Insurance companies and government agencies hire actuaries to assess different forms of short-term and long-term risk. The career involves analyzing statistical data, using the results to develop investments and insurance programs, and coordinating with senior managers to institute new policies. Actuaries specialize in health insurance, life insurance, benefits packages, or enterprise risk.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that actuaries earn a median $108,350 annual salary. This salary more than doubles the median wage for U.S. workers. Also, the BLS projects that employment for actuaries from 2019-2029 should grow 18%, approximately 350% faster than the average growth rate for all professions.
An actuarial science degree, a professional certification, and on-the-job-training can help prepare workers for this lucrative career. Typical admission requirements for actuarial science programs include high school prerequisites, a competitive GPA, and standardized test scores. Incoming students also submit FAFSA results.
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How to Use an Actuarial Degree
Q. What jobs can you get with an actuarial science degree?
A bachelor's degree in actuarial science can help qualify graduates for a position as a trainee. They receive extensive on-the-job training, preparing them for certification examinations.
Q. Is there a demand for actuaries?
The BLS projects that jobs for actuaries should grow significantly from 2019-2029, indicating a strong job market for graduates.
Q. Do actuaries get paid well?
Professionals with an actuarial science bachelor's degree, certification, and experience generally earn more than $100,000 annually. This high salary can help degree-holders live comfortably and save for retirement.
Q. How long does it take to become an actuary?
Entry-level actuaries must gain on-the-job experience and pass multiple examinations. Professionals may need up to 10 years to earn a fellowship certification.
Best Bachelor's in Actuarial Science Programs 2021
Ohio State University-Main Campus
Students pursue a BA or BS in actuarial science on campus in Columbus. The program prepares actuaries for risk assessment and management careers. Students begin the program as actuarial science pre-majors. This requires prescribed coursework such as probability, calculus, and micro and macroeconomics.
Students who complete the pre-major coursework or pass the actuarial examination can begin the major. The upper-division curriculum explores advanced coursework in calculus, economics, finance, and linear algebra. Students can complete an internship at insurance, consulting, and related firms that recruit at Ohio State.
Enrollees receive tutoring and academic help at the math and statistics learning center. Actuarial science majors automatically join the Actuarial Club of Ohio State (ACOS), which provides extracurricular activities. ACOS helps enrollees prepare for actuarial exams. Admission to the actuarial science degree requires prerequisite courses and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
UW offers 288 majors and certificates. The 120-credit BBA in business: actuarial science prepares students for risk assessment careers. The curriculum explores material covered on Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society preliminary exams.
BBA students complete general education coursework. They also develop a sound business and economics foundation. The BBA core focuses on broad business education in finance, operations management, and business law. Enrollees complete courses that develop actuarial science competencies. Concepts covered include theory of probability, actuarial science methods, and actuarial mathematics. Students use elective credit to develop expertise in R for statistics and data science programming.
UW does not require that students take professional exams, but 90% pass at least two before graduation. Admission to the actuarial science program requires pre-business courses and a minimum 2.75 GPA.
University of California-Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara enrolls about 26,000 students in 200 programs. The BS in actuarial science enrolls first-year and transfer students. The degree prepares learners for actuary careers and actuarial certifications. Students must first complete pre-major courses in subjects such as math and data science with R.
Upper-division courses examine probability and statistics, regression analysis, and advanced statistical models. All enrollees develop competency in the use of actuarial statistics. Degree-seekers use elective credit to study survival analysis or actuarial concepts related to property and casualty insurance. Students can join the Actuarial Association for professional development activities, such as networking and career fairs.
The program prepares students to sit for professional actuarial exams. Participants can help pay for tuition with actuarial scholarships available at UC Santa Barbara. Admission to this actuarial science program requires a minimum 2.5 GPA in pre-major coursework.
University of Central Florida
Founded in 1963, UCF offers 230 programs on campuses throughout central Florida. The BS in actuarial science prepares learners for professional certification. The 120-credit program requires general education coursework in various disciplines. The major covers basic and advanced actuarial science concepts. Students build a foundation in financial accounting, geometry, and statistical methods. They also develop advanced statistical modeling skills.
