Who makes more money in the long run: an Actuary or a data scientist?

A question about money and that too in Actuary is your favourite! I know.

Well it just appeared while browsing quora and the Answer blew me away!

As per Alex Kelly, A user of Quora,

 I’m a master’s student in data analytics, but I have also interned as an actuary and passed a few of their exams. Here are my observations of both fields:

Though data scientists have higher starting salaries, entry-level positions almost always require a graduate degree. Actuaries on the other hand get most of their training on the job. Because actuaries receive continuous self-education while working, it’s not uncommon to see up to $10k raises every year. A data scientist does the majority of their training in graduate school, which is why they have much higher starting pay but with lower annual salary advancement.

An average actuary starts at $60k right out of undergrad. After two years they have a couple more exams under their belt, putting them at $80k. Now this is when the data scientist is prepared to enter the workforce. They’ve spent 2 years doing their master’s, putting them $40-60k underground in graduate loans. They’re making a solid $80-$100k, but have to live at essentially the same pay level as the actuary (or lower) for the next few years to pay off the extra debt. Data science vs Actuary


As for long-term, it really depends. Some actuaries have trouble passing even 1 exam every year, in which case it could take 10 years just to get your credentials, and maybe max out around $150k. If you can motivate yourself to pass two exams a year (which I found doable with the amount of study time most companies give), you can move up quickly and be making $200k in 10 years.  On the other hand, even a really good data scientist may not make that much at their maximum lifetime salary (max out around $150, possibly $200k managing a large team). Actuary salaries continue to increase linearly with time, even after the data scientist’s has leveled off. Experienced actuaries get opportunities to move into high-management positions like VP/chief actuary, and ultimately CFO/CRO and CEO. Data scientists may make it to CIO/CTO positions. Both actuaries and data scientists have the tools to start their own companies as well.

Also Read: Insurology releases app for Blogs & Forums

TL;DR – Unless you’re passionate about programming or dislike studying/taking exams, actuary seems like the better option (financially) in the short run. As for long run, it really depends on your capacity to pass actuarial exams and/or your hunger for management.

Actuary salaries – Actuary Salary Survey – actuary jobs – DW Simpson Global Actuarial Recruitment 2012 Salary Survey, actuarial, actuaries, Employment, Salaries, Insurance, Statistics, Mathematics, FCAS, ACAS, ASA, FSA, Student, FCIA, FIA

And on the other hand

As per Henry Siegel, whose profile explains, I’ve been an actuary for over 45 years.

It all depends on the individual.  If you are talented, either can make a lot of money. 
So, what you’re thinking as of now? Data Scientist or Actuary? 😉
Do share your thoughts 🙂

Mayank Goyal

Redmond Lover(Microsoft), London Dreamer(Actuary), California Thinker(Entrepreneur).

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3 Responses

  1. Manasvee Kumar says:

    First of all , the diagram provides a great insight (and a thumbs for the creator) but is apparently out of context a bit.

    Secondly, there has nothing been said about the Indian context.

    Thirdly, nobody becomes data scientist out of college( maybe except if the person if from tier-I Institute).
    The no. of jobs offered in each field & location distribution could be creterion as well.

    Something that has been left out of article is that Insurance companies require an appointed actuary (as far as I know) and this designation is quite a respected one. Similar, there is being is seen a rise in a no. of organisation offering a designation of Chief Analytic officer (for Data Scientist).

    Please review my views too.

    • Mayank says:

      I understand you views but the purpose of the article was just to give an understanding of salaries and not the explanation about data scientist. If you’ll follow the link A review of Education strategy, you’ll find that IFoA is taking steps to review the education including a step towards big data. So, our focus was to just abbreviate it. We may cover the area later on if we actually find out the participation of it in Actuarial field. Also it is a hot field where it is very analytical to provide even a range in Indian terms I hope you understand our concerns! Btw, Thanks for the review. We appreciate it 🙂


    Something draws me to study data science, but i not good in programming, if a get a programming code today, I might forget tommorrow. I also would like to study actuarial science but I don’t know if it involves only reading texts and not solving mathematical problems also my dad studied this same actuarial science. I want to study any highly paid program requiring maths that I love. And I am also trying to get a scholarship to study in either USA, CANADA, or UK. Please advice me, I am a 13 year old boy from Nigeria, currently in senior secondary school 1 (grade 10).

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