Department of Mathematics, University of Utah
UofUtah logo
Department of Mathematics,
College of Science,
University of Utah,
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-0090, USA.
801-581-6851, 801-581-4148 (fax)

Everything you want to know about a mathematics undergraduate degree

By Professor Les Glaser, Undergraduate Advisor, 239 JWB, (801) 581-6837/

How to become a Mathematics Major

To become a mathematics major one must have an interest in and talent for mathematics. There are no special departmental or admission requirements. Mathematics majors must earn a grade of C or better in all required mathematics courses.

The basic major program consists of Calculus I, II, and III (MATH 1210-1220-2210 or some of MATH 1250-1260 depending upon AP credit (College Algebra and Trigonometry are prerequisites for Calculus), and four semesters of 2000 and 3000 level mathematics: Linear Algebra and Differential Equations (MATH 2270-2280), and Foundations of Analysis (MATH 3210-3220). The major student, other than a teaching major, then chooses, in consultation with the departmental adviser or a departmental mentor, six semester courses in mathematics numbered 4200 or higher. The allowed choices depend on the emphasis chosen. The regular major may select from the full list of thirty three advanced semester courses.

The only allied requirement is a year of physics. Majors whose emphasis is statistics replace the physics requirement with 12 hours of approved credit in statistical methodology courses offered by other departments (teaching majors are only required to take one quarter of physics). Depending on the mathematics emphasis chosen, this amounts to 40-49 semester hours of mathematics credits. A final requirement is satisfactory performance on the advanced mathematics subject matter portion of the Graduate Record Examination. The department also offers a regular minor and a teaching minor. Both require five courses beyond Calculus I, II, and III. The regular minor requires Math 3210 and 3220, plus three other courses with prerequisite of at least Calculus I and II. The teaching minor uses the five specific courses required for math level three endorsement by the state.

Research and internship opportunities

The Department of Mathematics participates in the University's Cooperative Education Program (Co-op), which provides internship opportunities for students in business, industry, and government. The program involves either full-time employment during a semester when the student is not enrolled in school or part-time employment during a semester in which the student is enrolled part-time. While exposing students to mathematics in nonacademic settings, the internship enables them to defray part of their education costs. Students also become known by potential employers. See the department, the Undergraduate Research Office (581-8070), or Career Services (581-6186) for further information.

Students who want to participate in the above programs through the Mathematics Department should be mathematics majors who have completed one-half of each of the sequences MATH 2210-2220 and 3210-3220. They should contact the departmental undergraduate adviser to get an application form and two faculty recommendation forms. Once approved by the Mathematics Department, the student is assisted by the Cooperative Education Center in preparing a resume and applying for a co-op position. Placements are decided by the employer. Interns may register for MATH 4910 during the semesters they are involved with the program if they want university credit. The course then carries variable credit, decided by the undergraduate adviser once the hours and duties of the internship are known. At the end of the semester, the intern writes a report describing the completed work and presents an evaluation written by his/her supervisor during the internship. The course, which may be taken a maximum of two times, is graded CR or NC (credit/no credit).

Career fields and options

Mathematics is obviously basic in any scientific endeavor. Mathematicians held about 14,000 jobs in 1994. In addition, about 20,000 persons held mathematics faculty positions in colleges and universities. The advanced mathematician is often part of a team of scientists and engineers who conduct basic research or solve problems of large industrial complexes. Some typical job examples include operation research, applied statistics, agricultural economist, actuary, cryptologist, numerical analyst, elementary or high school mathematics specialist, data math analyst, marketing manager, software quality assurance, census bureau statistician, market researcher, inventory strategist, mathematics of finance specialist, measurements research, information system consultant, elementary or high school teacher, college or university professor, and research scientist.

Most mathematics employment is in education, actuarial work, and consulting. Typical employers include electronic equipment and computer manufacturers, oil companies, communications laboratories, aerospace companies, atomic energy, research firms, investment banking firms, and school systems, colleges and universities. In addition, mathematicians occupy many administrative positions in finance departments, accounting and research operations where statistics or computers are used. Computer software companies are prime employers, and insurance companies seek mathematicians for actuarial work. Math majors with interest in medical or law degrees are not uncommon.

