If you are deciding between majoring in actuarial science or accounting, you might want to know more about what each major has to offer. This post will show you the key facts about each major and help you to decide which would be a better degree for you.
At a glance:
|Ease of finding a job||Moderate/Good||Moderate|
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note||Often necessary to|
complete the CPA
exam to progress
into senior positions
and to get the more
lucrative jobs. A
master’s degree will
also help significantly.
Lower level bookkeeping
roles are likely to become
Has good overall job prospects.
Can be a path into a number of
different fields including finance
|Can be difficult to|
get an actuarial
job at the
Specialized for the
path. This makes
it slightly easier
to get an actuarial
job but harder to
get jobs from other
fields when compared
with alternative majors
such as statistics.
Can improve your
job prospects by
getting a minor in
another field such as
Source for actuarial science salary and jobs
There are many things to consider when deciding between the two degrees. Also, there are other things to consider if you do decide to major in either of them such as what classes you should take.
Details about a degree in accounting
Below are some details about the accounting major.
According to payscale, the average pay of someone with a bachelor’s degree in accounting is $70,762. This is higher than most other majors and slightly higher than actuarial science. This could be because good accounting and finance jobs can be easier to come by at the entry-level compared with actuarial jobs which can be competitive at the entry-level.
Something to consider is that completing the CPA exam and getting an accounting master’s degree will increase your earning potential significantly.
A degree in accounting should give you good opportunities with just a bachelor’s degree. This is because the degree can qualify you for a number of accounting roles and it can also qualify you for roles in related fields such as finance and business since accounting knowledge is useful in many business applications.
However, a lot of the more lucrative accounting roles require you to be a CPA and most people that become a CPA also get a master’s degree in accounting.
Jobs that you can qualify for with a bachelor’s degree in accounting can include:
- Account manager
- Financial analyst
- Tax manager
- Financial advisor
Some other jobs that you can get with a master’s degree would include:
- Forensic accountant
- Managerial accountant
- Chief financial officer
An accounting degree can be difficult especially in the junior and senior years when the classes become more specialized. Overall, accounting is generally considered as a moderately difficult degree. When compared with an actuarial science major, you can expect accounting to be easier.
Things to consider
If you are thinking of majoring in accounting, it could also help to minor in finance. This is because many people with accounting degrees end up in finance. Getting a finance minor should help you when looking for jobs within finance. Getting an internship, in the field, could also help a lot.
If you want to go far in accounting, it would help you to complete the CPA exam as soon as you are able to. This is because many of the more desirable jobs require that you have completed the exam.
While accounting is a degree with good job opportunities, it can still be competitive. With that being the case, it would help you a lot to try to get some summer internships while you are completing the degree.
Details about a degree in actuarial science
Below are some details about a degree in actuarial science.
According to Payscale, the average pay of someone with a degree in actuarial science is $67,014. According to the BLS, the median pay of an actuary was 108,350 in 2019. The BLS also reports that the number of actuary jobs is expected to grow by 18% by 2029 which they say is much higher than the average across all jobs.
However, something to consider, is that it can take many years, after graduating, to become an actuary since there will be a number of additional exams to pass. Also, the job market at the entry-level is competitive.
A degree in actuarial science will be specialized for becoming an actuary. This is good if you want to be an actuary. However, it can mean that it will make it more difficult for you to get jobs in other fields that you could have qualified for with a similar major such as statistics or mathematics.
Also, you can still get a job as an actuary without an actuarial degree. Degrees such as statistics, mathematics, applied mathematics and even physics can be just as competitive for the job role, depending on the classes you take.
However, there are many skills that you will learn in the major that will still allow you to qualify you for other job roles. This is mainly because you will be learning a lot about statistics. You should also learn how to program in Python, R and how to be proficient in Excel. This should help qualify you for “analyst” type job roles in particular and possibly data science roles as well.
Jobs that you could get with a degree in actuarial science could include:
- Actuarial analyst
- Financial analyst
- Actuarial analyst
- Data analyst
- Actuarial associate
Getting a minor in an applied field, such as computer science, could also help to broaden your job opportunities.
The major will involve a lot of mathematics, probability and statistics. As a result, the major is not an easy major.
It will also be necessary for you to take additional exams in order to qualify as an actuary. It will even be necessary for you to pass some exams for an entry-level actuary position. These exams can be difficult and many people fail them every year.
Types of classes
The major will have you take courses from a number of different disciplines. Required classes you can expect to take will include:
- Linear algebra
- Two courses in calculus-based probability and statistics
- Computer science
- Actuarial science classes as available
Things to consider
If you are interested in becoming an actuary, getting an actuarial degree might not be a requirement. Instead, it might be more appropriate for you to get a related degree and to make sure to take the necessary classes to become an actuary. Also, it will be important to make sure to complete the necessary actuarial exams while an undergrad.
It might be the case that, half-way through your time as an undergrad, you will decide that you do not want to be an actuary. If you major in a more general quantitative subject such as math or statistics, it should be easier for you to transition towards a different field than with an actuarial major. If you do decide to major in a more general field, it will still be important to choose more employable classes and to complete personal projects so that you can be more competitive for specific jobs.
Something to be aware of is that actuarial science will focus more on applying traditional statistics techniques to smaller datasets. However, each year companies are acquiring larger and larger datasets. This is making machine learning techniques used on large datasets, in data science, more and more relevant each year.
Machine learning and big data is getting incorporated more into actuarial degrees and the exams. However, it would still help a lot to make sure to learn python, manipulation of big datasets using things such as the Pandas library and machine learning. So, that you can also be competitive for data science type roles.
One more thing to be aware of is that actuarial careers can have good job satisfaction because they have good pay, moderate working hours and low stress. However, they also tend to have low job meaning since most of the jobs will involve helping already wealthy people earn more money. Alternative careers, such as in data science, can allow you to have a more positive socially impactful role.
You can expect an accounting degree to qualify you for a number of different jobs especially if you complete the CPA exam and get a finance minor. Also, an accounting degree will require a lower time commitment, this should help to give you the time to apply for summer internships and to complete projects related to the jobs that you are interested in.
Actuarial jobs are commonly rated as some of the best jobs you can get. If you are absolutely set on becoming an actuary then getting a degree in actuarial science would be appropriate. In this case, it would help to try to minor in something else such as computer science since this will help to reduce your risk if you are not able to find an entry-level job as an actuary.
Alternatively, it would be an option to major in a related field such as statistics and to make sure to complete the necessary actuarial exams for entry-level positions before graduating. Doing this should help qualify you for more jobs if you choose not to be an actuary. I have written about actuarial science vs statistics here.