Can the average student study mathematics

Mathematics study

Table of Contents

Why study math?

Mathematics is one of the central scientific disciplines with fundamental importance for the natural, engineering and life sciences. But also outside of science, mathematics surrounds us permanently in everyday life. From the timing of the bus timetable to the daily shopping to the smartphone - almost all the achievements of modern life would be unthinkable without mathematics. The central importance of mathematics for science and everyday life ensures that mathematicians expect a wide range of employment opportunities. After studying mathematics, you have very good career prospects and earn an attractive salary.

What study options do I have?

In Germany, all state universities offer a degree in mathematics. You can also start your mathematics studies at a university of applied sciences. Private universities do not offer this subject. As a rule, you will complete your mathematics studies full-time. The possibility of distance learning or a dual study program in mathematics is only available in isolated cases in Germany. The following table gives you a first impression of your study options:

university

You can start your mathematics studies at any state university in Germany. In addition to general mathematics studies, some universities offer specialized mathematical courses such as mathematical financial economics, business mathematics or industrial mathematics as early as the Bachelor's degree. The mathematics course at the university is theoretically and scientifically oriented. In some courses, however, compulsory internships are also part of the course, during which you gain initial practical experience. The standard period of study for a bachelor's degree in mathematics is 6 semesters at a university.

Universities of applied sciences

Universities of applied sciences usually offer mathematics studies in the form of applied mathematics. This expresses the requirement of the universities of applied sciences to offer teaching that is as practical and application-oriented as possible. In some cases, however, it is also possible to study pure mathematics at the university of applied sciences. Pure mathematics mainly deals scientifically and theoretically with areas such as algebra, analysis, geometry, topology and number theory. On the other hand, applied mathematics endeavors to provide an instrument for dealing with questions from the natural sciences, technical areas, as well as social and economic sciences. A practical semester is often an integral part of the mathematics course at the university of applied sciences. This increases the standard period of study to 7 semesters in some cases.

Alternatives: private universities, distance learning and dual studies

Mathematics is not part of the offerings of private universities in Germany either as face-to-face or distance learning. The FernUni Hagen alone is the only state distance university in Germany to offer a bachelor's degree in mathematics as a distance learning course. You can complete your studies part-time in 12 semesters or full-time in 6 semesters. The distance learning offers the great advantage that you can work on the content of the course predominantly at your own desk at your own time.

In the dual course of study, you study alongside a job in a company. Often you will complete a full-fledged training in addition to your studies. In contrast to distance learning, professional activity and study are coordinated with dual studies. At the end of your dual study program, you can usually not only have a university degree, but also have completed training. The mathematics course is unusual as a dual variant. Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences is the only university in Germany to offer a dual degree in business mathematics. Unlike in many other dual study programs, however, you do not complete an apprenticeship here alongside your studies. Rather, during the semester break you collect professional experience as a kind of long-term intern at the university's partner companies.

Study abroad

Improving your own language skills, getting to know new people and a different culture - these prospects make studying abroad attractive for math students too. When choosing a university and country, you are spoiled for choice. Numerous universities also offer mathematics courses abroad. In contrast to many other courses of study, it is not advisable to complete the entire bachelor's degree abroad when studying mathematics. Because the school level in mathematics differs greatly from country to country, which also has an impact on the content of the course. Alternatively, you can integrate a semester abroad into your studies as part of the exchange programs that every university offers.

Am I suitable for studying mathematics?

Most universities do not require any special formal requirements to start studying mathematics. If you want to study mathematics at a university, you need the general university entrance qualification or the subject-specific university entrance qualification. At the university of applied sciences only the technical college entrance qualification is required.

Formal and professional requirements

In addition to the higher education entrance qualification, there are usually no further admission restrictions for the subject of mathematics. Only at a few universities is mathematics restricted by a numerus clausus (NC). In the 2013 summer semester, however, the highest NC was comparatively low at 2.0 for the Bachelor's degree at the University of Münster. Most universities were able to accept all applicants. In addition to the higher education entrance qualification and the NC, additional admission requirements may apply to you in exceptional cases, for example participation in an assessment center.

personal requirements

80% of all new students drop out of their mathematics studies. In order to minimize the probability that you belong to this 80%, you should think carefully about whether you meet the personal requirements for studying mathematics. You are suitable for studying mathematics if mathematics was one of your favorite subjects at school. In addition, solving math problems shouldn't cause you much effort and be fun. The advanced course in mathematics is not a prerequisite, but it makes it a lot easier to start your studies. In addition, you should be resilient and have a high frustration threshold. Studying mathematics is very labor-intensive, especially at the beginning.

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What can I expect from studying mathematics?

