Difference Between Actuary & Data Analyst

Actuaries primarily work in finance and insurance, while data analysts may work in a range of career fields including finance, marketing and manufacturing. The similarities and differences between these professions will be explored further in this article.

Comparing Actuaries to Data Analysts

Actuaries help their employers protect their financial health by mitigating potential risks. Data analysts review information and use the data to help develop recommendations. They don't specifically focus on risks, but may help determine appropriate business or financial decisions that will benefit their company.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Actuaries Bachelor's Degree $100,610 (2016)* 18%
Data Analysts Bachelor's Degree $58,017 (2017)** 30% (for operations research analysts), 19% (for market research analysts), 12% (for financial analysts)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of Actuaries vs. Data Analysts

Actuaries and data analysts work with data that they collect and assess. Actuaries also perform calculations to determine whether or not an insurance policy is priced correctly or if the company is likely to lose money from it. They consider how likely a client is to be affected by a natural disaster or health issue or another matter and then figure out the costs associated with those risks. Clients can use the information actuaries provide to help determine if they need to increase their investments, change their insurance plans, or take other steps to ensure they can cover the costs of emergencies. The work that data analysts do can be applied in a number of ways and may also be used by clients to determine if they need to change their investment strategies, or to help a company make decisions about what products they should sell and how much to charge for them. Data analysts may also review business operations to determine how a company can be more cost-effective or how to fix specific issues that are affecting their operations.

Actuaries

Actuaries need to have strong math skills and must have a bachelor's degree in mathematics or a similar field. Professional certification is also required, and with experience and education, actuaries can advance to positions in management. They spend most of their time working in offices during weekday business hours. Actuaries help companies and clients prepare to offset unexpected expenses, and they can specialize in a number of fields. Some may concentrate on healthcare insurance and help develop policies, while others may be employed by the government and focus on issues related to social programs, such as Medicaid.

Job responsibilities of an actuary include:

  • Working on teams with other professionals
  • Designing, testing and reviewing policies and investments
  • Advising clients on appropriate investments
  • Determining the costs of specific insurance policies

Data Analysts

Data analysts, who commonly work indoors in an office, review information that they use to inform conclusions or recommendations. They can usually start out in this field with a bachelor's degree, and common disciplines they may study include analytics, market research or mathematics. Those who are interested in focusing on operations research or management positions will usually need a master's degree. Since performing calculations and assessing data is a key part of this profession, data analysts should have strong math and analytical skills. They may specialize in fields such as operations research, market research or finance.

Job responsibilities of a data analyst include:

  • Clarifying their objective and determining what data is relevant
  • Developing solutions to problems
  • Assessing marketing trends
  • Providing information to help companies sell products
  • Advising clients about investment options

Related Careers

The work that statisticians do is similar to the work of actuaries, because statisticians also collect and assess data, so those considering a career as an actuary may also be interested in statistics. Another option for aspiring data analysts is to consider being an industrial engineer, since industrial engineers specialize in reviewing how companies manufacture goods and determining how they can make their production more efficient.


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