Through statistics and mathematics, actuaries analyze risk and convert the probability of a disaster and its recovery into costs. Only about 6 percent were self-employed in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They earn their pay by working full time in offices, but may need to travel to meet with clients if they work for consulting firms.
Actuaries earned an average $103,000 per year, or $49.52 per hour, as of May 2011, according to the BLS. The lowest earning 10 percent made under $54,350 annually, or $26.13 hourly, while the best paid 10 percent received $168,270 per year, or $80.90 per hour. To earn these salaries, actuaries compile statistical information for an event, such as death or accident, to determine how likely it is to occur. They can then help create insurance policies, investments and other business strategies to minimize the risk of the event and increase profits. They must often explain their findings to decision-makers, shareholders and clients.
The biggest employers of actuaries were insurance carriers, with 9,430 out of the total 19,590 positions, and mean wages of $101,000 per year, or $48.56 per hour, according to the BLS. The industries with the best pay were insurance and employee benefit funds, with mean salaries of $114,200 annually, or $54.90 hourly. Employers require actuaries to have a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science, statistics, math or business. However, these professionals also need certification from either the Casualty Actuarial Society or the Society of Actuaries, which mandates the successful completion of exams. CAS applies to actuaries in property and casualty, such as homeowners’, automobile, workers’ compensation and malpractice. SOA is for those working in life insurance, health insurance, investments, finance and retirement benefits.
The state with the highest employment level for actuaries was New York, with 2,480 positions at an average of $125,590 per year, or $60.38 per hour. The state with the highest pay was Montana, with means of $131,370 annually, or $63.16 hourly. The metropolitan area with the most jobs for the profession was New York City, which is a financial hub for the country. It contained 2,310 positions with mean salaries at $127,550 per year, or $61.32 per hour. Miami boasted the best wages of any urban region, averaging $133,150 annually, or $64.02 hourly.
The BLS predicts that jobs for actuaries will increase by 27 percent, which is almost double the expected 14 percent for all jobs in all industries and greater than the 22 percent forecast for computer and math occupations. The largest growth area will be in consulting services, as more companies outsource these services. In the insurance industry, health care will provide the most jobs, as changes in health care laws require the evaluation of insurance plans for companies. In contrast, demand will not be as great in life insurance. Competition will be strong because the high pay and comfortable working conditions make the position highly desirable.