.

At my university, MAT150Y (calculus for those who already had calculus in high school, and were aiming for mathematics degrees) would start with over 100 students, and finish the year with 20. Less than half of those would get a BA Math or Mathematical Physics at the end of the 4 years. Of whom, at least half are now tenured professors.

if you excel, and I really do mean excel, in your BA or BS Math, then you can consider going full time for a Phd (or perhaps just an applied MSC-- statistics, applied math, biostats, financial engineering etc.-- there are plenty out there). Remember math (like physics) is a field where only the top 1% probably have any chance of progression to the higher levels.

But don't quit a job you are happy with for a field which only employs the very brightest and where even the very brightest struggle to find good jobs. Tenure track college jobs are few and far between. High school teaching jobs were more available but with budget cuts may not be-- teaching just is not a lucrative profession (although some senior teachers in some places do well) and quite stressful. Industry jobs range hugely, there is no category of 'mathematicians' in what we hire: Citibank vs. Google vs. Schlumberger all use mathematicians, but for entirely different purposes). Actuary is a whole different field. A lot of mathematicians work in software, but they have little or no career advantage over a BS/MS in EE or computer science.

See Herminia Ibarra's book on career change, and I liked Po Bronson's as well. Career change is not 'sudden burst'-- it is adaptive, explorative, and often people find they go back to their original career (grass is always greener).

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by gatorking » Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:55 am

You could start with an online Graduate certificate in Applied Statistics and continue to a Masters.
https://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees ... e/overview
https://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees ... s/overview

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Rodc » Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:19 am

Kulak wrote:
Rodc wrote:Make sure you are a very proficient software professional as well.
Could you be more specific about this?
First, having been a physics major (double math and physic BS), then a pure math major (MS and PhD), then employed now for 20+ years as an applied mathematician, scientist and engineer at one of the country's top engineering research institutes, I would say that Mathwizard's comments regarding calculus and analysis may not be the most helpful in the real world, though I thought exactly the same thing when I was a "real" mathematician.

As he notes, people who get hung up on some of the niceties that pure mathematicians love (I got in a certain amount of trouble asking those questions as a physics student, so I am sympathetic) are not as productive as those that let a certain amount of rigor slide by. Outside of being a professor of pure mathematics, you get paid to be productive at solving real world problems, not so much for being elegant. If you are not pursuing a career as an academic pure mathematician you most definitively do not want to gloss over the more practical math courses. That said, I do think abstract math has both beauty and value, and in some cases can even be useful.

Following on that, the math(y) jobs I am familiar with generally involve using math to solve some specific problem in some specific non-math field. It may be you model something (traffic flow, drug interactions at the molecular level, whatever), or you analyze data, or you do statistical forecasting, etc. These are almost always way too complicated or involve way too much data to handle without a computer. They are also often part of a real-time system. Maybe you develop the algorithms for some medical scanner, or to get a spaceship to Mars or to do high frequency trading. These algorithms must be put into code that in turn is embedded in some way into a computer system that runs real-time.

Some people (like myself) can get away with not being solid programmers (Thankfully, I have a team of folks for that and at any rate I'm really a manager at this point), but it greatly limits the jobs that are open to you. But even I did software early on, and even now from time to time roll up my sleeves and use Matlab to do data analysis or quick algorithm prototyping. I would suggest C, C++, Java, understanding SOA, Python, SAS, R, Matlab, Mathematica or some subset will be very important. I feel like I am forgetting some, senior moment perhaps so someone might add to the list. You can start a job search and see what various jobs require.

One of the things my father learned when he turned a hobby into a part-time retirement business: the craftsmanship was 20% of the job, while 80% was being a businessman. Unfortunately he was a craftsman. Fortunately he had SS and a Government pension. :) Most jobs are at least a little like that. Most mathematicians have significant responsibilities other than just doing math. Like writing reports, figuring out requirements, writing and debugging code, briefing sponsors or other management types, selling program to sponsors or management.
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by tadamsmar » Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:35 am

Kulak,

I would be helpful if you told us what you do for a living. Combining your work experience with your love for math might provide some ideas for a good career direction for you. Learning math while getting paid is a safer route, after all.

Sorry if you have already told us, but I could not find it skimming the thread,

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by dickenjb » Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:48 am

Chan_va wrote:Just a word of caution. The greatest hobby in the world can turn into drudgery when its your livelihood.

I love the game of bridge and am quite good at it. For a little while, I tried going professional - I hated it when it became work.
That is good to know. I am an avid duplicate player and every now and then I thought about making the effort to go pro. Tempered when I heard stories of people way better than me sleeping in their cars at tournaments when starting out.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by grok87 » Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:23 am

Rodc wrote:
Kulak wrote:
Rodc wrote:Make sure you are a very proficient software professional as well.
Could you be more specific about this?
First, having been a physics major (double math and physic BS), then a pure math major (MS and PhD), then employed now for 20+ years as an applied mathematician, scientist and engineer at one of the country's top engineering research institutes, I would say that Mathwizard's comments regarding calculus and analysis may not be the most helpful in the real world, though I thought exactly the same thing when I was a "real" mathematician.

As he notes, people who get hung up on some of the niceties that pure mathematicians love (I got in a certain amount of trouble asking those questions as a physics student, so I am sympathetic) are not as productive as those that let a certain amount of rigor slide by. Outside of being a professor of pure mathematics, you get paid to be productive at solving real world problems, not so much for being elegant. If you are not pursuing a career as an academic pure mathematician you most definitively do not want to gloss over the more practical math courses. That said, I do think abstract math has both beauty and value, and in some cases can even be useful.

Following on that, the math(y) jobs I am familiar with generally involve using math to solve some specific problem in some specific non-math field. It may be you model something (traffic flow, drug interactions at the molecular level, whatever), or you analyze data, or you do statistical forecasting, etc. These are almost always way too complicated or involve way too much data to handle without a computer. They are also often part of a real-time system. Maybe you develop the algorithms for some medical scanner, or to get a spaceship to Mars or to do high frequency trading. These algorithms must be put into code that in turn is embedded in some way into a computer system that runs real-time.

Some people (like myself) can get away with not being solid programmers (Thankfully, I have a team of folks for that and at any rate I'm really a manager at this point), but it greatly limits the jobs that are open to you. But even I did software early on, and even now from time to time roll up my sleeves and use Matlab to do data analysis or quick algorithm prototyping. I would suggest C, C++, Java, understanding SOA, Python, SAS, R, Matlab, Mathematica or some subset will be very important. I feel like I am forgetting some, senior moment perhaps so someone might add to the list. You can start a job search and see what various jobs require.

One of the things my father learned when he turned a hobby into a part-time retirement business: the craftsmanship was 20% of the job, while 80% was being a businessman. Unfortunately he was a craftsman. Fortunately he had SS and a Government pension. :) Most jobs are at least a little like that. Most mathematicians have significant responsibilities other than just doing math. Like writing reports, figuring out requirements, writing and debugging code, briefing sponsors or other management types, selling program to sponsors or management.
very useful post, thanks!
"...people always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them"- Jane Austen

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by TomatoTomahto » Fri Mar 08, 2013 1:34 pm

dickenjb wrote:
Chan_va wrote:Just a word of caution. The greatest hobby in the world can turn into drudgery when its your livelihood.

I love the game of bridge and am quite good at it. For a little while, I tried going professional - I hated it when it became work.
That is good to know. I am an avid duplicate player and every now and then I thought about making the effort to go pro. Tempered when I heard stories of people way better than me sleeping in their cars at tournaments when starting out.
How funny to find 3 of us on the same thread. I gave it up 30 years ago after my love of the game came to a screeching halt when I looked for financial considerations at bridge. Maybe it's a bit like never going to a sausage factory if you ever want to enjoy a sausage again.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Rodc » Fri Mar 08, 2013 5:21 pm

For all the screaming you hear about "we need more STEM majors", the salaries are
not that great in Math. I passed on an engineering job after my BS to go to grad school for Math.
Years later, with a PhD and 2 publications under my belt, and 4 years of consulting
work with large computer companies, my staring salary was the same in real terms
as what I was offered with my BS. In fact, the initial offer was low, and I countered
with $4K more just to get where I would have been financially years before.
I suppose it is like many careers in that it may depend on the area of the country, what industry, etc.

