What Degree Do You Need to Be an Actuary?

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An actuary works to determine risk via the use of historical data and complex mathematical formulas. Although actuaries often work in the insurance industry, actuaries also work in other industries, including banking and financial services. Those interested in becoming an actuary should understand the educational requirements to assist with planning a career as an actuary.

Actuarial Science

  • The typical major for students wanting to become an actuary is actuarial science. Though employers may hire students holding degrees in other majors, employers may show preference to actuarial science graduates. Actuarial science is the study of the mathematical concepts used by actuaries to calculate risk. In addition to learning the required mathematical concepts, students also learn about related business, economics, accounting and computer skills required for actuaries to succeed in the profession. Colleges may also provide specific assistance for students to prepare for actuary certification tests.

Related Majors

  • Although actuarial science is the primary degree to qualify for a position as an actuary, graduates with degrees in other majors may also qualify for an actuarial position. Degrees related to actuarial science include mathematics, finance, statistics and economics. As more colleges offer degrees in these related majors, students in certain locations may choose to study these fields, as they may not have access to a school offering a degree in actuarial science. Employers may be more likely to hire those graduates with those alternative degrees if they have work experience in the insurance industry.

Undergraduate Job Opportunities

  • Employers usually require that applicants have a bachelor's degree for actuary positions in insurance industry. More than 100 colleges and universities offer a program of study in actuarial science, as of 2011; most colleges and universities offer programs of study in mathematics, finance, statistics and economics leading to a bachelor's degree. After graduation, students can test for certification as an actuary from either the Society of Actuaries or Casualty Actuarial Society. Employers may require potential employees to have these certifications in addition to a bachelor's degree.

Graduate Job Opportunities

  • Though many actuary positions require applicants with a bachelor's degree, employers may show preference to those applicants with a master's or doctoral-level degree. In addition to helping gain employment in the actuarial field, an advanced degree also provides employees with the qualifications to obtain more complex positions and advance in their careers. Obtaining these degrees also qualifies graduates for more career opportunities in other fields, such as teaching at the collegiate level. Graduate schools often offer master's and doctoral degrees in actuarial science, while most provide degrees in mathematics, finance, statistics, economics and other related fields.

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