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Actuary Career Guide

How to Become an Actuary

An actuary uses data to assess risks for their clients. If you’ve got a head for math and stats, this could be your dream job. The training is demanding, and the job complex, but if you love numbers this might be the perfect role for you. The pay is great, with an average salary of $111,030 per year. Plus, demand is soaring so you won't have trouble finding a position once you’re certified as an actuary.


What Is an Actuary?

An actuary uses a blend of math, data, and financial theories to assess the risk of future events and help clients develop policies in response. They often work in the insurance sector, helping design policies, determining premium charges, and deciding whether it’s financially prudent to offer coverage for a certain event or client. Overall an actuary’s role is taking their understanding of numbers and turning it into actionable information for an organization. 

What Does an Actuary Do?

An actuary spends most of their time in an office working at a computer. They’re experts in statistics and analysis, leveraging their knowledge to predict outcomes for their employers. 

But what exactly does an average day look like for them?

  • Collating data. Whatever specific field an actuary is in, they’ll be working with data and a lot of it. So the first step for them will be compiling this data for statistical analysis. Then, they’ll be estimating the likelihood of an event occurring, and what that financial cost might be for their employer. 
  • Designing policies. Insurance policies, pensions, investment plans—they're responsible for designing these and testing them to ensure profitability while minimizing the risk. They ensure the premium is set at the correct level, figure out the policy limits, and use the collated stats to work out the correct deductible. This work is vital for ensuring adequate coverage at a cost that suits the customer and the client.
  • Communicating and explaining. Not everyone on a team will have the same math understanding, so clear communications and the ability to explain statistics to outsiders is an important skill for an actuary. They're called upon to summarize their findings to non-experts, so knowing how to get complex statistics across in a clear and concise manner is vital.

How Do I Become an Actuary?

Step One: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

An actuary can have a degree in just about anything, but it helps to have a strong background in math, stats, and business practices. A business management bachelor’s degree can be a great first step in giving you an important foundation in business and finance, preparing you for the work an actuary does with organizations every day. 

Step Two: Professional Actuary Certification

There are two levels of professional actuary certification:

  1. Associate
  2. Fellowship

To become an associate, you’ll need to pass seven official exams. This can take between four to seven years. To receive a fellowship, you’ll need to pass three more exams. This can require two to three more years of study. These exams are offered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). 

Step Three: Professional Life and Progression

Most aspiring actuaries will start working after they’ve completed the first two or three exams. Some might even stop there. But companies often compensate you to take the next exams and complete your certification. And if you want to earn more money, it pays to reach fellowship level. 

Advancement in the field of actuaries depends on how many official exams you have passed. If you’ve managed to reach fellowship level you will be able to oversee the work of junior actuaries, and perhaps even rise to executive positions such as Chief Risk Officer, for example.

And finally, both of these levels of actuary have a requirement for continuous education. These usually consist of training seminars that are sponsored by the society that you’ve done your main exams with.

Best Degrees for Actuaries

Business Management – B.S. Business Administration

Hone your business acumen and garner added respect:...

Hone your business acumen and garner added...

Hone your business acumen and garner added respect:

  • Time: 68% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,755 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Account executive
  • Business analyst
  • Program manager
  • Director or senior director
  • Vice president

This online degree program is an excellent choice for kick-starting your organizational management career.

Accounting – B.S. Business Administration

Have a knack for numbers or fine-tuning finances?...

Have a knack for numbers or fine-tuning finances?...

Have a knack for numbers or fine-tuning finances?

  • Time: 62% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,755 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Accounting manager
  • Financial director
  • Vice president of finance and operations
  • Chief financial officer
  • Forensic accountant

Take your first step toward CPA certification and learn how to use GAAP, ledgers, and journals.

Finance – B.S.

This online finance program is career-focused so you will gain...

This online finance program is career-focused so...

This online finance program is career-focused so you will gain relevant industry skills.

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish similar programs within 42 months.
  • Tuition: $3,575 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 41 courses in this program.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Financial analyst
  • Finance director 
  • Investment banker
  • Insurance agent
  • Accountant

The competency-based model at WGU allows you to move as quickly as you can master the material, and do your coursework on your schedule. Flexibility is key with the B.S. in finance at WGU.

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What Skills Does an Actuary Need?

Assessing future risks isn’t easy, and actuaries will need to have a variety of skills to be successful. Being comfortable with the more powerful functions of Excel and Access is essential, along with having the analytical skills to assess trends and see the patterns behind the statistics. 

You’ll need:

  • Math skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • IT skills
  • Clear communication skills

How Much does an Actuary Make?


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for an Actuary is around $111,030 per year or $53.38 per hour. Those working in professional, scientific, or technical sectors would top out at $113,780 whereas those working in company or enterprise management would make a little less, coming in at around $99,550 per year.

What is the Job Outlook for Actuaries?


The BLS predicts that the demands for actuaries will grow 18% from 2019 - 2029, which is much faster than most other professions (4%). Much of this demand is driven by the need for medical insurance companies for actuaries, which comes from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Where Do Actuaries Work?


Actuaries will usually be found in the office, working as part of a team that consists of managers and professionals in various fields like finance or accounting. Some actuaries who work for consulting firms might travel to meet with clients from time to time.

Interested in Becoming an Actuary?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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