According to a 1995 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salary offers for mathematics graduates with a bachelor's degree averaged about $30,300 a year and for those with a master's degree, $35,600. Starting salaries were generally higher in industry and government than in educational institutions. For example, the American Mathematical Society reported that, based on a 1994 survey, median annual earnings for new recipients of doctorates in research were $35,000; for those in government, $45,500; and for those in business and industry, $52,500.

In the Federal Government in 1995 the average annual salary for mathematicians in supervisory, nonsupervisory, and managerial positions was $58,150; for mathematical statisticians, $60,510; and for cryptanalysts, $52,840. Actuarial science is another well paid profession. The latest information on the Web lists entry level salaries between $32,000 - $45,000. For good candidates, signing bonuses are also common. Top actuaries with many years experience often earn over $100,000 a year. Refer to the American Mathematical Society e-MATH for further and updated information. Note their Professional Information and Services, Career in Mathematics, and Occupational Outlook Handbook (Mathematical section) links.

Financial aid and scholarships

Scholarships for undergraduate majors are limited. The Department of Mathematics offers three departmental scholarships. Since these are one year tuition waiver scholarships, transfer and continuing math students will be given first priority. These students should contact the Mathematics Department for application instructions. Exceptional high school students interested in a mathematics major are invited to apply. They may use the University of Utah Application for Departmental Scholarships form.

For information regarding University-wide support, contact the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, 105 Student Services Building, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112 (801) 581-6211.

Courses in the major

The department offers four types of majors:

The regular major described above selects six semester courses in mathematics numbered 4200 or higher, and may select from the full list of thirty three advanced semester courses. These students have the option of selecting theoretical courses, applied courses, or a combination, depending on interests and goals.

The major with emphasis in statistics replaces the year of physics by a year of statistical methodology courses. Statistics emphasis math majors are required to take Math 5010, 5080, 5090, plus three additional semester mathematics courses from the list: Math 4200, 5030, 5040, 5050, 5210, 5410, 5420, 5610, 5620, 5710, or 5720. Math 5010, 5080, 5090, and the 3 semester electives total 18 to 21 semester hours.

The major with emphasis in scientific computing (new 1990-91) is similar to the above, but has more applied course options. Scientific Computing Math majors are required to take Math 5610, 5620, and 5960, plus three additional semester mathematics courses from the following list: Math 5010, 5040, 5050, 5080, 5090, 5110, 5120, 5410, 5420, 5440, 5710, or 5720. The 5000-level semester courses total 21 to 22 hours.

The teaching major does not require any 5000-level courses. Besides the basic courses requirements (MATH Calculus I, II, and III, and MATH 2270-2280 and 3210-3220) noted above, special teaching courses at the 3000-level and 4000-level are required. Students with this emphasis must take Intro to Scientific Computing (Math 2160), Applied Statistics I (Math 3070), Foundations of Geometry with Practicum ( Math 3100 & 3105) , Foundations of Algebra with Practicum ( Math 4300 & 4305) , and Teaching Secondary School Mathematics (Math 4090). The specific courses beyond Calculus I, II, and III are required for math level four endorsement by the state of Utah. At least a semester of physics is also required. In addition, one must have a teaching minor in some other area (for a level three endorsement in that area), and take several education courses for the certification in secondary education. Students interested in a teaching as a career should contact a counselor in the Education Advising Center, 226 Milton Bennion Hall (581-7780), the best source for current information on requirements for secondary education. Applications for admission to the program, students teaching applications, and applications forms and clearance for Utah teaching certification also may be obtained there.

Selected faculty research interests

University of Utah, Department of Mathematics, 155 S 1400 E Rm 233, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0090, USA 801-581-6851, 801-581-4148 (fax)       [30-Apr-1998].