For individuals interested in business, statistics or mathematics, the profession of actuary offers a robust hiring market and strong salary potential.
By forecasting the likelihood and probable cost of an event, actuaries assist insurance companies and other clients in the private and public sectors in limiting their risk.
Actuaries typically undergo rigorous training programs in order to become certified and must possess an array of skills, including competency in math, problem-solving, computer-based tasks, analysis and writing.
Job Outlook and Salary Potential for Actuaries
Jobs for actuaries are projected to increase by 18% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the national average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The outlook is even rosier for actuaries who work as consultants, with the BLS forecasting 58% job growth through 2020. That demand will come primarily from insurance companies hiring for contract work, and from companies enlisting actuaries to review and oversee benefit plans for employees.
In May 2016, the median annual wage for actuaries nationwide was $100,610, the BLS reported. The top 10% earned in excess of $186,250.
Numerous factors influence job opportunities and salary potential, including education and experience, as well as local market conditions.
Education and Training for Actuaries
Generally, the first step for someone interested in becoming an actuary is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a discipline such as business or mathematics. A liberal arts degree can provide the requisite knowledge in business or accounting, while also helping students develop other skills important to an actuary, such as communication and computer science.
The BLS notes that internships are an important aspect of education and training for many students pursuing a career as an actuary, and that an increasing percentage of employers prefer applicants who already are progressing toward professional certification.
Actuaries can achieve certification in specific disciplines by successfully completing programs sponsored by the Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society. Candidates must participate in seminars and online courses, and pass examinations.
It typically takes several years to achieve certification, first as an associate and then as a fellow. Some employers provide financial assistance or time off for actuaries pursuing certification.
Career Path for Actuaries
According to the BLS, actuaries often enter the profession as trainees and work alongside a mentor. They may be assigned temporarily to various departments in order to get an overview of how an actuary’s work affects specific business functions.
As actuaries gain experience and advanced certification they may be positioned to move into supervisory or advisory roles. Eventually, some actuaries may join the executive ranks as chief financial officer or chief risk officer.
Military Occupational Specializations
Numerous military occupational specializations in the field of finance and analysis may share similarities with the civilian profession of actuary. Those include: cost analysis officer and financial management officer in the Air Force, and financial manager in the Army.