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accounting vs actuary?

creamgethamoneycreamgethamoney Registered User Posts: 589 Member
edited March 2009 in Business Major

I was wondering what you guys would recommend in terms of a career based on my take of the two:

Pro: Not necessarily the greatest pay starting out, but very decent if one works at a Big 4 firm with a nearly limitless ceiling in terms of where one can go.
Pro: Various areas one can get into and find one's niche in.
Pro: Reputation of school doesn't matter.
Pro: Jobs in most major cities.
Pro: Has a "law" aspect to it, which I like.
Con: Until one gets to the upper level, the work will be boring and tedious with long hours.

Pro: I love quantitative work and business, and in terms of this, there is no better career for me than being an actuary.
Pro: Great hours, low stress, jobs everywhere.
Con: You start off with not as good pay of pay as an accountant, and you really need to be a superstar essentially to make the kind of money that upper level accountants (i.e. controllers, possibly CFOs) make.
Con: Not as much room for career changing (i.e. getting an MBA and going into management consulting, very unlikely to become a CFO as compared to an accountant), and less diversified fields involved (i.e. mostly risk analysis which interests me, but no forensic work, etc.)
Con: Promotion is almost solely based on academic ability (i.e how many exams you pass), while failing to account for on job performance, or other intangibles. I'm definitely not the smartest person around, but I work hard, which may not matter in actuarial work since it's all about exams.

So based on this, what would you recommend? Also, just out of curiosity, how long does it take to get to the upper levels of accounting and becoming a controller, or director, etc.? How long does it typically take to break 6 figures in accounting, because I know for actuary, it could be very soon or never based on the exams one passes?
Post edited by creamgethamoney on

Replies to: accounting vs actuary?

  • RabnerRabner Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    Honestly im into accounting and dont know much about actuary, but just based on the number of pros and cons you listed for each accounting seems better. ~5-6 years big 4 and you could be over 100k if you make manager.
  • hmom5hmom5 - Posts: 10,882 Senior Member
    Reputation of school matters. Less than in banking and consulting for sure, but it matters.
  • FiyeroFiyero Registered User Posts: 783 Member
    I was wondering where you got the info about accountants having a higher starting salary than an actuary. At my university (University of Texas at Austin), the published figures are $53,000 for accounting and around $60,000 for an actuary.

    You can read more on actuary salaries here. Actuary Salary Survey - actuary jobs - D.W. Simpson & Company, Inc. , actuarial, actuaries, Employment, Salaries, Insurance, Statistics, Mathematics, FCAS, ACAS, ASA, FSA, Student, FCIA, FIA

    Money aside, which do you think you'll enjoy more on a day to day basis? Go with that.
  • UW_Husky88UW_Husky88 Registered User Posts: 56 Junior Member
    I might be incorrect about starting only, but first of all, keep this in mind. For the larger firms in accounting, I've heard most people saying they start out in mid 50s with a 5k signing bonus. Those numbers by UT only reflect the salary, but not overall compensation, in which the two are comparable. Secondly, the higher actuary salaries include people who already passed 2-3 exams, which skews the average slightly upward, especially since the lower end isn't too much lower. So I'd imagine that the two are very comparable when comparing a large (not necessarily big 4 firm) accounting firm to a starting actuary.

    Secondly, and this is the thing I hate the most about being an actuary. From what I've read on actuary forums and all, it seems like pay is almost completely (read 90%) based on how many exams you pass. Speaking for myself personally, I know that I'm not the smartest person on the planet, and thus I'm not sure if there are any guarantees that I'd pass that many exams and put myself in a position to earn those jaw-dropping numbers that people speak of (this is after passing 6-7 extremely difficult exams, of which many people stop taking, or give up on). That's why in terms of just the dollars, it seems that for me personally, accounting would offer greater chance for me to do something monetarily because even if I'm not the smartest accountant, I can still move up if I show that I'm better than the others in the intangibles department, which I think I can do. I'm not trying to be cocky, but I am confident enough to say that I'm not a complete jackass, however I'm not einstein either, and thus I think that personally, I'd fare better in a profession that rewards being smart and showing good performance in work rather than just raw intelligence.

    The key words to all of the above are ME and PERSONALLY.
  • creamgethamoneycreamgethamoney Registered User Posts: 589 Member
    ^shoot, I accidentally posted with my friend's sn lol. That was me though just to clear up any confusion!
  • VeryHappyVeryHappy Registered User Posts: 16,868 Senior Member
    First thing to consider is whether you're likely to pass all the actuarial exams. If not, go be an accountant. If yes, IMHO actuary is the best profession around for someone who is very math-y but also very practical. I work in the employee benefits area and have worked with many actuaries over the years. They are smart and genuinely enjoy their work.
  • FiyeroFiyero Registered User Posts: 783 Member
    Well cream, I think it sounds like you've made your decision.

    For anyone else interested in this, I'm posting the links with salary info. Yes, the actuary salaries reflect passing exams. There is no other way to do this since without the ability to pass them you won't be working in the field. I don't know of anyone working it the field who hadn't passed an exam first.

    For the actuaries, the info is on this page under the link "entry level salaries."
    Recent jobs, internships

    For accountants, the information is here. Statistics - Employers - McCombs Career Services - The McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin

    As far as bonuses factoring in, I don't know any way to fairly incorporate that in. Bonuses vary widely and in this economy I wouldn't want to count on them anyway. The OP mentioned starting salary so that is what I went by.
  • coolkidd123coolkidd123 Registered User Posts: 128 Junior Member
    Its actually a simple decision. If you are really good math then you should consider being an actuary since all the actuarial exams are mostly math related. If your not really that good at it, then you should probably consider accounting. However if your thinking about getting six figures in accounting...you better pass the CPA exam which isnt that easy either.
  • creamgethamoneycreamgethamoney Registered User Posts: 589 Member
    To speak with complete candor, I feel that being an actuary would be better for me as I know for sure that I LOVE math, especially stuff that deals with probability, statistics, etc which is what an actuary does.

    However, even though I like math, I'm not the best at it. I'm solid at it since I took BC in high school and passed the AP test without studying for it (senioritis not lack of passion), but I'm by no means a math wiz. I know actuary pays well, and I'm by no means trying to become filthy rich (aiming for 150-200k before I am 35), but my fear is that since I'm not incredible at math, what if I only pass 3 tests total? I wouldn't be happy with a 70k salary, nor do I want to get fired for not performing well, so that's what I'm worried about in terms of pursuing a career as an actuary. Otherwise I'd choose actuary in a heart beat.
This discussion has been closed.