If you are deciding between majoring in applied math or actuarial science, 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.
|||Actuarial science||Applied Math|
|Ease of finding a job||Moderate||Moderate|
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note||Can be difficult to|
get an actuarial
job at the
Specialized for the
path. This makes
it slightly easier
to get an acturial
job but harder to
get jobs from other
Can improve your
job prospects by
getting a minor in
another field such as
|More general than an|
actuarial degree. This
means the degree should
qualify you for a wider
range of jobs. However,
you should take classes
related to the type of
job you are interested in.
Very employable if
you combine it with
another applied minor
such as computer
Also employable if
you combine it with
data analysis skills,
especially in Python.
Can still get a job as an
actuary with a degree in
Source for applied math salary and jobs
As you can see from the table, there are some similarities between the two degrees. However, there are many things to consider when choosing between them.
Details about an applied math degree
Below are details about the applied math major.
According to Payscale, the average salary for someone that has an applied math degree is $76,007. However, this amount will be lower for people fresh out of college.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for mathematicians and statisticians will rise by 33% by 2026. This is mainly due to the surge in data that companies have been receiving in recent years that they need people with mathematical and statistical skills to make sense of.
With that being the case, it is likely that the job prospects of people with degrees in applied math will improve in the future. However, it can be difficult to find an entry-level job with just an applied math degree and no experience. This is why it is important to get internships, complete projects related to the job your are interested in and to learn skills necessary for the job you are interested in as an undergraduate.
Jobs you can get with an applied math degree
Since applied math is used in many different fields an applied math degree will open you up to many different job opportunities.
With that being said, something to consider is that many of the more lucrative jobs will require a master’s degree.
Jobs that you could get with a master’s degree in applied math could include:
- Data scientist
- Quantitative researcher
- Math teacher
- Machine learning engineer
However, there are many jobs that an applied math bachelor’s degree will qualify you for.
Jobs that you could get with a bachelor’s degree in applied math could include:
- Business analyst
- Financial analyst
- Insurance underwriter
- Data analyst
- Software engineer
- Market researcher
The jobs you will qualify for will depend a lot on the classes that you choose to take. The reason for this is that, while an applied math degree will qualify you for many jobs, having knowledge for that specific domain will be very useful.
For example, if you want to get into data science then taking lots of statistics, computer science and data analytics classes will help you a lot. It would also help to complete data science projects so that you can showcase your skills.
Also, while it is true that many data science and machine learning jobs often require a master’s degree, it is also the case that many people have gotten those jobs with a bachelor’s degree. If you can showcase your ability in data science or machine learning with projects, you should be able to make yourself competitive for these roles with just a bachelor’s degree.
In addition to taking classes relevant to the field that you want to enter it would be very helpful to try and get some internships in that field while you are an undergrad.
You’ll likely be taking a number of computer science classes as part of an applied math degree. Many applied math majors go on to become software engineers since it is a highly rated job for people with a bachelor’s degree. Getting a computer science minor would likely improve your job prospects significantly.
Classes you will be taking in applied math
An applied math degree will allow you to take a number of classes from a number of different fields.
There will be a number of math classes that you will likely be required to take which could include:
- Linear algebra
- Discrete math
- Differential equations
- Partial differential equations
- Graph theory
- Number theory
- Abstract algebra
- Real analysis
However, the specific math classes you will have to take will depend on your specific program.
For most applied math degrees, you will be able to take classes from other related fields and count them towards your major.
Classes from other fields that you might take could include:
- Computer science
- Big data
- Machine learning and data science
Difficulty of the major
An applied math degree can have some very difficult classes but this will depend on what classes are required in your specific program. In some programs, there are a lot of proof-based math classes that are required including real analysis and abstract algebra. These classes can be a lot more difficult than computational classes such as calculus or linear algebra.
Overall, you can expect an applied math degree to be similar in difficulty to an actuarial science degree. However, an applied math degree will usually be harder overall due to the proof-based advanced math classes that can be very difficult.
Alternatives to an applied math degree
If you are thinking of getting an applied math degree then there are a number of other degrees that you might want to consider which can include:
You can click on their links to see what I have written about them as majors themselves.
Is an applied math degree marketable?
How marketable an applied math degree will be will depend a lot on what you do in your time in the major and the classes you take.
If you take classes relevant to the types of jobs that you want to get upon graduating then it will be a very marketable degree. It will be especially marketable if you also can get some summer internships and do some projects in the field that you want to enter.
If you just take the traditional courses, while in the major, it will still be marketable for many different jobs such as data analytics. But you will have to do some extra work to increase your skills in that particular area. It will also be important to learn things such as programming in your own time.
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 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 and applied mathematics 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.
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. However, when compared with an applied math major, you can expect actuarial science to be slightly less difficult depending on the required classes in the applied math degree.
With that being said, 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.
Reasons to choose a math degree
When compared with a degree in actuarial science, you can expect an applied mathematics degree to qualify you for a wider range of jobs. This should help you when looking for entry-level jobs since you will have a wider range of potential jobs to qualify for.
With that being said, being a general degree can make it difficult for you to qualify for specific jobs and the jobs you will qualify for will depend a lot on the classes you choose. With that being the case, it would help a lot to make sure to take classes related to the type of job that you are interested in.
Currently, a very popular job among math majors is data science. If that is what you are interested in, it would help to make sure to learn to program in R and Python and to take statistics, data analysis, computer science and machine learning classes. It would also help to get internships, whilst an undergrad, during the summer.
An additional way to improve your job prospects would be to minor in another degree that also has good job prospects such as computer science. Doing this could help you to qualify for more programming type roles and could help you when applying to graduate school for things such as machine learning or computer science.
If you are also interested in a pure math degree, I would suggest leaning towards an applied math degree instead of a pure math degree. The reason for this is that an applied math degree should include fewer proof-heavy classes and more classes that are employable in the job market.
I have written about a pure math degree vs an applied math degree here.
Reasons to choose an actuarial degree
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.
However, if you are not absolutely sure that you want to become an actuary, it would likely be a better option to get a related degree such as applied math or statistics but to make sure to take the relevant classes to become an actuary. I have written about actuarial science vs statistics here.