What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming an Actuary?

Majoring in mathematics or computer science is a good plan for students entering college, but part of achieving success requires knowing what you want to do with your degree. There are plenty of well-paying careers for students who decide to major in computer science and mathematics. If you are good with mathematics and computers and enjoy analyzing information and solving problems, becoming an actuary could be an excellent career choice for you. Actuary is the number-one most high-paying job for computer science and mathematics majors, with experienced professionals earning a median annual salary of $136,000. If analyzing the financial aspects of risk sounds like an appealing career choice for you, your job preparation will include earning a bachelor’s degree and taking examinations for professional certification.

An Actuary’s Education

The first step to becoming an actuary is earning a four-year degree from a college or university. Most aspiring actuaries pursue a bachelor’s degree program in a subject such as actuarial science, statistics, or mathematics. In addition to mathematics and analytical skills, students should expect to take courses in economics, calculus, business management, accounting, computer science and corporate finance. During their college careers, many students take advantage of internship opportunities to gain hands-on experience and network with potential employers.

Achieving Certification as an Actuary

Even for entry-level jobs as actuaries, candidates must usually have passed at least one examination in the program to achieve professional certification, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Depending on their intended industry of work, aspiring actuaries can begin the process of becoming fully certified professionals through either the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or the Society of Actuaries (SOA). Both professional organizations offer certification at both the associate and the fellowship level. Passing these exams and becoming an associate certified actuary typically takes between four and six years and requires taking five to seven examinations. Progress to fellowship level certification can require another two to three years of work. Employers may pay the cost of some of these professional exams or even pay new actuaries to study.

Entry-Level Actuary Work

Actuary trainees, or entry-level workers, learn under the supervision of experienced actuaries. Their work ranges from gathering data in the early days of their employment to doing research and drafting reports once they have sufficient experience to do so. Some employers have newly hired actuary trainees become familiar with all aspects of the company by rotating through different departments.

A job as an actuary can be a rewarding one. In addition to earning a high salary once they have gained enough experience, actuaries also enjoy a very positive job outlook. The BLS expects job opportunities for actuaries to increase by 26 percent over a decade, as opposed to just 11 percent of job growth expected across all injuries. If you find analyzing information and working with both numbers and computers interesting, then working as an actuary could be the right career choice for you.

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