But very good salaries can be had with a math degree. For example if you work in research engineering with a math degree you get paid research engineer money. With a PhD you may well run a team of engineers which is generally well compensated.

I suspect it is the same for example with a business degree, or a law degree: you can make a little or a lot, just depending on the parameters of the specific job.
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by JupiterJones » Fri Mar 08, 2013 5:55 pm

Some (uniformly-distributed) random thoughts:

Thought #1

One great piece of advice I heard about switching careers for your "passion" was that you should audition the job first. Want to quit your job and become a teacher? Try tutoring at the community college after work for awhile. Want to open a restaurant? Go work part time at one, or do a small bit of catering on the weekends. That sort of thing. Ease into it a bit. See if what you think it's like is really what it's like. See if the talent you believe you have is really there.

So, if you're thinking about quitting your day job and going to school to study math, I'd agree that you should first look at online courses. Coursera has some good offerings (I'm actually a Community TA for Data Analysis course that's finishing up next week.) There's a basic statistics class at EdX that's not too far along. CodeSchool has some free classes.

And, surprisingly, you might find Khan Academy helpful. It seems to be geared toward High School and below, but it's great for anyone who needs to "fill in the holes" in their math knowledge, or brush up on the stuff they "learned" years ago. And I agree with the previous poster that Kaggle would be a good way to exercise your skills.

If, after all that, you still want (or need) to go to school full-time, go for it.

Thought #2

I think programming is an essential skill for any stats/data person these days. That's actually my main background, so I might be biased there. :P Knowing some data viz principles won't hurt either (it's no good being able to do the analysis if you can't explain it to the people who care).

Thought #3

I wholeheartedly agree that one must be very careful when transforming a passion into a livelihood. It tends to compromise both. I spend most of my teens and 20s playing music for a living. Had a lot of fun, but became a bit musically stagnant.

In my 30s I got the dreaded "day job" and just did gigs on the side here and there. It was liberating. Now, when I get an offer for a gig, my main concern isn't "how much does it pay, because I've got rent due". Instead, it's "how much fun will it be?" and "will I grow musically?" and "how many flights of stairs do they expect me to schlep my gear?". I learned to play instruments that have absolutely no money-making potential, such as accordion and ukulele.

I can honestly say that I'm a better, more content musician now that I'm doing it on my own terms, unbeholden to economic and market forces.

Take from that what you will.
Stay on target...

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Grasshopper » Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:32 pm

What a sea of knowledge, this forum has, gee I have to go put new batteries in my HP-35. :happy

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by trudy » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:05 pm

JupiterJones wrote:Some (uniformly-distributed) random thoughts:

Thought #1

One great piece of advice I heard about switching careers for your "passion" was that you should audition the job first.
Yes. Back in the day, I ran a programming group. This was so long ago, people learned on the job. More than once someone from elsewhere in the company wanted to join the group, but after a day or so working on a sample problem and realizing the level of obsessiveness required, ran for the hills.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Mudpuppy » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:07 am

DTSC wrote:Or just do MIT's Open Courseware lectures


http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/
I'd second this recommendation. IMO, MIT Open Courseware has some of the more comprehensive online courses on basic undergraduate level math courses, such as the calculus sequence, linear algebra, probability theory, and so on. You can also work through the materials at your own pace, without having to wait for an online course to "open" like one has to do with Coursera. Coursera has some useful courses as well, but if your goal is to get a good foundation in mathematics, I think the MIT site is more suited for this.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by bawr » Sun Mar 10, 2013 8:01 am

I was a math major at UC Berkeley, which at the time was considered to have the best or second best (possibly after Princeton) math department in the country. I believe there is a huge difference between being able to successfully obtain a BA or PhD in mathematics and actually becoming a productive, professional mathematician. I found undergraduate courses unchallenging and was taking graduate courses in math and physics when I was a junior. My IQ is easily in the 99.995th percentile, yet I consider myself to be too stupid to be a real mathematician. I realized this when I compared my modest abilities with those of friends who were teaching algebraic geometry (a second year graduate course) when of high school age, and who could get a perfect score in the Putnam Competition, which is taken by smart undergraduates, and has a median score of one out of a possible 120 points.

