Career Choice: Actuary

Career Choice: Actuary
  • Type: Career Type
  • Opening Intro -

    If you’re good with numbers and particularly enjoy statistics, then a career as an actuary may be right for you.


Actuaries analyze statistical data including information desired by insurance companies: mortality, accident, disability and retirement rates that are calculated, assigned a risk and a forecast made for future liability. Some actuaries will also advise companies on just how much money in reserves will need to be set aside to cover future obligations.


Actuaries determine the required premium rates for insurance policies and the amount of money on hand and liabilities anticipated to cover the payment of a future pay out. These professionals make such determinations for retirement plans, health and life insurance and annuities. Actuaries analyze statistical information and provide advice to clients by constructing probability tables. When working with mutual companies, actuaries must determine how to distribute excess funds such as surplus earnings to stakeholders. High level actuaries may be required to testify before public agencies and Congress to comment on proposed legislation and its financial impact on society.


Plan to obtain an advanced degree to further your actuary aspirations. All actuaries have at least a bachelor’s degree with about half having a master’s degree or a doctorate. Your undergraduate courses must include business and mathematics, with courses in statistics, finance and economics required. Actuarial science programs are available at more than 100 colleges reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Required certification comes from one of two professional societies: the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS).

view current positions for actuaries


As of May 2010, the average salary of an actuary was $98,620. Salaries for all actuaries ranged from $53,100 to more than $160,000 per year reports the BLS. The median salary for actuaries was $87,650 and the middle 50 percent earned from $65,890 to $120,770.


Of the 18,320 actuaries employed as of 2010, more than half worked for insurance carriers, earning $96,930 per year on average. Management, scientific and consulting services were the second largest group of employers, paying an average annual salary of $108,580. Other insurance related firms including agents and brokers represented the third-largest employer, averaging $101,430 per year. Just 360 actuaries worked for insurance benefit funds, but these professionals earned the highest annual salaries among their peers, averaging $126,550 per year.


More actuaries work in the state of New York than in any other state, receiving an average annual wage of $115,740, for the highest wages in the nation. The New York City metropolitan area also offers some of the highest wages among cities, with actuaries earning $119,460 on average. Greater Miami, Florida, however had the highest metro area averages of $126,340 per year followed by Bethlehem-Allentown-Easton, Pennsylvania, at $121,870. Among states and territories, actuaries in Puerto Rico made average wages near the bottom of the pay scale, earning $53,460 annually. For other states reporting Montana actuaries averaged $114,210; actuaries in Kansas averaged $100,010; and actuaries in Tennessee earned $70,150, for the lowest rates in the nation.


The BLS projects that demand for actuaries will be strong over the 10-year period through 2018, forecasting a 21 percent growth. New positions are expected to be created to keep pace with America’s expanding population base. Other opportunities will become available as current actuaries retire or take on new jobs. The best places to look for work will be with consulting firms.


O-Net Online: Summary Report for: 15-2011.00 – Actuaries

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; Actuaries

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment Statistics; 15-2011 Actuaries

Society of Actuaries (SOA): Home

Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS): Home

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