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What Actuaries Do About this section

Actuaries
Actuaries produce charts, tables, and reports to explain their calculations.

Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk of potential events, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. Actuaries’ work is essential to the insurance industry.

Duties

Actuaries typically do the following:

  • Compile and analyze statistical data and other information
  • Estimate the probability and likely economic cost of an event such as death, sickness, an accident, or a natural disaster
  • Design and test insurance policies, investments, and other business strategies to minimize risk and maximize profitability
  • Calculate cash reserves needed, based on existing policies and liabilities, in case of payout or claims
  • Produce charts, tables, and reports that explain calculations and proposals
  • Explain their findings and proposals to company executives, government officials, shareholders, and clients

Actuaries use database software to compile information. They use statistical and modeling software to forecast the probability of an event occurring, the potential costs of the event if it does occur, and whether the insurance company has enough money to pay future claims.

Actuaries typically work on teams that often include managers and workers from other fields, such as accounting, underwriting, and finance. For example, some actuaries work with accountants and financial analysts to set the price for security offerings or with market research analysts to forecast demand for new products.

Most actuaries work for 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.

Some actuaries work as consultants and 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.

Actuaries in the insurance industry typically specialize in one field of insurance, such as the following:

Health insurance actuaries 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 help develop annuity and life insurance policies for individuals and groups by creating estimates of how long someone will live. These estimates are based on risk factors, such as age and tobacco use.

Property and casualty insurance actuaries help develop policies that insure policyholders against property loss and liability resulting from accidents, natural disasters, fires, and other events. For example, they calculate the expected number of claims resulting from automobile accidents, which varies with the insured person’s age, driving history, type of car, and other factors.

Some actuaries apply their expertise to financial matters outside of the insurance industry. For example, they develop investment strategies that manage risks and maximize returns for companies or individuals. Actuaries outside of the insurance industry include the following:

Enterprise risk management actuaries identify risks, including economic, financial, and geopolitical risks that may affect a company’s short-term or long-term objectives. They help top executives determine how much risk the business is willing to take, and they develop strategies to mitigate the financial impact of those risks.

Pension and retirement benefits actuaries design, test, and evaluate company pension plans to determine if funds available in the future will be enough to ensure payment of benefits. They must report the results of their evaluations to the federal government. Pension actuaries also help businesses develop other types of retirement benefits, such as 401(k)s and healthcare plans for retirees. In addition, they provide retirement planning advice to individuals.

Public sector actuaries have different duties, based on the level of government in which they work. In the federal government, actuaries may evaluate proposed changes to Social Security or Medicare or conduct economic and demographic studies to project benefit obligations. At the state level, actuaries may examine and regulate the rates charged by insurance companies.

Work Environment About this section

Actuaries
Actuaries typically work on teams that often include managers and professionals in other fields, such as accounting, underwriting, and finance.

Actuaries held about 28,300 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of actuaries were as follows:

Finance and insurance 74%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 13
Management of companies and enterprises 4
Self-employed workers 4
Government 3

Actuaries typically work on teams that often include managers and professionals in other fields, such as accounting, underwriting, and finance.

Although actuaries usually work in an office setting, those who work for consulting firms may need to travel to meet with clients.

Work Schedules

Most actuaries work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become an Actuary About this section

Actuaries
Actuaries need a bachelor’s degree and must pass a series of exams to become certified professionals.

To enter the occupation, actuaries typically need a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, actuarial science, statistics, or some other analytical field. Students must complete coursework in subjects such as economics, applied statistics, and corporate finance and must pass a series of exams to become certified.

Education

Actuaries need a strong background in mathematics, statistics, and business. Typically, actuaries have an undergraduate degree in mathematics, business, actuarial science, or some other analytical field.

To become certified, students must complete coursework in subjects such as economics, statistics, and corporate finance. Coursework in computer science, especially programming languages, and the ability to use and develop spreadsheets, databases, and statistical analysis tools also is important.

Because the different types of practice areas include health, life, pension, and casualty, internships may be helpful for students deciding on which actuarial track to pursue.

Licenses, Certification, and Registrations

Two professional organizations—the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA)—offer two levels of certification: associate and fellow.

