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As Frank Drebin so wisely reminds us in Naked Gun: You take a chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street, or sticking your face in a fan. Exactly how risky is it to stick your head in a fan, though? For that matter, how can a corporation determine the financial risks of manufacturing shoes in China? How does an insurance company know how much to charge automobile owners for collision insurance? Do people really keep tabs on such things?

Of course they do. These risk evaluators are called actuaries, and they spend their days calculating the costs to assume all different kinds of risks. More precisely, Actuarial Science is the mathematical and statistical underpinning of every kind of insurance on earth - health insurance, life insurance, property insurance, pension plans, you name it. There really aren't that many people in the actuarial profession - less than 20,000 in North America - but they make good money their entire careers (most end up in upper management and executive positions) and they like what they do; actuaries consistently give their line of work stellar job satisfaction ratings.

If you major in Actuarial Science, you'll become something of a Zen Master in statistics and, upon graduation, you will likely take a job in the insurance industry. You should note that actuaries only achieve professional status by passing a series of hairy examinations prescribed by the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or Society of Actuaries (SOA). Examinations are held twice each year, in the spring and fall.


  • Actuarial Mathematics

  • Calculus I-IV

  • Cost Accounting

  • Finance

  • Financial Accounting

  • Insurance and Risk

  • Linear Algebra

  • Macroeconomics

  • Microeconomics

  • Probability and Statistics I-IV

  • Theory of Interest


Actuarial work involves lots of math. Take every available math course in your high school, particularly the ones that are intended to prepare you for the rigors of college math. Actuaries must also be abreast of business issues and trends in social science and economics, so plan accordingly.