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Become An Actuary

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Working As An Actuary

  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Getting Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Processing Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • $104,874

    Average Salary

What Does An Actuary Do

Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. Actuaries’ work is essential to the insurance industry.

Duties

Actuaries typically do the following:

  • Compile statistical data and other information for further analysis
  • Estimate the probability and likely economic cost of an event such as death, sickness, an accident, or a natural disaster
  • Design, test, and administer insurance policies, investments, pension plans, and other business strategies to minimize risk and maximize profitability
  • Produce charts, tables, and reports that explain calculations and proposals
  • Explain their findings and proposals to company executives, government officials, shareholders, and clients

Most actuarial work is done with computers. Actuaries use database software to compile information. They use advanced statistics and modeling software to forecast the probability of an event occurring, the potential costs of the event if it does occur, and whether the insurance company has enough money to pay future claims.

Actuaries typically work on teams that often include managers and professionals in other fields, such as accounting, underwriting, and finance. For example, some actuaries work with accountants and financial analysts to set the price for security offerings or with market research analysts to forecast demand for new products.

Most actuaries work at insurance companies, where they help design policies and determine the premiums that should be charged for each policy. They must ensure that the premiums are profitable yet competitive with other insurance companies.

Actuaries in the insurance industry typically specialize in a specific field of insurance, such as one of the following:

Health insurance actuaries help develop long-term care and health insurance policies by predicting expected costs of providing care under the terms of an insurance contract. Their predictions are based on numerous factors, including family history, geographic location, and occupation.

Life insurance actuaries help develop annuity and life insurance policies for individuals and groups by estimating, on the basis of risk factors such as age, gender, and tobacco use, how long someone is expected to live.

Property and casualty insurance actuaries help develop insurance policies that insure policyholders against property loss and liability resulting from accidents, natural disasters, fires, and other events. They calculate the expected number of claims resulting from automobile accidents, which varies with the insured person’s age, sex, driving history, type of car, and other factors.

Some actuaries apply their expertise to financial matters outside of the insurance industry. For example, they develop investment strategies that manage risks and maximize returns for companies or individuals.

Pension and retirement benefits actuaries design, test, and evaluate company pension plans to determine if the expected funds available in the future will be enough to ensure payment of future benefits. They must report the results of their evaluations to the federal government. Pension actuaries also help businesses develop other types of retirement plans, such as 401(k)s and healthcare plans for retirees. In addition, they provide retirement planning advice to individuals.

Enterprise risk actuaries identify any risks, including economic, financial, and geopolitical risks that may affect a company’s short-term or long-term objectives. They help top executives determine how much risk the business is willing to take, and they develop strategies to respond to these issues.

Actuaries also work in the public sector. In the federal government, actuaries may evaluate proposed changes to Social Security or Medicare or conduct economic and demographic studies to project future benefit obligations. At the state level, actuaries may examine and regulate the rates charged by insurance companies.

Some actuaries are considered consultants and provide advice to clients on a contract basis. Many consulting actuaries audit the work of internal actuaries at insurance companies or handle actuarial duties for insurance companies that are not large enough to keep their own actuaries on staff.

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How To Become An Actuary

Actuaries need a bachelor’s degree, typically in mathematics, actuarial science, statistics, or some other analytical field. Students must complete coursework in economics, applied statistics, and corporate finance, and must pass a series of exams to become certified professionals.

Education

Actuaries must have a strong background in mathematics, statistics, and business. Typically, an actuary has an undergraduate degree in mathematics, actuarial science, statistics, or some other analytical field.

To become certified professionals, students must complete coursework in economics, applied statistics, and corporate finance.

Students also should take classes outside of mathematics and business to prepare them for a career as an actuary. Coursework in computer science, especially programming languages, and the ability to use and develop spreadsheets, databases, and statistical analysis tools, are valuable. Classes in writing and public speaking will improve students’ ability to communicate in the business world.

Licenses, Certification, and Registrations

Two professional societies—the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA)—sponsor programs leading to full professional status. The CAS and SOA offer two levels of certification: associate and fellow.

The CAS certifies actuaries who work in the property and casualty field, which includes automobile, homeowners, medical malpractice, and workers’ compensation insurance.

The SOA certifies actuaries who work in life insurance, health insurance, retirement benefits, investments, and finance.

The main requirement for associate certification in each society is the completion of exams. The SOA requires that candidates pass five exams for associate (ASA) certification. The CAS requires that candidates pass seven exams for associate (ACAS) certification.

