When it comes to answering 'what degree do you need to become an actuary?' you are in luck -- as there is no specific subject degree type that is required of you in order to become an actuary. You have a good deal of options open, in fact almost "any subject is acceptable", however actuarial companies do usually state they prefer candidates with a quantitative background such as an undergraduate degree in statistics, mathematics, economics, physics etc.
Actuarial Science Degree
The actuarial science undergraduate degree is specifically designed for aspiring actuaries. It will outline the specific mathematical and statistical techniques and computer skills that are required of an entry-level actuarial graduate as well as allowing you to be exempt from a majority of the core technical examination stage of qualifying to become a professional actuary. (check specific degrees and their exemptions ) Hence, you are likely to qualify much faster, compared to a non-actuarial science degree holder. However, for those who are unsure on the actuarial profession, an actuarial science degree is perhaps not quite right for you -- it is obviously specific to a certain job (hence may shut a few doors for you potentially) and can in some circumstances work against you -- check out 'Actuarial Degrees: The Good, the bad, and the Ugly?' for a more detailed break down of the advantages and disadvantages of studying an actuarial science degree.
Quantitative and Related Degrees
Although the undergraduate actuarial science degree is the primary degree for becoming an actuary, this certainly doesn't mean to say that you are at a disadvantage by studying an alternative numerate degree. With just as many successful actuarial internships and actuary graduate jobs being got by Maths degree holders etc. Furthermore, with an undergraduate degree such as maths and economics you are also likely to keep a lot more doors open to other potential careers -- especially if you aren't a 100% set on becoming an actuary.
Tip: If you are wanting to keep your options open as well as show a dedicated interest in the actuarial profession -- perhaps you can study in addition to your numerate related degree for the certificate in financial mathematics as recommended by The Actuarial Profession.
Masters and Postgraduate Degrees
There are also a range of actuarial postgraduate degrees available, if you happen to only came across the actuarial career later on in life. Then a actuarial masters degree could be perfect for you to indicate to employers you are serious a career in the actuarial profession. Furthermore, many such postgraduate qualifications allow you to also be exempt from many of the professional actuarial exams.
The Advantages of an Online Degree
You should not discredit carrying out an off campus degree either when it comes to getting into the actuary profession either. Whether it be a online mathematics degree or online master business degree from the open university. Such an avenue can offer many potential advantages over that of a university based degree such as -- i) They indicate to an actuarial company you are an independent learner which is crucial for qualifying for the rather infamous actuary exams. ii) They are also likely to be cheaper than your traditional college undergraduate degree also. iii) You can get relevant actuarial work experience at the same time, as you are able to study from home when you want -- you are more flexible.
Can You Become an Actuary Without A Degree?
As said above, in most circumstances you will need a degree to become an actuary preferably in one of the STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, however there may be a few circumstances where you can become an actuary without a degree. Firstly, there is the option of an apprenticeship/young school leaver scheme that maybe available for you, such as the Allianz scheme. Secondly, you may be able to switch careers later on, for example if you had been working in insurance for a while and proved yourself to the company that you were a competent employee, and you demonstrated that the actuarial profession is one you are keen to go into, they may sponsor you to train to become an actuary, indeed perhaps a longer route but certainly viable.
In all it doesn't matter entirely the degree subject that you choose to carry out, as actuaries come from a whole range of backgrounds from online psychology degrees to actuarial science master degrees from prestigious universities, to actually get an actuarial graduate job it is bound to play on a whole range of other factors. From your quality and quantity of work experience (e.g. actuarial internships, shadowing an actuary), to how well you actually did in your degree, how you came across on your the phone interview, have you taken additional relevant qualifications such as the certificate in financial mathematics, you may have even taken the first exam of the actuarial profession and so on.
For anyone even considering the actuarial profession then I have to recommend probably the most comprehensive and useful guide on the matter ever drafted an 'Actuaries' Survival Guide' -- which will offer advice on getting work experience, interviews, studying for exams -- the lot. If you have any further information and experience you would like to share on what degree you need to be an actuary or any general remarks then I encourage you to please leave a comment below.