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The Best Jobs of 2013

Want to love your work? Perhaps one of the best jobs of 2013 is for you. By Kyle Kensing


How you define a great job may be as unique as your personality and work style, and probably differs from your friends and colleagues. But most of us will agree that when selecting the best jobs of 2013, as long as they share many of the same qualities, they deserve to be called great jobs. High pay, low stress, a robust hiring outlook, a healthy work environment and minimal physical exertion combine to define what makes a great job for most people. Professions including actuary, biomedical engineer, software engineer, audiologist and financial planner all fit the bill and help the professionals who hold those jobs attain the ultimate career goal: personal fulfillment.

“I tell people that I can count on one hand the number of days I've said, ‘I don’t want to go to work today,’” says Cecil Bykerk, an actuary with nearly four decades of experience and president of the American Academy of Actuaries.

“That’s just the kind of career it is.” Bykerk currently works in the healthcare sector, and he says one of the rewards his career as an actuary has offered him is an opportunity to make a direct impact on his clients’ ability to get coverage for important medical procedures.


“I’ve seen people come in to say thank you for the work I’ve done. That’s pretty powerful,” he says.

An actuary assesses risk probabilities, often for insurance purposes, using statistical data, environmental impacts and situational trends. In his time in the field, Bykerk has seen and experienced plenty, he says, "including tremendous change." Technological advancements alone have expedited workflow exponentially, while constant change on Capitol Hill have kept actuaries challenged and in high demand.

For instance, the Affordable Healthcare Act was signed into law in 2010, and is scheduled to be implemented in 2014. The legislation’s extension of healthcare benefits to many of the nation’s 48.6 million uninsured is keeping actuaries busy.

“We’re strategically positioning for when [the law] goes live in 2014 and planning for worst case scenarios,” says Liz Jobe, a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries. “It’s created many brand new opportunities for actuaries.”

Jobe says the profession’s outreach to college students is helping fill those hiring needs. She says that she and many of her fellow recruiters focus on connecting with actuarial science majors, as well as students in other mathematic disciplines, to fill the pipeline of actuarial hires across the country.

Biomedical Heats Up

Another industry with a bright future is biomedical engineering. In fact, biomedical engineer ranks as the second best job of 2013, its first year in the Jobs Rated report.

The burgeoning profession is a true 21st century career path, its growth coinciding with major leaps in scientific research. The Labor Department estimates that there will be 62% more biomedical engineers in the field by 2020 than the 16,000 who are working today, which creates a huge opportunity for aspiring professionals.

And there are plenty studying for entry into the field, as University of Delaware biomedical engineering professor Dr. Dawn Elliott details. “We’re at maximum cap for student enrollment. The demand is incredible,” she says. “It’s exciting to be a part of it.”

UD’s biomedical engineering is among the nation's fastest growing programs, helping to fuel the industry’s growth. Others include the University of California-San Diego, Georgia Tech, the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University.

“Up until [the last decade], other engineering majors have supported the medical industry,” Elliott says. “The job’s growth is a response to student and medical industry needs to apply engineering principles to medical problems.” She adds that the three primary industries that are hiring biomedical engineers are imaging, pharmaceutical and medical devices.

Checking in at #3 on the Best Jobs list is software engineer, which ranked first last year. Because computing at all stages continues to grow in importance throughout all labor sectors, software engineers will have abundant job opportunities for many years to come. The BLS projects the field to grow by 30% over the next few years, with hiring activity spread evenly across the nation. Software engineers also tend to be handsomely compensated, earning an annual median salary of more than $90,000.

The 10 best jobs of 2013, as detailed via the Jobs Rated methodology, are:

Best Jobs of 2013 - 1: Actuary

BLS National Salary Median: $87,650
Projected Job Growth: 27%
Jobs Rated Score: 123 (the lower the better)

Those skilled in mathematics and statistical analysis can find rewarding opportunities as an actuary. The career is challenging, and becoming an actuary requires passing a series of three exams. It’s also constantly evolving. “It’s a process of lifelong learning,” says Cecil Bykerk of the American Academy of Actuaries.

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Hi, After reading all of the comments I am interested in these exams/certifying institution.  I am an engineer, but I love statistics.  I am interested in looking into information on the exams more.  Could someone provide me a link to the certifying body or information on the exams? Thanks,Keith

Google it

Google is a thing that people use to answer these kinds of questions.

It is really hard to get into the field of actuary.

The problem is that alot of people want to get into the field of actuary but there are just not entry level positions. Most company that hires actuaries want people with experience and even if you pass exams there are many people that has passed exams without experience.I suggest you stick to engineering, it is easier to find jobs.

An expanding field

I am in my 3rd year at Asper School of Business in Manitoba, studying actuarial mathematics.In my experience, many companies are willing to hire for entry leval positions. The MOST important part of the process is passing the exams. If you have 3-4 exams, many companies that are looking for actuaries will be wanting to give you an interviewCheck out some of the unemployment stats for act sci majors, the numbers are tiny!

Reality Check!

5000 candidates pass these exams every year, but there are only couple hundreds of actuarial entry jobs. The problem is that the demand for actuaries is inelastic, most company dont need actuaries. Actuaries are not important unless you are  dealing with pension and insurance, and there are many naive people out there thinking that once you pass a couple of exams, have a great personality or have great communication skill you have get a job immediately and make loads of money.But in reality most of you will be unemployed, act sci majors or people studying actuarial science has the most unemployable of any major studying science, technology, engineering, math and finance.I am the only person that manage to find an entry job in my class, and it took me three years to find this job. Most of my classmates have 3 or more exams.

What about financial professionals?

I have to admit, I didn't see actuary coming as #1, but I guess it makes sense all things considered.  I think it's interesting that financial planner was the only financial profession to make the list this year.  I guess it makes sense that people are skeptical of the industry these days.  I definitely agree with financial planner being up there; with baby boomers aging there really is no better time for it.  I'd make the arguement that despite not making this top 10 list, financial careers such as accounting, tax management, market research analysis, etc are still safe bets.  I just read a nice, consice article outlining the job outlook for various finance related jobs if anyone is interested:



just number crunching in front of a computer??

I have just been accepted into the Master Program at Columbia University for Actuarial Science.  Many people have seemingly been against this opportunity for me because of the debt I will incur from participating and they say that all that actuaries do is sit in front of a computer and crunch numbers.  That's not true, right?  


By "crunching numbers", I assume you mean doing the same thing everyday.  Humans don't do the actual calculations, thats what computers are for.  Although actuaries will program the computer to do the computations.If you are a reserving consultant, then you will mainly do loss triangles everyday.  I'm a commercial P&C insurance actuary, and my job has lots of variety.  I find myself developing models to predict loss or retention ratios, redesigning rating manuals, creating databases, programming to automate tasks, and testing new rating systems.  You probably won't have this much variety if you work for a large insurer, but a medium size insurer will probably have more variety.

Depends if you do inhouse or

Depends if you do inhouse or consulting. I work in consulting, and we meet with clients regularly and have to explain our work to them. I agree that a Master's is not neccessary as what lands you a position is exams passed and any relavent experience.

Insurance jobs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, insurance jobs are on the rise at a whopping 22 percent faster than previous years. For those looking of a new career the insurance industry just might be a good fit. Starting salaries are around $40,000 per year.

Social Workers

I am a Case Manager/Social Worker and working as an Actuary sounds like the perfect career, low stress.  Most people, like myself, choose their careers based on a heartfelt calling.  However, there are days when I just want to go with the money and let someone else deal with the problems in society.  But, someone has to do 

The Labour Statistics Board

The Labour Statistics Board is out to lunch. You will not find a 30 yr old actuary making less than 100K anywhere. I think they included the salaries of individuals studying/training to be actuaries - big mistake. Actuaries career earnings are on par with medical doctors.

About salary

I am a 36 yo actuary, working in Montreal, Canada and I do not earn 100K yet.   Actuaries are very well paid when they obtain the Fellowship (after 10 exams and not 3).  You study for at least 8 years after University to get that title (so no social life at all), and the majority stop studying before reaching the title to have a life or a familly.   That job can be very stressfull as well.   Thats a good job but honestly, i would have study something else and make probably more money than I do.     

i agree that you have to

i agree that you have to study XXXX to get X ( compared to other professions )

What is the best way to succeed in the actuary career?

Graduate with a bachellors degree in business administration with concentration in accounting, GPA 3.1, on May 2011. I cannot find a job in that field, there are more candidates applying for those type of positions than positions available. My question is that is better for me to go back to college again for Actuary Science courses or can I pass the first to or three exams by self study? I will appreciate the help!Sincerly: Miguel A. Pagan Garcia  e-mail: 

Try accounting

If you find difficulty finding a job don't go into actuary1. Are you good with mathematics, actuary requires a solid background in advance mathematics and statistics.2. There are more jobs in accountancy than in the actuarial profession. Every company requires some form of accountancy while only a handful of companies needs actuary and in those companies only a handful of actuarial jobs.

That was back in the old days.

Back then when there was only a handful of actuaries, salaries were high. Right now there is a flood of actuaries salaries has gone down alot.

The job is NOT all about Exams!

There are much more to talk about the job ITSELF, other than passing the exams. Yes, that's what caught most attention, but that is not All. In addition to passing them, the job is very diverse and demanding, and requires a huge amount of patience and meticulous attention to details. Are you that type of person before you considering the career?

Pay Is Down

2011 median pay was $89k

Double check your numbers

I'm not sure where you pulled that 2011 median pay number. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) provides median and mean pay on an hourly basis. Prior to 2011, they showed an annual salary based on the mean hours worked per week (39.3 in 39.4 in 2009 and 2010). In 2011 and 2012, they show an annual salary for a full-time employee (i.e., 2080 hours = 40 hours/week). Based on 2,080 hours, below are the median and mean annual salaries for actuaries over the past six years as reported by the BLS: Median Salary: 2007 - $82,867  2008 - $84,302  2009 - $87,672  2010 - $85,197  2011 - $91,062  2012 - $93,683  Mean Salary:  2007 - $84,718  2008 - $87,402  2009 - $91,749  2010 - $91,520  2011 - $103,002  2012 - $106,683 

Toughness ::

I'm a student of 2 nd yr ....   I'm also apearing for actuary examination .....     as i can tell is tht these exam's ain't that hard as some people are commenting. In fact  i found these pretty interesting  ...    this starting series examination  isn't literally hard for students having good aptitude in maths .

Mwa ha ha...

Enjoy your "easy" FSA-Level exams, young Paduan. Also, when you study what actuaries call "Credibility," you may see why people don't take your claim so seriously given that you have passed zero exams.

Credibility theory is now on

Credibility theory is now on exam C which is a ASA/ACAS exam.

you'll see

Please let us know if you pass. In many exams it may not be only the difficulty of the questions but the volume and time that you will have to answer the exam, good luck..... you will need it.

Toughness ::

The first 2 exams are "attractor" exams to attract math/stat students.  Even at that level, it is easy to underestimate their difficulty. I know several students who took the probability exam and they thought they were "easy" since, according to them, they've taken those in school.  However, they failed the test ... many times. 
Once you get to the upper/advanced exams you'll be taking core exams ... hopefully by the time you get there, you'll be employed in an actuarial job and receive company study time.  In my experience, each test takes about 400-600 hrs of intensive study time (company and personal), at least, depending on one's ability.  Even then, there is no guarantee.  You can put in 600 hrs and still fail. 


studied 100 hours for probability without ever having taken probability before. guess who passed? i did

actuarial career is good for you if you are a math wiz

i am an actuary and also a risk manager. i have worked in the insurance and banking industries for many years. i have a graduate degree in pure math, hold actuarial and other financial designations. yes, it is a very good career. however, i believe, one has to be really really good in math to become an actuary. those who struggle in the exams either underestimate the difficulty of the tests, don't study correctly or simply do not have the required math aptitude. i know many PhDs who failed the exams and never finished.They either simply gave up or took a less difficult path. when i took the probability exam, i took it with a finance professor - he failed, i passed. again, when i took the actuarial math exam, i took it with a math professor - he failed, i passed. it's not that they were not good in math, they were not good enough or prepared enough to pass the actuarial exam.There are many people who are good in math - they can become accountants, financial analysts, programmers, math professors, hedge fund managers, etc. However, to be an actuary, one has to be really really good in math, sort of like someone who can win the math olympiad. many people do not appreciate how difficult it is to pass the actuarial exams. they think they're just "one of those" exams. in my opinion, they're the most difficult exams. period. that's why the barrier to entry is high and keeps the profession #1. i hope the SOA keeps up a good job of maintaining the profession in such a high status.

Sorry but that's just not

Sorry but that's just not true. You need a certain base level of mathematics of course, but what is really required to pass the exams is a willingness to spend hundreds of hours studying and doing practice exams. The exams require no abstract thinking which is the hallmark of upper level mathematics, they do however require the memorization of dozens and dozens of formulas as well as knowing exactly which type of problem they are used in. In short, to pass actuarial exams you need to be decent at math, and very very good at studying.

Passing Exams

To pass the exams it is “better” to be able to memorize than it is to apply higher level thought (no disrespect). Creativity will get you zero points. No time to analyze either. In depth understanding only goes so far in passing these just need to be able to memorize very well and to retrieve it fast. You may be able to truly solve problems that no one else has ever solved, but on the exams, this will get you zero points because your creative solution is not on the point list that the graders use and the graders will not take the time to understand what you did either. Experts in regurgitation pass the exams quickly, so don’t bother stressing your frontal lobes – you really need a strong hippocampus to get you through. Given this, I doubt that Albert Einstein would have thought these exams were easy – remember no points for originality. If you are the original problem solver type, then go for the Ph.D. and you will get credit for your abilities. The actuarial exams are not designed to identify the ability to perform “original” work, but to determine if you have memorized the work of others—after all, there is only so much that a structured “exam” can be expected to achieve as it is not assessing the same thing as a dissertation.

i agree strongly

i agree strongly

actuaries are top-notch mathematicians

prior to having a full-fledge actuarial science programs, most schools only had math or stat degrees to offer. actuaries usually were recruited from the honors programs of these programs. pure (abstract) math were the traditional foundation for actuaries.

given the time and interest, most actuaries would probably excel in abstract math. i myself (an actuary) is a pure math major and have done some work in number theory. i just don't have time for such work at the moment.

actuarial math has deep roots in mathematical statistics. in order to pass those notoriously difficult exams, one has to apply some level of abstraction to retain, absorb and apply massive amount of material. i don't think one can pass these exams unless he/she has solid foundation in mathematics - pure and applied.

And if you love numbers

The post above was well put.  I would just add that you should also love math.  I have been an actuary in the consulting field for over 15 years.  The hours are often long and stressful, but I love my job.  The expectations further along in your career place more focus on managing people and projects and getting sales (if you want the big bucks), but the math is always there.Most of my job is now about explaining the complex concepts in a way that makes sense to business leaders, but I still spend at least 25% of my time crunching numbers.  While I wouldn't want to spend all day every day crunching away at the computer, I still love doing it.  So if you love math and are really good at it, this could be your dream job.

Taking first exam, Exam P/1 this coming Monday... :-) :-| :-(

I'm a math teacher now and have been studying for the first test for the past four months. I can appreciate all of the viewpoints expressed in this thread, but yours (the part about loving math) was what I needed to hear. I too enjoy working problems, being creative with solutions, and as weird as it may sound, I actually enjoy studying! Though stressful at times (working 50+ hours/week at a high school, 6 hours of private tutoring/week, and then studying 15-20 hours/week) I enjoy working problems! The pay that comes along with being an actuary is attractive, but the fact that this career seems to be for those that are self motivated and love math is the real reason I'm making this career change...Wish me luck Monday!

Stop being such a Debbie Downer

All of you who are complaining need to find better jobs. I'm still taking the preliminary exams, and making more than the median listed hereand I only work 40 hours a week at a great health plan.

If you're so bothered by high stress and long days, maybe it's time you left consulting. You can make almost as much in insurance (and way more if you think about earnings as an hourly rate).

And yea, whoever is saying these exams are easy is pretty crazy since only 40-50% of people pass them. They're not impossible, but they do take up a lot of your time and require sacrifices in your social life.

It's like getting a masters (in a legitimate field)...but you're not paying for that masters and your employer gives you some amount of time to study. So compared to a lot of career paths, actuaries do have it pretty good.

That's what I needed to hear... :-)

Glad to hear you're making good money while still taking the preliminary exams. That gave me a lot of hope...Anyone that hates studying, not self motivated (willing to get up every weekend at 7am to get to the library), not a good communicator, or doesn't have a deep "love" for mathematics shouldn't be considering this field. From everyone in the field who I have spoke with, these are some key characteristics of someone who will be successful as an actuary. I take my my first test Monday. I have to laugh at those who pretend that the exam process is easy. Just like you stated, approximately 42% of exam takers pass Exam P/1. I have a pure math degree, had a 3.5 GPA in my math/science classes during college (4.0 GPA during high school), and have been teaching high school math (algebra through pre-calulus) for 4 years now. I figured I'd be more than prepared. Then I began studying and noticing that there are wrinkles in so many of the problems and that you really need to become fast at ironing them out with only about 6 minutes per problem! This is where the countless hours of studying come in to play as well as the desire to master each and every concept in the syllabus...


