It’s a profession that has a powerful influence in people’s lives, yet chances are most wouldn’t be able to tell you what an actuary actually does. Employer health benefits, car insurance premiums and the cost of homeowners insurance are all determined by those holding actuary jobs.
Briefly, actuary jobs involve predicting the timing of future events and calculating how much money should be invested now in preparation to pay for expenses that would likely take place down the road.
“People don’t know about it, but they are managing risk gurus,” says Brandon Hayes, CEO of Kalos Consulting, which has a specialty in actuary recruitment. “It’s like a statistician, CPA and underwriter on steroids.”
Actuary job employment is projected to grow 21 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 2,400 openings for actuaries are projected each year over the decade, many resulting from attrition.
Considering an actuary job? Here are pros and cons to keep in mind.
Actuary jobs ranked second in best business jobs and third best in best STEM jobs by U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 Best Jobs Ranking. “It’s completely stable,” says Hayes, who spent the first 10 years of his 18-year recruiting career in specifically the actuary space.
“It goes beyond a CPA and underwriter for total compensation,” Hayes says.
Introverts and Extroverts May Apply
If you’re a backroom numbers cruncher who prefers silent interaction with spreadsheets and data assessment, this can be for you. Or, if you enjoy the social aspect of collaborating with groups on the findings of number crunchers, you could go into the consulting side of actuarialism. “That’s the beauty, you can be introverted or extroverted. Both are available,” Hayes says.
Versatile Skills Set
What if after a year or so, you’re unsure this is for you? The good news is there are many options in the finance space that require a specific set of skills that are tough to find, explains Bryan Fletcher executive recruiter and principal at Fletcher Search, which specializes in finance, accounting and financial services. “A lot of financial modeling skill sets can be applied to roles like data analysts, financial analysts, advanced analytics, compliance… I’ve seen actuaries go on to roles like these,” Fletcher says.
Likely a 9-to-5 Gig
Internal actuaries typically put in a 40-hour, Monday-Friday workweek. Although, actuaries on the consulting side may have to meet in person with clients outside of these business hours.
Getting Paid to Advance
In order to be a credentialed actuary, you must pass multiple exams to achieve certification from the Society of Actuaries or Casualty Actuary Society. Exams are hours-long and graded on a curve. But, companies typically pay for them. “And each time you pass one, a company will give you a monetary increase,” Hayes says.
However, exams could also be a deterrent. You’re getting compensated, but the fact remains that you will be studying and taking the tests while holding down a full-time actuary job. Also, expect to take only two a year, meaning you’re looking at a minimum five-year commitment. And that’s if you pass all of them on the first try. “It’s going to be a bit grueling,” Hayes says.
Although working remotely has become more common since COVID, about half of actuary jobs require working in person at the office or implement a hybrid model, which may be a deal breaker for anyone preferring home office flexibility.
Many roles are with large companies in the insurance and healthcare spaces. These massive corporations have their own internal recruitment department and don’t work with outside recruiters, as opposed to medium or small companies, Fletcher explains. So, this is something to consider as it may not be as easy as applying online or approaching a search firm, especially if entering the corporate world is the goal.
Depending on the market in which you wish to work, the number of actuary jobs may be low. For example, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where Fletcher is based, there’s just over 900 people who have or are holding an actuary title, low for a metro area of 6.6 million, he says.
Georgann Yara is a journalist based in Phoenix. Find her on Twitter @georgannyara.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio