What is so bad about being an actuary?

Over the past couple of months I’ve done some very informal research on what it means to be an actuary. From reading the Wikipedia article and also the Be An Actuary website it seems like a pretty interesting job. Here is where it gets surprising, though: nearly everyone I know in the insurance industry has communicated that it is a very lonely and boring job. This leaves my question to you: what is so bad about being an actuary?

Here are two other links I’ve yet to research: Society of Actuaries and Casuality Actuarial Society (thanks Dr. Rowe), and clearly I need to do more.


895 thoughts on “What is so bad about being an actuary?”

  1. For people contemplating going into the actuarial field, I have a better career choice suggestion for you: Go for engineering instead.

    Both fields are highly quantitative and both fields are very demanding. The chances are if you are smart enough to pass the actuarial exams, you’d be smart enough to get through engineering school. Likewise, if you are not smart enough to get through engineering school, the chances are you’d have trouble passing all the exams and make it as an actuary anyway.

    Although the median pay for experienced engineers and experienced actuaries are comparable, entry-level engineers earn significantly more than entry-level actuarial analysts. If you go the actuarial path, you will be an entry-level person for at least four years (perhaps significantly longer) and will be making very little money until you get at least an ASA or ACAS. If you go into engineering, your pay will be immediately attractive from day one.

    More significantly, for those who are minorities, or who are non-native English speakers, or who do not have mastery of English, engineering is a MUCH BETTER career choice than the actuarial path. I used to work in a large international actuarial consulting firm and my recollection is that out of the around one thousand principals (partners) only two were non-white. If you are in one of these categories, your chances of career success would be much higher in engineering than in the actuarial field.

    I am now in engineering (back where I started before I got sidetracked by the false allure of actuarial science). I am a much happier person than when I was a miserable actuarial analyst in that crummy actuarial consulting firm working alongside some very dishonest and unethical crooks doing exceedingly boring work. I am now a licensed professional engineer doing much more interesting work and make as much as a typical mid-career actuarial fellow.

    1. …not sure actuaries are that smart, really…I’m in tech, and ended up working with actuaries in a gig. My stereotypical view used to be that they are math-types, thus must be quite clever…but, throughly disappointed to find out that they appear to be quite thick (comparatively), and only seem to know stuff about their area (math/engineering people are often a bit more “concept generalists”, even when specialized…).

      … and as for being boring and lacking personality – I know it is wrong to generalize personalities, but the people I work with are SUPER boring, have absolutely ZERO humor, ZERO personality and are quite “secretly” mean, actually, and seemingly without emotions… The whole department is so boring that I just want to slit my writs t, for Christ sake! I need to get out of this gig! As a tech person, I am happy to replace these over-paid “human calc-wannabees” with bots and don’t even feel bad about it! They should be the first to go!

  2. Hey everyone,
    I just googled about acturial science and stuff and landed here. Someone suggested me this and I was very much curious and interested to research about it but now after reading such threads I am a bit disappointed. I dont know if this is correct career path for me or not.

    Basically I live in India and have passed my HSC (10+2) Exams in Science stream ( engineering ) and was willing to enquire about it. Please suggest every Pros and Cons and the real situation. I am also ready to go abroad for work.

    Please suggest and reply to this. Thanks :)

  3. Thanks for the information. I’m currently an undergraduate pursuing actuarial science. I think the program is quite difficult and that is not my field. I want to divert and get an MBA in finance as well as taking the CFA exams. Then I ll come back to the actuarial. Pls do u think with my background(actuarial) I ll have some advantages there or perhaps what are my prospects? Thanks

  4. “If you go the actuarial path, you will be an entry-level person for at least four years (perhaps significantly longer) and will be making very little money until you get at least an ASA or ACAS.”

    I don’t know that I agree with this. I joined a company as an analyst and have had average exam success. In four years I’ve gained over a 50% increase in pay and am now in a management position while I finish my last exam. People definitely don’t stay as analysts for four years where I work.

    1. It you were getting 50% pay rise over 4 years in the beginning, it’s probably because they were paying you peanuts in the beginning.

      1. Not necessarily. With every exam you pass, your salary is increased (usually by 5% in some cases). So, in 4 years, on average, you would be able to complete around 8 exams (since you need roughly 6 months to prepare for each exam). Thus, it is very possible that by the end of those 4 years, your salary could increase by about 50%. It’s also important to note that once a person becomes a qualified actuary, their salary is doubled (100% increase) compared to when they started out.

        1. I am sorry but you know absolutely zilch about the actuarial field or mathematics for that matter.

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