Actuaries Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Actuaries

Actuaries at a Glance

Actuaries have a very interesting career. Most people think actuaries are accountants or finance professionals. True, they do work with numbers, but not in the same way as accountants of finance professionals. Actuaries analyze statistical data. They examine data such as disability, sickness, accidents, mortality, and retirement rates in order to create probability tables to forecast liability and risk for payment of future benefits.

On any given day, actuaries may help design, review, and administer annuity, pension, and insurance plans, collaborate with programmers, claims experts, accountants, and underwriters, help determine company policy, and explain complicated technical matters to the public, policyholders or executives. Actuaries may also be called upon to testify in court as an expert witness.

Most actuaries work full-time, while around 2.3% work part-time. Actuaries work in just about every industry from funds, trusts, and other financial vehicles to hospitals. The largest employer of actuaries, however, is the insurance industry.

Schools to Consider:


Employment Trends

Job Outlook: Above average increase
Annual Openings: 3,245
Percent Growth: 23.7%
Total Jobs Held: 19,700
Projected Employment: 23,900 by 2018
The Best 500 Jobs Overall Ranking: 78

Source: “Best Jobs for the 21st Century,” JIST Publishing 2009. Farr, Michael and Shatkin, Laurence, Ph.D.; “Salary Facts Handbook,” JIST Publishing 2008. Editors @ JIST.

Aspiring actuaries can expect above average growth in this industry as a result if an increased demand for actuaries to design and price new insurance products. They will also be in demand as more and more companies turn to professionals to calculate risks. Because natural disasters are, well, natural, actuaries will be in demand to help property and casualty companies design and price products.

Salary Trends

In 2009, actuaries earned an average salary of $85,690 per year. This figure represents a 1% increase over 2008 ($84,810). Actuaries in the 90th percentile can expect to earn around $145,600 per year, while 75th percentile actuaries can expect to earn $114,570 per year. Entry-level actuaries can expect to earn an impressive starting salary of around $46,470 per year.

The top three highest paying industries for this profession include professional, scientific, and technical services ($92,660/year); funds, trusts, and other financial vehicles, and securities, commodity contracts ($85,530/year), and other financial investments and related activities ($83,130/year).

Degrees and Training Programs

A bachelor’s degree or higher is required for entry into this field as well as a strong background in math. Currently, 30% of all actuaries have a master’s degree and 70% have a bachelor’s degree. Aspiring actuaries should enroll in an actuarial science program, economics, math, statistics, or finance degree program. Most colleges offer a degree in mathematics, economics, finance, or statistics and more than 100 offer a degree in actuarial science.

Coursework Required

Aspiring actuaries can expect to take a number of advanced math courses such as calculus, linear algebra, and calculus-based probability and statistics. They will also take finance, microeconomics, macroeconomics, financial mathematics, and quantitative methods for actuaries, actuarial models, and life contingencies. Computer science and marketing are usually part of the curriculum as well.

Did you know that the first actuaries can be traces back to London. According to Wiley.com, the formation in London in 1762 of the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships as a mutual company, initiated a process that created a public purpose for actuaries.

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