How to Become an Actuary

Becoming an Actuary is about more than crunching numbers. Instead, it’s about trying to tell the future in order to decrease the risk for individuals and companies by combining key concepts in mathematics, statistics, and finance, as well as elements of computer science.

In fact, many students don’t earn their degree in actuarial science at all. Instead, they earn a degree in a field of mathematics and apply the lessons in a career as an actuary. Actuary online programs actually typically focus on other degree types, so the degree to become an actuary may more likely end up being a math, statistics, or finance degree.

What is an Actuary?

An Actuary is a person who compiles and analyzes statistics by combining elements in mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk of potential events.  Ultimately, actuaries specialize in calculating risks and developing optimal strategies for businesses and individuals seeking to minimize undesirable financial outcomes.

For example, an actuary may run statistics for an insurance company to find what the most beneficial price for a plan may be regarding a client's data. Actuarial jobs may focus on calculating the probability of events like deaths, injuries, sickness, and natural disasters to find how to reduce the insurance company's economic costs.

What's the Best Degree for an Actuary?

When looking to become an Actuary, even the Society of Actuaries (SOA) states that you don’t need to major in actuarial science to enter the field.

In fact, many students come to the profession from backgrounds in:

  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Finance - you can even find Finance Master's programs that don't require a GMAT
  • Economics
  • Applied Statistics
  • Other areas

 Additionally, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds actuaries typical day-to-day involves:

  • Compiling statistical data for further analysis
  • Produce charts, tables, and reports that explain calculations and proposals
  • Explain findings and proposals to key stakeholders and shareholders
  • Estimate probability and likely economic cost of an event (death, sickness, accident, natural disaster

Finance Degrees

Earning an online bachelor’s degree in finance typically includes understanding all of the components of the field, which include:

  • Investments
  • Corporate finance
  • Financial markets

Therefore, your curriculum will include analyzing the key principles of business, economics, and accounting. Usually, this includes an in-depth focus on financial management and how those topics relate to it.

Statistics Degrees

Another degree many actuaries have earned is statistics. You might think that these degrees are all about numbers and how to manipulate them. But in actuality, statistics goes much more in depth and includes concepts such as:

  • Probability
  • Mathematical statistics
  • Data analysis
  • Statistical computing

As many actuaries use these skills to predict whether or not an insurance company could pay out benefits or for many other reasons, studying these subjects is usually applied to the field, regardless of the actuary career paths one focuses on.

Where Do Actuaries Work?

Most actuaries work for insurance companies where they typically are part of teams that include managers and professionals in other fields, such as accounting, underwriting, and finance. This is just one of the reasons why you don’t actually need an actuary degree. Instead, while pursuing your degree, you should focus on developing skills and knowledge in mathematics, statistics, and finance.

In addition, because many actuaries use computer software on a regular basis to run analysis, taking computer science courses are also beneficial while earning your bachelor’s.

Types of Actuaries

Usually, actuaries specialize in a specific field of insurance, such as:

  • Health insurance actuaries
  • Life insurance actuaries
  • Property and casualty insurance actuaries

However, there are many actuaries that work outside of the insurance field, such as pension and retirement benefits actuaries and enterprise risk actuaries. These types of actuaries usually develop investment strategies to manage risk and maximize returns for companies or individuals.

Actuary Professional Requirements

The Society of Actuaries says that actuaries are:

  • Part super-hero
  • Part fortune-teller
  • Part trusted advisor

That’s because they have to understand that the world is full of risk. As a result, actuaries evaluate the likelihood of a future event using numbers, not crystal balls and design creative ways to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events.

Plus, because these undesirable events are unavoidable, actuaries look for ways to decrease the impact of these events when they do happen. Many entry-level actuaries start in a training mentorship program with other more experienced professionals. During this time, they may be encouraged to seek certifications, which typically lead to raises and bonuses.

This career is more than just crunching numbers. In fact, usually, actuaries are key members on management teams and help protect companies and individuals against emerging risks in a fast-changing world.

Two professional societies offer certifications for actuaries. They both offer two levels of certification, associate and fellow.

  • Society of Actuaries (SOA): certifies actuaries in life insurance, health insurance, retirement benefits, investments, and finance
  • Casualty Actuarial Science (CAS): certifies actuaries in the property and casualty field, which includes automobile, homeowners, medical malpractice, and workers’ compensation insurance

Professional Actuary Certifications

OrganizationTypes of ActuariesTypes of CertificationNumber of Tests to Earn CertificationNumber of Years to Earn (Estimated)

Society of Actuaries

Life Insurance, Health Insurance, Retirement Benefits, Investments, Finance




Society of Actuaries

Life Insurance, Health Insurance, Retirement Benefits, Investments, Finance




Casualty Actuarial Science

Property and Casualty Field (Automobile, Homeowners, Medical Malpractice, Workers’ Compensation Insurance)



4 – 7

Casualty Actuarial Science

Property and Casualty Field (Automobile, Homeowners, Medical Malpractice, Workers’ Compensation Insurance)




Both professional societies require applicants to complete actuary training programs, certain educational requirements in economics, finance, and mathematical statistics while in college, so it’s important to understand the criteria while you’re earning your degree and becoming certified.

Don’t forget, a statistics or finance degree may also develop similar skills and knowledge as an actuary degree, making these legitimate options to pursue a career as an actuary. Complete the form on this page to get matched to the perfect program for you!

Potential Actuary Salary and Related Careers

There are many career paths you may choose to pursue after attending online courses in an actuary program. Because the foundations of a career as an actuary include math, statistics and business, there are many other similar positions you may be prepared to seek after schooling. Study which options may be available using statistics compiled by the BLS.

Find the Perfect Online Degree For You


Entry-level actuaries complete basic tasks. They compile data and spend time in other departments - such as marketing, product development and more - to learn how the work they will do later on fits into the broader fabric of the company. They may be asked to do research and complete reports as they garner more experience.

  • Median Salary:$101,560 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 22%  (Much faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree


Financial analysts study organizational history, business trends and past investments to provide guidance to organizations about future decisions. They are often required to analyze financial statements and prepare written reports. They frequently work for banks, pension funds, mutual funds, securities firms and insurance companies as well as other organizations.

  • Median Salary:$84,300 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 11%  (Much faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree


Accountants and auditors review, organize and prepare financial records to ensure that all information is accurate. They see that taxes for an organization or an individual are paid on time and appropriately. They will also examine financial data to explore ways that businesses and people can use their assets more effectively, suggesting ways to increase revenue while driving down costs.

  • Median Salary:$69,350 per year 
  • Job growth through 2026: 10%  (Much faster than average)
  • Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree