Actuaries normally calculate the monetary cost of risk, but statisticians analyze data for a variety of purposes. Both jobs require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a subject related to statistics or mathematics. Unlike statisticians, actuaries must take special classes and pass a series of exams for professional certification. After completing these stringent requirements, actuaries have higher average pay than statisticians.
The average hourly salary for an actuary was $49.52 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, wages for actuaries ranged from $26.13 at the 10th percentile to $80.90 at the 90th percentile. The average hourly wages for statisticians in the 2011 survey was $37.16 per hour, with a range from $19.15 at the 10th percentile to $57.55 at the 90th percentile.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates annual salaries by multiplying hourly wages by 2,080, for a year of 40-hour weeks.The average annual salary of an actuary was $103,000, according to the 2011 survey. Annual incomes varied from $54,350 at the 10th percentile to $168,270 at the 90th percentile. Statisticians received an average annual income of $77,280, ranging from $39,840 at the 10th percentile to $119,710 at the 90th percentile.
As of 2011, insurance carriers employed 9,430 actuaries, or about 48 percent of the 19,590 total professionals in the nation. The insurance industry paid an average annual salary of $101,000. The largest employer of statisticians was the federal executive branch, with 4,500 of the 23,770 statisticians working in this industry. Their average income was $96,070 per year.
The 490 actuaries working for insurance and employee benefit funds received an average of $114,200 annually, the highest of any industry in the 2011 government study. The federal executive branch had the next-highest pay, an annual salary of $112,800, but it employed only 280 actuaries. Management, scientific and technical consulting had 3,270 actuaries earning a similar average salary of $112,280 per year. The highest-paid statisticians were the 50 working for the securities and commodity brokerage industry, earning an average of $125,820 per year. The second-highest paid group worked for the federal government.
The number of jobs for actuaries is projected to grow by 27 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Positions with insurance companies will increase by 25 percent, while consulting jobs will grow by 58 percent. New graduates who have already passed the first actuarial exam will have the best chances of finding work. Statisticians will experience an average job growth of 14 percent during the same decade. Demand for statisticians will be strongest in government and the pharmaceutical industry. Those with a master's in statistics plus a background in biology, computer science or other subject related to the job will enjoy very good opportunities.