Best Actuarial Science Bachelor's Programs

Updated September 26, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Do you want to become an accountant who focuses on statistics and risk management? Take a look at this year's top bachelor's in actuarial science programs.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

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Actuaries are experts in risk assessment and risk management. Most actuaries work in the insurance, investment, and finance industries. Many employers require only a bachelor's in actuarial science or a related field.

This field offers higher-than-average salaries and faster-than-average growth projections, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Several emerging trends drive demand for actuaries, including advanced tech tools that equip insurance and finance companies with new ways of measuring and evaluating risk. Big data has also created a new generation of specialized insurance and financial products.

This guide explains key details about getting a bachelor's in actuarial science. It includes a ranked list of the top actuarial science bachelor's degrees of 2022.

Why Get an Actuarial Science Bachelor's Degree?

  • Targeted Learning: Actuarial science degrees focus on essential tools and skills for actuaries. This targeted learning helps students build advanced financial and risk analysis abilities. Employers value these skills, as reflected by the higher-than-average salaries actuaries earn.
  • Prepare for Credentialing Exams: Actuary jobs do not require licensure. However, credentials beyond a bachelor's degree — like professional certifications — may lead to higher salaries and more career opportunities. Actuarial science programs often prepare students to succeed on these professional certification exams.
  • Establish Credibility: Companies that provide these insurance and financial products need specialists capable of developing and refining them. Holding a bachelor of actuarial science signals to employers that applicants know the field.

What to Expect From a Bachelor of Actuarial Science

Bachelor's in actuarial science degrees apply branches of math like statistics and probability to the business of risk assessment. Programs usually balance math courses with classes that develop modeling skills and finance knowledge. Some schools encourage or require actuarial science majors to minor in a related area like business or finance.

Actuarial science programs may include electives or required courses in technology subjects. Actuaries analyze large volumes of data, so a strong grounding in relevant tech tools can be a valuable career asset.

Like most bachelor's programs, actuarial science degrees typically cover about 120 credit hours and take four years of full-time study.

Degree and Concentration Options

Most actuarial science programs lead to a BS degree. However, some schools offer a BA. In general, BS programs usually focus on more quantitative skills. BA programs typically offer a balance of quantitative and qualitative skills, plus theory.

Schools sometimes set up their actuarial science programs as specializations within other majors. For instance, applied or computational math programs may offer actuarial science as a concentration.

Universities and colleges offer actuarial science bachelor's degrees in many formats. Students can attend traditional campus-based programs. Fully online programs usually offer more scheduling flexibility, allowing degree-seekers to work around career or family obligations. Hybrid learning blends in-person and online coursework.

Some programs also offer accelerated learning paths or bridge programs. In actuarial science, this may mean an accelerated bachelor's-to-master's program. These programs typically require five years of full-time study. In exchange, learners graduate with a master's degree.

Should You Get a Bachelor's in Actuarial Science or General Accounting?

Accounting and actuarial science bachelor's degrees have several key differences. Students interested in both subjects may wonder which to study in college. The following table compares the two programs:

Comparing Bachelor's in Actuarial Science and Accounting
Key Factor Bachelor's in Actuarial Science Bachelor's in Accounting
Program Focus To develop data- and math-based numerical analysis, risk modeling, and risk management skills To develop financial tracking and financial reporting skills that meet legal and professional standards
Course Content Mathematics, including statistics, probability, calculus, and algebraLinear regression modelingFinancial mathematics Financial reporting standards and techniquesFinancial auditingAnalysis, tracking, and interpretation of financial data
Credit Requirements 120 120-150
Program Length 4 years 4-5 years

The differences in focus and courses reflect the distinction between accountants and actuaries. Accountants track and report a company's financial dealings. By contrast, actuaries deal with future business possibilities and uncertainties.

Some accounting bachelor's programs take five years of full-time study to complete the 150 credits needed to sit for the CPA exam.

Top Online Bachelor's

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Admissions Process

Most actuarial science programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. Schools may require students to take prerequisite courses in subjects like calculus and linear algebra, probability and statistics, and computer science before enrolling in the major. Some programs also have GPA requirements or minimum ACT or SAT scores for entry into the major.

Many schools use Common App, a centralized hub where students upload admissions materials like personal statements and resumes and submit them to many institutions.

Popular Actuarial Science Undergraduate Courses

Course offerings vary across bachelor's in actuarial science programs. However, most programs require calculus, linear algebra, applied statistics, and applied probability classes.

Other common actuarial science courses include:

  • Financial Mathematics: This course builds on foundational math knowledge to explore finance concepts. Learners study topics like accumulated and present value, interest and rates of return, and amortization scheduling.
  • Linear Regression Modeling: Students apply regression theory to simple and multiple linear models. This class also covers time series analysis, forecasting theory, and forecasting methods. Some courses introduce specialized software tools for statistical analysis.
  • Probability Theory: In probability theory classes, students examine probability modeling, variables, probability distributions, multivariate distributions, and combinatorial and conditional probability.
  • Risk Management: This course builds tools for assessing, quantifying, and managing financial risk. Some actuarial science programs present risk management as a mathematical topic in the context of probability. Others examine the subject from a more theoretical or practice-based perspective.

