Turn Your Love of Math and Money Into a Career
If you're the type to analyze whether something is a good idea or not, you might be the right person to become an actuary. Insurance companies, as well as other businesses, use actuaries to help make financial decisions and minimize the risks of the company's decisions, moves and events. This career requires a keen eye for math, statistics and financial theory. However, it's a low-stress job with a good salary, according to the Society of Actuaries.
Using math, stats and financial theory, actuaries analyze risk for organizations such as insurance companies. Most of the work is done with database software on computers, which are used to compile information. They estimate the probability of an event—such as an accident, death, illness or natural disaster—and what economic cost it might have.
From there, actuaries design and administer insurance policies and other business policies that maximize the company's profit while minimizing the risk. They also must defend their decisions by producing reports and charts that explain the calculations, and they must explain their reports to clients and executives within the company.
An actuary must have a bachelor's degree, whether in mathematics, actuarial science, statistics or a similar field. Coursework typically includes economics, corporate finances and applied statistics.
There are a series of exams that you must pass to become an actuary, a process that can take six to 10 years. However, you can start working as an actuarial assistant after you pass the first two exams. The Casualty Actuarial Society and the Society of Actuaries both sponsor educational programs that lead to certification. They also provide fellowship certification in certain actuarial niches and offer continuing education, which is required to maintain certification.
About 70 percent of the nearly 24,000 U.S. actuaries hold positions in the finance and insurance industries. Other industries include professional, scientific and technical services, management of companies and enterprises, government and self-employment.
In the insurance industry, actuaries can specialize in health insurance, life insurance and property and casual insurance. In other sectors, actuaries can specialize in pension and retirement benefits, enterprise risk or the federal government.
Years of Experience
Actuaries earn a median salary of slightly more than $100,000. Those who work in professional, scientific and technical services make the most, around $104,000, while those who work in management of companies and enterprises make the least at $93,370.
According to the Society of Actuaries, compensation varies based on years of experience, chosen industry, geographic location and an actuary's responsibilities.
Job Growth Trend
Through 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that actuary employment will grow 22 percent, which is faster than average. However, it's a small industry, so that number amounts to only about 5,300 new jobs during that time period. Jobs will be fairly competitive for entry-level employees, as the number of people sitting for actuarial exams has been increasing.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.