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Undergraduate Program FAQ

A major in mathematics is good preparation for many types of careers, as well as for medical school, dental school, law school, and graduate work in mathematics, statistics, and such varied fields as biostatistics, business administration, computer science, engineering, linguistics, operations research, and philosophy.

There is a demand for qualified mathematics teachers in the nation's secondary schools. Insurance companies hire mathematics majors in entry-level positions and as actuarial trainees. Statisticians can find employment in the insurance, telephone, and pharmaceutical industries, as well as in government agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau or the U.S. Department of Labor. Applied mathematics jobs are available supporting scientists, engineers, economists, etc. Businesses, banks, and the computer industry also have openings for mathematics majors.

A follow-up study of our own mathematics major graduates has found them employed as teachers in secondary schools, colleges, and universities; school principals and superintendents; college registrars and deans; accountants; actuarial assistants and associates; computer programmers; systems analysts; engineers; economists; statisticians; editors; physicians; lawyers; account executives; executives in banks and insurance companies; health scientists; and mathematicians, flight controllers, and/or pilots in the U.S. armed forces.

For additional information please consult our careers section.

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics has set aside LGRT 1521D as the Mathematics Majors Lounge and Reading Room for the express use of undergraduate mathematics majors. Besides being a place where mathematics majors can meet each other, this room provides a central location for information on jobs, current events in the Department, scholarships, etc., as well as a quiet place in which to study also there are computers available. The lounge is open from 8:00 a.m. until midnight. Each semester the Department will host several social functions for undergraduate mathematics majors and minors, graduate students and faculty.

The Department also maintains a Math Club.

Check LGRT 1521D and the bulletin boards outside LGRT 1521E on a regular basis. Items of timely interest to mathematics majors (e.g., important announcements concerning job opportunities, special meetings such as Alumni Career Forums, etc.) are posted there as soon as they are received. Each major is also required to have an e-mail address. Please notify the Undergraduate Office in LGRT 1521E of this address. 

You can start taking upper-division mathematics and statistics courses as soon as you have the necessary academic prerequisites. It is expected to be routine for mathematics majors to take such courses in their sophomore year. For instance, any of Math 421, 425, 431, 432, 451, 456, 545, 563, as well as Stat 515, can be taken after Math 233 or 245 and Math 235 or 236; in fact, only one of Math 233 or 245 and Math 235 or 236 is a prerequisite for some of these courses. It should be noted, however, that Math 432, 451 and 503 also require some computer experience and that Math 411, 461 and 523 also have Math 300 as a prerequisite.

Any student who is in good academic standing, is at least a second-semester freshman and is taking at least one 3-credit course at the University may take up to three courses, but no more than two at any one institution, without additional cost, beyond normal laboratory or instructional fees, at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, or Smith College. A free bus system is available for this purpose.

Course catalogs, literature, procedural information, advice and information on the Five College Program is available from the Five College Interchange Office. Interchange registration forms are available on students' SPIRE accounts during the registration request period and Add/Drop.

Detailed registration instructions are available here.

Any undergraduate may register for a graduate course, subject only to the permission of the instructor of the course and the student's advisor.

The Department of Mathematics and Statistics employs Undergraduate Teaching Assistants during each semester to conduct discussion sections in support of the large lectures in such courses as Math 127 and Stat 140.  Application forms and further information on this program are available from the Department Office LGRT 1622 or here

The Department also employs student graders who work on an hourly basis.  Application forms and further information on this program are available from LGRT 1626.

The Department frequently receives requests for tutors in mathematics and statistics. Qualified undergraduates may have their names placed on a list of tutors by visiting LGRT 1623B.

Each summer there are several opportunities for undergraduates to work on their own research projects with a faculty member. See the REU page for more details.

The Cooperative Education branch of the Field Experience Program places students in paid positions in business, industry, and government which complement their University studies and which frequently lead to permanent positions. Positions are available for spring or fall, as well as for the summer, but those taken during the academic year require the student to take a leave of absence during the appropriate semester. Cooperative education opportunies are offered by such companies as the CIGNA Corporation, Connecticut Mutual Insurance Company, GE Plastics Information Systems Support, GTE Government Systems, Houghton Mifflin, Insurance Services Office, John Hancock, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Mitre Corporation, Raytheon, Stratus Computer, Inc., and Travelers.

A student may earn a second major and have it recorded on the official transcript provided that both majors are completed within the ten semesters allowed for the completion of all graduation requirements. The student must declare an intent to pursue two majors on a Change of Major Card. Both majors will appear on the student's transcript but, for course scheduling purposes, only the primary major will appear. Once the primary major is determined, the student may use courses from the second major to satisfy University and College requirements.