The CAS certifies actuaries who work in the property and casualty field, which includes automobile, homeowners, commercial, and workers’ compensation insurance.

The SOA certifies actuaries who work in life insurance, health insurance, retirement benefits, investments, and finance.

Both credentials require candidates to complete coursework in economics, finance, and mathematical statistics while in college. Candidates also must pass a series of exams and take seminars on professionalism.

Many employers expect prospective hires to have passed at least one or two of these certification exams before graduation.

It may take up to 7 years for an actuary to earn the associate-level certification because of the lengthy preparation required. After becoming associates, actuaries typically take several more years to earn fellowship status. Both the CAS and the SOA have a continuing education requirement.

The SOA offers fellowship certification in five separate tracks: life and annuities, group and health benefits, retirement benefits, quantitative finance and investments, and corporate finance/enterprise risk management. Unlike the SOA, the CAS does not offer specialized study tracks for fellowship certification.

Pension actuaries typically must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries. Licensed pension actuaries, known as enrolled actuaries, must meet certain experience requirements and pass exams administered through the SOA.

Training

Entry-level actuaries typically start out as trainees. They are usually on teams with experienced actuaries who serve as mentors. Trainees begin work on basic tasks, such as compiling data, and take on more complex duties, such as conducting research and writing reports, as they gain experience. Trainees also may work in other departments, such as marketing, underwriting, and product development, to learn how actuaries fit into all aspects of a company.

Most employers support their actuaries throughout the certification process. For example, employers may pay the cost of exams and study materials or provide paid time to study. Employees may receive raises or bonuses for each exam that they pass.

Advancement

Advancement usually depends on job performance and the number of actuarial exams passed. For example, actuaries who achieve fellowship status often supervise the work of other actuaries and provide input to senior management. Actuaries with a broad knowledge of risk management and how it applies to business may advance to become top executives, such as chief risk officers or chief financial officers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Actuaries identify patterns and trends in complex sets of data to determine the factors that affect certain types of events.

Communication skills. Actuaries must be able to explain complex technical matters to those without an actuarial background. They also must describe their work and recommendations clearly in written reports and memos.

Computer skills. Actuaries must know programming languages and be able to use and develop spreadsheets, databases, and statistical analysis tools.

Interpersonal skills. Actuaries serve as leaders and members of teams, so they must be able to listen to and collaborate with others.

Math skills. Actuaries quantify risk by using the principles of calculus, statistics, and probability.

Problem-solving skills. Actuaries identify risks and develop ways for businesses to manage those risks.

Pay About this section

Actuaries

Median annual wages, May 2021

Actuaries

$105,900

Mathematical science occupations

$98,680

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for actuaries was $105,900 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $63,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $206,820.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for actuaries in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $110,590
Finance and insurance 110,000
Professional, scientific, and technical services 101,600
Management of companies and enterprises 101,510

Most actuaries work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook About this section

Actuaries

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Mathematical science occupations

29%

Actuaries

21%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of actuaries is projected to grow 21 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 2,400 openings for actuaries are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Actuaries will be needed to develop, price, and evaluate a variety of insurance products and calculate the costs of new risks.

More actuaries also will be needed to help companies manage their own risk, a practice known as enterprise risk management. These actuaries help companies adjust their business or investment strategies across all areas of operation.

Insurance companies will need actuaries to analyze the large amount of information, such as medical or property data, collected from consumers. These data will allow insurance companies to develop new products, set competitive prices, predict consumer behavior, and improve projections of future risks and costs.

In addition, health insurance companies will require actuaries to help evaluate the effects of changing healthcare regulations and guidelines, expand into new insurance markets, and offer products to new customers.

Employment projections data for actuaries, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Actuaries

15-2011 28,300 34,200 21 5,900 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about actuaries, visit

American Academy of Actuaries

For more information about actuaries in property and casualty insurance, visit

Casualty Actuarial Society

For more information about actuaries in life and health insurance, retirement benefits, investments, and finance/enterprise risk management, visit

Society of Actuaries

For more information about how to become an actuary, visit

Be an Actuary

For more information about pension actuaries and their licensing requirements, visit

American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries

U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries

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Actuaries

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