Actuaries are like modern-day prophets.
Except, instead of casting lots, they have math and science to back up their predictions.
These wizards of data and math use their knowledge to help with financial planning, insurance, investing, and healthcare.
Make no mistake, though; this knowledge isn’t the result of magic.
The amount of math and technological understanding that goes with such a job requires a lot of experience and education.
Consider for instance that one of the biggest steps on the path to becoming an actuary is having to pass a series of difficult exams.
Societies like the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) offer resources and fellowships to potential actuaries as they go through the exam process; these societies also set the guidelines for what needs to be taught in order to pass the exams.
Though aspiring actuaries can access these resources apart from a college degree, they might want to consider the benefits of attending some universities that offer actuarial science degrees.
Many universities partner with one or both of the above societies – the best of the best being designated as Centers of Actuarial Excellence.
Students who go to these universities not only have access to education that will prepare them for exams, but they will find support through on-campus actuary clubs, actuary fraternities, fellows of top actuary societies, and even financial help to pay for exam fees.
In addition, one of the best ways to get a job in a field is first to get an internship.
The university experience provides resources and contacts to get students in the door of big-name businesses. With this extra boost of support, students can make their mark and land a job by the end of their degree.
It takes a lot to break into the actuarial field, but as one of the number one jobs in the US, it is worth putting in the effort to make it.
Though it doesn’t take a professional degree to make an actuary, it sure helps. The following list of universities can point the way to some excellent actuarial science degree programs.
Here are 10 of the best actuarial science colleges in the US.
Bentley University (Waltham, MA)
Bentley University is committed to producing ethical business leaders who get jobs after graduation.
With a top-ranked career center and partnerships with some of the biggest businesses around, Bentley students can be confident that their education will translate well to the real world.
Within Bentley’s actuarial science program, the university-wide commitment to career success is reflected in the fact that 97% of its students complete an internship, and it has an overall 98% job placement rate.
Students have access to internships with businesses like Liberty Mutual, Cigna, and John Hancock, many of which turn into job offers.
Rated as having an advanced curriculum by the Society of Actuaries (SOA), students can be confident that the education they are getting is preparing them for preliminary exams.
In addition, among the program instructors are individuals who have won the Beckenbach Book Prize, Fulbright scholarships, and more.
A great curriculum and teaching staff are important, but on-campus involvement can push students to the next level of success.
Bentley actuarial students have access to on-campus groups like the Gamma Iota Sigma fraternity and the Mathematical Science Club. Both offer opportunities for actuarial students to network and connect to businesses that could be future employers.
University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)
The University of Iowa is known not only for having the second oldest actuarial program, but for being the alma mater of the man who wrote the book on statistics – or at least one of the most widely used textbooks.
Robert Hogg went on to teach at Iowa, and his legacy continues to inspire excellence in the university’s Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science.
There is a reason why the alumni of the University of Iowa’s actuarial science program go on to be presidents of the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society. From the first time a student voices interest in pursuing an actuarial science degree, they are sent to advisors to create a plan for success.
Considering the university is rated a CAE by the SOA, the department knows exactly how to direct students in their degree path and through their actuarial exams; advisors even go so far as to lay out a template schedule for what exams need to be taken and when.
Students will also have access to an extensive network of current and former students through organizations like the on-campus Actuarial Science Club and the program’s close ties to the Fellows of the Society of Actuaries.
The University of Iowa hosts annual actuarial career fairs, provides special topic colloquium speakers, awards students of excellence at the yearly Hogg and Craig Lecture, assists in accessing actuary related scholarships, and even has Excel tournaments students can compete in.
Students aren’t just studying actuarial science at Iowa; they are learning to be actuaries of prestige.
University of Nebraska (Lincoln, NE)
The actuarial science program at R-1 ranked the University of Nebraska knows a little something about academic excellence.
If creating a database that can search for all academic papers published since 1990 in five of the top actuarial science journals isn’t an indicator of this, nothing is.
University of Nebraska’s actuarial science program believes that a quality education means giving students a choice in the path they can take to become an actuary.
As a result, students can choose to complete their degree through either the College of Business or the College of Arts and Sciences.
Depending on their interest, students will be able to concentrate their studies in areas that include Life/Health, Property/Casualty, and Enterprise Management.
Speaking of Property and Casualty, the program is affiliated with the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and has two on campus liaisons to connect students to the resources and networks they need to be successful.
In addition, the University of Nebraska’s actuarial science program is connected to a local Society of Actuaries (SOA) club, the Nebraska Actuaries Club, which offers students access to the NAC scholarship.
With a wide variety of paths to choose from, students at the University of Nebraska’s Actuarial Science program can cater their career path to their special interests. Education doesn’t get much better than that.
University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)
Texas often claims it does everything bigger (and thus better) than anyone else, and UT’s actuarial science program certainly lends some validity to this assertion.
Even just a casual perusal of the program’s Risky Business newsletter reveals a program with high achieving students, faculty, and alumni.
UT’s actuarial science program believes, in order to be successful, actuaries need to come from all backgrounds.
Because of this, the program is affiliated with a wide range of actuarial societies including the International Association of Black Actuaries, the Network of Actuarial Women and Allies, the Organization of Latino Actuaries, and the Sexuality and Gender Alliance of Actuaries.
Actuaries also need real world experience, so students are offered the chance to compete in the annual Case Competition.
This competition gives students the chance to experience the kind of work they would do as an actuary, to showcase their skills, and to even win prize money!
With connections to SOC, CAS, Gamma Iota Sigma, and a vibrant professional community, students will have more support than they will know what to do with. There is no question students should consider joining the Longhorn actuarial science community.
University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI)
At UW-Madison, it isn’t an either/or matter when it comes to the importance of who you know versus what you know – it is both/and.
Housed in the School of Business and connected to the university’s risk-management and insurance program, students are given an interdisciplinary experience that gives them the knowledge and connections they need to be successful.
This connection experience starts early for the program; through the Actuarial Awareness Night and regular trips to the local high schools, UW-Madison engages the community and inspires young people who are beginning to think about their careers after high school. For those that decide to take the plunge into actuarial science, the university offers The UW-Madison Actuarial Program Scholarship to help them get started in their first semester.
If students are looking to focus their actuarial science degree in insurance, they are in luck; the Department of Risk and Insurance is one of the top programs in the U.S.
This department is known for its excellence in research on insurance and has been known to partner with the state government to inform policy and decision-making.
The “who” of UW-Madison includes a wide range of specialized faculty. Faculty aren’t just experts in areas of mathematics and statistics; indeed, many have first-hand experience as actuaries and bring this expertise to their teaching.
An education by actuaries for aspiring actuaries only adds to a student’s rate of success.
Alumni from the UW-Madison actuarial science program go on to work for companies that include Travelers, American Family Insurance, Northwestern Mutual, and many more. Attend UW-Madison and benefit from their awarding winning combination of community and experience.
Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN)
Most people know Purdue because of their famous (or infamous depending on your relationship with writing) Online Writing Lab (OWL Purdue); but their excellence goes far beyond writing.
Just take a look at the actuarial science program that is part of the university’s math and statistics departments.
Purdue challenges students to go above and beyond, and their actuarial science degree path is one of the most rigorous.
Students have the option to do a normal plan of study or an honors plan of study, but all who attend will come out of the program with both an Actuarial Science degree and Statistics degree.
On the way to getting a degree, students will have the opportunity to participate in research. During the summer, students can work with faculty to conduct research at Purdue’s prestigious Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering.
For those who want to focus more on data, they can access The Data Mine, a program where cohorts are exposed to practical data-problems and taught how to ethically handle them.
As a way to further support its students on the long road to passing exams, Purdue offers Exam Awards to each student who successfully completes an exam in the program. This award covers most or all of the exam fees, making the path to becoming an actuary more accessible.
