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March 6, 2007

Catastrophes, complex health care plans fuel hot job market

Actuaries, those number-crunching whizzes who help determine insurance premiums based on the odds of bad things happening, are in high demand these days, because new mathematical models are needed to respond to natural disaster trends and the growing complexity of health care insurance.

So says Stuart Klugman, BN'70, who heads up the actuarial science program at Drake, the only private actuarial science major in the Midwest and the only true program, with a full set of actuarial science courses taught by actuaries, that’s exclusively for undergraduates.

"Job prospects are very good," Klugman says. "Students who meet employers' expectations will find a job, and multiple job offers are fairly common."

Entry-level salaries for actuaries are quite good as well. The top salary at Drake last year was $64,000, with a range of $41,000 to $58,000. Also, pay acceleration is rapid, as actuaries achieve various levels of certification (employers typically pay for and give time off for the necessary course work). An actuarial "fellow," a designation typically achieved by the time you're 30, has a salary range of $100,000 to $125,000, says Klugman, the Principal Financial Group professor of actuarial science.

If plenty of jobs and good pay weren't enticing enough, actuaries also report extremely high levels of job satisfaction compared to other jobs. The job is the only one rated in the top five of every edition of the "Jobs Rated Almanac," first published five years ago.

Klugman says actuaries tend to like their jobs because they do meaningful work from the get go.

"The stress tends to be balanced by meaningful challenges," he says. "You get a chance to apply your skills and talents, and you feel like you've accomplished something at the end of the day."

This year there are 181 students majoring in actuarial science at Drake; 65 of those students are from Malaysia, 27 are from other countries and 89 are from the United States.