Advice from Alumni

A number of years ago, alumni who had earned a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Montana were asked:

“What advice would you give an undergraduate seeking a math degree?”

Here are some of the replies:

  • My advice would be to explore other fields in conjunction with math, as some of the most interesting and rewarding careers are cross-discipline.
  • Get some job-related experience or find an internship program before you graduate, so you have some direction before graduation arrives.
  • Don't be afraid to visit with faculty, TA's, etc. Get some experience teaching math, tutor ...
  • Take lots of computer science as well.
  • Classes in math theory are equally as important as classes in applications. There is more to mathematics than plugging numbers into formulas. To check your result from a formula you have to know the why’s. The why’s can give you an approximate answer, the formula - the exact answer!
  • Too many good mathematicians are poor communicators and, therefore, poor teachers.
  • Learn as much as possible about different career opportunities which build on a math background.
  • It's a very valuable degree to have and in considerable demand. The skills from advanced courses (for advanced degrees) are also very valuable. I have found that my math skills have allowed me the freedom to essentially create my own position.
  • To have a good idea as to what one wants to do with the degree, and then to make sure the curriculum and courses will fulfill that need.
  • I don't have much to tell someone who arrived at college with a lot of self-confidence and is in control of his or her classes. For the people who have some math anxiety, I do know its possible to work through the problem. It is possible to succeed in mathematics.
  • Get a strong emphasis in computers, information management or business information systems.
  • Consider it a language to be used in another field of science. If you can attain the degree in mathematics you have a strong advantage in exploring other fields of science.
  • Get a very broad education. Take classes in all areas - especially communication, working in groups, interacting with others.
  • To do it, opens up unlimited possibilities in many fields. When I graduated (1975) there were 3 students who gradated in non-educational math that year. Of the three, one is an attorney, one teaches chemistry at Berkeley (UC) and I'm a dentist. I take pride in my mathematics education and the future it has provided for me. I'm also proud of UM in general.
  • Be open to all the different career paths which involve a strong background in math. I wish I had known about actuarial science and some of the business applications of math such as forecasting, regression, operations research (queuing theory and scheduling) and so forth.
  • Two things. First, I recommend taking lots of computer science courses, and better yet, getting a minor or second major in computer science. I also recommend pursuing any second major, since straight math jobs are difficult to find. Second, I recommend trying to get involved in an internship during undergraduate years. It's good experience and you'll make contacts for future references. I believe networking is the best method for finding a job. Also, do some independent research. Its good to put on a resume.
  • Expect that your life will be much different than you are planning.
  • Take lots of CS. Double major with it even if it takes an extra year.