Actuaries assess the risk of events occurring and help create policies that minimize risk and its financial impact on companies and clients. One of the main functions of an actuary is to help businesses assess the risk of certain events occurring and formulate policies that minimize the cost of that risk. For this reason, actuaries are essential to the insurance industry.
Common Work Tasks
- Assemble and analyze data to estimate the probability and likely cost of an event such as death, sickness, injury, disability, or loss of property
- Help design insurance policies, pension plans, and other financial strategies in a manner which will help ensure that the plans are maintained on a sound financial basis
- Produce probability tables or use more sophisticated dynamic modeling techniques that determine the likelihood that a potential event will generate a claim
- Estimate the amount a company can expect to pay in claims
- Ensure that the price, or premium, charged for insurance will enable the company to cover claims and other expenses
- Manage credit and help price corporate security offerings
- Devise new investment tools to help their firms compete with other financial service companies
- Determine company policy and may need to explain complex technical matters to company executives, government officials, shareholders, policyholders, or the public in general
- Help companies develop plans to enter new lines of business or new geographic markets by forecasting demand in competitive settings
- Help companies reduce their insurance costs by lowering the level of risk the companies take on
Other Job Titles
Actuaries are also known by other titles, including:
- Budget Analyst
Education, Training, and Experience
Education and Training
Actuaries need a strong background in mathematics and general business. Usually, actuaries earn an undergraduate degree in mathematics, statistics or actuarial science, or a business-related field such as finance, economics or business. While in college, students should complete coursework in economics, applied statistics and corporate finance, which is a requirement for professional certification.
Certification and Licensure
Two professional societies sponsor programs leading to full professional status in their specialty: the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). The SOA certifies actuaries in the fields of life insurance, health benefits systems, retirement systems, and finance and investment. The CAS gives a series of examinations in the property and casualty field, which includes car, homeowners, medical malpractice, workers compensation, and personal injury liability.
In addition to knowledge of mathematics, computer skills are becoming increasingly important. Actuaries should be able to develop and use spreadsheets and databases, as well as standard statistical analysis software. Knowledge of computer programming languages, such as Visual Basic for Applications, SAS, or SQL, is also useful. Internships prior to graduation can also provide valuable work experience.
The median annual salary of an Actuary is $85,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $145,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $49,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of actuaries are:
- Insurance Carriers - $92,990
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services - $107,080
- Management of Companies and Enterprises - $90,710
- Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities - $96,850
- State Government - $76,640
- 2006-2016 Employment growth: 24%
- Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 4,300
- Employment 2006 : 18,000
- Employment 2016: 22,000