I am a senior in high school and looking at universities. Everybody says I do not have to know what I want to be when I grow up yet. Despite this, I am stressed out about choosing schools because I feel like knowing what I want to do is important to choosing where I go.

I would be curious what people on this site are interested in becoming when they are older, just to poll for ideas.

If you are already grown up, could you state what you do, whether you like it/and/or whether you wish you had done something different?

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TopNewestDo what you love, love what you do!– Tim Ye · 4 years, 7 months agoLog in to reply

In my humble opinion, as someone who's been both an academic and worked in the "real world", @Tim has got it right. I'll contribute here what I've told my students. If you want to get an advanced degree, it's a LOT of schooling, and it's hard stuff that requires a lot of time to work through. If you don't enjoy what you are doing, it's not nearly as much fun and it's less likely you'll successfully complete a degree. You like string theory? Be a string theorist. You want to be a pilot or aeronautical engineer? Be both. You like math and want to design buildings? Be a civil engineer or even a mathematician who specializes in architecture (I know math Ph.D.'s who now have a grand time applying their skills to modeling buildings for design firms).

Just be happy :) – David Mattingly Staff · 4 years, 7 months ago

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– Swapnil Das · 2 years, 2 months ago

I love string theory!Log in to reply

This read might be a little helpful. – Tony Jiang · 4 years, 7 months ago

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Speaking from my experience, you never know what opportunities the future may hold for you. Math opens up a lot of paths for you. Let me trace out part of my path for you:

After graduating from high school, I had to serve 2.5 years of compulsory National Service as a Singaporean Male. Throughout that time, I kept involved with various organizations like SIMO (Singapore International Mathematical Olympiad) and my high school academic clubs. This opened up the opportunity for us to help train the Singapore IMO team in 2005, and participate as an Observer in IMO'05. (Singapore was the first country that had a team of trainers who comprised mostly of participants in previous years. It was also the first year that we did this on a large scale) In that period, we also conducted "Problem Solving Sessions" in various high schools in Singapore for a decent wage (remember, this is before I had my university education).

Entering university, I was extremely certain that I wanted to get a PhD and be a math professor. A lot of my first two years were geared towards that goal. Being at the University of Chicago, I had a lot of exposure to math education programs through Dr Paul Sally, and had fun teaching both high school students and middle school teachers. In my third year, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't interested in pursuing a PhD in math, and went to try out some economics research (incidentally, what I did was a lot of math). That wasn't my cup of tea either, so I decided to brave the workforce. This was in the midst of the 2008-9 crash, and I was lucky to land a job as an options trader (which yes, uses more math!)

Fast forward 2.5 years, and I decided to be the Brilliant Mathematics Challenge Master (since it has such a cool name!) and pursue my interest in education (and math of course). – Calvin Lin Staff · 4 years, 7 months ago

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I wanna be Mathematicien, but my parents say I won't find work, they want me to be a techer (don't know how to teach, since I don't understand how people do to not understand something as simple as maths) – Anas Elidrissi · 4 years, 7 months ago

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ok thank you everyone that helps a lot. And @David, welcome around ^^ – Anas Elidrissi · 4 years, 7 months ago

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I strongly agree with Calvin on this one. A math/hard science degree is one of the most valuable and versatile degrees out there. With a physics degree I have been able to work as a software developer, as academic faculty, as research staff, as a consultant, and been recruited by hedge funds/finance firms. Hard science and math degrees show a level of analytical sophistication that is a) rare and b) sought after by many firms. You almost certainly will be able to find work.

The question becomes what kind of work. For example, my area of specialty within physics is quantum gravity. That's great to a company in that it shows that I'm likely very smart, but there aren't any non-academic jobs out there that require any in depth knowledge of quantum gravity. Google, for example, wouldn't care. So the degree is a way in the door, but realize that you will probably not be working in the area that you specialized in. Instead you will usually be applying your analytical skills to other fields.

Lastly, if you do plan to get a degree in math or a hard science, make sure you develop some secondary skills that will transfer. i.e. programming, writing, etc. – David Mattingly Staff · 4 years, 7 months ago

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@Anas I would disagree with that assessment. Math is one of the most versatile fields on study, in the sense that it keeps a lot of your options open. Because math stresses rigor of thought (which is why I place so much emphasis on a well written proof), it actually provides you with the tools to be a great problem solver. Math also provides you with an explanation of how the world works, which you could apply to approach different problems.

I've given you a list of various jobs that I've worked at in the past 10 years, that were directly related to my math ability. There are a lot of jobs out there that value Math, Science, Engineering, etc. These students generally have an easier time getting jobs, holding all else constant.

Of course, the other side of the argument is that you must be willing to work. If you're lazy, want a job that pays $250 an hour, doesn't require work experience, allows you to set your hours, etc, then yes, you won't be able to find work. However, that has nothing to do with you being a mathematician. – Calvin Lin Staff · 4 years, 7 months ago

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@Calvin I wanna be mathematician, but my parents say that I won't find work, what do you think? – Anas Elidrissi · 4 years, 7 months ago

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Thanks for your guy's input. As I expected math is the common career path her. @ TonyJ. I really hope my graduation speech is that good. If any of you haven't read the article by Paul Graham that Tony links to you really should. I was really impressed by his distinction between passion and curiosity. What I am most daunted by is his advice to find the question that you are so curious about that you can't not work on it. So that is what I will try to do, find the right questions. – Annie Wofford · 4 years, 7 months ago

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Applied Math for me! – Jose R Urriola · 4 years, 7 months ago

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MATH ALL THE WAY – Wilson Ly · 4 years, 7 months ago

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like me ^^ – Anas Elidrissi · 4 years, 7 months ago

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I'm going to be a mathematician, and maybe teach at university level. Although that would only be part-time; I'd be doing research. – Alix Buttimore · 4 years, 7 months ago

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I follow the English system so at my school people aren't really receiving extra mathematics or physics knowledge. But I don't really know I think I will have double majors : Mathematics and Physics where I can probably go to stuff like string theory and quantum physics. – Johnson Adeleke · 4 years, 7 months ago

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I'm currently a math major right now, and to be honest, I don't know what to do career-wise either. It's not hitting me yet. All I know is that I want to have a math-related career that is not teaching. Also, recently, I found out I'm not too fond of physics/engineering :( I'm kind of thinking something along the lines of Game theory, Number theory...etc since I like integers. It'll come sooner or later. – Kelly Pham · 4 years, 7 months ago

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I want to be either a pilot or an aeronautical engineer. In general, I change my mind every week. – Kristin Dover · 4 years, 7 months ago

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I want to be an architect, or a civil engineer. I want to design buildings. – Michael Pedersen · 4 years, 7 months ago

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You're right Tim, the problem is I think I love a lot of things but do not really know.

Right now I want to be:

A teacher

Mechanical Engineer( design things, like cars turbines, energy solutions etc..)

or research scientist or Mathematician – Annie Wofford · 4 years, 7 months ago

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