Participants explore matrix and linear algebra and life contingencies. All students in this actuarial science program learn technical writing. The degree prepares students for Casualty Actuarial Society and Society of Actuaries exams. Graduates leave the program equipped to become actuarial associates or insurance actuaries. Learners study and explore career opportunities in one of the nation's fastest-growing metro areas.
Florida residents pay affordable in-state tuition, and nonresidents enjoy competitive tuition. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED and prerequisite coursework.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Illinois maintains the Society of Actuaries' designation as a Center for Actuarial Excellence, one of few institutions so appointed. The 120-credit BS in actuarial science provides an interdisciplinary curriculum. Students receive actuarial training and immersion in subjects such as economics and finance.
Degree-seekers complete Illinois' general education requirements, or transfer credits to meet them. The major requires 58-61 credits of specialized coursework. Students develop skills in calculus and actuarial statistics. The curriculum covers loss models, life contingencies, and casualty actuarial mathematics. Learners use elective credit to study supporting areas such as employee benefit plans or property-liability insurance.
Illinois' Actuarial Science Club provides networking and leadership opportunities.
Qualified in-state students receive free tuition for four years, making this a very affordable actuarial science program. Admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent and school transcripts.
Appalachian State University
Appalachian's BS in actuarial science counts toward the Society of Actuaries' actuary credentialing process. Students complete the degree on campus in Boone, North Carolina. The 120-credit curriculum includes general education subjects. The major builds financial mathematics, actuarial modeling, and mathematical statistics skills. Two courses strengthen learners' statistical data analysis abilities.
Students gain business skills in financial management and derivatives and financial risk management. Degree-seekers use elective credit to learn regression and time series forecasting. Learners also use electives to add a minor to this actuarial science degree.
Employers visit Appalachian to interview actuarial students for internships and jobs. Participants engage in professional development and networking by joining Gamma Iota Sigma and the Actuarial Science Club. Degree-seekers may transfer an associate degree or credits from a North Carolina community college. Admission requires SAT or ACT scores for first-year students.
Brigham Young University-Provo
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded BYU, which offers programs that combine faith and education. The 120-credit BS in actuarial science develops statisticians skilled in assessing financial risk. Students complete the degree on campus in Provo, Utah. General education requirements include a religion cornerstone. Students explore church teachings and the Book of Mormon.
Students must pass a Society of Actuaries exam before they can declare this major. The major builds learners' skills in applied R programming, probability and inference, and analysis of variance. All students must learn a programming language, such as Python or applied SAS programming.
Enrollees use elective credit to gain knowledge in more areas. This may include an examination of life contingencies or statistical models for financial economics.
Students can sit for SAS certification exams in this actuarial science program. Admission requires high school transcripts and optional SAT or ACT scores.
University of Connecticut
UConn manages a strong actuarial science program, producing workers for the state's financial services industry. The actuarial program maintains strong relationships with local insurance and consulting firms. Students complete the degree on campus in Storrs. The major prepares students for professional actuarial exams. Students choose a BA or BS in mathematics – actuarial science or mathematics – actuarial science – finance.
All students complete core coursework in calculus, probability, and financial mathematics. Learners gain mathematical statistics and actuarial loss modeling skills. Those in the finance specialization take financial services, financial management, and mergers and acquisitions classes.
Gamma Iota Sigma, UConn's actuarial club, sponsors a career fair each fall. Corporate sponsors visit the campus for interviews. Some companies provide scholarship funding for students pursuing an actuarial science degree. All New Englanders pay discounted out-of-state tuition. Applicants need a high school diploma from an approved high school and college preparatory coursework.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI
Located in East Lansing, MSU offers an interdisciplinary and customizable actuarial science major. The BS in actuarial science prepares students for professional exams and certifications. Students declare the major after they pass a Society of Actuaries or Casualty Actuary Society exam. Once admitted to the major, learners follow an academic plan matching their professional goals.
Foundation classes build math skills in calculus and algebra. The actuarial science degree requires advanced coursework in actuarial modeling and financial mathematics for actuaries. All students gain investment and financial management skills. Students build hands-on experience by completing a capstone in mathematics or an actuarial internship.
MSU funding, such as the actuarial science scholarship, helps students pay for school. Admission to the program requires a minimum 3.0 GPA on prerequisite coursework.
