The job of an actuary is to analyze risk. Actuaries use math, statistics and financial theory to calculate the risk of a variety of events. They then use these calculations to assist insurance companies in determining rates for premiums or helping businesses to develop policies to minimize the costs of risks. Actuaries typically earn a bachelor's degree in statistics or actuarial science, and spend the next several years studying for a series of exams they must pass to become certified as Casualty Actuarial Society or the Society of Actuaries associates. It takes an additional two to three years of professional experience to attain CAS or SOA fellowship status.
Excellent Pay and Benefits
Actuaries have to take a lot of difficult math and statistics classes, and study for a series of professional exams for years after graduation, but the pay and benefits are excellent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, actuaries earned a median annual salary of $91,060 in 2011, and the top 10 percent took home a salary of $168,270 or more a year. Virtually all full-time actuary positions also enjoy a substantial benefits package including health insurance and paid vacation.
The huge amounts of data that are being generated and stored in modern digital society is a potential source of actionable information, and 21st century businesses and governments are hiring a lot of actuaries to help them sift through this data for trends to save them money or make them money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 27 percent job growth rate for actuaries as a group from 2010 to 2020, and anticipates a scintillating 58 percent job growth for consulting actuaries during that same time period.
Actuaries generally enjoy excellent working conditions. They typically work in climate-controlled offices, and usually in relatively quiet areas, as their work requires concentration. Many actuaries working as consultants have to travel to meet clients on a regular basis, and consulting actuaries in particular often have to work long hours
Interest in Math and Demographics
Given that actuaries spend the large majority of their time developing and using sophisticated statistical models to accurately describe risk, you better love math if you are going to become an actuary. Actuaries typically use demographic data, that is, statistical data relating to populations and specific population subgroups, to create their models and calculate risks. For example, the population subgroup of obese smokers over the age of 60 is much more likely to suffer from a variety of medical problems than is the subgroup of non-smokers under age 25.
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