How to Become an Actuary

An actuary is someone who keeps track of mortality rates and loss probabilities. This may not seem like an interesting job at first glance. But the opportunities that are connected with this career may surprise you. Actuaries can work hand-in-hand with insurance companies and agents as a co-partner in the insurance business, they may work with funeral homes or state agencies, or federal statistics entities. Their actual job is to keep up with risk and probability of loss, both financially and in other ways. For this reason, their research is valuable to insurance companies, and many other businesses as well.


An actuary should be someone who enjoys accounting, probability and statistics studies, and risk analysis. They could have a background in insurance or a related field or could focus on general knowledge. The study of being an actuary is highly complex and specialized though, and a lot of preparation should go into studying for the required exams.

How to Become an Actuary

A degree in economics would probably be the best background to have

It is estimated that for every 1 hour of the exam, you should study 100 hours. So it takes a great deal of attention to detail to pass the requirements. You should also be what most would consider a "math whiz." Still, if you are motivated, it is a good field to go into and may be highly lucrative, depending on the business or market in which you work.

Typical Education

The typical education for an actuary would include studies in macroeconomics and microeconomics, calculus, math, accounting, and statistics, to name a few. A widely diverse program of study, coupled with preparation for the actuary exam would be ideal. It would also help to have some background in computer science, since many programs used now by actuaries are computer-based. A degree in economics would probably be the best background to have. Many actuaries do not know specifically how their skills would be used, so that is why it is good to have a diverse background in many different areas.

An Alternate Route

If you are not seeking a full college degree, you could take coursework in the above areas and then study for the actuary exam in order to fulfill the requirements to becoming an actuary. Business Insider reports that actuary jobs are some of the best jobs in the world right now, and they make an average salary of $87,000 per year, depending on what business they focus on. This is because they are experts at applying math and probability statistics practices to such a wide range of situations and are able to predict risk and the probability of financial loss or gain, which is a valuable asset to businesses and organizations.

Steps to Becoming an Actuary

If you are interested in this different and highly lucrative career choice, here are some steps you can take to begin:

1) Get a degree or formal education in math, economics, or related fields. A general education is valuable, coupled with specific training in calculus, applied math, and computer science, to name a few.

Bachelor's Degree
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Since actuaries work in such a wide variety of contexts and business areas, it is favorable for them to have a diverse education in many areas. But they must be experts in their field as well.

2) Study hard for the actuary exam and pass. The actuary exam is difficult by most standards and requires hours of preparation to do well. You should spend 100 hours on average of study time for each hour of the test.

3) Receive certification as an actuary and get some work practice. Getting a job with an insurance company or an independent insurance agent is a good way to get a start in the actuary business. Often insurance agents will co-partner with an actuary so that they might provide them with the information and statistics they need to do risk analysis, while selling insurance for a specific company, using the information.

4) Explore career options. Since actuaries may work in a variety of different businesses or environments, it is good to explore which area may appeal most to you. Talk to different businesses and get a feel for what your role might be as an actuary for their business and make a choice based on your own preferences and abilities.

5) Consider starting your own actuary business. The most lucrative position may be one you create for yourself. Consider getting some startup money and starting your own actuary business. Many insurance companies or other businesses may recruit your services as an independent contractor to help with their risk analysis needs. Also, if you are in business for yourself, you will not be tied to a specific company, and may work in the most lucrative areas, or work in a variety of different contexts.

Being an actuary is not for everyone. It involves a very high level of math and analytical ability and a level of preciseness that is rare in the general population. However, if you always set the curve in your math class and love crunching numbers, this may be the job for you. It is one of the jobs that most uses math all day long, in the context of predicting risk and loss for various individuals and businesses. If you were always good at math, being an actuary may be a good career for you! So do some figuring, and enroll in an educational program today. You may be on the road to one of the most exciting and different fields tomorrow-one that deals with the prediction of risk and financial foresight. And everyone is interested in that!

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