If you are deciding between majoring in actuarial science or finance, 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.
|Ease of finding a job
|Types of jobs
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the
|Key things to note
|Most finance jobs
require longer working
hours than most actuarial
Can qualify for a number
of jobs with just a bachelor’s
High potential pay at the
|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 finance major
Below are some details about the finance major.
According to Payscale, the average pay of someone with a finance degree is $71,737 and the hourly rate is $20.64 dollars.
When compared with most degrees, a finance degree usually comes out on top in terms of pay. A finance degree also has a high ceiling in terms of potential pay for senior-level positions.
Types of jobs you can qualify for
Just a finance bachelor’s degree can qualify you for a number of different jobs. This is not something that can be said for many other degrees where a master’s degree is often required to be competitive in the job market.
With that being said, some jobs, such as investment banking, will be very hard to get into if you do not have a degree from an ivy league university or an ivy league equivalent university.
Jobs that you can qualify for with a finance degree can include:
- Financial analyst
- Data analyst
- Investment analyst
- Financial advisor
- Credit analyst
- Budget analyst
Something to consider about the jobs you will qualify for is that they are often reported as being stressful jobs. This is likely to be due to high working hours, high levels of competition, some of them being commission-based and the fact that you will be dealing with other people’s money.
With that being said, the major does have a below-average unemployment rate, so you should not have too much difficulty finding a job, there is good pay and finance jobs are expected to grow by more than the average across all jobs.
Difficulty of the major
A finance undergraduate degree can have some moderately difficult classes. However, there will not be many math-heavy classes. With that being the case, a degree in finance will usually be easier than a degree in actuarial science which will be much more math-heavy.
Classes you can expect to take in the major can include:
- Microeconomics and macroeconomics
- Personal finance concepts
- Project management
- Fundamentals of marketing
- Principles of business
- Corporate finance
- Managerial accounting
- Other upper-level finance courses as available
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.
Reasons to choose a finance degree
A finance degree should qualify you for a lot of good-paying jobs. If you enjoy competitive environments, a finance degree could suit you well. Also, finance does have very high potential pay in the long run since senior-level positions can pay very well. Additionally, if you prefer customer-facing roles, a finance degree could be better for you than an actuarial degree since many, but not all, finance jobs are customer-facing.
However, finance jobs tend to require long working hours and the jobs often have low job satisfaction ratings. Before choosing the degree, it would help to consider what sort of working environment would suit you the most and what you would find satisfying personally.
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. I have written about actuarial science vs statistics here.