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How to Become an Actuary

EXPECTED WAGE:
$84,810
Unemployment:
1.1%
Education:
Bachelor's or higher degree, plus work experience

In order to become certified professionals, Actuaries require a bachelor's degree and have to pass numerous exams. Bachelor's degrees are typically taken in actuarial science, mathematics, statistics or some form of analytical field. Coursework must be completed in: corporate finance, applied statistics and economics.

Education & Training

Actuaries require a healthy background in business, mathematics, and statistics. It is common for an actuary to have an undergraduate degree in some kind of analytical field including: mathematics, statistics or actuarial science. Additional courses in business, calculus and accounting and management are also essential. Coursework must be completed in corporate finance, applied statistics and economics in order to become a certified professional.

To prepare for a career as an actuary, students should take courses outside of the business and mathematics realm. For example, computer science courses are helpful; particularly programming languages, databases and developing spreadsheets. Statistical analysis tools are also vital. Public speaking and writing classes will enhance their ability to communicate effectively in the business world.

Internships provide an excellent way for students to gain experience. Sometimes, these employers offer successful interns jobs once they graduate. Often, employers expect that students have passed at least one of their initial actuary exams required for professional certification prior to graduating.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

There are two professional societies: the SOA or Society of Actuaries and the CAS or Casualty Actuarial Society which sponsor various programs leading to professional status. The SOA and CAS provide 2 certification levels: associate and fellowship.

The SOA certifies actuaries who work in health insurance, life insurance, finance, retirement benefits and investments. The CAS certifies actuaries who work in the casualty and property field including: medical malpractice, automobile, worker's compensation and homeowner's insurance. The majority of actuaries are certified by the SOA.

Each society requires successful exam completion to be the main component. In order to obtain associate or ASA certification, the SOA requires that candidates pass 5 exams. There are 7 exams required in order to obtain associate ACAS certification by the CAS. Both the SOA and the CAS require that candidates take seminars pertaining to professionalism. There are mandatory e-learning classes required by both societies.

Generally, it takes an actuary 4 to 6 years to get an ASA or ACAS certification due to every exam requiring months of preparation and hundreds of study hours. Actuaries may spend an additional 2 to 3 years to attain fellowship status once they become associates.

The SOA provides fellowship certification in 5 distinct categories: group and health benefits, investments, life and annuities, finance/enterprise risk management and retirement benefits. The CAS does not offer specialized study tracts for fellowship certification, unlike the SOA.

Continuing education requirements are needed by both the SOA and the CAS. The majority of actuaries fulfill this requirement by attending training seminars that are sponsored by the societies or their employers.

Individuals who are becoming pension actuaries must be enrolled by the USA Department of Labor and also the USA Department of the Treasury's Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries. It is vital that applicants meet specific experience requirements to qualify for enrollment. They additionally need to pass 2 exams which are administered by the SOA.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Analytical Skills: Analytical skills are required to identify trends and patterns within complex sets of data in order to determine the factors that have a certain effect on particular events.

Communication Skills: Actuaries need to be able to articulate complex technical subjects to individuals who do not have an actuarial background. A variety of memos and reports that describe their recommendations work must be clearly communicated to various people.

Computer Skills: Actuaries must be capable of developing and using statistical analysis tools, database and spreadsheets. They must understand computer programming languages.

Interpersonal Skills: Actuaries need to be able to listen to various suggestions and opinions prior to reaching a decision. They function as team members and leaders and have to be able to communicate clearly.

Math Skills: Actuaries quantify risk by using the principals of probability, statistics and calculus.

Problem-Solving Skills: Actuaries discover risks and determine solutions for businesses to manage those risks.

How To Advance

Job performance and the amount of actuarial exams passed will directly affect advancement. Actuaries who obtain fellowship status may supervise the work of other actuaries. These candidates may also offer advice to senior management. Actuaries who have knowledge in risk management and how this pertains to business may secure executive positions in their companies including: Chief Financial Officer and Chief Risk Officer.