There are many salary tables out there telling you what you should make at each step in your actuarial career. What they don’t clarify are all the different factors that can influence your actuarial salary.
The first question on the Payscale.com salary tool on the Society of Actuaries website is location. You must fill in where you work to get an accurate picture of the impact on your actuarial salary. It’s not a surprise to learn larger cities, like San Francisco and New York, pay more while cities in the Midwest and South, where cost of living is lower, pay less.
The second and last criteria that must be filled in on Payscale’s actuarial salary calculator is years in the field. Unsurprisingly, more years of experience mean more pay. There are some exceptions to this. If you have stayed in the same company for a long time period, your pay may lag other actuaries with the same amount of experience due to missing the bump that often comes through job change. The data science juggernaut is also impacting your actuarial salary. New actuaries with highly desirable data science skills can make more than greater experienced actuaries with more traditional skills.
While obtaining third party credentials or accreditations in any career is a plus, actuaries must pursue an ASA or ACAS and then an FSA or FCAS to reach the top levels of actuarial salary. Sometimes the more quickly the thresholds are achieved will also positively impact your salary. Actuaries who chose to stop at the lower level accreditation will on average top out in salary at a much lower level than the FSA or FCAS regardless of years of experience.
It is clear from every salary scale published that P&C, Life and Health specializations pay more than Pension. But even within your particular industry expertise, specific product knowledge and experience can mean significant differences in compensation. Actuaries are already in high demand, niche skills that precisely match a position opening mean even more money.
Are you a high level individual contributor or are you managing a team? Do you participate in the strategic decision making within your organization? Is it clear you are slated for advancement, one of the golden men/women of the organization? While management can garner you a better actuarial salary, don’t lose your product expertise. Actuarial science is valued most highly for the individual’s technical skills and while the soft skills are important for advancement, if those are the only skills you retain, you will find your promotability leveling off.
Multiple internal opportunities exist within organizations of 10,000+ employees. You not only receive annual increases but annual promotions are a possibility, too. Smaller organizations won’t have as many internal opportunities but could offer more variety in your day-to-day work allowing you to build a broader skill set. You won’t earn more initially but better skills can mean more money down the road.
Minorities and woman are underrepresented within the actuarial field. Some organizations, typically larger ones, make an effort to rebalance their staffing with diversity planning in mind. That could lead to better starting salaries for those candidates.