A career in numbers takes a certain type of person. If you don’t mind focusing for hours on number crunching, solving numerical problems, or analytical thinking a career in numbers could be right for you. Perhaps you love the idea of balancing financial books, calculating statistical probabilities or feel accomplished after analyzing your way to the bottom line.

Another consideration is that most numbers careers involve sitting at a desk, a computer and calculator. Be prepared for a rather sedentary worklife, but it can be lucrative one. A recent survey at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals some “number” careers can result in an above-average livelihood — with salaries ranging from a bookkeeper at $38,000 a year up to more than $100,000 yearly as an actuary or economist. A career in numbers can be rewarding and challenging. Are you up for it?

Let’s take a look at what a “numbers” career has to offer and how you go about beginning a career that revolves around your ability and fondness of working with numbers. Your personality might be the perfect fit for this type of career.

Is a Numbers Career Right For You?

A career in numbers does not mean you need to be a human calculator to succeed. Here are some common characteristics of people who have careers in numbers.

  • Think analytically

  • Solve numerical equations

  • Work in an office environment

  • Focus on details

  • Organize and categorize transactions and concepts

  • Base decisions on logic as opposed to emotion

  • Curious about statistics of everyday events, such as sports and weather

  • Understand spatial, abstract and quantitative relationships

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Getting Started in a Numbers Career

Getting started in a numbers career is no different from most other careers. Volunteer work and especially internships while in college are great resume-builders and experience that employers look for when hiring entry-level people.

Finding Volunteer Work and Internships in Numbers

A great way to gain experience and build a resume is to find volunteer positions or internships with companies where you’d like to get your foot in the door. Most internships are unpaid, but academic credits are given and some can be done virtually from anywhere. Here are a few helpful websites to get you moving in the right direction:

Internships
Internships.com

Seek an intern opportunity in numerous fields. Search by company, location and position.

Experience
Experience.com

Find an internship that fits your career path. Search by major, location,

VolunteerMatch
VolunteerMatch.com

Lists hundreds of opportunities in a variety of non-profit industries that can offer experience as well as lending a helping hand to those in need.

NetworkForGood
NetworkForGood.com

Can help you find an administrative position at a local non-profit.

Finding a Professional Organization in Numbers

Joining one or more professional networks is a great way to meet those who share your career interests. Most organizations offer educational opportunities and resources that are helpful in professional development. Networking with others can also help in beginning or advancing your career. Find one that matches your career path.

amstat
American Statistical Association (ASA)

ASA is a great resource for those interested in a career built around analyzing statistics. Find career education and resources, news, and more.

alltheanalysts
Association of Financial Analysts (AFA)

Connect online with other like-minded financial analysts and industry professionals. Network and join discussions that focus on the latest market trends, opportunities and solutions.

beanactuary
Be an Actuary

This organization can offer a plethora of information on becoming an actuary and what they actually do. Learn how to get started, what to study and how to find a job. Also, find resources for scholarships, internships and jobs.

maa
Mathematical Association of America (MAA)

The MAA welcomes anyone interested in mathematical sciences. Members can access contests, professional development and employment opportunities, as well as join in discussion groups and more.

Scholarships

The following is a sampling of scholarships available to those who study one of the many numbers-focused majors.

Scholarship Name Amount Eligibility Deadline Link
NSA National Society of Accountants $500-$2,200 U.S or Canadian citizens. Undergraduates, accounting majors, enrolled part or full-time in accounting at an accredited two-year or four-year college or university in the United States. 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher. March 31 View
AICPA – American Institute of CPAs John L. Carey Scholarship $5,000 Have or pursuing liberal arts or non-business undergraduate degree, intending to pursue a CPA certificate. April 1 View
AICPA – Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students $12,000 Full-time minority student. Either applied to or been accepted to a doctoral program. Master’s Degree and/or completed at least 3 years of full-time exp. in the accounting practice. U.S. citizen or permanent resident. March 1 View
Niche ScholarshipPoints Scholarship $10,000 College or university students, 13 years old or older e and a legal resident of the U.S. or Puerto Rico. June 17 View
GFOA – Government Finance Officers Association: Greathouse Scholarship $8,000 Full-time junior, senior or graduate students of accounting. Citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. or Canada. Feb. 19 View
GFOA – Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship $8,000 Full/part-time junior or senior undergraduate or graduate minority student in public administration, governmental accounting, finance, political science, economics or business admin. Canadian or U.S. Citizen/permanent resident Feb. 19 View
Laurels Fund Scholarships $1,000-$16,000 Female, U.S. citizen, majoring in accounting and attending an accredited U.S. college or university. Other eligibility requirements vary depending upon program. April 30, Laurels Scholarship, May 15 View
Teachers of Accounting at Two Year Colleges (TACTYC) Scholarships $1,000 Have min. 20 college credit hours, six must be in accounting by end of spring semester. Minimum GPA of 3.0, currently attending a two-year college full or part-time with a major in accounting, have a letter of recommendation by an accounting faculty member. March 15 View

9 Exciting Numbers Careers

Getting started in a numbers career is no different from most other careers. Volunteer work and especially internships while in college are great resume-builders and experience that employers look for when hiring entry-level people.

Accounting Careers

Accountants prepare and analyze accounting records, create financial statements, compute taxes and prepare tax returns. Depending on their role in the business operations they may analyze business operations and prepare reports to project future revenues and expenses or to provide advice. Accounts may audit and investigate financial transactions and bankruptcies, as well as oversee the activity of bookkeepers and accounting personnel’s daily activities.

Accountants and Auditors Average salary (BLS)
Prepare and examine financial records.
Check financial records for accuracy, be sure taxes are paid on time.
Assess financial operations, ensure organizations run efficiently.
$65,940/yr
Cost Estimator Average salary (BLS)
Collect and analyze data.
Prepare cost estimates.
Specialize in a particular service or product.
$60,050/yr
Financial Manager Average salary (BLS)
Responsible for the financial health of an organization.
Produce financial reports.
Direct investment activities.
Develop strategies for company long-term financial goals.
$115,320/yr

Actuary Careers

Simply put, actuaries manage risk. Actuaries are experts in using numbers to evaluate the probability of certain events. They hold key roles on management teams in companies that deal with risk. Actuaries need strong analytical skills, business acumen and a basic understanding of human behavior. They assess the risk and find ways to manage or decrease the risk in favor of more positive options. They determine certain policies and costs to cover risk and subsequent claims resulting from unwanted events.

Insurance Actuary Average salary (BLS)
Calculate costs of claims.
Determine premiums for policyholders.
Assess risk.
$96,700
Consulting Actuary /Private Corporations Average salary (BLS)
Design pension and benefit plans.
Evaluate assets and liabilities.
Evaluate risk and provide strategic advice.
$96,700
Government Actuary Average salary (BLS)
Manage programs.
Oversee public companies, ensure compliance with regulatory laws.
Assess risk.
$96,700

Engineering Careers

Engineering involves the application of math and science to solve problems, design, build and use of structures. Depending on the type of engineer, they might be involved in construction projects in either the public or private sector, designing machines or developing systems for water supplies and sewage treatment. Engineering requires a lot of analytical thinking and numerical calculations.

Civil Engineer Average salary (BLS)
Design, build, supervise, operate, and maintain construction projects.
Construction and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment.
Involved in design and build of roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings.
$82,050
Environmental Engineer Average salary (BLS)
Develop solutions to environmental problems.
Assist in efforts to improve recycling and waste disposal.
Work on solutions dealing with public health, and water and air pollution control.
$83,360
Mechanical Engineer Average salary (BLS)
Design, develop, build and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.
Find solutions for designing tools, engines, and machines.
$83,060

Computer Science Careers

Computer Science uses computers to solve problems. This involves understanding and designing of computer processes that handle, organize and analyze information. A career in computer science requires a fundamental understanding of algorithms, information processes, mathematics and logic. Computer scientists might design or build software; problem solve for computing problems; or devise new and better ways of using computers.

Computer and Information Research Scientists Average salary (BLS)
Invent and design new approaches to computing technology.
Find innovative uses for existing technology.
Study and solve complex problems in computing for various industries.
$108,360
Computer and Information Systems Managers Average salary (BLS)
Plan, coordinate and direct computer-related activities.
Determine the information technology goals.
Responsible for implementing computer systems.
$127,640
Computer Programmer Average salary (BLS)
Write and test code for efficiency.
Implement program designs for computers.
Debug and troubleshoot computer programs
$77,550

Economic and Financial Analysis Careers

Careers in economics financial analytics can be lucrative, but they can also be hard work. It involves having a clear and thorough understanding of economic patterns and stay informed on market trends worldwide. To give sound advice, analysts research and monitor exchange rates, business trends, taxation, employment rates, inflation, and costs of materials.

Economists Average salary (BLS)
Research and analyze economic issues.
Conduct surveys and collect data.
Analyze data using mathematical models and statistical techniques.
Interpret and forecast market trends.
$95,710
Financial Analyst Average salary (BLS)
Assess stocks, bonds and other types of investment performance.
Study economic trends.
Provide guidance for making investment decisions
$78,620
Operations Research Analysts Average salary (BLS)
Identify and solve operational problems.
Collect and organize information for analysis.
Use advanced mathematical and analytical methods for problem solving.
$76,660

Financial Planning

Financial planners help their clients choose investments that fit their lifestyle and finances. They sell financial products and monitor them to help their clients make as much money as possible. They do research so they can give educated advice regarding retirement planning, insurance, college funding, estate planning and general investment analysis.

Personal Financial Advisor Average salary (BLS)
Meet with and educate clients on select services and investments.
Help clients plan for expenses or retirement.
Research investment opportunities
$81,060
Securities, Commodities and Financial Services Sales Agents Average salary (BLS)
Advise clients on purchase or sale of securities, stocks and bonds.
Buy and sell commodities.
Monitor financial markets and performance of securities
$72,070
Financial Managers Average salary (BLS)
Prepare financial statements, reports, and forecasts.
Monitor financial details for compliance.
Review company financial reports.
Analyze market trends.
$115,320

Mathematics Careers

A career in mathematics takes patience, discipline, and a knack for step-by-step problem-solving. There are many opportunities for those with a substantial background in mathematics, ranging from engineers to mathematicians. The pay range is above average for mathematical careers and most all professional mathematical jobs require a degree. This is a field where an affinity for problem solving and numbers is definitely a must.

Mathematicians Average salary (BLS)
Use existing and develop new mathematical formulas and models to prove or disprove theories.
Apply mathematical theories to solve problems.
Interpret data and report results from the analysis
$103,702
Physicist or Astronomer Average salary (BLS)
Develop scientific theories and models.
Plan and conduct scientific experiments.
Analyze and complete complex mathematical calculations to analyze physical and astronomical data.
Design scientific equipment
$109,290
Nuclear Engineers Average salary (BLS)
Design or develop nuclear equipment and operational instructions.
Direct operating or maintenance activities that they meet safety standards.
Gather data that can be used to design preventive measures.
$100,470

Scientific Careers

Numerical formulas are used in almost all science-based careers. Testing, experiments, measuring, reporting facts and research results takes a significant understanding of numbers. Science is what helps humans understand nature, how things work and how best to get the results we are seeking. This is done by observing, collecting data and using calculations to get results that can be compared.

Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists Average salary (BLS)
Measure and report about the temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind speed, dew point and other properties of the atmosphere.
Prepare weather forecasts using computers, mathematical models, satellites, radar, and local station data.
$87,980
Chemists and Materials Scientists Average salary (BLS)
Prepare solutions used in laboratory procedures.
Analyze substances and conduct tests on materials and other substances.
Write technical reports Present research findings
$74,720
Geoscientists Average salary (BLS)
Collect samples and conduct surveys.
Analyze materials found and in aerial photographs for size and content.
Conduct laboratory tests on samples collected in the field.
$89,910

Statistics Careers

In today’s world, numerical data is used more often to enable businesses to understand the economy and trends in the economic markets. Working with statistics involves being able to understand statistical methods, and to collect and analyze data to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, and other fields. Projected growth in these fields is expanding to meet with the need to measure the effectiveness of marketing and business strategies.

Statisticians Average salary (BLS)
Determine what data to collect to problem-solve and methods to use.
Create surveys, experiments, or opinion polls.
Collect, analyze and interpret data
$79,990
Market Research Analysts Average salary (BLS)
Forecast marketing and sales trends using current data.
Measure marketing programs and strategies for effectiveness.
Gather data to analyze using statistical software
$61,290
Operations Research Analysts Average salary (BLS)
Collect data from computer databases, sales, customers and other sources.
Examine information and design methods used to analyze it.
Use statistical analysis and predictive modeling to develop practical solutions.
Check for compliance by monitoring financial details.
$76,660

Q&A With a Financial Services Entrepreneur

expert Orlando Miner Author

Orlando Miner is the founder of Miner Capital Funding, based in Shiloh, Illinois. Miner specializes in financing commercial real estate. Miner Capital Funding transacted more than $500 million in commercial real estate business in its 10 years of operation.

What does your job entail as the owner of a financial services company?

As the owner of a financial service provider, I must stay aware of regulations, new financial opportunities for clients as well as lenders, and having an open mind on how to have the goals of all parties met while providing a positive experience.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a numbers career?

Wanting to pursue a career based in numbers requires analytical thinking. One must be able to find ways to manipulate processes to achieve the same number. Courses, such as accounting, finance, and algebra, do allow for this process to become easier. Not only are these media an asset, but having the skills to simplify the complicated methodologies is necessary.

Were there any unforeseen perks/drawbacks to your career when you started it?

Everyone does not work along the same timeline. Some are quick to the draw, and will have complete information for you or provide it immediately, while others will move at a slower pace. Having an idea of the workflow and corporate structure of the organization you are working with will allow you an idea on timelines that others work on.

What kinds of skills to people need to succeed in your field?

Outside of having an affinity for numbers, knowing the market in which you are promoting yourself. What are the regulations in place for all parties involved? What is going on in that particular sector, based on politics and locale? People should also be able to communicate formally as well as informally, because you are never aware of the type of client you will come across. Fostering relationships, and nurturing is key. Without having offered a positive experience, regardless of the outcome, there will be no future business.

Q&A With a Chief Risk Officer

expert John Morelli Author

John Morelli is chief risk officer for CENTUM Financial. Morelli is responsible for the enterprise risk management of two operating subsidiaries, both of which are engaged in nationwide consumer financial services.

What does a chief risk officer do?

The primary focus of my position is to identify, assess, and prioritize the mitigation and management of risk factors that are likely to adversely impact the sound operation of our business. These risks may come in many forms, including:

  • Regulatory enforcement risk because of ineffective compliance programs or inadequate internal controls
  • Risk associated with fraud, deception and other acts of malfeasance
  • Unacceptable credit risks resulting from inadequate modeling or defective operations, such as underwriting
  • Monetary risk resulting from a failure to match the interest rates on our borrowings with the interest rates on the loans we make
  • General economic, political, market, financial or legal conditions
  • Strategic risk associated with corporate objectives or tactics
  • Reputation risk associated with corporate culture, counterparties, execution and service delivery, or external stakeholder performance

To manage these and other risks actively, a Chief Risk Officer may develop, implement and scale a prudent risk framework across the organization to maintain an acceptable balance of risk-to opportunity in each functional area of concern. This goal is typically achieved through collaboration with divisional, departmental and business unit leadership and management, in addition to corporate training and skill development.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a numbers career?

A career in finance, accounting, risk management, insurance, banking or other related disciplines can be highly rewarding, and may result in additional professional opportunities down the road. However, if you aren’t drawn to, or inspired by this field of study, you may find a career in the numbers game very challenging. This is not a discipline that allows for a half-hearted effort or clock watching.

Were there any unforeseen perks/drawbacks to your career when you started it?

Perk: A lot of late nights and long days working with colleagues on complex business issues.
Drawback: A lot of late nights and long days working with colleagues on complex business issues.
It all comes down to how you perceive the value, quality and impact of the work you’re doing.

What kinds of skills do people need to succeed in your field?

I would say it takes six elements: Attention to fine detail; mathematical modeling and advanced mathematical concepts; analytical, deductive and inductive conceptual reasoning — in other words ‘logic;’ research and interpretive deducement; applied measurement, and lots of patience.

Resources

AMS
American Mathematical Society (AMS)

Dedicated to mathematical research and scholarship through its publications, meetings, advocacy and related programs.

ASA
American Statistical Association (ASA)

Association that provides statisticians with career education and resources, news articles, access to its publications and more.

AFA
Association of Financial Analysts (AFA)

Association dedicated to news, jobs and networking for financial analyst professionals. This site includes extensive information on macroeconomics and portfolio management.

AWM
Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM)

Encourages women and girls to study and find active careers in mathematics. Promotes equal treatment and opportunities for women in math sciences.

beanactuary
Be an Actuary

Includes information on becoming an actuary, studying in college and finding a job.

dwsimpson
DW Simpson

Chicago-based actuarial and analytics recruitment firm that services the recruitment of actuaries and analytical professionals throughout the U.S. and around the world.

mathforamerica
Math for America

Association aiming to make “teaching a viable, rewarding and respected career choice for the best minds in science and mathematics.”

mathforum
The Math Forum

Provides a wide range of resources about teaching and learning for students, educators, researchers and others.

maa
Mathematical Association of America (MAA)

Focuses on mathematics at the undergraduate level. Readers access a variety of resources, including news articles, association publications and discussion groups.

mathforcollege
Mathematics for College

Helps college students master core mathematics courses through the use of open courseware.

mathoverflow
MathOverflow

Q&A site for professional mathematicians.

nctm
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Aims to help math teachers and students on all academic levels. Includes a mathematics teacher job search page.

siam
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)

Organization with more than 13,000 members whose mission is to “build cooperation between mathematics and the worlds of science and technology.”

weusemath
WeUseMath.org

Produced by BYU, this site promotes the importance of mathematics. Includes a section on the wide range of careers involving math.