Actuary Job Description and Salary Information

Actuary keying in numbers
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Are you a college student who loves math but isn’t sure how to translate this passion into a career, especially if you really aren’t interested in becoming an accountant or a banker? You may want to give some thought to becoming an actuary – especially after reading the job description below and learning what a high salary skillful actuaries can demand. An actuary is one of the top jobs for graduates who major in mathematics.

What does an actuary do? Actuaries perform complex calculations to determine the likelihood of various outcomes related to accidents, illnesses, consumer demand, and investments. They utilize specialized computer software to crunch numbers and generate tables, graphs, and reports regarding their findings.

Actuaries present this statistical information to insurance executives, marketing managers, underwriters, investment bankers, and pension directors to support their decisions about the pricing of insurance policies, product development/marketing planning, stock offerings, and investment choices. The actuarial data they generate is essential for the successful enterprise risk management efforts of companies, which must continually modify their business, R&D, and marketing operations to control their overall financial risk exposure and ensure the stability of their business operations.

Actuary Job Description and Salary Information

The majority of actuaries work for companies dealing with life, health, property, and casualty insurance.

Others work for pension companies, consulting firms, or government agencies. Many actuaries move into management or executive positions where they direct and supervise work units.

Most actuaries work full-time in a traditional office setting; 25% work more than 40 hours a week.

Education, Training, and Certification Requirements

Most actuaries acquire a bachelor's degree in mathematics, actuarial science, or business.

Coursework in statistics, economics, computer science, calculus, and corporate finance provide an excellent foundation for actuarial exams and entry-level jobs.

Actuaries can start their career as trainees without any certification. Most actuaries receive extensive mentoring, training, and release time to prepare for exams while on the job. However, for full professional status, actuaries should pursue associate- and fellow-level certification with either the Casualty Actuarial Society / CAS (for actuaries interested in the property and casualty field) or the Society of Actuaries / SOA (in order to work in the life insurance, health insurance, retirement benefits, investments, and finance industries). Once an actuary has finally become certified (after 4-6 years for associate certification and an additional 2-3 years for fellowship status), they are still required by the CAS and SOA to complete continuing education requirements.

College students who prepare for and pass one or more of these actuarial exams while in school will have an edge in hiring for entry-level jobs. Titles for preliminary exams for initial actuarial certification include “Probability,” "Financial Mathematics,” “Actuarial Models: Financial Economics,” “Actuarial Models: Life Contingencies,” “Models for Stochastic Processes and Statistics,” and “Construction and Evaluation of Actuarial Models.”

To maximize their potential to land a fulfilling entry-level job as an actuary, college students should also try to perform at least one internship where they can work in partnership with experienced actuaries. Actuary internships are typically offered by major insurance companies, which often pay their interns between $15 and $22 an hour. Standard requirements for such an internship include completion of at least one actuarial exam and a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Candidates for actuarial internships are also sometimes required to have a good command of Excel and of database / statistical analyses languages such as SQL or SAS. Because actuarial science is such a specialized field, successful execution of an internship may well open doors to immediate employment after college.

Actuary Salary Information

Demand for actuaries is on the rise, as reflected both by hiring trends and by salary increases.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, actuaries earned an average of $100,610 ($48.37 per hour) in 2016, a two-year increase of $13,910 over the median pay of $96,700 in 2014. The bottom 10% of actuaries earned less than $58,910 in 2016, while the top 10% earned at least $186, 250.

Job Outlook for Actuaries

The number of actuary jobs is expected to increase 18% by 2024, with an anticipated 4,400 new jobs opening over the course of the next seven years.

Quick Facts: Actuary (Occupational Outlook Handbook)

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