Why Become an Actuary?
The following information is provided by the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana has one of the largest accredited actuarial programs in the country. To view information on their actuarial program, please click here.
Consult the Jobs Rated Almanac. The Almanac ranks 500 jobs in the United States, from best to worst. Consistently, the job of actuary is listed among the top few, and depending on the year, it is often listed as the #1 job in America. Why?
Salary -- Expect to be well paid. Starting salaries for actuarial analysts from the U of I probably average around $40,000. Those who stick with the career can expect to make six figures before their tenth-year reunion.
Working conditions -- Hours are very reasonable, often less than 40 hours per week for actuaries in the insurance business. Actuaries are usually supervised by other actuaries, and the age difference between supervisory is often substantially less than in other professions.
Stress -- While stress level varies greatly depending on position and field of work, the actuarial profession does have a solid reputation for being a relatively low-stress occupation, particularly when it is compared to other occupations with similar salary levels. Opportunities--The opportunities for advancement as an actuary are almost endless. Many CEOs and CFOs, particularly for insurance corporations, are actuaries. Some actuaries are able to do their own consulting. Many actuaries take their talents into a new field altogether. Many actuarial departments tend to be rather young, primarily because the opportunities for advancement are so great.
What's the catch?
Every good deal has a catch, and there are two of them for actuarial science.
Interest -- Some people ignore the fact that being actuary is not a job but a profession. Individuals that are just running after a paycheck and who have little interest in the core actuarial sciences of applied mathematics, statistics, finance, and economics will probably have trouble enjoying a job as an actuary. However, those individuals who are interested in the core actuarial sciences will probably enjoy their jobs and find them quite interesting.
Exams -- While an actuary needs only a bachelor's degree from a university, actuaries are expected to continue their education past college through the sequence of actuarial exams, with the end goal of attaining the levels of associateship and fellowship in one of the actuarial societies. While this does take substantial work and study time, most companies provide both funding and study time to their actuarial employees to help them through the exam process. The exams exist to train future associate and fellow actuaries, and those students that are interested in the core actuarial sciences should find that the knowledge gained through the exam procedure is well worth the effort.