Information meeting March 31, 2016
Informal Advice

last edit September 13, 2016

Some informal advice if you are graduating this year or next year. Much of this material was presented at an information meeting for Mathematics students who will be graduating next year. There was an information session March 31, 2016.

Are you graduating? Please fill in your intent to graduate forms. You don't want to be told in your final term that you are missing a course for graduation. You may wish to have your picture taken for those collections of photos on the hallway in the Mathematics Building. You may wish to attend the graduation ceremonies (or your parents will ask you to attend!) but remember to fill in the various applications.

A Mathematics degree is a kind of liberal arts degree. You will have developed transferable skills but not had much job training.
Some of you will go directly to work. Some will consider professional training, perhaps an Education degree or a professional masters, the kind of masters that directly prepares you for a job. I'm thinking of a Masters in Statistics, Finance, Operations Research etc. These are fields where a professional masters provides the training/education you need. Some of you will consider a research graduate degree (Masters or Ph.D.) and for that I suggest the alternate webpage for that purpose.

There are various advisors including Faculty advisors, to help you. Visit them. Once a term. The Degree Navigator can be a helpful tool.

Course Selection
You may wish to carefully choose your final year courses to meet some career objectives. We offer flexibility in our degrees; most of the course selection is up to you. There is some advice below.

Minor in Honours Mathematics
  • Comments from a student taking Minor in Honours Mathematics within an Engineering Degree in 2012.

    There a number of deadlines that you should think about depending on your chosen career. Submitting your intent to graduate is one step. Applications to various programs have various deadlines, most after January. For graduate school in Mathematics there are deadlines in December for some programs including applying for an NSERC. Various career paths have some associated exams which have deadlines. For Actuarial work there are a variety of scheduled actuarial exams. For Graduate school in the US there are often requires for GRE exams (several versions) which have limited availability. For Law School there is the LSAT. For Medical School there is the MCAT. Etc. Determine which exams you will need and plan for them. And study!


    Direct to work .

    The quantitative skills you possess may be helpful in your new job. For example, students have gone directly into the financial industry or directly into the computer field.
  • Course selection advice from an alumni.
  • General job search advice from an alumni. Note the description of the skills you have as a Mathematic graduate which are very marketable.

  • Some Professional Options requiring credentials beyond your degree.

    Teaching .
    I often think of this an option for Mathematics graduates. Go to the UBC website:
    UBC Teacher Education and obtaining admission information including
    worksheets to determine prerequisites for Secondary Mathematics specialty. These links change from year to year so you may have to search for the current information.
    Richard Anstee ( is the current Mathematics advisor for Education.
    Comments from a Math student in the B.Ed. program in 2012. The current job market remains slow and some graduates have had success finding employment in other provinces or overseas.
    There are many other professional training avenues that Math students have taken. I am always surprised at the diversity. Students have gone to a masters in Statistics, Operations Research, Economics, Finance, Financial Mathematics, accountancy. These degrees vary as to their requirements. You should check up on these programs and get UBC specific advice about what courses would be useful. If you can handle it, MATH 320 would be great for Finance or Economics and is often a requirement for Financial Mathematics. Below are some comments from students on their experiences. Think of adding your comments based on your experiences (submit them to me).

    Actuarial Science .
  • Actuarial careers are often mentioned as a possibility and are often recorded as a career with top job satisfaction.
    Comments in 2016 from a Mathematics Graduate who entered the field successfully after graduation.
    Comments in 2015 from a Math student (Double Major Mathematics and Economics) who has entered the Actuarial profession . This contains many detailed comments about how to enter the profession. The list of desirable skills makes for interesting reading. The write up is very professional!
    Comments from a Math student exploring options in Actuarial Science in 2012 It was noted that there are some jobs for actuarial students in Game Balancing, the actuarial problems of virtual lives within a game. A variety of Mathematical competencies are needed in Game Mechanics.

    Accountancy .
  • The accountancy program has one new designation CPA-Chartered Professional Accountant which replaces the two designations CMA-Certified Management Accountant and CA-Chartered Accountant. The website CPA information may be useful.

  • Operations Research

    Operations Research (or Management Science or Operations and Logistics etc) is offered in many ways including research oriented programs or more professional masters. At UBC, the Sauder School offers a MM in OR (Masters of Management in Operations Research) through the Centre for Operations Excellence. The following site provides an introduction Operations Research and COE . Some UBC Mathematics students have taken this route and one offers some comments:
    Comments from a student who took MMOR from Centre for Operations Excellence in 2013.

    Law School

  • Comments from a Math student on applying to Law School in 2011

    Medical School

  • Comments from a Math student on applying to UBC Medical School in 2016
    Comments from a Math student on applying to UBC Medical School in 2011

    Second degree in Computer Science (BCS)

  • Comments from a Math student who came back to UBC for a BCS (Bachelor of Computer Science) second degree written in 2011

    Financial Analyst

  • How to become an (financial) analyst at a big bank in a big city written in 2008 by David Klppenstein.

    Letters of Reference

    Many applications to schools (including Teacher Education) or jobs will require reference letters. Typically more than one letter/reference is required. Graduate schools often ask for three. Choosing letter writers is a challenge. Remember that you need to give them time (preferably contact them a month in advance but shorter periods are possible) and give them information to help compose a letter for you. When you use a faculty member as a letter writer, you should be handing your letter writer a statement of purpose and/or resume, a transcript (unofficial is fine) and arrange to talk with them. Creating lists of information and deadlines for them (and addressed stamped envelopes if appropriate) is helpful even in the new world where most letters are submitted online. You may wish to send reminders of important due dates or have some way to keep track of letters they have entered on your behalf. Help them to help you.

    Choosing writers: They should know you in some nontrivial way (for example an instructor of courses in which you did well or someone you have worked with outside of courses in an area related to the program you are applying to) and be able to write about skills required for what you are applying. For a graduate degree you would like an academic reference (research faculty). Of course hard work, diligence, smarts are all skills to be commented on. Some of your potential letter writers may not know you that well so that is why you help them with supplementary information as well as visiting them and talking to them in person. The reputation of the letter writer (typically the research reputation but could be whether the writer is known to the school you are applying to) would be important in graduate school applications. The comments in reference letters are crucial for many graduate school applications. It is also true that Faculty reference letters have some clout in other applications.

    Personal statement/CV

    I am struck by Farzin Barekat's advice to prepare the personal statement early then think about it and edit it over time. Also adapt it to the University/Job you are applying to.
    Try to get advice (and perhaps assistance in editing) about your personal statement.
    A boastful tone doesn't appeal to me but make sure you have discussed all your skills in a positive way. For example if you have presented a talk in some seminar you might mention that in passing. If you have a hobby where you have some significant accomplishments then it is wise to mention it. Your file makes you look more human and interesting. Moreover if the file shows that you are driven/hardworking then, because this is quite an important attribute for a graduate student, your file may be taken more seriously.

    Work Experience (paid or unpaid)
    If you have done Co-op, then you already have lots of work experience. You have the summer of 2016 to get some significant experience. The USRA program, which is so helpful in preparing for a research career, has an application deadline in early February. Id prioritize this summer to get a very useful job. If you have the choice take a job with better experience rather than a job with less experience but perhaps fun or paid well. You will typically be applying in second term January to April 2017. Volunteering is a great way to gain certain experiences. In the case of teaching this form of experience is typical.

    Advice for those pursuing Research Graduate degrees.
    For a research degree in Mathematics you probably should have prepared for this through an Honours degree. MATH 320 is a useful barometer of your preparedness. This may sound harsh but research in Mathematics is challenging. A majors degree without a few successful honours courses is not going to be sufficient. We have discussed other career options above. There are levels of graduate schools but I would imagine at least 85% would be required for UBC (75% is the minimum for admission to graduate school but there is competition) but 80% with good letters should be plenty for some schools. Since typically research graduate students are financially supported by the supervisor/University, the supervisors/schools do not wish to take risks.
  • I prepared a separate webpage: Informal advice for those pursuing Mathematics research website
  • with more information.
  • Presentation by Kevin Luk at grad session March 29, 2011 power point presentation outlining this information in student language.

    Best wishes Richard Anstee ?????? ????????? ????????????????