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I am in the second year of my PhD in mathematics and I have recently decided I want to go into industry after I'm finished. I feel like a lot of what I'm learning in the program does not have direct, real-world applications, and I'd like to remedy this problem by getting some work experience while I'm still in graduate school.

I have some programming background (but not as much as a CS grad) and a couple years experience doing simple data analysis programming. I also have a BS in physics. It seems like there should be a place in industry for me somewhere, but I don't know how to go about finding it.

I would like to work part-time, or as a consultant, so that the job won't greatly hinder my progress towards my degree. (Of course, some time will be lost that could have gone to my dissertation, but this is made up for by gaining marketable skills.) I'd like to work in science or in software. I am aware of internships, but it seems like most are either for undergraduate students or engineers.

Can a math grad student work part-time in industry during his PhD? If so, how would one go about finding jobs?

  • 2
    I think your options (in the U.S. anyways) will be limited, since, even if you were to find a good fit, working part-time may not be an option. You might want to consider doing a summer internship instead to get more industry-relevant experience. – Mad Jack Jun 7 '14 at 15:37
  • Why are you getting a PhD in math if you're concerned about direct, real-world applications? – anomaly Jun 20 '16 at 20:17
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I think it would be very challenging and unusual to work part-time at a job and be taking graduate classes or doing thesis research.

But it's quite common for graduate students to work full-time (as interns) at government laboratories or in industry during the summer (or at another time of year) for perhaps 3 months. Mathematics students I have known have worked at

  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • US Dept. of Energy labs (Sandia, Los Alamos, Livermore, Oak Ridge, Argonne, etc.)
  • Oil companies (Schlumberger, Total)
  • US NSA contractors (cryptography)
  • US Geological Survey
  • NOAA

and many other places that I've forgotten. Talk to your advisor and to other faculty in the program. Your university may also have someone who coordinates these things.

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I can say that I am currently doing this and it works very well for me, but you have to discuss this with your supervisors. My consulting work is in optimisation/operations research (part mathematics, part computer science) and directly relevant to my PhD. I use these experiences to motivate my research and I'm convinced it makes me a better researcher.

I work for the company I worked for before starting my PhD, but part-time consultants can be valuable to smaller consulting companies if you have the flexibility to work when they have more jobs, and not work when they don't.

I will second the call to apply for internships: a couple of the interns I worked with at Google last summer were mathematicians who could code, and one or two of us were PhD students.

It should be noted that I'm doing my PhD in Australia, where PhDs nominally take 3 years and teaching/research assistant work is not a condition of any scholarship, so your mileage may vary in other countries.

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