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Doctors vs. Actuaries

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Doctors and actuaries are both professional occupations, but the requirements to get into these careers and the responsibilities of each vary significantly. A doctor diagnoses and treats health conditions of patients in a doctor's office or medical facility. An actuary uses statistical analysis tools to assess the risks of spending money in a business or offering coverage to an insurance applicant.

Doctor Role and Pay

Doctors can specialize in particular medical conditions or work as a family doctor or general practitioner. As a general practice doctor, you meet with patients for basic health and wellness checks. You also meet with patients suffering from a variety of minor to major health ailments. Assessing a patient's condition and recommending the necessary medicine or treatment are key physician roles. You also may provide advice on home care for patients. Average pay for family doctors was $180,850 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Becoming a Doctor

The path to become a doctor is notoriously long and challenging. It is significantly longer than that of an actuary. First, you must complete an undergraduate degree. Many aspiring doctors earn science-related or premed degrees. Then, you invest another four years or so in medical school. After roughly eight years of education, you still must spend anywhere from three to eight years in internships and residency training. Family doctors likely spend closer to three years in training while specialists usually spend more. You must get licensed by your state's medical board to practice.

Actuary Role and Pay

The vast majority of actuaries work for insurance providers or brokers. In this job, you use a variety of risk-assessment tools and your own analytical abilities to figure out whether an insurer should provide coverage to an application and at what premium rate. Accurately predicting the potential for payouts on an applicant is a major financial benefit to an insurer. Average annual pay for actuaries was $106,680 as of May 2012, according to the BLS.

Becoming an Actuary

To become an actuary, you typically only need a bachelor's degree, though you also have to pass a number of exams to get necessary licensing to complete the job. You also have to complete specific coursework in areas including business, statistics, math, economics and finance. Along with the necessary education, skills in math, technical analysis and detail orientation are necessary to succeed in an actuary career.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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