The Actuarial Science Program

What is an Actuary?

According to the Wall Street Journal, “An actuary interprets statistics to determine probabilities of accidents, sickness, and death, and loss of property from theft and natural disasters”. This narrow definition does not reflect the recent expansion of the duties and opportunities of actuaries. A more current definition could be: “Actuaries are specially-trained professionals who use their knowledge of probability, statistics, and specific models to evaluate and price risks”. Actuaries are business professionals who use mathematical skills to define, analyze, and solve business and social problems. They are generally employed in life, health, and property/casualty insurance companies, consulting firms, and government.

In the U.S., actuaries are certified through a rigorous series of professional exams administered by the Society of Actuaries (SoA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). These exams are approved internationally, through numerous mutual recognition agreements between American and foreign actuarial bodies.

The #1 Job in the United States: Actuary

Since 1988, the editors of the Wall Street Journals’ publish regularly a ranking of 250 occupations in the US, from accountant to zoologist. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and industry groups, are used to rank jobs on the basis of six key criteria: income, employment outlook, environment, stress, physical demands, and security.  Actuaries have never ranked below fourth in all editions of this Jobs Rated Almanac. The current ranking (2010) is:

  • Actuary
  • Software Engineer
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Biologist
  • Historian
  • Mathematician
  • Paralegal Assistant
  • Statistician
  • Accountant
  • Dental Hygienist also publishes an annual jobs report, ranking 200 jobs on criteria such as work environment, income, outlook, and stress.  Actuaries ranked first in the 2013 ranking.  The first ten jobs are:

  • Actuary
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Software Engineer
  • Audiologist
  • Financial Planner
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Optometrist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Computer Systems Analyst

Actuarial Science at the University of Pennsylvania

Actuarial science is one of the concentrations offered to Wharton School students. Students from other Schools may minor in actuarial mathematics.

Useful Contacts and Links

Penn Actuarial Advisor: Dr. Jean Lemaire (; 215-898-7765)

Penn Actuarial Society: The Penn Actuarial Society is a club that brings together students interested in or concentrating in actuarial science. The club organizes several industry presentations annually, as well as review classes and mock exam sessions.

Prizes, Awards, Scholarships for Actuarial Students

Society of Actuaries:

Casualty Actuarial Society:

Information for Actuarial Students:

Actuarial Jokes: 

Department of Statistics and Data Science

The Wharton School,
University of Pennsylvania
Academic Research Building
265 South 37th Street, 3rd & 4th Floors
Philadelphia, PA 19104-1686

Phone: (215) 898-8222