Ball State's academic center commits to serving the insurance industry. The BS in actuarial science combines classroom learning and hands-on experience. The curriculum provides a strong mathematics and business foundation. Students prepare to sit for professional actuarial exams.
The major requires 59-60 credits of coursework and electives. Learners study probability, risk management, and insurance. Students learn statistics for risk modeling, employee benefits, and retirement planning. They prepare for Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society exams. Students gain advanced problem-solving and data analysis skills.
Ball State's center for actuarial science, insurance, and risk management connects students and employers. Students receive access to professionals-in-residence programs, summer internships, and scholarships. The center's experiential learning opportunities help build a better workforce. Admission to this actuarial science program requires no SAT or ACT scores.
QC's BBA in actuarial studies trains highly skilled professionals for the insurance field. Students prepare to sit for professional examinations. The program focuses on a strong liberal arts and business foundation. All BBA students take general education classes in different disciplines. The BBA explores a business's core functional areas: accounting, business law, and corporate finance. Students learn how to use spreadsheets to organize, process, and analyze numerical information.
The degree's first actuarial exam determines students' potential as actuaries. Successful candidates must pass harder and harder exams in this actuarial science program. They build advanced skills in investment management, investment analysis, and calculus and probability. They learn forecasting and regression analysis. Students explore business ethics, including readings from contemporary and classical sources.
Group projects build problem-solving and communication skills that employers value. Admission requires four prerequisite courses and a minimum 3.3 GPA.
Arizona State University-Tempe
An innovation hub, ASU enrolls about 53,000 students on campus in Tempe. The BS in actuarial science develops mathematicians skilled in forecasting and mitigating loss. Students prepare for Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society credentialing exams.
The degree includes general education classes such as composition, literacy, and critical inquiry. Learners build a strong foundation in calculus, algebra, and geometry. Students learn probability tools used to quantitatively assess risk. Advanced coursework provides risk management and insurance training. Potential actuaries master R programming and Excel. Two classes focus on actuarial models and modeling. A final seminar provides a practice actuarial examination.
Ambitious students can complete a bachelor's and master's in actuarial science in five years. ASU's transfer policy lets students quicken degree completion by transferring general education credits. Admission to the actuarial science degree requires prerequisite coursework and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
The University of Texas at Dallas
UT Dallas's BS in actuarial science provides workers for the area's insurance and actuarial consulting firms. The 120-semester-credit degree gives graduates a strong mathematical background. Students prepare for Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) credentialing. The degree requires 120 credits including the UT Texas core curriculum. This provides students with a firm foundation in the liberal arts and social sciences.
The 78-credit major includes accounting, statistics, financial mathematics, and actuarial science classes. Students learn statistics for risk modeling and data analysis for statisticians and actuaries. All students receive preparation to take four SOA and CAS actuarial preliminary exams. Gifted students pursuing this actuarial science degree receive a fast track to graduate school.
UT Dallas' location provides an advantage in securing summer internships and job opportunities. Admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent.
Purdue University-Main Campus
West Lafayette, IN
One of the nation's top public colleges, Purdue offers over 280 programs. Students complete the BS in actuarial science on campus in West Lafayette. The 120-credit degree provides a multidisciplinary background and builds strong quantitative skills. Students prepare for 6-7 actuary credentialing exams.
The major covers foundational concepts such as financial management, statistical theory, and elementary linear algebra. Students advance to actuarial training in probability and actuarial models — life contingencies. Aspiring actuaries build applied regression analysis skills. Most students pursuing the actuarial science degree earn a second major in statistics.
Employers visit Purdue to recruit students for internships and full-time employment. Purdue offers affordable tuition and need- and merit-based scholarships. Admission requires prerequisite coursework and a minimum 2.5 GPA on transfer credits.
Ohio University-Main Campus
A renowned research college, OHIO offers an actuarial science degree on campus in Athens.
The BS in actuarial science prepares students for entry-level positions. The curriculum includes a strong business component and prepares students to pass an actuarial examination before they graduate. Students interested in the actuarial science program need advanced math skills, such as AP statistics or calculus.
Students complete 120 semester hours, including general education classes. The major requires 40 semester credits of mathematics coursework, such as probability and applied statistics. Learners build skills in financial management, risk and insurance, and programming in C. A required course introduces management skills.