Many employers expect students to have passed at least one of the initial actuary exams needed for professional certification before graduation.

In addition, both CAS and SOA require that candidates take seminars on professionalism. Both societies have mandatory e-learning courses for candidates.

It typically takes 4 to 6 years for an actuary to get an ACAS or an ASA certification because each exam requires hundreds of hours of study and months of preparation.

After becoming associates, actuaries typically take another 2 to 3 years to earn fellowship status.

The SOA offers fellowship certification in five separate tracks: life and annuities, group and health benefits, retirement benefits, investments, and finance/enterprise risk management. Unlike the SOA, the CAS does not offer specialized study tracks for fellowship certification.

Both the CAS and the SOA have a continuing education requirement. Most actuaries meet this requirement by attending training seminars that are sponsored by their employers or the societies.

Pension actuaries typically must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries. Applicants must meet certain experience requirements and pass two exams administered through the SOA to qualify for enrollment.

Other Experience

Because there are different types of practice areas, including health, life, pension, and casualty, internships may be helpful for students deciding on which actuarial track to pursue.

Training

Most entry-level actuaries start out as trainees. They are typically on teams with more experienced actuaries who serve as mentors. At first, they perform basic tasks, such as compiling data, but as they gain more experience, they may conduct research and write reports. Beginning actuaries may spend time working in other departments, such as marketing, underwriting, and product development, to learn all aspects of the company’s work and how actuarial work applies to them.

Most employers support their actuaries throughout the certification process. For example, employers typically pay the cost of exams and study materials. Many firms provide paid time to study and encourage their employees to set up study groups. Employees usually receive raises or bonuses for each exam that they pass.

Advancement

Advancement depends largely on job performance and the number of actuarial exams passed. For example, actuaries who achieve fellowship status often supervise the work of other actuaries and provide advice to senior management. Actuaries with a broad knowledge of risk management and how it applies to business can rise to executive positions in their companies, such as chief risk officer or chief financial officer. 

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Actuaries use analytical skills to identify patterns and trends in complex sets of data to determine the factors that have an effect on certain types of events.

Communication skills. Actuaries must be able to explain complex technical matters to those without an actuarial background. They must also communicate clearly through the reports and memos that describe their work and recommendations.

Computer skills. Actuaries must know programming languages and be able to use and develop spreadsheets, databases, and statistical analysis tools.

Interpersonal skills. Actuaries serve as leaders and members of teams, so they must be able to listen to other people’s opinions and suggestions before reaching a conclusion.

Math skills. Actuaries quantify risk by using the principles of calculus, statistics, and probability.

Problem-solving skills. Actuaries identify risks and develop ways for businesses to manage those risks.

