Becoming a Risk Consultant
So you think you might like to become a risk consultant…Risk consultants are also known as consulting actuaries, though this job title can refer to other types of jobs as well. Risk consultants utilize their expertise in finance, business, and mathematics to assess the stakes of financial decisions for their clients. These professionals compile and analyze statistical data to predict the likelihood of an event, such as death or property loss, that could be financially detrimental. They then develop policies to minimize that risk. Consultants often specialize in life, health, casualty, or property insurance. Frequent travel may be involved, and some overtime might be required.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Math, statistics, business, or a related field|
|Experience||4-6 years of preparation to become certified; 2-3 years of experience to gain fellowship status|
|Licensure and Certification||Consultants must be certified through a sponsoring society; those who work with pensions must be enrolled with the U.S. government|
|Key Skills||Ability to think analytically and solve problems; speaking and writing skills; proficiency in math; interpersonal skills; knowledge of spreadsheet, database, and statistical software|
|Median Salary (2014)||$96,700 (for all actuaries)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Individuals interested in becoming risk consultants need to earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in a field such as mathematics, statistics, or actuarial sciences. A 4-year program in actuarial science tends to include coursework in calculus, statistics, probability, finance, investments, and portfolio management. Alternatively, a prospective risk consultant might opt for a bachelor's degree in any business-related field, like economics, accounting, finance, or business administration.
Take coursework relevant to the career. In addition to studying business, finance, and math, students planning on careers in risk consulting can prepare for other aspects of the job by taking courses in computer science. It's particularly important to learn to use spreadsheet and statistical analysis software. Writing and speech courses also might be beneficial.
Participate in an internship. Completing an internship through an insurance agency or consulting firm can help aspiring risk consultants gain hands-on experience in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many interns find employment after graduation at the firms for which they interned.
Sit for an initial actuary exam. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more and more employers prefer to hire applicants who have passed one or more preliminary exams required for actuary certification. Such exams are offered through two main certifying societies: the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA).
Step 2: Obtain an Entry-Level Job
After graduation, risk consultants usually start out as trainees at insurance agencies and brokerages. Certification is not required for such a position, though these workers must be on the track to obtaining credentials. Trainees might work as part of a team of actuaries who are mentored by an experienced actuary. They tend to complete simple assignments like collecting statistical data. As they gain experience and learn about a company's procedures, trainees go on to conduct research, write reports, and complete other more complex tasks.
Step 3: Become an Associate Actuary
Certification through CAS or SOA allows risk consultants to achieve full professional status in their chosen field, and many start the certification process during college. The SOA provides certification for those in the finance, investment, health/life insurance, and retirement benefits fields, while the CAS certifies specialists in property and casualty insurance. To become certified as an associate, a candidate must pass a series of exams, take professional seminars, and pass online courses. This can take 4-6 years. Employers often support workers through the certification process, sometimes funding exam costs and awarding compensation after passage of exams.
Step 4: Obtain Fellowship Certification and Additional Credentials
After gaining associate status, actuaries can go on to obtain fellowship certification through the same certifying society. This generally requires an additional 2-3 years of experience. Those who obtain credentials through the SOA can pursue specialty certification in areas like finance/enterprise risk management or life/annuities.
Along with certification, registration with federal government agencies is required of actuaries who specialize in pensions. These workers must enroll with the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries of the U.S. Department of the Treasury as well as the U.S. Department of Labor. This requires experience and passage of a pair of exams administered by the SOA.
Step 5: Become a Consultant
With experience, risk analysts can go on to work as independent contractors, either as part of a firm of their own forming or in long-term consulting positions. Due to increased federal regulation and legislation in some sectors as well as competition and downsizing of positions within corporations, risk consultants often transition away from big business and into contractual-based consulting. These positions typically entail long hours compared to non-consulting positions.
Join a professional organization. Consultants can benefit from joining the Society of Risk Management Consultants (SRMC) or another industry organization. The SRMC is geared toward independent consultants and provides networking, learning, and industry tools to its members.
Maintain certification. Risk consultants certified by the SOA or CAS must maintain their credentials by completing continuing education on a regular basis. This often involves going to employee- or society-sponsored training seminars.
Earning a bachelor's degree, obtaining an entry-level position, becoming an associate actuary, obtaining fellowship, and becoming a consultant are the steps to take to make the most of a career as a risk consultant.