Having said this, I think math is a great subject to study for many people, especially for a smart person like the original poster. It gives you a certain self-confidence and the knowledge that you can understand any human intellectual construct.

In order to get a taste of what math is like, ignore lower division courses, which are usually designed to teach some basic tools to engineers, common scientists, and other lesser beings. Reading and solving the problems in good introductory textbooks designed for math majors will provide an understanding of what to expect. I recommend the following, as starters:

Topics in Algebra, by Israel N. Herstein
Principles of Mathematical Analysis, by Walter Rudin
An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers, by G. H. Hardy and E. M. Wright

Taking a look at past problems of the International Mathematical Olympiad (intended for high school students) and the Putnam Competition (intended for undergraduates) should also be quite enlightening. Most math students would have great difficulty solving these problems.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by bsteiner » Sun Mar 10, 2013 8:55 am

This topic brings back fond memories. When I went to college, I thought I would be a math major. I was a top scorer (10th place in the NYC metropolitan area in 1968) in the Mathematical Association of America competitions: http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Foru ... 5c53fef13c . I got as far as analysis, and then switched to a government major. When I got to law school I found that I could combine my interests by focusing on tax law. Much like the math competitions, tax and tax-oriented trusts and estates law rarely requires any math beyond high school algebra, but yet most people don't see the solutions.

I know a lawyer who gave up practicing law and went back to school to take the needed courses to become a math teacher at a community college, and he's very happy with his choice.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Valuethinker » Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:44 am

bawr wrote:I was a math major at UC Berkeley, which at the time was considered to have the best or second best (possibly after Princeton) math department in the country. I believe there is a huge difference between being able to successfully obtain a BA or PhD in mathematics and actually becoming a productive, professional mathematician. I found undergraduate courses unchallenging and was taking graduate courses in math and physics when I was a junior. My IQ is easily in the 99.995th percentile, yet I consider myself to be too stupid to be a real mathematician. I realized this when I compared my modest abilities with those of friends who were teaching algebraic geometry (a second year graduate course) when of high school age, and who could get a perfect score in the Putnam Competition, which is taken by smart undergraduates, and has a median score of one out of a possible 120 points.

Having said this, I think math is a great subject to study for many people, especially for a smart person like the original poster. It gives you a certain self-confidence and the knowledge that you can understand any human intellectual construct.

In order to get a taste of what math is like, ignore lower division courses, which are usually designed to teach some basic tools to engineers, common scientists, and other lesser beings. Reading and solving the problems in good introductory textbooks designed for math majors will provide an understanding of what to expect. I recommend the following, as starters:

Topics in Algebra, by Israel N. Herstein
Principles of Mathematical Analysis, by Walter Rudin
An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers, by G. H. Hardy and E. M. Wright

Taking a look at past problems of the International Mathematical Olympiad (intended for high school students) and the Putnam Competition (intended for undergraduates) should also be quite enlightening. Most math students would have great difficulty solving these problems.
Our introductory calculus book was by Spivak.

After 2 weeks, I changed major and dropped down to a lower course ;-).

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by bawr » Sun Mar 10, 2013 1:43 pm

Valuethinker wrote: Our introductory calculus book was by Spivak.

After 2 weeks, I changed major and dropped down to a lower course ;-).
I am not familiar with Spivak's calculus book, but his multi-volume tome on differential geometry is considered to be a reference. He also has a little pamphlet on calculus on manifolds, which I suppose can be useful to those studying general relativity.

