Becoming an Actuary
© 2013 by Aurelio Locsin.
Actuaries reduce the cost of risk and uncertainty by analyzing the likelihood of events, such as accidents and disasters. They then determine possible compensation for the situation. They work primarily with insurance companies, so their figures must provide enough profit for their organizations and yet deliver adequate financial coverage for clients.
The path to an actuary position begins with a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science, statistics, business or math, which is available at colleges and universities. Georgia State University shows an example of a four-year curriculum for actuarial science. It provides a general education through a foundation of English, philosophy, history and speech. It then continues with courses in higher-level mathematics, statistics, accounting, business and computer science. Some programs of study include an internship to provide students with experience in the real world.
Two professional organizations offer the certification needed to become a full actuary. They are the Casual Actuarial Society for those in the property and casualty field, such as automobile and homeowners insurance, and the Society of Actuaries, for those in life and health insurance, investments and finance. Most American actuaries have the SOA certifications. Both organizations offer the associate level, which requires the passing of five to seven exams, and usually takes four to six years of study to obtain. They also offer the higher-level fellowship, which takes another two or three years to earn beyond the associate level. Maintaining these credentials required continuing education in the form of training seminars.
New actuaries generally start out as trainees, learning their skills in teams with more experienced professionals. Some of their work involves other departments, such as marketing and underwriting, so they gain a more balanced view of their employers. Trainees do basic tasks, such as collecting information, under supervision. As they become more experienced, they perform more complex work independently, such as writing reports. Employers usually help all actuaries with certification and pension specialists with the necessary licensing. Pension actuaries must pass two SOA exams and have years of experience before obtaining the required enrollment in the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries under the U.S. Departments of Labor and the Treasury.
The number of exams passed often determines how actuaries advance in an organization. Those obtaining fellowship credentials, for instance, supervise junior employees. Actuaries need computer skills for processing information, interpersonal skills for leading teams, and the ability of speak and write well to explain their findings to management and clients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for the profession to increase by 27 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is almost twice the 14 percent predicted for all occupations. Because many companies are outsourcing their actuarial needs, most of the growth will come from consulting services. (REFERENCE 4)
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- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the principal fact-finding agency for the Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics.