Both data analysts and actuaries use information technology to compile statistical data to create reports, charts and other information. The compiled data is used to analyze other subsets of data in a variety of ways. Data analysts focus on how to manipulate massive amounts of data and ensure its accuracy, while actuaries use data to calculate potential risks and future financial stability of organizations.
Data analysts ensure the integrity of an organization’s stored data on computer systems and networks. They often find the most accurate ways to report the data they analyze. In some cases, data analysts work with actuaries to help organize data used for statistical reporting. Data analysts generally use tools such as programming languages, computer applications and data modeling to create accurate ad hoc reports. They work in a variety of industries that need to store large amounts of data, such as health care, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, telecommunications and retail.
Actuaries help organizations by compiling information and statistical data to analyze financial risks and economic trends. They generally work for insurance companies, government agencies or consulting firms, as many of these organizations require long-term analysis of financial responsibility, expanding populations, potential natural disasters, sickness or death rates. They often use statistical data that data analysts manipulate and compile for reporting.
Data analysts generally earn a bachelor’s degree in information management or a related discipline. They often move into this role after several years of experience in a related occupation and hone their skills in data modeling and the applications required to produce statistical data. Some organizations require industry-specific experience for this role. Actuaries generally earn a bachelor’s degree in a discipline such as mathematics, statistics or actuarial science. Many employers require credentials in specific types of actuarial sciences such as life, group, retirement benefits or risk management. Credentials are offered through recognized organizations including the Casualty Actuarial Society and the Society of Actuaries.
Both occupations require extensive training and experience to be successful. Pursuing either of these careers generally depends on your interests. Both careers can be personally and financially rewarding. If you wish to work behind the scenes using technology to ensure data is accurate, becoming a data analyst could be the right career for you. If you enjoy using mathematical and interpersonal skills to help organizations thrive, you may be interested in actuarial science.