Careers for Numbers People STEM, Silicon Valley & Beyond
Many rewarding careers today involve numbers. Numbers may not be the central focus of these professions, but they can serve as critical building blocks of a larger and more meaningful whole. Mechanical engineers, for example, work with numbers for the design and production of all types of simple and complex machines. Actuaries use numbers to calculate and assess the consequences of financial risk. And economists analyze and interpret quantitative data to discern macro- and micro-economic patterns. If you enjoy working with numbers, whether crunching them constantly or calculating occasionally, a wide range of careers out there give you the chance to nurture your numerical need.
Is a Career in Numbers Right for You?
Not all careers that involve numbers are the same. In fact, many differ greatly, and attract a wide range of people with very diverse sets of skills, traits and interests. However, certain commonalities exist, as well. People who work with numbers may possess one or more of the following:
Reasoning concerns the ability to think logically using analytical, deductive and inductive concepts. Reverse (or backward reasoning) concerns beginning with a stated goal or solution and then working backward to determine a method to reach that goal.
People who work with numbers must be able to apply mathematical concepts beyond numbers in an equation or written on a page.
The ability to understand, apply and communicate through numerical and other math-related symbols — or, put more simply, knowing the language of math — is essential.
Part of working with numbers in a collaborative environment is being able to have one's concepts and conclusions confronted and justified.
Working with numbers means modeling with numbers to solve practical problems. Numbers professionals must be able to successfully choose from among a variety of mathematical methods to create, analyze and revise modeling concepts.
Numbers professionals are often challenged by complex problems that require them to break down issues into smaller, simpler parts and discover underlying structures in order to solve them.
Numbers professionals must be able to not only identify patterns and structures in mathematical relationships, but also see beyond those patterns and structures to develop new concepts and strategies.
Accuracy is a fundamental necessity to mathematical work. Numbers professionals must be able to construct precise formulations, employing both mathematical structures and symbols as well as the written word and spoken language.
Numbers professionals must have a solid, usable grounding in the fundamentals of math.
An often overlooked characteristic, patience is an absolute necessity for numbers professionals. Arriving at a successful mathematical solution requires the facility to explore and thoroughly analyze a sometimes large number of disparate elements.
Stacking Numbers Careers Against Others
One great piece of news for anyone interested in a career involving numbers is that there are a lot of jobs available that pay well. It is no secret that graduates with STEM-related degrees are in high demand today and are expected to remain in high demand for years to come. High demand for people who work with numbers translates to higher salaries. The chart below illustrates this point by comparing careers that require a math or a math-related degree with those that do not:
|Numbers Careers||Other Careers|
Bachelor's degree in accounting
Accountants are highly skilled in preparing and analyzing financial records and tax documents.
Bachelor's in dietetics or nutrition
Dietitians assess patients’ health needs and diets and advise them on healthier eating habits.
Bachelor’s in mathematics or statistics
Actuaries possess training and skills specific to the analysis of the financial costs of risk and uncertainty.
Emergency Medical Technician
Associate degree or other postsecondary training program
EMTs care for sick and injured patients in emergency medical settings.
Bachelor's degree in civil engineering or one of its specialties; licensure required
Civil engineers require precise skills in the design, construction and maintenance of large construction projects and systems.
Associate degree or state-approved cosmetology or esthetician program
Estheticians specialize in skincare to improve a patient's appearance.
PhD in computer science
Computer scientists possess the skills necessary to design new approaches in computer technology for science, medicine, business and other fields.
Human Resources Specialist
Bachelor's degree in human resources or business
Human resources specialists recruit, interview and place workers, as well as handle other employment-related issues.
Master's or PhD in economics
Economists study the production and distribution of goods and services through research evaluation and data analysis.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Master's in marriage and family therapy or psychology
Marriage and family therapists diagnose and treat mental and emotional issues within the context of marriage and family systems.
Bachelor's or master's in finance or accounting
Financial planners advise clients on all financial needs, including taxes, investments and insurance.
Medical Equipment Repairman
Associate degree in biomedical technology or engineering
Medical equipment repairmen install, maintain and repair patient care equipment.
Master's degree in Mathematics.
Mathematicians employ advanced mathematical concepts to solve practical problems in areas like business, science and engineering.
Associate's degree in radiography.
Radiologic and MRI Technologists technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients.
Bachelor's degree in meteorology or closely related subject.
Meteorologists collect and analyze data to study and predict climate and weather.
Bachelor's degree in Jjournal ism or Communications.
Reporters work for newspapers, magazines, television and radio informing the public on current news and other events of interest.
Master's degree in mathematics, statistics or survey methodology.
Statisticians collect and analyze data to solve problems in fields such as business, engineering and the physical and social sciences.
Master's in Speechspeech-Language language Pathologypathology.
Speech-Language language Pathologists pathologists diagnose and treat patients with communication and swallowing disorders.
Source for Chart: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Does a Master’s Degree Pay Off?
It's the question that every student approaching baccalaureate graduation asks: "Should I stay in school and earn my master's degree, or is it time to get a job?" The answer is bound to be a personal one, but there are a number of objective factors to consider. Chief among them are potential career advancement and money. One mistake that many students make is to assume that earning their master's degree will automatically have a significant effect on their careers. Although, in the broadest terms, earning a graduate degree usually means higher salaries and more upward mobility, the truth is that it really all depends on the specific profession.
The bottom line is that you have to look at the particular job to determine if earning a master's degree will actually pay off. Below is a list of numbers-related careers where a master's degree is most likely to have a positive impact at the beginning of a career, using median starting salaries as a guide:
Source: National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) Salary Survey (January 2015).
Top Paying Numbers Jobs in Silicon Valley
The "technology boom" has been around now for decades — so long that calling it a boom might not fit anymore. Regardless of what it's called, the tech industry’s epicenter can be traced back to the geographic area south of San Francisco known as the Silicon Valley. Tech is still king there, and so are tech jobs, which means that well-educated and skilled numbers professionals remain in strong demand. Here are just a few high-paying numbers jobs that can be found in Silicon Valley:
Algorithms and data structures are fundamental to the development of all computer applications. Algorithms engineers are employed in every sector of the high-tech industry to design, analyze and evaluate computer algorithms. Algorithms engineers typically hold a bachelor's degree in mathematics, engineering, statistics or a closely related field and must be proficient in one or more programming languages. The big data explosion has increased the demand for algorithms engineers both in Silicon Valley and around the world. While comprehensive salary figures are lacking, algorithm engineers are likely to earn between the high-80s to over $100,000 annually and sometimes much more in Silicon Valley. [Source: Glassdoor].
Again, big data plays a major role in the increased demand for skilled data scientists. It is the job of data scientists to immerse themselves in the ocean of big data, bringing structure to it that, in turn, allows for effective analysis of that data. Data scientists typically hold a degree in a subject such as computer science or applied mathematics, with many additionally holding a PhD. Salaries for data scientists can start in the mid-90s [Source: Glassdoor]. Top earners can pull in over $200,000 annually. [Source: Fortune.com.]
iOS is the mobile operating system developed by Apple and runs several of its mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad. Android, the operating system developed by Google, is used in non-Apple mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. iOS and Android software engineers design and develop the software as well as many of the applications that run on the two operating systems. Most working software engineers hold a BA or BS in computer science or a closely related subject such as mathematics, but employment may also require some level of practical experience in the field.
Some dictionaries define a mathematical model as “a representation in mathematical terms of the behavior of real devices and objects." [Source: Vahid Dabbaghian: What is Mathematical Modeling, pg. 3.] Mathematical modelers, then, design models to describe processes of devices and objects and solve complex problems associated with those devices and objects. Working as a mathematical modeler normally requires the job seeker to hold a PhD in mathematics, applied mathematics or a closely related field. However, in some cases, a master's degree along with experience in the field may suffice. [Source: Michelle Burton: Mathematical Modeler - Career Profile, Animation Career Review (2011).]
Find Your Numbers Career
Numbers careers are everywhere — in every business and industry throughout every sector of the economy. Narrowing the list of career options to a practical few requires individuals to do some serious personal reflection regarding their professional goals. It also requires putting in some time examining the careers available. Job seekers should look beyond salary figures to gain a thorough understanding of the actual tasks and working environments of any career they are seriously considering. Below is a look at several industries and occupations that rely heavily on solid mathematical knowledge and skills.
People employed in the field of math use mathematical concepts and theories to solve problems that involve quantitative and qualitative relationships.
[Source: University of Mary Washington: "What Can I Do with a Math Major?".]
Salary Range: $40,000 - $200,000
Typical Degree Paths: Bachelor's in mathematics, actuarial science, statistics or other analytical field; master's in mathematics, theoretical mathematics or applied mathematics; some positions may require a PhD in theoretical or applied mathematics.
Actuaries analyze and forecast the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They apply mathematical concepts and theories to predict the likelihood of future events and decrease the impact of negative future events.
Salary Range: $58,080 - $180,680
Expected Job Growth: 26%
Top Employers: Towers Watson, The Traveler's Companies, Mercer, Aon Hewitt, Liberty Mutual Group
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts are responsible for protecting the computer programs and networks of businesses, governments and other organizations. They are employed directly by corporations and government agencies, as well as by private consulting firms.
Salary Range: $50,300 - $140,460
Expected Job Growth: 37%
Top Employers: Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, PricewaterhouseCoopers, General Dynamics, ManTech International, Hewlett-Packard
Mathematicians employ advanced concepts and theories to develop mathematical principles, analyze data and solve real-world problems. Mathematicians work in two basic areas: theoretical mathematics and applied mathematics.
Salary Range: $54,830 - $157,000
Expected Job Growth: 23%
Top Employers: State Farm Insurance, Boeing, Qualcomm, Google, Edward Jones, U.S. government
Business & Finance
People who pursue careers in finance help determine a company’s financial performance by analyzing balance sheets and income and cash flow statements. Numbers careers in business and finance combine concepts of financial analysis with mathematical theory, probability and statistics.
Salary Range: $39,000 - $250,000+
Typical Degree Paths: Associate degree may be sufficient for entry-level bookkeeping and account clerk positions; bachelor's in economics, accounting, mathematics or related subject; master's in finance or MBA for many jobs; PhD required for advanced academic and research positions.
Accountants examine financial records and prepare financial documents for businesses, nonprofits, firms and individuals. They are responsible for the accuracy of the documents they create and for making sure that taxes are paid on time.
Salary Range: $40,850 - $115,950
Expected Job Growth: 13%
Top Employers: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young, BDO Unibank, Inc., Baker Tilly
Economists conduct research on the production and distribution of natural resources, goods and services. They are employed in all sectors of the economy to analyze and monitor economic patterns and trends in order to accurately predict future events and behaviors in the economy.
Salary Range: $50,440 - $170,780
Expected Job Growth: 14%
Top Employers: Bank of America, Burroughs, Ernst & Young, Merrill Lynch, TRW, Westinghouse
Financial analysts evaluate investment opportunities for businesses and individuals. They keep abreast of market trends, business news and more in order to effectively advise clients about the buying and selling of investment products.
Salary Range: $48,170 - $154,680
Expected Job Growth: 16%
Top Employers: Goldman Sachs, TD Waterhouse, Charles Schwab, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley
Computing & IT
Computer Science and IT professionals combine theoretical concepts with practical applications to design and construct computer systems, recognize and evaluate risks, and create practical solutions to computer-based problems.
Salary Range: $55,000 - $200,000
Typical Degree Paths: Bachelor's in computer science, software engineering, information science, mathematics or related subject; advancement into management may require a master's in computer science or MBA; top research and academic positions require a PhD in computer science.
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists design and develop new computing technologies and applications of existing technologies. Careers in the field normally require a PhD.
Salary Range: $66,030 - $165,600
Expected Job Growth: 18%
Top Employers: Intel, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, research colleges and universities, U.S. government
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate and direct the computer-related activities for businesses, firms and other organizations.
Salary Range: $78,470 - $161,520
Expected Job Growth: 15%
Top Employers: Microsoft, IBM, Google, Verizon, Intel, Oracle
Software developers research, design, create and test OS-level software programs for virtually every industry and sector of the computer programming market. Developers must effectively apply principles and techniques of computer science, engineering and mathematical analysis.
Salary Range: $56,310 - $149,480
Expected Job Growth: 23%
Top Employers: Juniper Networks, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, LinkedIn
Data analytics professionals are concerned with the collection, organization and analysis of raw data in order to effect positive change and increase efficiency. The boom in big data has led to greater demand for individuals with the education and training to take it on.
Salary Range: $32,000 - $135,000
Typical Degree Paths: Bachelor's in mathematics, computer science, statistics or related field for entry-level positions; MBA or master's in mathematics or statistics often required for advancement; PhD required for academic and research careers.
Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts are specialists who examine and evaluate market conditions and how they affect the sale and marketing of specific brands and products. Market research analysts combine traditional consumer product data methods with new technologies to reach their conclusions.
Salary Range: $33,460 - $116,740
Expected Job Growth: 27%
Top Employers: Nielsen, J.D. Power and Associates, Google, GFK, Ipsos, Information Resources, Inc.
Operations Research Analyst
Operational research analysts study the operational structures of businesses and other organizations to improve efficiency and efficacy through the use of advanced mathematical and analytical methods.
Salary Range: $42,820 - $132,220
Expected Job Growth: 27%
Top Employers: Proctor & Gamble, General Electric, Ortec, Innovative Decisions, Inc., Operation Research Consultants, Inc., the National Security Agency (NSA)
Statisticians collect and analyze data in search of structures and patterns to solve problems. Statisticians work in all industries and sectors of the economy to increase efficiency and bring about positive change.
Salary Range: $43,840 - $129,830
Expected Job Growth: 27%
Top Employers: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Alliance, Aflac, U.S. government
Engineers "apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems." [Source: California State University Long Beach: What Do Engineers Do?.] The engineering profession encompasses a wide range of fields, including electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, civil engineering and environmental engineering.
Salary Range: $45,000 - $200,000
Typical Degree Paths: Bachelor's in engineering, mathematics or related field; master's in specific area (electrical, mechanical, chemical, civil, etc.) may be required for career advancement; PhD required for advanced academic and research positions.
Civil engineers design, construct, supervise and maintain large construction projects such as buildings, dams, roads and bridges. Civil engineers are employed mainly by large construction and civil engineering consulting firms or government agencies.
Salary Range: $52,570 - $128,110
Expected Job Growth: 20%
Top Employers: Bechtel, URS Corporation, Jacobs Engineering Group, HDR, Inc., AECOM Technology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Electrical engineers design, develop and test electrical equipment and products of all kinds, employing concepts of electricity, electronics and electro-magnetism.
Salary Range: $59,140 - $143,200
Expected Job Growth: 5%
Top Employers: General Electric, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Google, Apple, Shell Oil
Nuclear engineers design and develop processes, systems and instruments employing nuclear power and radiation resources. Nuclear engineers work in a range of industries, including power, medicine and defense.
Salary Range: $66,890 - $151,710
Expected Job Growth: 9%
Top Employers: AEP, First Energy, Westinghouse, Tennessee Valley Authority, Duke Energy, Exelon
The physical and life sciences require a solid understanding of mathematics in order to successfully carry out research projects and experiments. A bachelor's degree in math or a closely related subject is often an effective entry point into a variety of scientific careers.
Salary Range: $40,000 - $150,000
Typical Degree Paths: Bachelor's degree in one of a number of subjects, such as chemistry, geology, biology or mathematics, is usually sufficient for entry-level positions; master's in a specific life or physical science field is normally required for career advancement; PhD is necessary for advanced research and academic positions in most science fields, as well as for any career in physics.
Chemists are concerned with the study of the properties, composition and structure of matter, particularly at the molecular and atomic levels. They are often employed by businesses in basic and applied research in the development of products.
Salary Range: $41,560 - $126,220
Expected Job Growth: 6%
Top Employers: BASF, Dow Chemical, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, DuPont, Mitsubishi, Bayer
Geoscientists are focused on the study of the composition, processes and structure of the physical Earth. Geoscientists are employed by research firms, universities, government agencies and private corporations in the business of natural resource development (oil, gas, biofuels).
Salary Range: $46,400 - $200,000+
Expected Job Growth: 16%
Top Employers: ExxonMobil, BP, Shell Oil, Geoscience Consulting Services, ENGEO Limited
Physicists "explore and identify basic principles governing the structure and behavior of matter, the generation and transfer of energy, and the interaction of matter and energy." [Source: Memorial University: What Do Physicists Do?.]
Salary Range: $54,930 - $184,650
Expected Job Growth: 10%
Top Employers: Raytheon, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Lucent Technologies, Boeing, Eastman Kodak
[Source for salary range and expected job growth figures: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.]
First and foremost, mathematics. It has to be somebody who has a keen interest and desire to pursue mathematics at its highest level. It can be a bachelor's degree in math, statistics or any of the hard sciences, like engineering or physics. That would be a good start.
They don't need to get a master's.
