Why Study CAAM?

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Computational and Applied Mathematics provides foundations applicable to the many fields of science and engineering. The skills developed through our program are in enormous demand across industry, including consulting, banking, energy, e-commerce, services, and many others. CAAM is also terrific preparation for graduate school, or professional schools such as medicine, business or law.

Some of the real-world systems studied by CAAM majors arise in the physical world, and CAAM majors learn how to build mathematical and computational models of these physical phenomena. CAAM majors also study complex systems that arise in society, such as how to best use scarce resources. This is known as Operations Research (OR), a new, separate major for 2021.

The CAAM major requires significantly fewer courses than other engineering degrees and having four electives provides great flexibility. This allows CAAM majors to customize their education to an unparalleled degree within engineering.

Be in Demand after Graduation

About half of CAAM graduates work in industry upon graduating and many are management consultants or work at software firms such as Amazon or Microsoft. The other half continue on to graduate or professional schools (many in CAAM-related areas). Several CAAM majors are pre-med and one 2020 CAAM graduate is starting law school at a top-ranked program.

How to Prepare

If you are considering a CAAM or Operations Research major, you should continue with the appropriate next mathematics course. See the department of mathematics for placement advice.

The CAAM department encourages students to take MATH 221 and 222. You should take a programming course. You may take CAAM 210 or, if you’re interested in a general-purpose programming course, you may substitute COMP 140 (Python) AND COMP 182 for CAAM 210. Students interested in operations research are particularly encouraged to take the COMP sequence to learn more about algorithms.

What to Expect

CAAM majors take four technical electives that allow considerable freedom to plan a course of study consistent with their particular interests. Upper-level CAAM classes are small by School of Engineering standards, so CAAM majors find it easy to get to know faculty and learn about research opportunities. Recent research projects have included modeling liver transplantation, political redistricting, medical imaging and predicting when NBA jerseys will be retired.

CAAM is sometimes described as the “second-most mathematically rigorous” major at Rice (behind pure math), and the “second-most computationally rigorous” major (behind computer science). Most CAAM majors have a deep love of mathematics, but greatly appreciate how math (and computers and data) can be used to help society. CAAM majors learn how to understand a complex real-world system, build an abstract model of that system, and use math, algorithms and data to generate important insights into the real-world system. These skills are in enormous demand. The CAAM department has some of the smallest classes in engineering allowing close relationships to form between CAAM majors and faculty, and among CAAM majors.

For more detailed information about the program, including learning outcomes, requirements and more, visit the Rice University General Announcements.

Apply to Rice

All prospective students should apply through Rice University's Office of Admission. They can also help you schedule a visit to campus.