Actuary

Are you dedicated, disciplined, able to work by yourself and with others, and communicate technical ideas to non-technical parties? And, of course, good with numbers?

What do Actuaries do?

An actuary is a professional that draws on mathematics, statistics, economics, and finance to put a price on a future contingent event. Traditionally, actuaries work within the insurance and retirement industries.

Within insurance (Health, Life, Property and Casualty), actuaries have two main responsibilities: Pricing and Reserving. Pricing actuaries determine how much to charge policyholders for their insurance and reserving actuaries determine the overall cost of future claims to make the insurance company holds the correct amount of cash in “reserve” to pay those claims.

Very similar to reserving actuaries, those practicing in the retirement industry determine the amount of cash needed in a defined benefit pension fund to pay all future promised retirement benefits.

In every case actuaries need to be experts in not only actuarial mathematics, but also the regulatory requirements for their particular industry.

Why is it important?

Actuaries’ job is a very important one. If an insurance company does not charge enough for its policies, it will not have enough money to pay all the claims by its policyholders. People depend on their insurance policies for when they lose something of value that they cannot afford to replace. People also depend on their retirement benefits to provide income during their retirement. Without actuaries, none of this would be possible.

Typical Duties
  • Determine how much to charge for an insurance policy using statistical and actuarial techniques.
  • Assist in the design and administration of pension plans and insurance policies
  • Analyze data to determine actuarial assumptions on things such as mortality, morbidity, disability, accident, interest rates, legal exposure, and catastrophic events.
  • Liaise with government entities on financial reporting requirements, pension plan liabilities, and premium rates.
Required Skills
  • Business Acumen
  • Mathematical aptitude
  • Complex Problem Solving Skills
  • Above-average Computer Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Time Management
Career Facts

Salary range: Starting right out of college you can expect to earn anywhere from $50,000 to $65,000. As you progress through your career, you can expect to earn between $70,000 and $100,000 as an Associate (ASA or ACAS) and between $90,000 and $175,000 as a Fellow (FSA or FCAS). Some actuaries make a lot more than these ranges. For more information on actuarial compensation, see Ezra Penland Actuarial Recruitment’s Salary Survey.

Education and Professional Requirements: For an entry-level position you should have a Bachelor’s degree. Many employers prefer or require the completion of at least two actuarial exams. This is one profession where a Masters degree is not required.

Advancement: As your number of completed actuarial exams and years of experience increase, so will your responsibilities. Many actuaries become managers after they receive an actuarial credential.

Possible career path: Most actuaries remain actuaries throughout their entire career, taking on actuarial positions with increasing responsibility. The top actuarial position at most insurance companies is the Chief Actuary, who oversees all aspects of actuarial services. Some actuaries choose to go into consulting, where they provide their actuarial expertise to myriad clients. Often, CFOs of insurance companies and/or other multinational companies have actuarial backgrounds.

Additional Resources

References

Videos

Webinars

Designations/Certifications/Exams

In North America, there are two major actuarial organizations that provide credentials based on a series of examinations: the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

  • ACAS & FCAS: Those seeking a career in Property and Casualty can become an Associate or Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS and FCAS respectively). For more information on CAS designations and requirements, click here.
  • ASA & FSA: Those seeking a career in Health, Life or Retirement can become an Associate or Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (ASA and FSA respectively). For more information on SOA designations and requirements, click here.

Other Actuarial Designations:

  • MAAA (Member of the American Academy of Actuaries) – The American Academy of Actuaries is a professional association that assists in public policy as it pertains to the actuarial profession. For more information on the American Academy of Actuaries, clink here.
  • ACIA & FCIA: actuaries practicing in Canada can become an Associate or Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (ACIA and FCIA, respectively). For more information on CIA designations and requirements, click here.
  • EA (Enrolled Actuary) – This designation is required to perform certain actuarial tasks as those pertain to retirement plans that are regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974. For more information on the Like Share Print Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries, click here.
  • CERA (Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst) – The CERA is a fairly new designation for those actuaries that work in enterprise risk. Candidates can earn the CERA designation either through the SOA or the CAS. For more information on the CERA designation, click here.
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