The job of an actuary has been ranked in every edition of the Wall Street Journal's Jobs Rated Almanac as a top three profession (out of 200) in the United States. In the most recent edition (2012), actuary was ranked number two. When ranking professions, the Almanac considers factors like salary, hiring outlooks, stress and work environment.
So who is an actuary? Actuaries use mathematical skills to define, analyze and solve business problems involving the cost of possible future events. Actuaries are employed by insurance companies, financial institutions, consulting firms, industrial corporations, government agencies, universities, accounting firms and labor unions. Actuarial work includes: projecting how a new auto-safety law will change insurance claims; investigating how life-insurance reserves and future premiums might balance future claims; estimating the benefit cost of a labor contract; analyzing investment risks; or projecting financial costs of an epidemic. For example, actuaries determine how much you should pay for auto insurance based upon your driving record and habits, location, age, etc.
Professional societies of actuaries administer a series of examinations for persons wishing to qualify as an Associate or a Fellow as proof of their status as an actuary. While in college, most of our actuarial students take classes that cover the content of five Preliminary Exams, courses that cover VEE requirements, and successfully pass one to three preliminary actuarial exams.
Any student possessing strong mathematical problem-solving aptitude, a sound work ethic, ability and desire to communicate mathematical and financial applications to clients, and an interest in a business career should consider the actuarial profession. Self-reported data from 2009-2010 UT-Austin actuarial graduates that have passed one or two exams indicate a mean starting annual salary of $53,900. For a more comprehensive national salary survey conducted by the D.W. Simpson Company, click here.