I graduated with a degree in Math-Computer Science(dual degree) from a college in the US in 2012, and have been working in the Software industry ever since. From 2012 to mid 2014 I was a software engineer and since then, I have been an operations engineer(maintaining servers and stuff).

Even though my degree is Math-CS, most of my major courses and electives are in math and I've been thinking about going back to school to get a master's in some discipline of math. But I worry about whether I'll be able to pick up the material in school after being away from the field for a few years. My question is should I be reviewing materials prior to attending grad school? (Such as calculus/Algebra/Real Analysis(by Rudin) etcetc). Should I know everything undergrad courses cover in Analysis/Algebra before thinking about going to grad school? I realized most syllabuses for grad school application says "One quarter in Analysis, One quarter in Algebra, One quarter in Linear Algebra" or something along that line, but I feel that may not be enough preparation.

If it helps, I am thinking about going to grad school to either do industry work/teach math and not necessarily to do research, so I am not thinking about a PhD at all.

  • $\begingroup$ I would say if you review it will help immensely, to me it seems more like the issue is getting into the groove of doing proofs and constructing things mathematically. I think you should be able to find course numbers and specifically find past syllabi for the core courses you'll need to take in the first quarter/semester. From here you can get an idea of what they cover. The toughest thing to me would be getting into proving things again. $\endgroup$
    – name
    Aug 19 '14 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ This should probably be on the Academics SE. There are several such questions there, including ones about math. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '14 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ @zibadawatimmy: I am not so sure. The purpose of Academia.SE is specifically limited to research/academia; so I am not 100% sure whether a question coming from the angle of a master's degree with goal of going back to industry is covered. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '14 at 14:35

I was undergrad math-physics and did compsci on the side. Afterwards i worked a CS job for 2 years and then applied to a math masters program with a similar goal. Having now completed it, I can say that it should be doable with little prior study (I never had analysis in undergrad) so I never even prepared for it in grad school. Though I prepared nothing outside of Calc 1/2/3 I did make it through, though I will admit that first year was trying as all heck.

If you want a smooth ride, I would strongly recommend an in depth review of Calc 1/2/3. A walkthrough of an undergrad analysis book ( try Rudin / bartle in order of decreasing difficulty) and a good review of linear algebra (Hoffman& Kunze or Strang) and maybe some kind of a review of some differential equations and youll be ahead of or caught up to a majority of the students entering the program.

Good luck, you have a lot of reading ahead of you :)

  • $\begingroup$ This is great to hear! @MSEoris Do you have any calc book recommendations? $\endgroup$
    – masotann
    Aug 19 '14 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ Well a very popular one these days seems to be Stewarts book which is quite enormous, though fairly thorough. Spivak has a book that I havent read yet but have heard great things about. As i understand it it would also serve as a bit of a primer for analysis which could be quite useful for you. $\endgroup$ Aug 19 '14 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ @MSEoris Stewart has slimmed down. Or been split, a bit more accurately. The first semester worth of material or so has been split into its own book. The full set is still large, but at least now you don't have to carry 3+ semesters worth of material to study just one. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '14 at 0:01

Definitely review! Think of this as landing a job. One you look forward to advancing your career and/or happiness, to boot. But the employer wants you to be good at something you have skill at but haven't done in a while. Do you just play up the past and wing it from there, or do you re-familiarize yourself with that skill set as much as you can? The latter, of course!

Since grad departments can sometimes offer you a TA position or other financial aid, this is a very accurate view to take. Note availability of these varies widely. My department was always able to fund people it expected to be PhD track, but not necessarily master's students. And others can't even do that (this is common in public universities, even extremely good ones).

Lastly, grad departments are very much aware of the variability of undergraduate programs and personal lives. Especially for master's students. It is not unusual for a grad student, including promising doctorate potentials, to lack certain fundamentals. Topology was a common culprit in my observations. In which case they may have you take the appropriate undergrad course.

So some missing skills is not a huge problem, but certainly refine your skills.


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