How to Become an Actuary

Actuary careers boast enormous projected job growth plus a six-figure median salary. Learn more right now.

How to Become an Actuary

Actuaries are the oracles of the financial world.

Do you have a knack for analyzing and solving problems? Are you business oriented, self-motivated, and a math whiz? Learn how to become an actuary and put your skills to work.

A career as an actuary comes with several challenges and rewards. There are vast opportunities to grow and work within a number of industries. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a whopping 18% increase in new actuary jobs by 2029. Oh, and the six-figure salary isn’t too bad, either.

But the road ahead isn’t a cakewalk. It takes hard work and dedication to pursue and maintain an actuarial career. Read on for better understanding of an actuary’s job duties and requirements, plus available job opportunities in this in-demand field.

What Is an Actuary?

An actuary is professional who uses data to identify potential financial risks and opportunities. Most actuaries work for insurance companies where they figure out the probability of events such as accidents, fires, floods, death, and unemployment in order to set rates for auto, life, or homeowner’s policies.

Unlike accountants, who focus on a wide variety of financial matters, actuaries focus specifically on future risks. They’re a bit like the oracles of the financial world, though without the magic—actuaries base their findings on mathematics and probability. They raise the “what if” questions and work to overcome such hurdles.

What Is Actuarial Science?

Actuarial science is an approach to assessing and evaluating risk that involves mathematical and statistical methods. Actuarial science helps insurance companies, financial firms, and other businesses ensure financial stability in the future.

What Does an Actuary Do?

An actuary examines financial records and uses probability to determine if a company’s finances are secure or at risk. Additionally, they predict future claims costs and determine how much money companies should put aside for pensions.

For example, let’s say you just bought a yacht—lucky you!—and you need to get it insured. There are many risks that come with owning a yacht. For example, an accident can occur during inclement weather. The boat can capsize and occupants onboard can sustain injuries. Additionally, your yacht could become damaged or stolen. Your insurance company relies on actuaries to take all of these factors into account and provide them with an appropriate premium to charge you.

From small startups to large corporations, many businesses face the same liability risks and losses. Workers or visitors can be injured onsite. Also, a security breach or poor investment can hurt a company financially. An actuary would assess these risks and help you determine which type of insurance would best suit you so you avoid paying out-of-pocket expenses in the event of a catastrophe.

Actuary jobs aren’t only limited to the insurance industry. Some actuaries are self-employed or work for banks, corporations, private businesses, government agencies, financial firms, and other industries.

The most common types of actuaries include:

  • Life and health insurance actuaries
  • Property and casualty insurance actuaries
  • Savings and retirement actuaries
  • Enterprise risk management actuaries

To learn more about what the job entails, see Monster’s actuary job description.

How to Become an Actuary

Most actuaries hold bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, statistics, finance, economics, or accounting. A handful of colleges offer a dedicated actuary degree. You also have the option of pursuing online actuary degree programs.

It takes more than a college degree to be a successful actuary, however. You must have:

  • A knack for mathematics, calculus, statistics, and probability
  • Working knowledge of finance, accounting, and economics
  • Knowledge of spreadsheets, statistical analysis, and database programs

Need some help making your way through school? Check out these colleges and actuary scholarships that can put you on the path to your degree. 

Exams are a large part of how to become an actuary. You will have to study and take actuarial exams for years before becoming fully certified.

Prelim actuarial exams include:

  • Probability Exam
  • Financial Mathematics Exam
  • Investment and Financial Markets
  • Long-Term Actuarial Mathematics Exam
  • Modern Actuarial Statistics I Exam
  • Modern Actuarial Statistics II Exam

You can choose to begin taking exams before graduating college, or you can take them after getting an entry-level job. However, many employers require you to have passed two exams before they’ll hire you.

Two organizations offer exams that lead to fully qualified actuaries:

The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) administers exams to property and casualty insurance actuaries. Actuaries certified by the CAS become qualified to work in automobile, homeowners', medical malpractice, and workers' compensation insurance.

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) administers exams to life and health insurance actuaries. Actuaries certified by the SOA become qualified to work in life and health insurance, retirement benefits, investments, and finance.

If you want to work with pensions, you must enroll with The Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries.

Studying for actuary exams can be time-consuming. The good news is, some employers offer study materials, prep courses, and on-the-job study hours.

How Many Actuarial Exams Are There?

There are 10 actuarial exams, but the number of exams you must pass depends on your goals. For example, there are two levels under the CAS and SOA: associate and fellowship actuaries. You must become an associate before you can become a fellow.

You must pass seven preliminary exams to become an associate and 10 exams to become a fellow.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Actuary?

It depends on your goals and the amount of time you dedicate to preparing for exams. For instance, it generally takes three to five years to complete the educational and testing requirements to get an entry-level job. However, it can take up to 10 years to become a fully qualified actuary. Many actuaries aim for associate status within five years.

How Much Do Actuaries Make?

According to Monster data, the median actuary salary is $90,243 per year. The starting salary for first-time job seekers may be be closer to $65,448 per year, while senior level workers may earn $121,212 per year.

You can look up the average salary for actuaries in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide

How to Find Actuary Jobs

While you do need an actuary degree to find a job, you don’t need any prior experience. Companies offer entry level positions as well as actuary internships. Check out all the actuary jobs available right now on Monster.

The states with the highest actuary employment levels include:

The metro areas with the highest actuary employment levels include:

Ready to Launch Your Actuary Career? Monster Can Help You Get Started

Now you know how to become an actuary. Are you ready to embrace the challenges and rewards of an actuary job? Upload your resume for free on Monster to catch the attention of job recruiters. We can also send you free job alerts to match you with the right employer, streamlining the process of landing your first job.