You are a math, stat or econ major in your STEM undergraduate program. You love numbers and the mysteries they solve and you are able to communicate the results clearly and concisely to a non-technical audience. A number of your professors are encouraging you to become an actuary versus other analytical career options like data scientist or financial analyst. Here is some information that can help you make that decision.
Entry Level Actuary Salary
Actuaries have one of the lowest unemployment rates of any career, virtually zero. If you complete two exams while you are in your undergraduate program, you will be very employable right out of college. A viable entry level salary for you would be between $55K and $65K. If you are able to complete three exams while you are in college, that entry level salary could go up by $5K.
Exams for an Actuary
Exams? ! What exams?! The first three exams are the same regardless of which track you choose in an actuarial career: probability, economics and accounting and finance. Coming out of a STEM bachelor’s program you will also likely have fulfilled the three validation of education experiences (VEE) requirements: math/stat, econ and accounting and finance. You can actually have a long and viable career meeting only these requirements. You will, however, top out at $150K for your long-term earning potential. How do you do better?
Associate of the Society of Actuaries, ASA
This accreditation requires completion of four more exams for a total of seven, completing a required e-learning course, Fundamentals of Actuarial Practices (FAP), and completing an Associateship Professionalism Course (APC). Do this and you will be qualified to stand for review by the Society of Actuaries to receive your ASA. Often companies will give you paid time to study for the exams and complete the courses, an indication of how valuable actuaries are to organizations. Typically this process takes from three to five years and leads to a significant increase in responsibility and commensurate compensation. With 10-15 years of experience and an ASA you can earn up to $200K, with 20+ years that number can go up to $300K.
Fellowship of the Society of Actuaries, FSA
With another 3-5 years of experience, the completion of three more exams, a decision making and communications module (DMAC) and fellowship admissions course (FAC) you can reach the pinnacle of the profession in terms of accreditation: FSA. Actuaries with this certification are the leaders of the profession. After ten years your compensation could reach $250K with $450K a reality for a few select individuals after 20 years.
By the third year of your actuarial career you will need to start focusing in a particular track. There are four main ones for an actuary to pursue: Property and Casualty (P&C), Health, Life Insurance and Pension. Because of the movement away from pensions in private industry, the pension track has become the lowest paid, and less active hiring market of all four tracks. With the Affordable Care Act and the focus on the health care industry by consumers and by Washington, health is a dynamic and exciting place to be right now. It has the fastest growth in salaries and the highest demand for experienced actuaries. Property and Casualty attracts the best and the brightest of the industry and is leading the actuarial career into new application areas like data science and more sophisticated information technology applications. Life Insurance is the most traditional track for an actuary and offers some interesting opportunities in the financial underpinnings and investments to support the insurance.