Data Science vs Actuary: Which is a Better Career Path?

The masses have begun flocking to more modern professional fields with the digital age continuing down its steady path to absolute dominance. While some professions have become progressively obsolete, others have emerged in the last two decades. But, with so many impactful and rewarding career options, how does data science compare with actuarial science? 

Although Actuarial Science is in high demand with many benefits, Data Science, a much newer professional field, offers an increasing amount of potential for better career growth. Furthermore, in today’s professional world, the demand for skilled data scientists is considerably higher than that of actuaries.

Both data scientists and actuaries are similar in that they are problem solvers, work with real-world data or information with a forward-thinking approach, and use big amounts of information in order to complete their tasks. However, there are a few fundamental differences in the work that these professionals do, making these fields different from one another. In this article, we will discuss some of the most important factors that you must consider when choosing one career path versus the other. Therefore, if any of these two professional paths have ever appealed to you, continue reading and I am confident that you would find this article helpful. 

Important Sidenote: We interviewed numerous data science professionals (data scientists, hiring managers, recruiters – you name it) and identified 6 proven steps to follow for becoming a data scientist. Read my article: ‘6 Proven Steps To Becoming a Data Scientist [Complete Guide] for in-depth findings and recommendations! – This is perhaps the most comprehensive article on the subject you will find on the internet!

Is Data Science a Good Career? 

Yes, Data Science is absolutely a great option for a career – it’s a professional field that is relatively new to the world having entered the market in 2008, and is still on an upward trajectory from the standpoint of industry adoption and impact. From massive advances in technology, and concepts that are ever-changing, it’s a great profession for the fact that there are plenty of promising prospects within the field as a whole. Thus, there is plenty for those who operate within this profession.

The esteemed title of ‘Data Scientist’ has been informally named as the hottest job of the 21st century. With an impressive skill set is required, high pressure, and great responsibility, it’s also a considerably higher-paying profession. Multiple professional roles make up the entire field of data science, all with varying roles and responsibilities.

It influences an array of industries – from small businesses to large organizations, to the very systems operating within governmental bodies. Data science has proven its efficiency at using data to develop everything from better systems to algorithms used all over online platforms. As a result, it’s in high demand, as millions of businesses rely on big data in order to be successful within relatively competitive industries.

Individuals venturing onto this career path generally hope to someday attain the status of being a ‘Data Scientist’, with expert field knowledge and an average salary of $139k. Machine learning Engineers are next on the scale, averaging at $114k, then Applications Architects averaging at $113k.

There are a variety of other roles which often have to differentiate specific titles within businesses. Enterprise Architects average at $110k, Data Architects average $108k, Infrastructure Architects average $107k, Data Engineers average $102k, Business Intelligence (BI) Developers average $81k, Statisticians average $76k, and Data Analysts average $62k. Other roles generally complement these positions, including Project Sponsors, Project Managers, and Data Administrators.  

That being said, these enthralling figures come with a great burden and responsibility – crucial data-related decision making, and the task of cracking incredibly complex real-world data problems couple with these earnings. Of course, for someone who is really passionate and committed to this field, it’s generally seen as an enjoyable learning curve throughout their career journeys. 

Data science is still a competitive field in terms of landing one of these higher-paying roles, and crowds have been drawn to this profession in recent years. Since data science ultimately has the ability to transform entire companies as a whole within the digital era, employees pay such remuneration with high expectations in mind with regard to performance and added value.

With regard to the potential for data science as a long-term career choice, the future outlook of this career path holds more promise than it does risk. Although many fields have become obsolete over time, only a fraction of data science work may become automated within the next decade. Thus, the demand for professionals who can comprehend and apply data methodology to real-world problems will either remain or continue rising.

Is Actuarial a Good Career? 

Yes, being an actuary is a fantastic career choice for those who are up for solving problems dealing with financial risk through mathematical figures rather than data. The field of Actuarial Science is incredibly challenging. As an actuary, your mathematical skill and expertise will need to be practiced and pushed to its limits day by day. It’s also extremely tough to get into the swing of things in this field unless of course, it comes naturally to you, where interest and drive will amount to an improvement in capability.