What is unique about the actuarial profession is that, even in college, students can start sitting for the necessary professional exams. To become a fully credentialed actuary, you have to complete all of the exams. That will net you your fellowship either in the Society of Actuaries, which covers life [insurance] and pension markets, or the Casualty Actuarial Society, which covers the property and casualty market.
Absolutely. That certainly can help. What's most important is that you come out of college not only with a degree in mathematics or one of the other related hard sciences, but that you have passed at least a couple of the actuarial exams. That demonstrates to employers that you have what it takes to be successful at the exams and have the potential to be successful as an actuary.
The insurance industry. That's where the majority of actuaries work — insurance companies or firms that consult with insurance companies. Actuaries do sometimes also work in the banking industry — investment banking or the other financial services.
Make sure that you have an impressive GPA and, again, that you have passed a couple of the actuarial exams before you graduate. That will put you in good stead to interview.
There are other opportunities for math grads within the insurance industry as well. They can work in areas like risk management, for example. There's a growing area called predictive analytics. There is also catastrophe modeling. So, there are a number of relevant areas where somebody with a math degree can work in the insurance industry but not follow the traditional actuarial exam track.
Job Search Sites
Researching career options requires some real digging, but fortunately there are hundreds of applications and websites designed to make the digging a lot easier. Sources include academic and professional associations and organizations; university math, business, science and engineering departments; government agencies; private businesses; and job recruiter sites. The following is a sample of some of the most helpful sites for numbers career seekers:
Job search site that specializes in internships, part-time jobs and entry-level career positions. Features include employment-related articles and a job and internship blog.
Tailored to specific professions and industries like technology, healthcare and financial services. Includes a helpful "Media Center" with salary surveys, tech trend reports and other tech job-related articles.
Search site that allows free access to information posted anonymously by employees and job seekers, including company reviews, salaries and interview questions.
HigherEdJobs specializes in jobs for professors and other educators in all academic areas, including mathematics and math-related fields.
Basic job search website that allows employers to post job offers, and job seekers to review job offers and post resumes.
Useful search site for math degree holders in areas that include education, engineering, statistics, actuarial science and economics. Search by area interest, employer type and state. Sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America.
Basic job search site that features job opportunities both in the United States and around the world, with a heavy focus on academic jobs.
Automated job application sponsored by the American Mathematical Association that focuses on job applicants with advanced degrees in mathematics and employers seeking to hire mathematicians.
TopUSAJobs.com - Math Teacher Jobs and Careers
Clearinghouse site that features links to math teacher jobs offered on other sites. Job seekers can filter their searches by key words and geographic location.
American Mathematical Society (AMS)
Professional association dedicated to furthering the interests of mathematical research and scholarship through its publications, meetings, advocacy and other programs.
American Statistical Association (ASA)
Leading association website for statisticians that provides visitors with career education and resources, news articles, access to its publications and more.
Association of Financial Analysts (AFA)
Professional association dedicated to news, jobs and networking among financial analyst professionals throughout the world. The site includes extensive information on macroeconomics and portfolio management.
Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM)
Professional association focused on encouraging women and girls to study and find active careers in mathematics, and on promoting equal treatment and opportunities for women in the mathematical sciences.
Be an Actuary
Highly informative website covering practically everything in the world of actuary science. Resources include information on becoming an actuary, studying in college and finding a job.
Actuarial and analytics recruitment firm headquartered in Chicago that services the recruitment of actuaries and analytical professionals throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Math for America
Professional association whose mission is to make "teaching a viable, rewarding and respected career choice for the best minds in science and mathematics."
The Math Forum
Comprehensive information site for mathematics and mathematics education. The site provides a wide range of resources about teaching and learning for students, educators, researchers and others.
Mathematical Association of America (MAA)
Professional association that focuses on mathematics at the undergraduate level. Visitors can access a variety of resources, including news articles, association publications and discussion groups.
Mathematics for College
Site designed to help college students master core mathematics courses through the use of open courseware.
Question and answer website for professional mathematicians.
National Association of Mathematicians (NAM)
Nonprofit professional association that promotes excellence in the mathematical sciences and mathematical development in underrepresented minority communities.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Great site for both teachers and students dedicated to mathematics education on all academic levels. Includes a mathematics teacher job search page.
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)
International professional organization with over 13,000 members whose mission is to "build cooperation between mathematics and the worlds of science and technology."
Excellent overall site dedicated to promoting the importance of mathematics. Includes a section on the wide range of careers that involve math.