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I'm a vaguely math/cs/anthropology major (I say vaguely because I'm doing a interdisciplinary aka "Do It Yourself" major) who recently decided to drop their Theoretical Computer/Social Science oriented class course path for more applied computational math/social sciences courses. Why? I like to eat and not be in relative poverty anymore. And a theoretical computer science BS holder, I can't imagine, would demand a lot income wise compared to someone who has taken more applied math/CS courses.

However, I have a eye towards going to academia after I have some income saved up after a number of years ( and for those wondering if I will actually want to go back - I have some academic/business ideas I want to exercise that almost require me to go to academia. ).

Can I go out into the world with a applied CS/Math/anthropolgy degree and join academia after a number of years to go into Theoretical Computer Science/ Social Science?

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  • What country are you hoping to study in?
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 19:46
  • US but I'm open to more locations Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 19:51

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Yes, you can do it, but it will be difficult unless you make a long term plan. You say "several years" which is an issue. You will need to maintain connection to your professors over that time so that you have people who can write letters of recommendation for you. Letters from academics probably (probably, not necessarily) hold more weight than letters from industry supervisors. The letters need to confidently predict your success in a doctoral program and thereafter.

You also probably won't be doing much that is similar to academic research in industry. What research there is (with some exceptions) is mostly product based.

The biggest hurdle, however, might be that you get used to a salary that is about twice what academics earn at similar stages and you have expenses that require maintaining that income flow: family, house, ...

If you want a career in academia, the short path in the US is to get into a doctoral program after a bachelors and get a TA that will pay you enough to live on (frugally) and cover your tuition. Few US doctoral students need to depend on outside resources. And, the competition for slots in doctoral programs is probably easiest to manage if you don't have a gap, which might be difficult for an admissions committee to evaluate.

If you want a top level research position in industry, you probably also need a doctorate and so the short path for academia also works in this case.

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