I am currently a student in high school, who plans on going to university.

As of now, I am planning to pursue my bachelors degree in mathematics in the UK and then go on to do a PhD in computer science in the states.

As long as I have been alive I have always loved doing maths and physics. But during the last couple of years, I have really gotten into computer science and can picture myself working in the field.

However, whenever I think about just doing a bachelor in computer science, I end up feeling like I am betraying my principles and throwing away the chance to acquire a proper mathematical education (Not to mention my disappointment in myself for not pursuing a career in theoretical physics (which just doesn't seem like it will pay the bills)).

As to my question, is it advisable for me to go through a math degree before pursuing a PhD in compsci? Or should I just get a degree in compsci in the first place and take some math classes on the side?

(In the case that it matters, I would also like to someday work outside of academia, perhaps pursuing a research or development job in the industry.)

Thank you for your answers in advance. I am really looking forward to reading them.

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    Would a double major be an option? – Rayna Grayson Jun 27 at 18:22
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    There exists an opinion that if you ask a question such as in the title, then math is not for you. – Mihail Jun 27 at 21:07
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    @Mihail I (somewhat liberally) interpret the opinion in your comment as "university math is harsh and unforgiving, and requires high dedication/passion, so if there is any doubt about whether you can/should pursue math, then you probably already shouldn't." I disagree. That might make sense for someone who has already done a math program and knows what it's like. However, OP hasn't so it's totally natural not to know if math is for OP. Plus, OP is in high school, which means there's probably time to explore even if math doesn't turn out to be right. So why close the door on math prematurely? – Rayna Grayson Jun 27 at 21:57
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    @RaynaGrayson of course, I'm not making a rule without exceptions from "If there is a doubt about appying to math, then you won't be happy in math". I just got an impression that in the vast majority of situations, passion towards mathematics starts much earlier than at university. After all, there is a math in school and if you are curious enough, then you start to explore what is more about math out there. Today, everyone has an access to all of the information due to internet. Curiosity is a must, and it suggests you if there a passion for math or not. – Mihail Jun 27 at 22:12
  • @Mihail True, then I interpreted your statement more harshly than you intended. :) Just to play devil's advocate though, math is often taught very differently (and unfortunately, in a way that can kill passion) in grade school vs. university pure math program, so I would argue that there also exists a lot of potential for the opposite - people who thought they wouldn't like university math, but would if they tried it. – Rayna Grayson Jun 27 at 22:52

This can only be a partial answer and some perspective. Your idea of a math degree in UK followed by a CS doctorate in US is feasible. It is fairly common to enter a doctorate in US from a different field. But expect there to be advanced coursework as part of the doctoral program.

Taking a CS undergraduate degree isn't really essential, though it will give you some necessary topics. But doing that with "picking up" some maths would probably be pretty hard. And maybe not very satisfying if you can't devote enough mental energy to it.

But, you can stay flexible and there is no need to nail everything down at this moment. You will have plenty of chances to change your mind later. If you start in math, you might well decide to continue in that. Likewise CS.

Another point. You say physics "won't pay the bills", but in academia there isn't a tremendous difference in salary between different technical fields. It is harder to get a position in some fields than in others, but seven years from now the market will almost certainly be different and it is hard to predict these things so far in advance.

The best advice you can get is whenever possible, do what you love. Not everyone has an opportunity to do that. If you can manage a set of choices and follow a dream without compromising for money, then your life will probably be happier.

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    Thank you, for that motivating answer. I guess I shouldn't be that closeminded, feeling like I have to make a choice for a lifetime at this very moment. Hopefully, I'll be able to figure out my passion and be strongwilled enough to pursue it. – Justus S. Jun 27 at 17:48

There is a large number of mathematics with computer science degrees in the UK. For example, Brunel say

Approximately two-thirds of the course is devoted to mathematical and statistical areas. The mathematics subjects on this course focus particularly on aspects of modern algebra that relate to computer science and also include a considerable amount of numerical analysis of mathematical problems. You have the opportunity to specialise in Level 3 so as an example, you may choose modern encryption methods as used in internet transactions.

This programme will meet the educational requirements of the Chartered Mathematician designation, awarded by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, when it is followed by subsequent training and experience in employment to obtain equivalent competences to those specified by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for taught master's degrees.

Birmingham say

Depending on how your interests develop, you could choose to specialise in areas such as statistics, algebra, robotics and machine learning.

In this Joint Honours programme you will work at exactly the same level as students taking the Single Honours programme. In your first year, we will help you to make the step up to university level study. We will give you a sound mathematical basis in a broad range of subject areas and you will study the foundations of computer science together with programme design and programming techniques. The second year of your BSc Mathematics and Computer Science will introduce you to more advanced areas allowing you to develop particular interests. In your third year, you will take project modules and you can choose to specialise in mathematics or computer science.

Different courses, and different institutions, will have a different balance between Maths and Comp Sci. If you want to do maths, I think you need to do the maths first, then move to/incorporate Comp Sci. A Comp Sci degree, even with added maths, is not going to be the same thing at all.

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