At almost all universities, mathematics studies begin before the semester begins. In so-called preliminary courses, you will repeat all of the material from the upper secondary school in a rapid process. The preliminary courses are designed to ensure that all students have the same level of knowledge at the beginning of their studies. Attending the preliminary courses is usually voluntary, but you should definitely use this option. The standard period of study for the bachelor's degree is 6 to 7 semesters, depending on the university. Often you will also take an application subject in addition to mathematics. The respective university specifies the possible subjects. For example, you can expect the following:

  • physics
  • Computer science
  • Business administration
  • Economics

Course content

The contents of the mathematics course differ significantly from university to university. At most universities, the first year of study gives you the basics. In the first semesters in particular, the focus of the mathematics course is therefore mostly in the theoretical-abstract area. Lectures, exercises and seminars deal with the following topics:

  • Analysis
  • Linear Algebra
  • Analytical geometry
  • Computer science / programming
  • Probability calculation / statistics

You will deepen this content in the following semesters and supplement your knowledge with knowledge in specialist areas such as numerics, stochastics or number theory.

Specialization opportunities

As a rule, the bachelor's degree in mathematics allows you to set your own priorities from the second or third year of study. The possibilities to specialize depend on the individual university. If you already have a certain subject in mind before starting your studies, you should check whether your university of choice offers a corresponding specialization. You can choose, among other things, these focal points:

  • Real and complex analysis (function theory)
  • Algebra and Number Theory
  • Geometry and topology
  • Applied Analysis
  • Numerical mathematics and optimization
  • Probability Theory and Statistics
  • Scientific computing and simulation
  • Theoretical computer science and mathematical logic

Some universities also have mathematics courses in their programs that specialize in a very specific area, for example bio or business mathematics. In addition, at most universities you have the opportunity to further specialize in one area as part of your master’s degree.

Which degrees can I get?

At the end of your mathematics studies, you will write a written scientific thesis, the bachelor thesis. If the first and second proofreaders give this work a grade of at least 4.0, your university will award you the academic degree of Bachelor. Usually this is a Bachelor of Science. If you are one of the 50% of mathematics students who aim to teach and study a combinatorial bachelor's degree, you often finish your studies with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Education.

The bachelor's degree qualifies you for a job as well as for a master’s degree, for example a Master of Education degree. Incidentally, at some universities you can also take up a teaching degree, which ends with the 2nd state examination. There are also a few diploma courses in the field of mathematics.

After studying mathematics

Mathematicians do not have a fixed job description. Rather, they are characterized by their diverse application possibilities. As a mathematician, you are in demand wherever analytical thinking and dealing with complex problems is required. After studying mathematics, you will therefore have numerous areas of activity - from management consulting to research and development.

Which professional fields are suitable for me after graduation?

After your mathematics studies you can, for example, work in the development department of an IT company and help develop prototypes. Or you analyze and evaluate price developments for a financial institution and give recommendations for action. You can also find a job as a mathematician in industrial companies. Here you document and evaluate research results, for example, and prepare them for presentations. The possibilities for mathematicians are almost limitless on the job market. Mathematicians can often be found in the following companies and areas:

  • Software and telecommunications company
  • Research and Development
  • banks and insurance companies
  • Business consulting
  • Science and teaching

How do you start your career?

Mathematicians are in demand on the job market. Over 80% of all graduates of mathematics studies find a permanent position in the first year after graduation. Depending on the industry you want to work in, you can even choose a job after your studies. Starting a job is particularly easy for those who have already set priorities in their mathematics studies. However, many graduates have problems finding their way on the job market after studying mathematics. Because the theoretical mathematics course offers little reference to the world of work. Many graduates are not even aware of their chances on the job market or possible career fields. Internships or part-time jobs during your studies can help here and offer professional orientation. First practical experience is also welcome with future employers. Career entry can take place via an internship or a trainee position. However, mathematicians often find full-time positions immediately after graduation.

What career prospects do I have?

The career prospects for mathematicians are very good. Many companies are already having problems filling relevant positions. And the need for mathematicians is likely to increase in the next few years. After a successful career start, your studies will enable you to quickly take on management tasks and, for example, to become a team or department manager. Even if the bachelor's degree is a professional qualification, a subsequent master’s degree is recommended for mathematicians. Many companies prefer graduates with a master’s degree, especially for mathematicians. If you are aiming for a management position, the master’s degree is usually mandatory. Unlike in most other natural sciences, a doctorate is not a requirement, but it can further improve your salary prospects.

What salary do I earn?

Mathematicians are among the higher earners. After studying mathematics, you will start your career with an average gross salary of € 3,350 per month. If you have a doctorate, you can even earn up to € 5,850 when you start your career. Overall, a mathematician receives an average of € 4,800 gross per month. In addition to the degree, your professional experience, your gender and the industry also play a decisive role. In the following table you can find the average earnings of mathematicians in different industries.

jobAverage salary *
Actuary4.600 €
Math professor5.000 €
Auditors4.800 €
Controller3.750 €

*) in gross / monthly