I've always loved maths but for numerous reasons I bounced along in general/non-profit admin/management. After maternity leave I have found myself at the bottom again and seriously thinking how can I get back on track. I'm 37 and I graduated in 2000 with a UK BSc in Math 2:1. Anyone I chat to (non-mathematicians) always say, "it will come back to you," "go for it," etc. but what do they know? What do those working in maths think? I was especially drawn to discrete maths, logic and computability. Where are the doors?

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    Are you looking to work in mathematical research or in a mathematical part of industry? Mathematical careers have expanded a lot since 2000, especially in data science, mathematically based marketing, and mathematically based pharmacology. There are new tracks to take that weren't available before, and many people prefer them to academia.
    – Matt F.
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 14:00
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    @NeilStrickland I think that MathOverflow is preferable to MathStackExchange for this question, though academia.SE is preferable to both
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 14:02
  • Whatever you choose to do, don't underestimate the amount of time it will take to get back up to speed, especially if you're thinking of doing an MSc in mathematics. You may find that you're rusty on the details of many advanced courses. Take some time to revisit those courses, refresh your memory and see what you still like before making a decision.
    – J W
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 18:20
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    Plenty of jobs for maths teachers in the UK. You should look into doing a one-year Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 11:05

5 Answers 5


Sarah, why not just register to an MSc? It will give you an opportunity to refresh your memory and your skills and to test yourself. Also, if you'll do well, you should be able to get support letters and might even open the door to a PhD in the same place.


To do mathematics professionally you should enroll to a graduate school. I know at least two similar cases where people enrolled to a graduate school after a long gap and became successful professional mathematicians (one of them in UK).

Of course there is also a way of self-education. But the choice depends on many other factors, for example whether you need to support yourself and/or your family etc.


If I'm in your shoes, then I would enroll to a computer science graduate program (first MSc and then PhD if everything goes well). Every computer science department offers courses in the areas that you're interested in. Then, if for some reason you get bored doing research, with your background, you should be able to find a job in industry.

  • yes, and you could enroll in a computer science department that lets you take math classes. But CS is more versatile and opens doors in all the sciences, as well as many other fields. Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 17:53

I think this depends very much on whether you want / need to earn money with doing mathematics or not. If you don't need to earn money with it, just go ahead and enroll to a graduate school. Though if you do need to earn money with it, you may find this pretty difficult if you start now with just a BSc.

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    There is also the question of tuition fees...
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 17:59
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    My point is that I don't want to earn money by cooking, but I'd stop short of paying people a lot of money to take lessons in cuisine
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 18:05

I suggest that you start by finding someone who does discrete mathematics or something similar on the website of a nearby university. Alternatively, you could find an MSc admissions tutor. With a modest amount of luck, you will find someone friendly and helpful who will be willing to spend half an hour talking through the options with you. They will be able to ask mathematical questions to gain some sense of how much you remember, which will be required for any realistic advice.

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