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 to help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk.
Sample of Reported Job Titles
Actuary, Actuarial Analyst, Pricing Actuary, Product Development Actuary, Actuarial Assistant, Actuarial Associate, Actuarial Consultant, Consulting Actuary, Health Actuary, Pricing Analyst
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 specializing in this field 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 in this field 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 in this field 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 depending on the insured person's age, sex, driving history, type of car, and other factors.
Some actuaries apply their expertise to financial matters outside of insurance. For example, they develop investment strategies that manage risks and maximize returns for companies or individuals. Some actuaries help companies develop broad policies and strategies that assess risks across all areas of business, a practice known as enterprise risk management.
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 401Ks, and healthcare plans for retirees. In addition, they provide retirement planning advice to individuals.
Consulting actuaries 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. Other consulting actuaries work for employee benefits firms. These firms design, analyze, and manage employee benefit programs such as employer-sponsored healthcare and retirement plans for companies.
Actuaries must have a strong background in mathematics, statistics, and business. Typically, an actuary has an undergraduate degree in mathematics, statistics, business, or actuarial science.
An increasing number of employers expect students to have passed at least one of the initial actuary exams needed for professional certification (as described here) before graduation.
Median Salary 2018
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of an Actuary in 2018 was $102,880.
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