Purdue’s offerings are in alignment with its designation as a Center of Actuarial Excellence, so students can rest assured they will be well prepared to achieve their dreams.
University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
UConn knows how overwhelming picking a major can be for students. To actively provide students with support in this process, it offers Exploration Groups that allow students to pick an area of interest to focus their studies on.
Nestled within the many different groups is the Math and Engineering Exploration Group, and it is here that students can explore the actuarial science program.
Students who want to know how to apply actuarial science to real-life situations can work with Dr. Jay Vadiveloo, leading expert and director of The Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research.
This university think-tank has produced research on topics from retirement to mortality and offers year-round opportunities to work with, or intern for, the center.
It can be intimidating to pursue an actuarial science degree, and it helps to have input from those who have a little more experience.
UConn’s Directed Reading Program is set up to do just this; in this independent study program, undergrads are paired with graduate students who are in the same field.
Undergrads are then expected to treat the program like a class; by the end of the semester, they will present on something related to their topic of interest.
For those who want help but would rather do it in a more independent manner, there is the Coaching Actuaries Resources. This program gives students access to quizzes, forums, and practice exams.
If that wasn’t enough support, UConn resides in one of the insurance hubs of America, making it the perfect place for aspiring actuaries to find support, community, and – most importantly – jobs!
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
Another Center for Actuarial Excellence, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has everything students need to prepare for the workforce.
Taught by faculty like Dr. Erhan Bayraker, who has published in some of the top research journals on mathematics and finance, students at Michigan are receiving their education straight from sources of expertise.
The actuarial science program is housed in the university’s Mathematics Department, which has a tradition of producing award-winning graduates.
Those in actuarial mathematics have the potential to win departmental awards such as the KPMG Award in Actuarial Excellence or the Marc Altschull Actuarial Award.
Students also have access to a range of scholarships including the Margaret S Huntington Prize in Actuarial Outreach and the Mathematics Emergency Award.
This award-winning status could be a result of the extracurricular culture at UofM, as many students participate in degree-related activities over the summer.
The University of Michigan is known for its excellence, and its actuarial program is no exception.
University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
UCLA’s name speaks for itself in terms of its prestige and academic quality.
Because it excels in so many areas, including mathematics and technology, its actuarial sciences program takes a bit of a different approach to preparing students for their careers.
The Bruin Actuarial Society on-campus offers information on different degree paths like applied mathematics, business economics, and statistics that can lead to actuarial jobs.
Students may see this and feel concerned they aren’t getting all the information they need to pass exams.
But in addition to coursework, the university also provides supplemental resources like workshops on the actuarial exams, actuarial career fairs, and even a mentorship program.
UCLA’s mathematics program is passionate about using applied math to solve real-world problems.
As a result, they are ranked number two in the nation for their applied mathematics research.
Whether students go for the direct degree path to actuarial science or on an alternate but related path, they will find the tools they need to become the actuarial innovators of the future.
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
UPenn knows that actuaries are becoming the number one job in the US; as a result, they make sure to offer students a variety of ways to tap into this essential and growing career field.
Whether students want to pursue actuarial science as a major or minor, at Penn they can craft their degree experience to their particular needs.
This opens the door for students to pursue different focuses that they feel might suit them better than just an actuarial science degree.
No matter what path a student decides to go on, they will have access to some of the best resources available to help them make it through the program.
Financially, Penn has three departmental scholarships for those in actuarial science and offers information on at least twelve outside scholarships.
These scholarships are not only for tuition, but for exam fees for students who take their exams during their time in the program.
Academically, students can join the Penn Actuarial Society. This organization provides guest lectures from potential employers, study material, and social events for further networking.
For study help, The Department of Statistics and Data Science makes sure that students have free access to their library where exam study material can be checked out for up to six months.
Its flexibility, being part of a globally recognized university, and proximity to some of the biggest business hubs in the nation, makes Penn’s actuarial science degree one of the best picks for aspiring actuaries.