How to Become an Actuary in Canada or the United States

If you want to become an actuary, you first need to determine if this occupation is well suited to your skills and interests:


• You have an excellent business sense, including accounting, finance and economics

• You enjoy learning and like solving complicated problems

• You want a well-paying and satisfying career in insurance, finance or a related field

• You enjoy interdisciplinary work that involves mathematics, statistics, risk management and creativity


A career as an actuary offers excellent financial compensation and high job satisfaction, and you don’t need a graduate degree to enter this field.


With that in mind, becoming an actuary is an excellent career choice for those who also want a career that involves intellectual stimulation, creativity and a relatively low-stress work environment.  


Below we've outlined what you'll need to get started in this profession. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed

Many employers prefer to hire candidates for Actuarial positions that have a bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science, Mathematics, Statistics, Accounting, Finance or a related field.


Successful actuaries are able to learn and assimilate a wide range of information and communicate it effectively. Consider pursuing some of the coursework listed below in order for you to develop a well-rounded education within your degree program:


• Microeconomics

• Macroeconomics

• Calculus

• Linear algebra

• Calculus-based probability and statistics

• Actuarial science courses

• Computer science courses

• Marketing courses

• Communication courses, such as speech, business writing and technical writing

• History, Political Science, and other liberal arts classes





What Types of Employers Are in the Field?

Actuaries are hired on a part-time, full-time and contractual basis by a variety of organizations. They may be hired to evaluate uncertainties associated with life or property or casualty insurance, annuities, social security, worker's compensation, pension or other employee benefit plans.


Types of Actuary employers include:


• Investment firms

• Financial and banking institutions

• Consulting firms, such as compensation and benefits consulting

• Life insurance companies

• Property or casualty insurance companies

• Reinsurance companies

• Colleges and universities

• Government departments

• Large corporations

• Self-employment (as consultants)



Why Are Actuaries Important?

Actuaries use numbers rather than guessing to evaluate the likelihood of future events, design creative ways to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events and decrease the impact of undesirable events that do occur. This has many positive impacts on society, such as helping businesses grow, and helping people invest in their retirement with confidence.





Professional Certification for Actuaries

Becoming an actuary involves successfully completing professional examinations offered through the Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society. Other requirements typically include professional experience and professional development.


Success Tip: A career as a professional actuary requires a great deal of commitment; the average exam enrollee studies for 100 hours for every 1 hour of exam time.



Skills and Traits Needed

In order to become an effective professional in this field, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will help you make the most of your career as an actuary by allowing you to perform your job duties with competence, and by helping you to maintain a positive attitude towards your work.


Many of these skills and traits are also in high demand with companies that hire actuaries; you will see many of these skills and traits, or variations of them, listed on job postings.


Personality Traits


• Enjoy consulting with other professionals in the field

• An interest in mathematics and complex calculations

• An interest in long-term professional development

• Self-motivated achiever


Soft and Hard Skills


• Able to communicate effectively with a wide variety of people

• A methodical and patient approach to work activities

• Good business sense, relating to finance, accounting and economics

• Specialized math knowledge in calculus, statistics and probability

• Strong computer skills, including spreadsheets, statistical analysis programs and database manipulation



Putting it all Together: Steps for Becoming an Actuary

To sum all of this up, here are the essential steps you’ll need to take to become an actuary:


Step 1 - Check if you’re well suited

Do you have a keen interest in mathematics and complex calculations? Do you have an interest in a corporate career with stable working hours and income? Are you interested in risk management? If your answers started with a “y”, then you’re off to a great start. Off to step 2.


Step 2 - Get a degree

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in an area such as Actuarial Science, Mathematics, Statistics, Accounting, Finance or a related field.


Step 3 - Get a job

Once you’re passed the previous steps, you can look for a job with an investment firm, finical institution or bank, insurance company, government agency, college or university, or any number of other employers.


Step 4 - Get certified

With some professional experience under your belt, you can enroll to become certified by the Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society. This will help advance your career by qualifying you for senior-level jobs, which involve higher pay and more responsibility. 






Details of the Career Itself: Job Description

Actuaries are responsible for designing programs that help organizations mitigate risk. They use mathematical and analytical skills to help insurance companies, financial planners, and multinational corporations manage risk and protect themselves from loss.


Actuaries are responsible for analyzing statistical information in order to calculate the probability of certain events that would occur in the future, among a defined group of people. For example, they may use car accident data to calculate the expected time between a car accident and payment of the claim.


The data that actuaries manage, analyze, interpret and present helps their organization’s business segment leaders and senior management make decisions impacting the business unit’s goals as they relate to profit and loss.



General Job Duties

• Confer with clients or management to gain an understanding of their risk tolerance levels

• May be responsible for setting insurance premiums

• Monitor profitability of premiums and insurance coverage

• Valuating an organization's reserve fund levels

• May advise an organization as to how to set up trust funds to cover anticipated future expenses

• May help investment fund managers optimize their fund’s return based on the nature of benefit liabilities



Actuarial Jobs

Our job board below has "Actuary" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

How Much Do Actuaries Earn?

The salary level you could earn as an actuary depends on factors such as your level of education, your level of experience, the size of your employer, the specific responsibilities of your job, and many other factors. In addition to salary, compensation may also include stock options, profit sharing, retirement savings plans and extensive benefits.


Salary - Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Mathematicians, Statisticians and Actuaries occupational group earn an average salary of $80,589 per year.


Salary - United States: According to the BLS 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Actuaries occupational group is $97,070 per year.



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Actuary, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Insurance Underwriter


Quantitative Analyst

Risk Analyst




References for this Career Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this How to Become an Actuary career guide:


• “Occupational Profile: Actuary.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved August 13, 2016.

• “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Actuaries.” (May, 2015). United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 13, 2016.

• “Be an Actuary: The Professional Life.” (n.d.). Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society - Be an Actuary website. Retrieved August 13, 2016.



Scholarships for Relevant Fields of Study

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming an Actuary can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for entering this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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