Ok, there's not many degrees that are really in "pure maths" as such, they tend to combine pure maths, applied maths, computing, statistics in various doses and combinations and in fact it's not clear to a school leaver what a lot of these differences are a lot of the time although the mixture is probably quite important to how much the course will be enjoyed by the student.
I take it you mean that you're doing a degree in a single subject titled "mathematics" ?
Originally Posted by rjt
Basically, what are the pros and cons of doing a degree in pure maths?
That probably depends upon the person. My own personal experience is that I'm in my final year of a maths degree which was 50/50 between pure and applied before this year (i.e, no computing, no statistics) and I'm taking almost all pure maths modules for this year.
Pros for me are that I find the subject very interesting and I enjoy it. Pros from the point of view of other people is that people tend to regard a maths degree highly (and usually overestimate how intelligent you must be if you tell them what you're studying).
I'm studying in England, but I checked out most Irish courses before moving. TCD seems pretty comprehensive and challenging with a wide range of options (and an International reputation if that sort of thing appeals to you). The 3 year BA in Maynooth looked like a very good degree option to me, especially if you're planning to do mostly pure topics. I would personally have applied to one or both of those if I'd stuck around.
The other NUIs seemed decent, as did DCU. DIT's new degree has a nice range of options but is a very new course which might be a good thing or a bad thing. Their class size is tiny.
The only maths degree around that made me cringe and say "no way" was UL, which at the time appeared to be mostly vocational modules designed for job use.
Recommending a maths degree is tricky though, as I say above, the different emphasis that universities put on different areas will suit some more than others. Some might like the practical nature of the UL course, but for most people who simply like maths it seemed to me to be a pretty boring course and a vocational outlook is shortsighted IMO. Your mileage may vary. Unfortunately, secondary school doesn't normally prepare a leaver to make an informed choice.
Are the potential career options really as broad as the open days always insist?
Yes. However, there's a nice confusing situation where we keep getting told that there's a shortage of maths graduates, and yet it appears that all the maths graduates end up in jobs that don't necessarily require a maths degree, so I'm never quite clear on what they mean there (instead of saying there's a shortage of numerate graduates).
Typical destinations for my classmates seem to be accountancy training or management training. Many seem to end up in accounting, finance, insurance, actuary training, banking or some form of IT or Programming. These may not appear to be particulary sexy options (unless you like money and/or computers). There are interesting jobs to be had, but because they're not "commodity" type professions then it's hard to list them as options for someone who won't graduate for a few years. For example, I've recently found a company who makes use of mathematics for testing of some specialised online facilities which I personally find very very interesting, but there's maybe 3 companies in the world that do it so it's not going to appear on a prospectus. I'm a bit vague here but hopefully you get the point.
Perhaps the relevance of a lot of things become apparent once you identify an area you're interested in working in. For example, I originally got into maths in my last job because I needed a better grounding to understand subjects like cryptography, risk analysis and some aspects of theoretical computer science. In that situation, it definitely has job relevance.
Also, how difficult are the courses? I'm pretty good at maths and problem solving (doing well in school and the Irish Maths Olympiad), and from what I've seen of the first year course (I've done some Linear Algebra), it certainly seems do-able. But does it get much more difficult as it progresses?
Yes, but there's a rule I came across before that I like which is:
Last year's maths is easy.
This year's maths is hard.
Next year's maths is impossible.
Judging by the above, if you keep up with your work then you should be capable of doing it.
I think this thread might make a good sticky if we get a few more responses and opinions.