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A few years trying to get a job before a maths masters?

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    Right now I'm a finalist and I'll be graduating with a maths degree in June 2012.

    Two classmates who were top of the year have applied for masters degrees at a few places and now I regret it a little. However, I definitely wasn't sure what masters I wanted to do and I'm still not; I'm also really not keen on just doing another year of education without going out into the real world and getting a job for a while.

    So what I'm asking is, will this put me at a disadvantage? Im not sure where I'd get a reference from either. Should I talk to my tutor now and ask him if he could save a reference for me for a year or two?
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    It's not uncommon to ask tutors a few years down the line for a reference. I wouldn't see any particular reason why you would be disadvantaged to take the masters after a deferred period.

    It's reasonably common for people to not take a Masters directly after their undergrad. A lot of people have to save up to pay for their course, which inevitably involves working for a few years to get the cash lump which needs to be put down.
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    A master's in math isn't exactly a professional degree and people who do these kind of studies probably contemplate the option of doing a PhD and going into research. In this case it makes no real sense to take a break from academia, since this is supposedly where they intend to stay for an indefinite amount of time.

    You are right about the references, the longer you are away from school, the harder it gets to obtain strong references because your former professors will remember less about you. But taking a gap year during which you apply shouldn't put you at a disadvantage; in fact, applying with your degree in hands is an advantage as there will be no uncertainty about your final grade or degree classification.
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    As Ghost6 said, a maths masters doesnt really qualify you to do any particular job. Generally speaking, the only reasons to do a Masters (other than enjoyment) are if its vocational (which includes things like statistics/comp sci), or if you can get into a university much better than your undergrad one, in which case the signal will help your CV. If neither of these are the case then it doesnt make a lot of sense.

    Generally speaking Masters admissions can be easier than undergraduate admissions, so you'll often find students from mid-rank universities going to more prestigious places for their Masters in order to make themselves more competitive for PhD programs and good private sector jobs. I just skimmed your posts and noticed you said that you were top 5 in your year, so I'm assuming you got a high first; you would possibly have an outside shot at somewhere like Imperial or Warwick if you were to apply, although its still competitive and by no means guaranteed.

    Take this with a grain of salt because I dont have direct experience, but I would be surprised if spending a single year in industry before applying had any negative effect on your chances of being accepted. If you spend more years out of academic then it can become more difficult (although certainly not impossible) since it becomes harder to get references, and your technical skills will become rusty. Perhaps it would be better if you had a 'good' job because then it wouldnt look like you were trying to escape, but I'm not sure if this would actually matter.
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    (Original post by poohat)
    As Ghost6 said, a maths masters doesnt really qualify you to do any particular job. Generally speaking, the only reasons to do a Masters (other than enjoyment) are if its vocational (which includes things like statistics/comp sci), or if you can get into a university much better than your undergrad one, in which case the signal will help your CV. If neither of these are the case then it doesnt make a lot of sense.

    Generally speaking Masters admissions can be easier than undergraduate admissions, so you'll often find students from mid-rank universities going to more prestigious places for their Masters in order to make themselves more competitive for PhD programs and good private sector jobs. I just skimmed your posts and noticed you said that you were top 5 in your year, so I'm assuming you got a high first; you would possibly have an outside shot at somewhere like Imperial or Warwick if you were to apply, although its still competitive and by no means guaranteed.

    Take this with a grain of salt because I dont have direct experience, but I would be surprised if spending a single year in industry before applying had any negative effect on your chances of being accepted. If you spend more years out of academic then it can become more difficult (although certainly not impossible) since it becomes harder to get references, and your technical skills will become rusty. Perhaps it would be better if you had a 'good' job because then it wouldnt look like you were trying to escape, but I'm not sure if this would actually matter.
    Yes I'm on for a high first; well, high enough (around 80% is the aim). I was in fact thinking of applying for places like Imperial and Kings yeah, but again I'm just not sure if it's feasible after a year in industry. I suppose if I continued to hone my mathematical skills by tutoring or perhaps learning some more topics from textbooks then this could help a little?

    Thank you for your very detailed post, and to everyone else. I'll keep this option open. I'm not completely decided on a masters and right now I'd only really do it to get a better university on my CV.
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    Maths masters programmes in the UK are generally not so competetive (why? Because they rarely come with funding and most people wanting to stay on do a 4 year undergrad e.g. MMath/MSci etc.) so I am pretty sure that you would have no problem getting onto pretty much any programme you wanted.

    It is also very common for people to come back after several years and do a Masters degree. In fact, a good proportion of the students on the Masters programme at my undergrad place were in that boat since if you are coming straight from undergrad - the Masters makes no sense: just do the MMath.

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