Students receive hands-on training during internships at insurance and other firms. OHIO uses Handshake to give students access to workshops and other professional development activities. Admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent and optional SAT or ACT scores.
What Are the Goals of an Actuarial Science Degree?
College applicants pursue either a bachelor's degree in actuarial science or a bachelor's in business with a concentration in actuarial science. Other options may include selecting between a BA and a BS. Both degrees feature the same major curriculum while requiring different general education courses.
Typical courses include financial mathematics, international finance, and risk management. The best actuarial science degrees require these and other courses to prepare students for either Society of Actuaries (SOA) or Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) certification. Many learners begin the certification process before graduation by passing one or more examinations, such as the SOA Exam P or CAS Exam 1.
Why Get an Actuarial Science Degree?
Actuarial science degrees impart multiple benefits to degree-seekers and alumni. Graduates can enjoy the following outcomes while in school.
Although the actuary profession may include long hours and extensive travel, the career generally allows entry-level and experienced professionals to achieve a positive work-life balance.
No matter their job title, actuaries face new challenges every day. A dynamic work environment encourages creative thinking and prevents burnout.
BLS projections indicate that jobs for actuaries should grow much faster than other industries between 2019-2029. College seniors and recent graduates should enter a strong job market.
Experienced actuaries working in the U.S. typically earn more than $100,000 annually. Professionals with additional certifications, education, and training may make more than their peers.
Actuarial science programs offer students various career specializations, such as health insurance, property and casualty insurance, and pension benefits.
What Are the Requirements for an Actuarial Science Degree?
First-year admission requirements include high school transcripts, and some programs accept GED scores. Competitive applicants also possess high school prerequisites in mathematics and lab sciences. Transfer students with some college credit or an associate degree submit official undergraduate transcripts demonstrating a satisfactory GPA.
Actuarial science degrees' unique graduation requirements may include an internship wherein learners gain hands-on experience observing and working under a fully certified actuary. Students also pass courses SOA requires for validation by educational experience (VEE), an essential step in the certification process. Degree-seekers must earn a minimum "B-" grade in VEE-designated courses.
Professional Organizations for Actuarial Science Students
Students earning an actuarial science bachelor's degree join professional organizations to explore career opportunities, navigate the complicated and lengthy certification process, and apply for exclusive scholarship opportunities. Organizations like those listed below provide learners with other helpful resources. They also charge degree-seekers an affordable annual membership rate.
Undergraduates join ASPPA to receive industry publications, discounts on conferences and webcasts, and access to the latest actuarial research. Certifications unique to ASPPA include qualified pension administrator and certified pension consultant. Student and professional members also enjoy a personalized website to track their personal development progress.
Approximately 8,000 undergraduates throughout the United States join CAS Student Central to receive free practice exams, webinars, and invitations to networking events. Learners also network on an online message board and explore internship opportunities nationwide. CAS Student Central does not charge degree-seekers membership fees.
Although SOA does not typically accept student members, the organization provides degree-seekers with free resources, such as internship opportunities, a scholarship board, and career path guides. SOA networking events bring students, professionals, and employers together in person and online. College seniors can find their first career by posting a resume on the SOA Job Center website.
Scholarships for Actuarial Science Students
Although actuarial science programs prepare students for a lucrative career, their tuition may exceed learners' ability to pay. Degree-seekers may attain financial aid and avoid debt through private scholarship opportunities. Many scholarships appeal to actuarial science students and learners majoring in mathematics or a related STEM field.
||Who Can Apply
Actuarial Diversity Scholarship
||Members of a minority group earning a bachelor's degree in actuarial science may qualify for the Actuarial Diversity Scholarship. Other application criteria include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and full-time enrollment. First-year college students must also meet an ACT or SAT score cutoff.
Actuary of Tomorrow Stuart A. Robertson Scholarship
|Up to $9,000
||This scholarship recognizes rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates must also pass at least two introductory CAS or SOA examinations. The scholarship committee uses a June application deadline and awards funding for the following fall semester.
Curtis E. Huntington Memorial Scholarship
||The Curtis E. Huntington Memorial Scholarship differs from other awards, as applicants must obtain a professor's nomination. Other requirements include passing at least one CAS or SOA examination, maintaining a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and enrolling full time.
Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.