Actuarial Science

What Is It?:

An actuary is a combination of business executive, mathematician, financier, sociologist, and investment manager. Actuaries are problem solvers who use actuarial science to define, analyze, and solve the financial, economic, and other business applications of future events.

The actuary's responsibilities date back to the early 1800's, when most actuarial work centered on developing mortality tables and life insurance policies. Today most actuaries are best known for their work in the insurance and pension fields, where they design financially secure benefit programs to protect people. But that is changing, and actuaries are finding themselves involved in many other areas.

Trained to analyze uncertainty, risk, and probabilities, actuaries create and manage programs which will reduce the adverse financial impact of the expected and unexpected things that happen to people and businesses. These programs focus on areas such as life, health, property, casualty, and investment possibilities. Projects with which actuaries may be involved can be as varied as:

  • Determining a company's monetary value in a merger or acquisition.
  • Estimating the impact of seat-belt laws in automobile losses and determining appropriate rate discounts.
  • Projecting Social Security benefits so money can be collected to pay workers planning to retire in 20 years.
  • Determining why malpractice insurance costs for doctors are skyrocketing.
  • Projecting what the AIDS epidemic will cost life and health insurance companies in five, ten, and twenty years.
  • Determining the price for a liability policy.
  • Collecting and investing enough money so that an insurance company can pay claims.
  • Designing a new retirement program for a company.
  • Calculating the price to charge for insuring a satellite launch.
  • Estimating the benefit costs for a labor union contract.
  • Answering questions like, "What risks are insurable," and "How much and where should companies invest money?"
  • Estimating the costs of a major earthquake on the West Coast.

For more information, please visit the Department of Mathematics.

Courses That Introduce the Major:

  • MATH 220—Calculus (through MATH 241 or equivalent)
  • CS 101/105/125—Introduction to Computer Science
  • MATH 210—Theory of Interest

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period.

Possible Career Opportunities:

Actuaries work for a variety of employers, including:

  • Insurance companies
  • Consulting firms
  • Government insurance departments
  • Colleges and universities
  • Banks and investment firms
  • Large corporations and public accounting firms

The following is a list of typical actuarial projects:

  • Analyzing insurance rates, such as for cars, homes or life insurance
  • Estimating the money to be set-aside for claims that have not yet been paid
  • Participating in corporate planning, such as mergers and acquisitions
  • Calculating a fair price for a new insurance product
  • Forecasting the potential impact of catastrophes
  • Analyzing investment programs

Common Career Titles Related to this Major:

(Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree)

  • Actuarial Analyst
  • Budget Analyst
  • Project Manager
  • Researcher
  • Software Engineer

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:

  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • Actuarial Science Club: Assists in the guidance of Actuarial Science students and those interested at the University.
    • Minority Actuarial Science Club: Connects international students majoring in actuarial sciences and provides great networking opportunities. 

Related Skills:

  • Specialized math knowledge
  • Keen analytical, project management and problem solving skills
  • Good business sense
  • Solid communication skills (oral & written)
  • Strong computer skills

Further Information:

For more information on what you can do with a major in Actuarial Science, visit The Career Center’s webpage: What Can I Do With This Major.

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Actuarial Science.  Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of Actuarial Science.  These organizations include Casualty Actuarial Society and Society of Actuaries.

For more information on the classes needed for a degree in Actuarial Science, visit Undergraduate Programs.