Actuaries are employed in the insurance industry and by companies and agencies to assess chances of certain life and unplanned events occurring, including death, sickness, and natural disasters, and design policies that minimize the financial repercussions of such events. Outside of the insurance industry, actuaries help individuals and companies with financial investments. They also help market research analysts determine the potential demand for a brand new product or service. General job responsibilities of actuaries include:
- Compiling and analyzing information and statistical data regarding risk and risk management
- Developing and administering insurance policies, investment plans, and other business strategies based on that information and data
- Utilizing database, statistics, and modeling software to predict the probability and cost of an event
- Reporting their findings and advising company executives, shareholders, government officials, and other clients
According to the BLS, employment of actuaries is predicted to increase by 27% from 2010 to 2020, with the largest growth being in consulting services. More industries will be hiring actuary consultants to help assess risk across all areas of business. Due to recent and upcoming changes to healthcare law, more companies will be need actuaries to review and revise employee benefit plans.
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Becoming an Actuary
Actuaries must hold a bachelor's degree and successfully complete a series of exams in order to become certified as professionals. Actuaries typically earn an undergraduate degree in mathematics or statistics or a business-related filed such as finance or economics. A relatively small number of schools offer bachelor's and master's degrees in actuarial science.
Undergraduate coursework for students pursuing a career as an actuary should include economics, applied statistics, and corporate finance. Students should consider taking courses required for professional certification (see below). A sampling of classes you may take an actuarial science degree program, drawn from degree requirements for the University of Texas at San Antonio's bachelor of business administration degree in actuarial science program, include the following:
- Probability and Statistics
- Property-Liability Insurance Finance
- Statistical Mathematics
- Introduction to Stochastic Processes
Actuaries may intern or work for a company while completing the necessary exams for professional certification. Many employers support their actuaries throughout this process and may even offer paid time off to study. The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society for Actuaries (SOA) each offer two levels of certification, associate and fellowship. The CAS certifies actuaries in the property and casualty insurance field, while the SOA certifies actuaries working in life insurance, health insurance, retirement benefits, investments, and finance. Since actuaries need to take anywhere from five to seven separate certification exams, the process can take four to six years to earn associate level status and an additional two years for fellowship.