Most actuaries work for life, health, or casualty insurance companies or environments. Some work in the pension plan world.We love helping people and making things better.I highly recommend actuarial work to anyone; you have to have the guts, skills, and staying power to get past the exams, but once past, the world is open to you. The high barrier to entrance coming from the exams demands that you are the type to go the extra 10 yards looking under rocks under rocks, checking all aspects of a problem, and presenting a well-founded and effective solution when you are out in the business world.I love what I do, and hope my son follows a similar path.I know a kid who is taking AP Calculus BC at age 13, with an eye towards the actuarial exams. That is how it starts.

Another Perspective

I'm a healthcare actuary with 30 years of experience.  I routinely work 10-12 hour days.  The stress of filing rates for 2014 (the first under the ACA reforms) in 12 states, 5 months earlier than last year, is significant, to say the least.In 2010, I lost my job through no fault of my own; the $4B revenue division of the company I worked for was sold.  I allege that uncertainty over healthcare reform at that time is mainly what prevented an employer in wanting to invest in someone like me.When I finally found a job in 2012, it was in a much higher cost of living area at a far lower salary.  I would like to return to my former geographic location, but cannot find a job there.I'm not complaining.  I'm just trying to set the record straight that it's not all roses in the #1 profession.

Actuary Exams are a Joke

Actuarial exams are multiple choice, and you get roughly 6 minutes a question.  They're comparable to the Praxis.  I mean adding up the means of a bunch of Poisson random variables is algebraically easier than the math on the praxis, adding Partial Fractions.Oh wow, integrating the pdf gives you the complicated.


That's a marginal description of the first and easiest actuarIAL exam by someone who'd give up before passing another exam.  And people like that are a dime a dozen.


lets see you pass one of them.

that is the easiest exam

that is the easiest exam ever. after those jokes u have 3 hardcore exams, (MLC, C, MFE), then 8 x modules and 5 x VEE creditations. Then ur only half way, u have to pass the REAL hardcore exams in your specific field, pension, life insurance, investment, collective insurance, etc... You a real joke if you think anyone thinks adding poissons is tough, you simply lack knowledge of what the actual requirements and subjects are 

Thats for the first two

Thats for the first two exams, the C and MLC involves much more math.


Blah blah blah, ok, I'm a troll.  What have I done for anyone during my aimless life?


I was confused by the first comment, but this fixed version clears it up nicely +1

The new world belongs to mathematicians

Having worked with a number of actuaries they are without doubt amongst the brainiest people I have met. They can slice and dice information and serve it up on a platter....the problem is that it is totally indegestible to most of the public. Today's world is all about maths and data. Google's algorithms are legendary and those with the skills to identify patterns in human through data analysis can conquer the world...more or less. I agree with the previous commentator that the way forward is through  science, technology, engineering and maths, however I would attach one caveat to that. It still needs the art of communications for people to understand and engage with these disciplines. I know from my own experience that sometimes those with backgrounds in STEM are the ones who have the most difficulty in getting their message across.

Actuary - Low Stress? Where?

I've put in about 40 years of work in the 25 years I've been an actuary. If you're an actuary and you think your job is low stress, please tell me where you work.

Integrity essential

I have met many actuaries and they are great people, albeit with some having poor interpersonal skills. There is neither gender nor racial discrimination. With very few exceptions they are people of high integrity who can be trusted to produce equity.As an aside, an actuary/politician was one of the few people who managed to get trains running on time. Steve Crabb, a fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries in Scotland applied lateral thinking and redefined the meaning of on-time (arrvival within 10 minutes of scheduled time meant the train was on time).The best career progression is to work as an actuary for a few years and then become a politician to get access to all those wonderful add-on benefits.

Money, yes but.....

I am an international consulting actuary. Financially rewarding? WOW is all I can say. I have earned more money than I ever expected. Portability of qualifications - wonderful.
BUT, as others have noted, the exams are hard and take a long time. Night after night of studying, following days of hard work - when all your friends are out having fun.
And the thing about low stress and short hours - forget it. I have been working 50-60 hour weeks for 25 years and it is very stressful - clients are demanding, travel is frustrating.
On balance I love my job and thank my personal deity every day for letting me stumble into it.


", and becoming an actuary requires passing a series of three exams"....not sure which position this is(perhaps CFA?), but there are 5 preliminary exams(counting MLC and MFE separately) and 3 FSA exams(starting fall 2013) on the SOA track, more on the CAS side.

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