Accountants help individuals and businesses with a variety of financial activities, including tax preparation, investing, and balancing the books. Actuaries analyze statistics to help insurance companies and financial institutions estimate risk. While both professions require a bachelor's degree, the certification process for actuaries is much more arduous. This may help explain why actuaries tend to earn more money.
Accounting Starting Salary
As of 2012, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that new graduates with a bachelor's degree in accounting earned an average starting salary of $50,400, up from $49,500 in 2011. Accountants starting out in health care and social assistance reported a relatively low starting salary, averaging $46,300, while new accountants in the wholesale trade industry earned an average starting salary of $52,000. Those who graduated with a master's degree in accounting reported a higher starting salary, averaging $63,800 per year.
Actuarial Starting Salary
The range of starting salaries for actuaries is affected by both the industry they work in and the number of actuarial examinations they have passed. According to salary surveys conducted by EzraPenland.com, actuaries starting out in the field of life insurance typically earn between $47,000 and $64,000 per year. Health actuaries reported starting salaries ranging from $48,000 to $64,000, and pension actuaries earned starting salaries ranging from $49,000 to $67,000. Actuaries working in the field of property and casualty insurance reported the highest range of starting salaries, $50,000 to $73,000.
Average Accounting and Actuarial Salaries
While actuaries typically start out making a bit more than accountants, this pay difference tends to increase with time. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that accountants of all experience levels earned an average of $71,040 in 2012, while actuaries earned an average of $106,680. The range of salaries is even more instructive of the differences in pay: as of 2012, 80 percent of accountants and auditors working in the U.S. made between $39,930 and $111,510 per year, while 80 percent of actuaries reported earnings of between $55,780 and $175,330.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American economy is expected to add jobs at a rate of about 14 percent between 2010 and 2020. With an expected job growth rate of 16 percent, the employment outlook for accountants is good, and those who hold a CPA credential or a master's degree may have an advantage when it comes to finding a job. While the expected job growth rate for actuaries is much higher, 27 percent, aspiring actuaries can also expect stronger competition for jobs because the pay is higher and the relative number of available jobs is much smaller.