While it may seem like a field that involves simply crunching a bunch of numbers, actuarial science is actually quite a broad area of study that has great implications on various aspects of society. It focuses on the assessment of risk and applies to sectors such as business, insurance and government. Actuaries, the professionals who utilize this particular science, are employed by insurance companies, corporations, hospitals, government agencies, banks and consulting firms, among others. Keep reading to learn more about the field and what it takes to become an actuary.
About the Discipline
In order to asses risk and make calculations, actuaries count on the core concepts of mathematics and statistics. Finance, economics and computer science also play a large role in the foundations. As you can imagine, the development of technology has influenced the field tremendously, as computer hardware and software are used extensively in an actuary’s work. Multiple studies and reports have shown that the profession of actuary is actually one of the most in demand. In fact, actuary was ranked number one in a 2010 study by CareerCast, a job search website. This study applied to jobs in the United States and considered factors such as stress, physical demands, income, environment and employment outlook. It is a growing field that offers many opportunities if you are someone who enjoys numbers and problem-solving.
Characteristics of Actuaries
Of course, you’ll need to be proficient at using math and able to complete the requirements involved in higher level mathematical concepts. You’ll also need to be tech savvy or at least able to learn to use a wide range of computer programs and programming languages. Curiosity and problem solving abilities are helpful, as these characteristics are what guide actuaries to move forward in their analysis in order to make determinations regarding risk and benefits. It can be quite thrilling to make discoveries based on statistics and to be able to prove your position with factual calculations.
Employers seek candidates who can demonstrate strong communication skills, exemplary technical ability, critical thinking aptitude and an appreciation for diversity. You will be working with people from vast backgrounds and will also need to understand the needs of diverse groups in order to make the most reliable assessments in much of your work. Good writing skills are also necessary, as you must be able to communicate your findings regarding risk and benefit to various stakeholders within your organization.
Education and Certification
A major in actuarial science centers on courses in mathematics. Other subjects you will study include business, financial theory, accounting, economics and statistics. There are programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, depending upon your interests and career pursuits. All actuaries will need to pass an exam by one of the professional organizations associated with the different concentrations among the profession. The Society of Actuaries (SOA) is the largest of these bodies is for those actuaries working in life and health insurance, pensions and employee benefits. The professional organization for those working in fire, liability and automobile insurance, along with workers’ compensation, is the Casual Actuarial Society (CAS). An organizatoin specifically targeted to the needs of those handling pensions for government agencies is the American Society of Pension Actuaries.
As you can see, the field can be quite exciting for those who with strong math abilities and a love of problem solving. Actuarial science is a competitive and rewarding profession.