Consulting Actuarial Pay Progression

I am in my late 30s looking to switch from a non-actuary career to being an actuary.
I was offered a position at a consulting firm, with a base pay of $60-$65K.

What I needed to know, what is the pay progression like for a US actuary?
My current career (Research) has a track which if I were FT now would be $110K (but I am not which is why I am looking to switch), with a progression that gets into the $150s and then $200s within a decade.

Does the Actuary profession (I-95 corridor, consulting firm, moderate size - more than 1K employees) have a similar or better track?

What is realistic and when, at the moment I have not taken an exam. Thanks.

There are many salary surveys out there that can give you an idea of what you’re looking for.

Here is just one: Actuarial Salary Surveys - DW Simpson

Short answer, imo: pass exams, do good work, become important to your company (…or a different company) and the money will follow.

There must be huge variance in the answer. Some people in such an environment will progress to 200K in a decade, but those who don’t pass exams, don’t develop good consulting skills and don’t do good work will not be close to 200K.

There is also huge variance among people just starting exams, and information about an individual would be useful information about that individual’s chance of success. Most people first taking an exam in 2023 will not be an FSA or FCAS by 2033.

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The other posters have commented on the remuneration side so I will not comment on that aspect. However, as a retired actuary who mentored many younger actuaries over a long career, I am curious as to why you wish to pursue actuarial studies? I appreciate you are only asking about the compensation side but are you unhappy with your research role? Or are you looking to change only because you cannot secure a full time research role? What attracts you to actuarial consulting?

I spent about half my career in consulting but also had insurance company and corporate roles. Happy to talk offline about actuarial careers if you have any interest to do so.

Alan Cooke

I’d encourage you to take at least one exam before jumping to an actuarial career. Passing exams is essential to a successful actuarial career and they are not for everyone.

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So, “Pass some exams, and get back to us”?

That’s a good idea, but far from conclusive. If someone hates exam P (assuming SOA system) an actuarial career is unlikely to be a good fit. If someone enjoys exam P, the fellowship exams are so different that the career may not be a good fit. Even with exam P, for most people there would be a recognition that exams take work and passing is not a sure thing. (For people with strong backgrounds in probability, they could be misled into concluding that exams will not take much work.)

Take P and 8? That should give you a proper shake to ensure you’re up for it

8 is a CAS exam? I don’t know which would be the SOA equivalent, or which society the OP would be considering. I thought about including FM since it is so different from P and the other very math-based exams, but even FM would give little information about the fellowship exams ahead.

Also, if the OP feels confident he could get back into research, there’s a plus to having an employer pay the costs of exams and study materials. P is extremely cheap compared to any SOA fellowship exam, and some people could pass with only free study material.

Also any SOA fellowship exam would be a huge time commitment for someone who was only considering the career.

Just to add on to the exam point – Being successful at exams ultimately requires a SIGNIFICANT time commitment for most. Coming out of college, it’s a bit rough, but you’re generally used to putting in hours of self-study at that point in your life.

The OP reports their age as being “late 30’s”. Exam success later in life is doable but depending on what else is going on in one’s life, getting in the habit of making that time commitment can be extra-challenging.

Note that there are plenty of actuarial roles that don’t necessarily require success at exams. But to make real actuary money, you’ve got to survive the exam process.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from joining our guilds…but it’d be cruel to not offer a friendly reality check.

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Yep. Actuarial career progression requires exam progress. Make sure you know what you are getting into in terms of commitment to passing exams. If you choose an “actuarial” role that doesn’t require exam success, you are venturing down a path where the salary ranges shared above don’t apply after a couple of years. Usually actuarial roles without exam requirements have modest salary expectations. That being said, I know plenty of former actuaries that gave up exams to move to other areas that had very successful careers. I know former actuaries in IT, underwriting, reinsurance, finance, and marketing. Many of them are very successful.

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I don’t think the OP is being offered this position to take exams (and get back to us).
It is very rare that a consulting company even cares about exam progress. OP needs to tell us if exams even came up in the interview process. OP will likely be woefully unprepared for these kinds of exams.

And, internally, I’m questioning the sincerity of the first post.

Yes, in truth I was being a bit tongue in cheek since it’s the second to last CAS exam, but gives a nice flavor of what the exams (and to a degree P&C pricing work) is like

Well considering that the OP has not been back with further questions or even to say thank you… Maybe I don’t worry about this question any more.

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Eh when I was in consulting they cared to get credentials because then you can bill more and sign things. YMMV

But study time was more theoretical in nature “only work 50 hours instead of 55”

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my first job in the industry was consulting. big name firm. my office cared a lot of about exam progress. wasn’t fully protected but of the 10 exam seasons I had to take exams there, 9 were pretty steady study time. the one missing was a cluster-f of a project that we “had to do” and nearly everyone failed. in other offices the culture of protecting study varied more.

In my stint in big consulting they also cared a lot about exam progress. If you failed too many times, you got dropped from the exam program and had better polish up that resume.

Just a question out of curiosity…

What does a consulting actuary’s pay structure look like?

When I first considered a consulting job (many years ago) the pay structure looked like this:

  1. They defined my Billable Rate and they defined my expected billable hours goal
  2. Base Salary
  3. Annual Bonus that was essential 50% * Billable Rate * (Actual Billed Hours -1200)

Is this still commonplace?

What would this look like today for an FCAS with say 15 to 20 years of experience?

I am guessing they expect like 1500 billable hours and would rate out at about $450?

So a base of around 180k and a bonus of around roughly 50% * 450 * (1500-1200) =67.5k but that could fluctuate on billable hours.

Are my estimates reasonable regarding billable rate, bonus structure, and a reasonable range of billable hours?

I’m not sure I would switch in my mid 30s unless I was dissatisfied with what I was doing now. I’m enjoying a career that wasn’t particularly lucrative but also low-stress and satisfying. There’s just less time to get a return on the exam suffering. I might pass on the offer unless I was driven to go the distance

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Agreed with this. I think people often look at the surverys or BLS numbers and quickly condition on themselves rapidly completing the exams when in practice many (most?) never finish. Actuarial is a great career path if you get at least credentialed. If you never get associateship it’s a pretty mediocre office job I think.

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