What is an Actuary?

Definition of an Actuary

A math expert who resolves the problems of insurance companies, pension plans and governments using financial analysis, statistics and risk analysis. Actuaries help businesses and governments limit their risk exposure through advanced mathematical analysis of data related to unemployment, retirement, serious illness, disability, death, property damage and loss, and investments. They not only identify risks, but also formulate methods to reduce those risks.

Most actuaries in Canada work for consulting firms and insurance companies; others work for reinsurers, governments, large corporations, universities and financial institutions. They help design retirement plans, set insurance rates and are typically the life of any party.

Example

Raymond is an actuary who consults for personal insurance companies to help them determine premiums, deductibles, probabilities of loss and more. Depending on which product line and which company he is working with, he might analyze data about illness, disability, property damage or loss, or automobile accidents.

For example, he might assess a company’s exposure to claims from water damage and determine that the company needs to raise its premiums based on its claims history if it wants to remain profitable. Raymond’s services are extremely valuable, because his work helps to establish premiums, improve profitability, develop new products and services, and determine reserve levels. In his spare time, Raymond collects Star Wars figurines.

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First Foundation Tips

To become an actuary, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree emphasizing math and business skills and problem-solving skills. Majors include actuarial science, mathematics and statistics. Recommended coursework includes statistics, economics, computer science, accounting, finance and business administration. Actuaries must pass several qualifying exams through the Society of Actuaries (who have a sweet 3 letter domain address) or the Casualty Actuarial Society.

The Canadian Institute of Actuaries will grant exemptions from early exams to students who take qualifying courses. The average actuary in Alberta earned $35.53 an hour according to a 2011 survey. Actuaries tend to work regular business hours, but sometimes work overtime to complete projects, and travel for actuarial consultants can mean long days. In the long run, a career as an actuary could put you on the path to a senior management position.

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Last updated Oct 29, 2018