If the second major lies in the same school or college as the primary major, the student must, prior to graduation, file with the Registrar a formal certification from an authorized representative of the second major that all requirements for that major have been completed.

If the second major lies in a school or college other than that of the primary major, the student must, prior to graduation, file with the Registrar a formal certification from an authorized representative of the second major that all requirements for that major have been completed and obtain formal certification from the academic dean of the second school or college that all requirements for graduation from that school or college have been satisfied.

Once graduated, a student may not retroactively seek a second major but may, however, reapply for a Post-Graduate Second Bachelor's Degree.

Any currently enrolled student can earn two bachelor's degrees simultaneously by completing a minimum of 30 additional credits beyond those normally required for graduation, all of which must be in residence. Both degrees must be completed within ten semesters and both degrees must be awarded simultaneously. The student is urged to declare an intent to obtain a simultaneous second degree early, preferably by the end of the sophomore year, by contacting the academic dean and filing a letter of intent declaring a primary and second major, both of which will appear on the student's transcript; for course scheduling purposes, only the primary major will appear. Once the primary major is determined, the student may use courses from the second major to satisfy University and College requirements.

In order to validate the second bachelor's degree and have it noted on the permanent record and diploma, the student must obtain a formal certification from an authorized representative of the second major department that all requirements for that major have been completed, and a formal certification from the academic dean of the school or college awarding the second bachelor's degree that all requirements for graduation from that school or college have been satisfied. The Certification for the Simultaneous Completion of Two Bachelor's Degrees form, which the student must obtain from the Records Office.

A talented mathematics major who has had some programming experience in courses can be fully competitive with computer science majors in getting a good job in the computer field. In a typical entry-level computer position you might obtain after graduating, you will get much of your computer training on the job. Recruiters for such positions are interested not just in whether you know C++, e.g., but also in whether you can handle problems requiring long, hard, careful thought and analysis, just the sort of abilities you demonstrate by successfully completing a major in mathematics.

If you like mathematics but are contemplating a computer job, then by all means major in mathematics and minor in computer science. Also, elect those mathematics courses that involve computer work. Then, on graduation, you will not only know the fundamentals about computers and have programming experience, but you will be able to use your mathematical (and statistical) knowledge in a computer job, too. It is much easier to learn mathematics now and defer learning more about computers until later, than the other way around. So enjoy majoring in what you like, assured that it will not hurt you when it comes time to seek a job.

If you are contemplating graduate work in computer science (and many of the best computer jobs require that), it may be especially advantageous to major in mathematics as an undergraduate. Much of graduate computer science study involves advanced mathematics and statistics that you can learn as an undergraduate mathematics major. It can be quite difficult to fill in such mathematical background if you wait until you reach graduate school.

Once you have your computer job, advancement will depend on your abilities and your job performance. No one will care what you majored in!

To have even a minimal prospect of getting a job teaching mathematics at a four-year college without a graduate program, you should have at least a master's degree in mathematics.

Both the M.S. and the Ph.D. can be earned in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Special options are available for students interested primarily in applied mathematics or in statistics. There is also a two year masters program in Applied Mathematics and a 5th year Masters Program in Statistics.

For more information on our graduate program, see our graduate program page.

Several members of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics have had experience in industry and/or engineering applications of mathematics.

The Chief Undergraduate Advisor can assist you in obtaining information and advice regarding careers for mathematics majors in industry or graduate work.

The Department also maintains (in LGRT 1521D) a collection of pamphlets and other literature giving job descriptions and the advantages of graduate studies.

You may also wish to contact the Center for Counseling and Academic Development. This center provides vocational counseling and testing, as well as workshops dealing with career decision-making and life planning. Its Career Resource Library contains graduate school catalogs and information about career opportunities in various fields.

The Career Services office is a highly professional service that offers help in finding jobs. Students should contact this office by the end of the junior year or, at the very latest, early in the senior year for information on the preparation of a credentials file. Forms for this purpose are available at the Mather Career Center. Students who do not have a registration form on file cannot take on-campus interviews through the Placement Service. The Recruiting Calendar, which is published bi-weekly during the academic year, lists interview dates, organizations interviewing, positions available, requirements, and sign-up dates. Copies are posted on the bulletin board outside the Mathematics Majors Lounge and Reading Room, LGRT 1521D, as soon as they are received and seniors are urged to consult them on a regular basis. Also listed in the Recruiting Calendar are dates for career workshops, for workshops on resume writing, and for senior placement meetings for mathematics majors. Students are urged to attend the workshops and especially the placement meetings in order to learn about placement registration and job-hunting techniques, as well as to obtain information about the job market, types of jobs available, salaries, employer recruitment, etc.