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Actuary Jobs

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Actuary Demographics

Gender

Male

64.7%

Female

25.6%

Unknown

9.7%
Ethnicity

White

54.9%

Asian

18.3%

Hispanic or Latino

13.6%

Black or African American

10.0%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

25.9%

French

14.8%

Portuguese

7.4%

Albanian

7.4%

Mandarin

7.4%

Indonesian

3.7%

Chinese

3.7%

German

3.7%

Marathi

3.7%

Gujarati

3.7%

Mongolian

3.7%

Sanskrit

3.7%

Arabic

3.7%

Italian

3.7%

Hindi

3.7%
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Actuary Education

Schools

University of Iowa

10.3%

University of Connecticut

9.0%

Purdue University

7.7%

DePaul University

6.4%

Brigham Young University

5.1%

State University of New York Buffalo

5.1%

Georgia State University

5.1%

University of Delaware

5.1%

Harvard University

3.8%

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

3.8%

Pennsylvania State University

3.8%

Drake University

3.8%

Michigan State University

3.8%

Northeastern University

3.8%

University of Oklahoma

3.8%

New Jersey Institute of Technology

3.8%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

3.8%

Cornell University

3.8%

Northern Illinois University

3.8%

State University of New York Stony Brook

3.8%
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Majors

Mathematics

35.3%

Management Science

19.9%

Statistics

11.6%

Business

7.9%

Finance

4.1%

Accounting

3.7%

Computer Science

2.9%

Psychology

1.7%

Economics

1.7%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.2%

Management

1.2%

Elementary Education

1.2%

Physics

1.2%

Mechanical Engineering

1.2%

School Counseling

0.8%

Human Resources Management

0.8%

Mathematics And Computer Science

0.8%

Project Management

0.8%

Law

0.8%

Education

0.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

47.2%

Masters

36.9%

Other

8.1%

Doctorate

4.8%

Associate

1.8%

Certificate

0.7%

Diploma

0.4%
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Real Actuary Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Actuary ZNA Services LLC New York, NY Dec 14, 2015 $172,740
Life Settlement Actuary AIG Employee Services, Inc. New York, NY Jul 18, 2016 $172,037
Actuary Liberty Mutual Group Inc. Boston, MA Jul 12, 2016 $150,850
Actuary, Modeling and Valuation B Asset Manager LP New York, NY Feb 11, 2015 $150,000
Life Settlement Actuary AIG Employee Services, Inc. New York, NY Dec 09, 2016 $150,000
Actuary Liberty Mutual Group, Inc. Boston, MA Jul 16, 2015 $149,406 -
$202,700
Assistant Actuary Liberty Mutual Group Inc. Boston, MA Sep 03, 2015 $149,406
Actuary, Variable Annuity (Vice President) Swiss Re America Holding Corporation Armonk, NY Mar 09, 2015 $147,118
Actuary VOYA Services Company West Chester, PA Jun 15, 2015 $146,000
Actuary Zurich American Insurance Company Schaumburg, IL Feb 18, 2016 $144,759
Actuary Valuation John Hancock Life Insurance Company (USA) Boston, MA Jan 10, 2016 $142,226
Actuary Milliman, Inc. Atlanta, GA Nov 01, 2016 $140,100
Actuary The Prudential Insurance Company of America Newark, NJ Mar 11, 2015 $140,000
Actuary MIB, Inc. New York, NY Oct 01, 2015 $140,000
Assistant Actuary American General Life Insurance Company Houston, TX Jul 29, 2016 $120,869
Lead Actuary Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Wellesley, MA May 25, 2015 $120,750
Assistant Actuary Liberty Mutual Group, Inc. Boston, MA Jun 10, 2015 $120,723 -
$169,500
Actuary McKinsey & Company, Inc. United States Chicago, IL May 15, 2016 $120,399
Supervising Actuary AIG Employee Services, Inc. Atlanta, GA Jan 19, 2015 $120,000
Assistant Actuary Liberty Mutual Group Inc. Seattle, WA Jun 16, 2015 $120,000 -
$148,300
Actuary Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. Princeton, NJ Mar 14, 2016 $120,000
Actuary Milliman, Inc. Chicago, IL Dec 19, 2016 $120,000
Assistant Actuary Transamerica Financial Life Insurance Company Harrison, NY May 18, 2015 $110,740 -
$149,160
Actuary Island Home Insurance Company Sep 23, 2015 $107,744
Actuary Earnix, Inc. Westport, CT Sep 22, 2015 $107,000
Actuary MIB Group, Inc. New York, NY Aug 24, 2016 $106,538
Actuary MIB Group, Inc. New York, NY Jan 07, 2016 $106,538
Marketing Actuary Swiss Re America Holding Corporation Armonk, NY Mar 18, 2016 $106,538 -
$109,800
Assistant Actuary Pacific Life Insurance Company Newport Beach, CA Nov 16, 2015 $105,000
Actuary Milliman, Inc. Chicago, IL Oct 28, 2016 $104,750

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Top Skills for An Actuary

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  1. Financial Statements
  2. Product Development
  3. Loss Ratio
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Audited Excel spreadsheets and financial statements for errors and inconsistencies.
  • Design processes for new product development and implementation.
  • Perform quarterly current accident loss ratio bridging analysis.
  • Designed life insurance products, including Term, Term Universal Life, and annuity.
  • Identified existing organizational and process weaknesses for insurance companies and present solutions leveraging the Accenture Life Insurance Platform.

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Top 10 Best States for Actuaries

  1. New York
  2. Connecticut
  3. Washington
  4. Virginia
  5. Maine
  6. Kansas
  7. Iowa
  8. New Hampshire
  9. Massachusetts
  10. District of Columbia
  • (191 jobs)
  • (103 jobs)
  • (65 jobs)
  • (225 jobs)
  • (13 jobs)
  • (41 jobs)
  • (64 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (87 jobs)
  • (15 jobs)

Top Actuary Employers

Jobs From Top Actuary Employers

Actuary Videos

How to Become an Actuary? CareerBuilder Videos from funza Academy.

What does an actuary do? Learn from the experts.

What is an Actuary | What does an Actuary do | Actuary Job Description| Actuary jobs

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