Our K-12 education system is a total failure as far as math is concerned. I have a friend with a science background who put an above average level of effort into his children's education. They both entered university as juniors at the age of 12. The daughter graduated at the age of 14 and the son will graduate soon, at about the same age. I had the opportunity to discuss continuous functions and metric spaces with the young lad when he was 10. His command of the subject and his mental speed were most impressive. Many children could do just as well if given the opportunity and support.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by statsguy » Sun Mar 10, 2013 2:01 pm

I am a professor of Mathematics with a Ph.D. from the U Texas. My research area is a statistics and I think of myself as a statistician. My first job was at a highly regarded research institution but after working there for nine years and publishing at least one paper a year, I wanted more family life. And so moved to an institution that regards teaching as important. Have only published six papers in last twenty years but have won several teaching awards. I still go to conferences yearly to present on various aspects of my research and teaching statistics and have written a handful of textbooks. Ok those are my credentials to help you understand where I am coming from in my advice below.

I think your age is somewhat irrelevant this decision but you should know that it may give you some extra difficulty finding your dream job. It is a recognized fact that most top theoretical research is done by people under 50. Starting at 36, if you went full-time you could conceivably finish in about 8 years (I figure you are lock on finishing an undergraduate degree in less than four years and the Ph.D in around 5). That would make you 44 maybe 45, when you begin looking for a job. At that age, your age could be a detriment to being hired at the most highly regarded research institutions, unless of course your Ph.D. research is very highly regarded (in that case age might be a plus). On the other hand, if you are interested in teaching statistics (or mathematics) at an institution like mine (California State University) and assuming that you had gained some experience in teaching while in graduate school you would be an attractive candidate. Especially, after introducing yourself as someone who had changed course, mid-career because they fell in love with the discipline. I cannot say how good of a candidate you would be for a job in industry.

My experience and what I was told as an undergraduate is that you should do what makes you happy. Since you are happy in your current job I would not quit and go back to school full-time. But given your interest in mathematics and statistics, I encourage you to go to school part-time and finish the calculus sequence and the first proof based course. It is my experience that, the first course in proof and logic, is often the course very instrumental in helping students decide if they want to be a mathematician (applied, theoretical, statistician, etc).

Best of luck
Stats

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by mathman » Sun Mar 10, 2013 3:27 pm

Let me second statsguy's last paragraph.

You are in need of a reality check.

Keep your job, but try to take a "transition to higher mathematics" course at a nearby community college or university---it will be a better indication of your abilities than a cook-book calculus sequence. You need the benefit (discipline) of regular lectures/homework, of an instructor to evaluate your work and to answer your questions; you can also learn from the insights and questions of fellow students.

See how it goes.

My experience: I have a Ph.D in mathematics and taught for 35 years at a large state university at both the ugrad and grad level.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Valuethinker » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:04 pm

mathman wrote:Let me second statsguy's last paragraph.

You are in need of a reality check.

Keep your job, but try to take a "transition to higher mathematics" course at a nearby community college or university---it will be a better indication of your abilities than a cook-book calculus sequence. You need the benefit (discipline) of regular lectures/homework, of an instructor to evaluate your work and to answer your questions; you can also learn from the insights and questions of fellow students.

See how it goes.

My experience: I have a Ph.D in mathematics and taught for 35 years at a large state university at both the ugrad and grad level.
Based on my friends who became (or at least started down) the route of being math professors, from undergrad, I would say the real challenge in being a pure mathematician (or a theoretical physicist, or perhaps many types of science) is that:

- you tend to do your best work before 35
- after that your contribution to the field is likely to be developing something you came up with in that period
- it's a field where not even the top 1% push the frontier, but the top 0.01%. It fundamentally is just one the hardest and most abstract things a human being can do, to advance the state of human knowledge

So you probably realize in graduate school, surrounded by people who *might* make that great discovery, that it's likely you will not.

The thing is in history, say, you can find an area and become an acknowledged expert. You don't even have to be a really big name. Many of the really big name historians, Trevor Roper, Taylor etc. stopped writing important books of historical research (Niall Ferguson comes to mind as well although other than Robin Lane Fox, he's probably the best paid historian writer of all time*) when they got popular. OK we have people who are, or were, serious historians (almost any writer of the Oxford History of the USA: Patterson (postwar USA), Macpherson (Civil War), Kennedy (New Deal and WW2)-- all are, I think, respected historians in their field) who then write general works. And history can be the extreme case of the obscure books that no one reads that gets you tenure (in fact, 1 is a prerequisite, 2 probably necessary).