Becoming an actuary takes thousands of hours and is usually studied over 5 – 10 years. It’s certainly a commitment, so if this is up to your alley, then committing to being an actuary will need to be followed through with ample dedication. An actuary uses mathematical concepts and statistics in order to estimate financial risk and the calculated risk of uncertainty. This is done in order to lower risk through prediction, which is a vital factor for any company.

The job entails many problems that will need to be faced and resolved. This includes problems like creating VBA or Python code which automates a process, decreasing premiums in the midst of increasing expenses, and displaying massive amounts of information in an as easily comprehensible manner. There are various kinds of roles within the field of actuaries, and it’s generally related to the kind of problems solved or tasks tackled.

In terms of the salary with regard to these roles, it’s reasonably high with an average income of approximately $108k. That being said, actuaries typically work from around 40 – 50 hours every week, excluding extra hours such as overtime needed in order to complete projects or meet deadlines. It requires ample of hard work and sacrifice of time – but, the profession does offer flexible work-life stability and commitments can generally be scheduled in balance.

Learning the necessary expertise for becoming an actuary involves developing efficient skills that are transferable, which makes these skills really useful to have in general. This would leave room for much diversification over time, and the freedom to incorporate such skills and knowledge into many areas of life, and various alternative professions. While it’s not great to consider such detours, it’s still a good safety blanket to have.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that the employment percentage for actuaries would see an increase of 20.1% from 2018 to 2028. Advancing within this career field is predominantly determined by individual performance within the industry, as well as actuarial exams that need to be passed with good results. They also help improve developments in the world, and being an actuary can be quite fulfilling if you love what you do.

Actuaries have the benefit of great base salaries which could end up doubling within a couple of years, are always in high demand, offer a work-life balance, and have a massive impact on companies they are employed by. They take part in high-level decision-making processes, and the professional role has been consistently ranked as one of the top jobs in the United States.

Which is a Better Career Path – Data Science or Actuary? 

There are numerous benefits to choosing either of these two professional fields. For those who are passionate about what they do, being committed, dedicated, and tenacious in advancing along the learning journey, will certainly be rewarded with fulfillment and content. Both professions offer relatively stable or high salaries, the opportunity for performance-based growth, and require plenty of responsibility within the company as a whole.

That being said, it does seem like data science simply has more potential in the current age. It’s popularity and increasing demand is simply colossal in comparison to the demand of actuaries, although – the demand for expert actuaries is of course a different thing. But, generally speaking, the entire field as a whole appears to have more prospects for those entering the job market.

Of course, getting into either field is tough, and anyone would have to prove their worth to any company hiring them under such a title. The only thing that would really make a difference is an evident amount of commitment and hard work, the innate inclination for either of these given fields and an interest in the skills being used and built on every single day.

The ultimate deciding factor would be based on what you do best – math problems or data problems? In terms of what would be a good career, which would really make it a suitable choice is determined by how far you can push your own potential in each of these fields. Establish what is fulfilling to you, and choose something that you will continue to enjoy in years to come.

BEFORE YOU GO: Don’t forget to check out my latest article – 6 Proven Steps To Becoming a Data Scientist [Complete Guide]. We interviewed numerous data science professionals (data scientists, hiring managers, recruiters – you name it) and created this comprehensive guide to help you land that perfect data science job.

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  2. Actuaries: Jobs, career, salary and education information. (n.d.). CollegeGrad #1 Entry Level Jobs and Internships for College Students and Grads.
  3. A day in the life of an actuary. (n.d.). Investopedia.
  4. Gour, R. (2019, April 20). Why choose data science for your career. Medium.
  5. Should I be an actuary? (The why YES and the why NO). (2020, March 30). Etched Actuarial.
  6. What is an Actuary? (n.d.). US News.
  7. Why actuarial science? (n.d.). Be an Actuary.


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Daisy is the founder of Passionate for the field of Data Science, she shares her learnings and experiences in this domain, with the hope to help other Data Science enthusiasts in their path down this incredible discipline.

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