If you are deciding between majoring in computer science 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.

At a glance:

Actuarial scienceComputer Science
Average pay$67,014$85,235
Ease of finding a jobModerateGood
Types of jobs
you can qualify for
Actuary
Actuarial analyst
Financial analyst
Actuarial analyst
Data analyst
Actuarial associate
Software Engineer
Software developer
Web developer
App developer
Data scientist
Data analyst
Difficulty of the
major
HardModerate/Hard
Key things to noteCan be difficult to
get an actuarial
job at the
entry level.

Specialized for the
actuarial career
path. This makes
it slightly easier
to get an acturial
job but harder to
get jobs from other
fields.

Can improve your
job prospects by
getting a minor in
another field such as
computer science.
One of the best paying
bachelor’s degrees.

A very employable degree
by itself.

Can still get a job as an
actuary with a degree in
computer science if you
choose statistics classes
in the electives and complete
the initial actuary exams.

Overall, slightly easier than
a degree in actuarial science.
Source for CS salary and jobs
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 computer science

Below are some of the key details of the computer science major.

Current pay

According to Payscale, the average salary of someone with a bachelor’s in computer science is $85,235. This makes computer science one of the best paying degrees that are available.

With that being said, a lot of these jobs will be in high cost of living areas so the wages are likely to be slightly inflated by that.

Many of the alternative degrees to computer science will also have high average salaries. However, not only is computer science one of the best paying degrees but it also puts you in a good position with just a bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, many of the alternatives require a master’s degree to be competitive when seeking a job.

Types of jobs the degree will qualify you for

There are many different types of jobs that a computer science degree will open you up to. These can include:

  • Software engineer
  • Database administrator
  • Data scientist
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Application developer
  • Web developer
  • Computer systems administrator

Most CS majors will end up taking jobs as a software engineer which is one of the highest-rated jobs available. When interviewing for these roles, you will be tested mainly on algorithms and data structures that you’ll learn about during your time in the degree.

Data science is another career that is becoming popular among CS majors. If you want to get a job in data science, it would help to take classes in data analysis and machine learning, to learn Python programming, and to complete data science projects. A CS degree combined with classes relevant to data science should put you in a good position to get data science and software engineering jobs.

How difficult it is as a major

Generally, computer science is considered as one of the easier STEM majors and most people would agree that it is easier than a degree in actuarial science. This should mean that you will have more time to apply to internships, do projects and complete research projects to become more competitive when seeking a job or graduate placements.

With that being said, the major will require a lot of work, at times, especially in your junior and senior years.

Types of classes you will study

Classes that you can expect to take include:

Programming
Data structures
Algorithms
Assembly language
Databases
Computer architecture
Computer networks

You can also expect to take some mathematics classes including:

Linear algebra
Discrete math
Calculus

In addition, you will have the choice to take other computer science classes as electives as a part of your degree requirements.

Some classes that you might have the choice of taking could also include

Machine learning
Artificial intelligence
Computer graphics
Computer networks

Important things to be aware of when taking the degree

Before you start taking the degree, it would be very important to consider what you think you would like to do with the degree. This is so that you will be able to optimize your classes according to what you hope to achieve with the degree.

If your goal is to get into data science or machine learning type roles, it would be important to make sure to take machine learning classes, to do machine learning projects, to take classes in data analysis and to take some statistics classes.

Whereas, if your goal is to get a job as a software engineer, it would be more important to take classes that focus on algorithms and systems architecture type classes.

If you think that you want to go to graduate school, it would be important to take up research opportunities and to take classes related to what you think you would like to research as a grad student.

More details about the computer science major

I have written more about the computer science major here and I have written more about how hard you can expect the major to be here.

Details about a degree in actuarial science

Below are some details about a degree in actuarial science.

Average pay

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.

Jobs

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:

  • Actuary
  • 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.

Difficulty

The major will involve a lot of mathematics, probability and statistics. As a result, the major is not an easy major. When compared with a computer science major, you can expect actuarial science to be more difficult.

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:

  • Calculus
  • Linear algebra
  • Two courses in calculus-based probability and statistics
  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Business
  • 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 computer science degree

When compared with a degree in actuarial science, you can expect a computer science 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. Also, many of the jobs you will qualify for, such as software engineering, will be just as well-paying as being an actuary but won’t need extra exams.

With that being said, the specific jobs you will qualify for will depend 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.

For example, if you are interested in data science, it would help to learn to program in R and Python and to take statistics, data analysis and machine learning classes. It would also help to get internships, whilst an undergrad, during the summer.

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.

Author

I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.