Difference Between Actuary & Underwriter

Do you have exceptional mathematical, analytical, and business skills? If so, take an in-depth look at what is required to work as an actuary and as an underwriter in the insurance industry.

Comparing Actuaries to Underwriters

Actuaries and underwriters serve a distinct function in the insurance industry. While they both use math to determine and predict risk, their day-to-day duties are quite different. Take an in-depth look at the defining characteristics of both actuaries and underwriters.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Actuary Bachelor's Degree $100,610 18%
Underwriter Bachelor's Degree $67,680 -11%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Actuaries vs. Underwriters

Individuals who have exceptional math and finance skills will find a great deal of satisfaction in the daily duties of actuaries and underwriters. The primary employers for each role are insurance agencies (including life, health, and property insurance). Employees who work in either roles typically work in offices on a full-time schedule. The big difference between actuaries and underwriters are the tasks they perform. Actuaries use advanced mathematics to help develop insurance policies based on risk, while underwriters process insurance applications, making the final decision as to whether to issue a requested policy.


After earning their bachelor's degree and passing their required exams, actuaries are employed by insurance companies to calculate risk and uncertainty. These calculations are then used to develop insurance policies that will ultimately be profitable for the company. Policies are created based on the cost and probability of the occurrence of certain major events. In order to make proper calculations and recommendations, actuaries compile statistical information. They also test their ideas to ensure their calculations and statistics have led to appropriate recommendations.

Duties of an actuary can include the following:

  • Utilizing software to save statistical data
  • Calculating the cost of insurance premiums
  • Presenting findings to company leaders
  • Collaborating with individuals in other positions to make the best possible recommendations


If you have ever applied for a health insurance policy or a homeowner's policy, an underwriter was the person who examined your application, and decided whether or not to extend a policy offer to you. Underwriters typically have a bachelor's degree, with experience in economics, finance, and business serving as a plus. Rather than training in school to become an underwriter, training is most often done on-the-job. In addition to training and education, additional certifications are frequently required by employers (especially for promotions to advanced positions). Crucial skills to possess as an underwriter include attention to detail, mathematical abilities, exceptional interpersonal communication skills, and advanced analytical skills.

Duties of an underwriter can include the following:

  • Evaluating insurance applications to determine risk
  • Using software to help predict risk of applicants
  • Deciding what terms and premiums must be assessed to insurance applicants
  • Ensuring enough applications are approved in order to make sufficient profits

Related Careers

If you are considering a career as an actuary because you enjoy using statistics and analytical skills, you may also enjoy a career as a market research analyst. Alternatively, those who are thinking about a career as an underwriter should also consider a career as a budget analyst.

Market Research Analyst: Job Duties, Requirements & Career Info

Budget Analysts: Job Duties & Career Information

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