I think it's just harder to do that in the world of maths and pure science. And good teaching jobs are hard to come by-- tenure track academic jobs.

I know in other fields whereas you might get sessional instruction (at low pay, with no security) as a 35 or 40 year old Phd, few departments will hire you tenure track (a declining proportion of all academic jobs in any case). They need someone younger, who is going to publish more in their career and raise their research ranking of the department.

* when he finished his Phd, Lane Fox published a life of Alexander the Great that's never since been out of print, and eventually was a movie by Oliver Stone (where he appeared as a horseman-- he negotiated that, in his 60s, into the contract). Also he is the gardening correspondent of the Financial Times ;-).

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Mudpuppy » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:26 pm

Valuethinker wrote:I think it's just harder to do that in the world of maths and pure science. And good teaching jobs are hard to come by-- tenure track academic jobs.
That reminds me. I have a friend who was on the search committee for an assistant professor opening in mathematics. The one opening received over 150 applications. That's a massive number of applications for other disciplines in STEM, but it is not unusual for mathematics.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by cafranci » Sun Mar 10, 2013 9:20 pm

Mudpuppy wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:I think it's just harder to do that in the world of maths and pure science. And good teaching jobs are hard to come by-- tenure track academic jobs.
That reminds me. I have a friend who was on the search committee for an assistant professor opening in mathematics. The one opening received over 150 applications. That's a massive number of applications for other disciplines in STEM, but it is not unusual for mathematics.
I'm a math professor at a large state university. We had 500 applications for an assistant professor opening this year, and that was actually down a bit from our last search.

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Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by Edmund » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:41 pm

I'm a PhD statistician, and I agree with the spirit of the advice given above. My advice: DO NOT QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. You say your most advanced math class is Calc 1. There is a huge difference between liking a subject and enjoying reading about it, and performing well in it in a classroom setting, in homework and on exams. Start slow. Read some math books. In addition to the ones referenced above, you can look into "Introduction to Mathematical Statistics" by R.V. Hogg and A.T. Craig, and "Visual Complex Analysis" by Tristan Needham.

Once you figure out what you really enjoy, whether it's applied/engineering-oriented math, or pure math, or statistics and data science or whatever, enroll in some classes in that subject (maybe as an auditor at first?) at your local college.

Once you've done that and evaluated your aptitude for various branches of math and have a more specific idea of what you want to do, come back to this thread and discuss. :happy

gw
Posts: 741
Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 10:12 am

Re: Mathematicians or statisticians here? Seeking your advic

Post by gw » Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:47 pm

mathman wrote:Let me second statsguy's last paragraph.

You are in need of a reality check.

Keep your job, but try to take a "transition to higher mathematics" course at a nearby community college or university---it will be a better indication of your abilities than a cook-book calculus sequence. You need the benefit (discipline) of regular lectures/homework, of an instructor to evaluate your work and to answer your questions; you can also learn from the insights and questions of fellow students.

See how it goes.

My experience: I have a Ph.D in mathematics and taught for 35 years at a large state university at both the ugrad and grad level.
Let me second mathman's second paragraph. And the rest of it.

Most of the respondents here are highly mathematical people waxing nostalgic about their own experiences. You've had one intro calc class. You have no idea if you like math. Statistically, there's virtually no chance that you do (and I mean that after factoring in everything you said).

Math can be fun. You should find out if you like it (you won't). But you're not ready for a "transition to higher math course" yet. I would start with the next two calc courses (hasn't even had any series yet, people!), then linear and diff eq, then algebra. Start doing Putnam problems along the way. If you get that far and don't like algebra, or the Putnam problems, at last you're halfway through an engineering degree.

Good luck, and enjoy. Just sign up for the best calculus class you can find at night school and see where it takes you.

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