Career Advice on How to Become an Actuary

General Career Information

Do you remember your fun filled days on summer vacation as a child?  Can you recall the endless hours playing with your friends?  Surely, you remember all the fun times you had pretending to be a cowboy, playing doctor and of course, everyone's favorite, the actuary. 

Yes, some of us actually grow up to “live the dream” and become the actuary we pretended to be in those carefree days of childhood.  Okay, the statistical probability that any child anywhere is passing his or her hours playing actuary is likely near zero. However, ironically, a real actuary might actually be able to tell you what the odds of such an event occurring.

Actuaries are all about statistics.   Your garden-variety actuary spends his or her day evaluating the likelihood of a given event occurring, whether it is the risk of death, injury or loss to property. So it’s all about risk management. Insurance companies, for example, can take this data and use it to for liability management. 

In other words, actuaries greatly assist insurance companies in developing strategies for minimizing loses.  The actuary is a key person in determining what an insurance company charges for a particular individual for a given insurance.  As one might imagine all the factors involved can make the job of an actuary rather complex and challenging.


Career Facts:

There are about 18,000 actuaries in the United States, and they spend most of their time compiling and analyzing data.  Approximately 100 universities and colleges offer programs in “actuarial science.”  Approximately 60% of actuaries work in the insurance industry, which means they see more than their far share of car chases and gun fights.  Well, no, not really.  Obviously anyone considering becoming an actuary should love numbers, data, charts, grafts and analyzing all sorts of obscure data for exotic and exciting sources.


Career Opportunities and Job Outlook- Excellent:

The job outlook for actuaries is nothing short of excellent.  Current estimates are that from 2006 to 2016 there will be an expected 24% increase in the profession.  By 2016, projections indicate that there will be 22,000 actuaries. 

In particular, actuaries will continue to find their skills in high demand in the insurance industry.  Part of this growth is no doubt due in part to the massive wave of Baby Boomers, some 80 million people that are scheduled to enter retirement in the coming years.  This wave of Baby Boomer retirement will stimulate job growth for most sectors of the health and medical industry. The fact that the majority of actuaries are employed by the insurance industry further assures they will continue to see job growth.

Numerous surveys have placed the actuary near the top of the list of most desirable jobs.  This is due in part to job security, overall income level, the physical demands of the job and the stress levels associated with the job.  Most actuaries manage to tear themselves away from their rigorous party lifestyle that most enjoy long enough to do some serious number crunching.

Job Outlook is Excellent

A Day in The Life:

Actuaries spend their days involved in risk management and quantitative analysis.  If that sounds like an adventure, the actuary lifestyle might be one for you.  When actuaries come into work in the morning, they know that their day will be filled with lots of delicious numbers and data.  They take all that yummy and exciting data and crunch it down into even more delicious and more exciting charts and probability tables.  These probability tables are used for forecasting risk and potential liability.

Average Salary:

While the work may not sound like the most action-packed and fast-paced to most people, there can be no doubt that actuaries enjoy a high-level of pay and job security.  The average actuary earns approximately $82,000 annually. The top ten percent of actuaries earn about $145,000 per year. High job security, high pay, strong job growth and the well-known "actuary party lifestyle" all combine to make profession an attractive one for those who like numbers, data and helping insurance companies determine how to make record profits.



Career Training and Qualifications:

Most actuaries obviously have a strong mathematical background and earn degrees either in actuarial science, statistics or mathematics.  Additionally, degrees in economics and business are seen as being quite helpful.  The Society of Actuaries (who have been known to throw some pretty killer parties), along with the Casualty Actuarial Society can certify actuaries.
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