How Much Does an Actuarial Science Degree Cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics reports the following tuition averages for the 2019-20 academic year at U.S. four-year colleges:

  • In-state public institution: $9,349
  • Out-of-state public institution: $27,023
  • Private institution: $32,769

These tuition figures do not include room-and-board costs for in-person programs. Campus-based students should research these expenses when calculating the total cost of attendance.

Online learners can usually avoid relocation and travel costs. The flexibility of distance education may allow online students to work while they study to help offset tuition costs.

Many learners need financial assistance to pay for their education. Experts recommend exploring nonrepayable aid sources first, including scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Federal and private loans require repayment with interest. However, students should use private loans as a last resort as they typically feature higher interest rates and less flexible payment plans than federal loans.

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

Actuarial science degrees translate well to the virtual classroom. Topics explored in actuarial science classes are not usually dependent on real-time interaction. Asynchronous recorded lectures also allow students to repeatedly review complex, technical, or challenging concepts.

However, online learning requires students to be independent and self-motivated. Some students are more successful in classroom environments with structured schedules.

Assess your preferences and learning style as you explore degree options and consider whether to pursue an on-campus or online program.

Actuarial Science Jobs and Salaries

The BLS projects 24% employment growth for actuaries from 2020 to 2030. The BLS also reported actuaries earned a median annual income of $111,030 in 2020.

However, graduates' job prospects are not limited to working as actuaries. Professionals with actuarial science backgrounds can also work in the following roles:

Financial Planner

Financial planners can work for companies or independently. They help individual clients advance their personal financial goals through strategic planning. Many financial planners also offer investment advice and recommend financial products that align with client goals. Background knowledge of estate planning, investing, and taxation is essential. Professional certification may be required.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting, actuarial science, business, or finance
Job Outlook (2020-30): +5%
Median Annual Salary: $89,330

Budget Analyst

Budget analysts help public or private organizations plan and manage their spending. They consider the organization's overall financial standing to guide budgeting priorities. In addition to private companies, budget analysts work for educational institutions and government agencies.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting, actuarial science, economics, finance, or mathematics
Job Outlook (2020-30): +5%
Median Annual Salary: $78,970

Insurance Underwriter

Underwriters assess insurance applications to decide whether they should issue a coverage policy to the applicant. They also advise their employers on how much coverage to provide individual customers.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting, economics, finance, or mathematics
Job Outlook (2020-30): -2%
Median Annual Salary: $71,790

Risk Analyst

Risk analysts advise businesses on the potential risks of current and proposed operations. These specialists usually assess risk across three main categories: compliance, financial, and operational. Professionals with an actuarial science background generally have advanced insights into financial risks. Supplementary business education may be helpful in compliance and operational areas.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting, actuarial science, or business management
Job Outlook (2020-30): +6%
Median Annual Salary: $83,660

Selecting the Right Undergraduate Program

Choosing the right program requires students to carefully assess many factors. Applicants should look beyond basics like admissions standards, curricula, and school reputation. Additional issues to consider potentially include:

  • Placement Rates: This metric expresses the percentage of graduates that land jobs in the field or enroll in a higher-level degree. High placement rates are generally associated with higher educational value.
  • Student Retention Rates: Colleges must disclose the percentage of students that return year-over-year. However, many reputable programs also track retention rates for specific degrees. High retention rates often signal student satisfaction with a school or program.
  • Certification Exam Performance: The Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) offer multiple credentialing exams. Holding SOA or CAS credentials can boost actuaries' career prospects. When possible, find out how successful a program's graduates have been on these exams.

Students should also research and confirm the accreditation status of any school under their consideration. Learners can look up a school's accreditation on the U.S Department of Education's website.

Specialized accreditation agencies sometimes endorse accounting and actuarial science programs. These include the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs and AACSB International.

Top Bachelor's in Actuarial Science Programs

This ranked list highlights five of the top bachelor's in actuarial science programs of 2022. We determined these rankings using rigorous data-based analysis. Learn more about our method by following the link below.

#1

DePauw University

School Information
Location Greencastle, Indiana
Admission Rate 64%
Graduation Rate 84%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission

Greencastle, Indiana-based DePauw was founded in 1837 as Indiana Asbury University. The small, tight-knit school features a four-year graduation rate of 79%, which far outpaces nationwide averages.

Actuarial Science Program

DePauw offers an actuarial science program through its mathematics department. The actuarial science major requires learners to take 10 specialized courses covering math and economics. Half of these courses fall during the program's later years.

Each senior concludes their studies with an intensive capstone course. The capstone focuses on real-life case studies and assigns students to group projects. Its design closely matches professional actuaries' work. 

DePauw's actuarial science program also features optional internship opportunities. DePauw partners with several major insurance companies to offer field learning opportunities.

