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MATLAB seems to be the software of choice in applied math and engineering departments that I know of. It is a very well-documented software, and so learning how to utilize it, whether it'd be for visualizing data or modeling differential equations, is extremely easy.

But what typically happens for people leaving school and transitioning into industry? Is MATLAB used in industry at all, or is it more of an Academia thing? One thing I've noticed is the enormous cost of purchasing MATLAB for personal / non-student usage. It's like 3 or 4 thousand dollars for a license. In comparison, a student license costed me $20 for a year.

  • Your cost to the company is far far greater than a few thousand dollars. Now, they may ask if it will be useful to you, sure. But if it will let you quickly and correctly analyze things that are your job to analyze, they should not have a problem with it. Or, they should have their own preferred work flow. – Jon Custer Jun 1 '17 at 14:29
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    It is really depends on what people do in the given industry. If they need numerical toolboxes, alternatives (coding yourself from scratch or open source) are much less attractive. Penny pinching on money, always starting everything from scratch is typical to academic research( education value + lack of money) In industry, people want fast, reliable answers, and few thousands of dollars is not an issue. Note Matlab and such costs a lot even to academic labs, too. – Greg Jun 1 '17 at 18:49
  • It sounds like you don't want to "waste" the time learning MATLAB if you can't use it after graduating. But if you learn how to use MATLAB, it isn't that hard to switch to an open-source alternative if you have to (and vice versa). It's much, much easier than learning any of them from scratch. So go ahead and learn whichever numerical software most people at your school use, because then you'll have people who can help you if you have any questions or problems. – Peter Shor Jun 6 '17 at 14:58
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MATLAB is absolutely used in industry, and I'm certain that's where the majority of the company's income is from.

If you like, you can think of the extremely cheap student and university usage as a "first taste is free" policy by a dealer: it is highly advantageous to MathWorks to have large numbers of students graduating with experience and comfort in MATLAB. If it's then part of the standard "tools of the trade," that's something that most companies can afford for anyone who clearly needs it to accomplish their job: if a good engineer costs you $300K/year (when salary, benefit, overhead, etc., are all included), and having them use MATLAB makes them a little more efficient, it's well worth it.

Now, if you're not in a job where that cost-benefit tradeoff is clear to the leadership, then you'll have a hard time getting ahold of MATLAB --- and that's what free and open source alternatives (in this case Octave) are for.

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    I know for a fact that a very large financial firm in the US actually uses Matlab and Octave as well as Python (plus whatever homegrown kit is deemed to be "strategic" at the time). – scrappedcola Jun 5 '17 at 13:17

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