Actuaries use their knowledge of business, finance, and statistics to create policies that minimize financial risk for companies. To become an actuary, students must have an undergraduate or graduate degree in actuarial science and pass a series of exams over a 5-10 year period. Bachelor's degree programs in actuarial science require a high school education. Students also gain a business background and may complete internships.
Master's degree programs in actuarial science are available for those who want to advance in the field, and these programs usually require undergraduate coursework in calculus, linear algebra, probability, and statistics to enroll. An internship may be required for completion. After graduating from an actuarial science program, students may prepare for and take certification exams from the American Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society.
Bachelor's Degree in Actuarial Science
Actuarial study at the bachelor's level combines several sciences and skills to help students develop an understanding of how different types of industries determine risks. The curriculum teaches students to advise clients and show them how to avoid a financial loss, and provides students with a foundation in computer science, statistics, finance, mathematics, and economics. Students who complete an internship before graduating may find increased job opportunities. Topics studied in an actuarial bachelor's degree program include:
- Actuarial science
- Computer science
Master's Degree in Actuarial Science
A graduate degree in actuarial science develops students' understanding of the theoretical basis of actuarial models and teaches them to apply those models to insurance and financial risks. Students receive a broad knowledge of insurance, investments, pensions, and employee benefits. Other topics of study include survival models, mortality rates, and data analysis. Master's level programs also help students prepare for certification exams needed for promotional opportunities in the field. An advanced actuary degree program may also cover these topics:
- Actuarial modeling
- Statistical modeling
- Benefit reserves
- Survival models
- Credibility and stimulation
- Investment and asset
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The majority of graduates find employment opportunities with insurance companies, government agencies, and financial corporations. Some graduates work as consultants to companies and corporations, and give advice on pension and insurance programs. For the decade 2014-2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) showed that careers in this field are projected to increase by 18%. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for actuaries is $97,070 as of May 2015.
After completing their education and starting work, students are eligible to take a variety of special courses offered to professional actuaries. These courses prepare them for exams that offer higher certification levels in actuarial science. Passing these exams enable graduates to receive promotions and raises. Additional exams can lead to designations from the Casualty Actuarial Society and the American Society of Actuaries.
Individuals interested in becoming actuaries may enroll in either bachelor's or master's degree programs relating to actuarial sciences. This is a growing field which offers opportunities for advancement along the way.