“Which Mathematics Major Might Be Right for Me?”

Note: The UC San Diego Department of Mathematics is capped for undergraduate majors.

If you are thinking of choosing a major in the Department of Mathematics, you probably enjoyed mathematics in high school. That is a good start. However, do not assume that high school experiences are a sufficient basis on which to assess how satisfying you will find mathematics in university.

In upper division coursework, mathematics tends to be highly abstract and not about simply plugging numbers into equations to obtain numerical answers. Additionally, unlike calculus textbooks that have pages upon pages of color pictures to pictorially illustrate concepts, higher-level pure mathematics textbooks (such as for mathematical reasoning, real analysis, and abstract algebra) might contain almost no graphical content. (That may not concern someone who truly has a passion for theoretical mathematics and does well at understanding it.)

If you have decided to earn an undergraduate degree in mathematics at UC San Diego, the next question is, which major should you select?

Make a thoughtful decision based on your plans for after graduation. Here are the common post-baccalaureate paths taken by students:

(1) Go to graduate school in mathematics (to earn a master’s degree or doctoral degree).

(2) Go to graduate school in a subject other than mathematics but with relevance to mathematics.

(3) Become a school teacher in the elementary, middle, or high school sectors.

(4) Directly enter the non-academic working world in a career position.

Unless it is obvious which major is best for your plans, get opinions from many department advisors and faculty members. (Elsewhere in this online handbook is advice on preparing for graduate school and preparing for careers.) Our undergraduate mathematics majors are described here.

Once you have decided on a major, the general, campus-wide procedure to select/change a major is described here. For students who do not already have a major in the Department of Mathematics, read about the Department’s capped status here.