Applying to DePauw

DePauw describes its admission process as selective, but the school does not maintain a rigid set of standards. Officials consider each applicant on an individual basis. Key factors include academic performance, ACT/SAT scores, and leadership potential.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $52,900/academic year
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
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#2

Calvin University

School Information
Location Grand Rapids, Michigan
Admission Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 76%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Calvin University began its history in 1876 as a ministry school. The college, named in honor of John Calvin (1509-1564), a key figure in the Protestant Reformation, retains its Christian traditions today.

Actuarial Science Major

Calvin's actuarial science major covers up to 42 semester-hours of concentrated coursework. Required courses cover specialized math topics, including calculus, probability, and advanced statistics. They also include supplementary studies in economics, accounting, and finance.  

The program features a cognate course sequence covering 5-7 additional semester-hours in technology-related topics. These courses introduce students to the specialized productivity tools actuaries use.

Multiple courses directly prepare students for actuarial exams issued by the Society of Actuaries. Calvin also maintains an internship program and notes that multiple major companies offer paid summer internships to actuarial students. 

Applying to Calvin

Calvin accepts applications throughout the year and offers rolling admissions. Candidates can submit institutional applications or apply through Common App. The school requires academic transcripts but not ACT or SAT scores. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $37,990/academic year
  • Delivery Format: On campus
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#3

University of California-Santa Barbara

School Information
Location Santa Barbara, California
Admission Rate 30%
Graduation Rate 83%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

UC Santa Barbara is one of the leading schools in the public UC system. Its alumni include six Nobel Prize laureates and a long list of accomplished professionals, entrepreneurs, and public figures, including Robert Ballard and Angela Belcher. 

Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science

UC Santa Barbara's bachelor of science in actuarial science focuses on career training and supports graduate success on actuarial exams.

The program immerses students in an intensive lineup of specialized statistics, probability, and actuarial math courses. It supplements an actuarial science core with classes in technology, writing, and economics. 

UC Santa Barbara also offers a bachelor's-to-master's program in actuarial science. High-performing students active in the bachelor's program can apply for admission with at least a 3.5 GPA. The BS/MS in actuarial science allows an enrollee to graduate with a master's degree in one extra year. 

Applying to UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara's admission process considers applicant profiles across three main areas. First, the school looks for satisfactory achievement across seven key subjects. Officials also consider GPA, extracurriculars, and personal accomplishments. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Tuition: $5,172/semester (in state); $10,695/semester (out of state)
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
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#4

Dordt University

School Information
Location Sioux Center, Iowa
Admission Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 75%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Dordt continues to honor the Reformed Christian tradition that began with the school's 1953 founding. Its student body has an impressive average high school GPA of 3.68. 

Actuarial Science

Students in Dordt's actuarial science program can anticipate excellent outcomes. In 2019, the program had a perfect placement rate: 100% of graduates landed in-field jobs or enrolled in higher-level degrees.

The program's structure focuses on technical topics in actuarial math. It complements this core with targeted instruction in accounting, economics, corporate finance, and risk management. Graduates emerge with well-rounded perspectives rooted in professional practice and Christian ethics.

Dordt also strives to prepare students for success on actuarial exams. Required courses deliver the knowledge for enrollees to pursue at least two actuarial certifications before graduation.

Applying to Dordt

Each candidate must submit an institutional application, high school transcripts, and ACT/SAT/CLT scores. The application is free and includes a statement of faith adhering to Dordt's Christian principles.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $34,600/academic year
  • Required Credits: 124
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
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#5

Brigham Young University-Provo

School Information
Location Provo, Utah
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 78%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

BYU was founded by Latter-day Saints (LDS) religious leader Brigham Young in 1875. The school now welcomes nearly 35,000 students, including more than 31,000 undergraduates.

Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science

BYU's bachelor of science in actuarial science covers an intensive actuarial math curriculum. Students complete a rigorous core sequence in statistics and have access to an enriched lineup of electives. These courses allow learners to pursue their interests in specific subtopics within the actuarial science discipline.

In addition, the program develops students' technological literacy by requiring multiple computer science courses. Coursework also covers topics included in the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society's certification exams. For most exams, the program's coverage rates range from 90%-100%.

Applying to BYU

Application materials include a general application to the institution and academic transcripts. Each candidate must also provide a detailed review of their extracurricular activities, a personal essay, and recommendations. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $323/credit (LDS members); $646/credit (non-LDS members) 
  • Required Credits: 120
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
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Common Questions About Actuarial Science Bachelor's Degrees

What can you do with a bachelor's in actuarial science?

true People with actuarial science degrees often work as actuaries. Graduates can also work as risk analysts, budget analysts, financial planners or advisers, and insurance underwriters.

Is actuarial science a bachelor of science or arts?

true Most actuarial science programs lead to a BS degree, but some culminate in a BA. Both options feature similar curricula. However, BA programs usually emphasize theory and qualitative skills.

How much does an actuarial science bachelor's program cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics reports the average tuition for four-year U.S. colleges and universities was $19,081 for the 2019-20 school year. However, tuition rates vary among institutions. In-state students at public colleges typically pay the lowest average tuition.

How hard is an actuarial science degree?

Actuarial science is a challenging subject. Many test-takers describe actuary certification exams as difficult. The field tends to suit detail-oriented students with strong mathematical and analytical skills.

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