Although it may seem a long way off, chances are that one day, degree-in-hand, you will be looking for a job. Your transferable skills will be of particular interest to potential employers, who will not just be concerned with your performance in your subject, but in the overall contribution you can make to their organisation. If you can convince an employer that you can work well within a team, solve problems, organise, innovate, adapt, and so forth, you will outshine your competitors in the job market.
Below is a list of skills, both transferable and subject-specific, that your Mathematics Degree can offer you. It provides an interesting glimpse into how you might change and develop over the next few years. It will help focus your attention on exactly what you have achieved during your degree course - and this will make you better able to communicate these achievements to others, especially when writing job applications and attending interviews.
So, read on to find out not what you can do for your Mathematics Degree, but what your Mathematics Degree can do for you.
Mathematical Skills. As a mathematics student you will study each of the major subject areas of modern mathematics: algebra, analysis, geometry, statistics, and applied mathematics. In the course of this study you will learn:
- The language of mathematics and the rules of logic.
- How to state a mathematical idea precisely.
- How to prove or disprove a mathematical conjecture.
- How to extract meaning from mathematics on the written page.
- How to use mathematics to describe the physical world.
Analytical Skills. Having done a Mathematics Degree, you will never again be able to tolerate sloppy reasoning. Mathematics will enhance your ability to:
- Think clearly.
- Pay attention to detail.
- Manipulate precise and intricate ideas.
- Follow complex reasoning.
- Construct logical arguments and expose illogical ones.
Problem Solving Skills. You will be given countless mathematical problems to solve over the course of your degree. Experience with these will teach you to:
- Formulate a problem in precise terms, identifying the key issues.
- Present a solution clearly, making your assumptions explicit.
- Gain insight into a difficult problem by looking at special cases or sub-problems.
- Be flexible, and approach the same problem from different points of view.
- Tackle a problem with confidence, even when the solution is not obvious.
- Seek help when you need it.
Investigative Skills. During your studies you will sometimes find yourself trying to understand mathematics that seems too hard, and trying to solve problems that at first seem impossible. You may also be asked to do essays and projects which involve you privately investigating an area of mathematics you know nothing about. All this will turn you into an amateur sleuth, on the trail of information and inspiration. You should find yourself:
- Looking up lecture notes, text books and reference books.
- Scouring the library.
- Searching databases for references.
- Extracting information from every mathematician you meet (other undergraduates, postgraduates, tutors and lecturers).
Communication Skills. A Mathematics Degree will develop your capacity to assimilate and communicate highly technical information. During lectures you will be required to organise and record a mass of mathematical detail, both spoken and written. Homework exercises, and any essays and projects you do, will call for clear mathematical exposition. During supervisions you will find yourself exchanging mathematical ideas with your supervisor and fellow students. You may well find yourself discussing mathematics in conversation with your fellow students and your lecturers. In your later years you may be given the opportunity to teach other undergraduates. Through these experiences you will have the opportunity to learn how to:
- Listen effectively.
- Write mathematics well.
- Write essays and reports.
- Give a mathematical presentation to a group.
IT Skills. During your degree you will have access to computing facilities. You will have the opportunity to:
- Learn a programming language.
- Solve problems using mathematical software.
- Learn word-processing, of both text and mathematics.
Good Working Habits. To be a successful mathematics student you will have to:
- Be thorough and painstaking in your work.
- Organise your time and meet deadlines.
- Work under pressure, especially near exam time.
- Work independently, without constant support from teachers.
- Work co-operatively with others to solve common problems.
Useful Personality Traits. One mathematics professor used to tell each incoming first year class that doing a Maths Degree would change them for life. Battling successfully with ideas that are hard to understand and problems that are hard to solve fosters:
- Self-confidence, and
- Intellectual rigour.