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Insurance Actuary: Job Description and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an insurance actuary. Get an overview of job duties, salary, and opportunities for career advancement.

Becoming an insurance actuary requires a bachelor's degree in a math-related program such as economics, statistics, or finance. Other programs that aspiring insurance actuaries might concentrate on are mathematics, actuarial science, and business. Certification is also required.

Essential Information

Insurance actuaries create policies for insurance companies. These policies deal with the potential for risk and the possible cost of liability in events like property loss, death, injury, sickness or disability. They may also deal with other financial matters for their companies.

Required Education Bachelor's degree (usually with a strong background in math)
Other Requirements Certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% (for all actuaries)*
Average Salary (2015) $110,560 annually (for all actuaries)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Actuaries that work in the insurance industry generally specialize in either life and health insurance or property and casualty insurance. The integral role that an actuary has in insurance companies stems from their risk assessment research. This research helps them forecast how likely it is for certain risk events to occur and how these events will impact their company with potential loss.

For example, an insurance actuary with a property and casualty specialization might calculate how many claims the company can expect to have as a result of car accidents. They must weigh an insured person's vehicle type, age, sex and driving history to devise a premium that is competitive with other insurance companies. They have to make sure that the premium covers all the possible expenses arising from a potential claim, while still making money for the company.

Insurance actuaries typically work 40-hour weeks in an office environment. In the case of an actuary working as a consultant, travel may be required, which could result in longer hours. As of May 2015, all actuaries earned an average salary of $110,560 per year, according to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For actuaries employed in the insurance carrier industry, the average annual salary was reported as $105,880 in May 2015. The BLS has projected a 18% employment growth rate for actuaries between the years of 2014 and 2024.

Education Requirements

An insurance actuary typically has a bachelor's degree in one of the following areas:

  • Actuarial science
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Finance
  • Business
  • Economics

While having a degree and a strong background in math is paramount, insurance actuaries may find the exams that they need to pass to be the most challenging and time consuming aspect of their educational requirements. Similar to an attorney, an insurance actuary needs to pass several exams in order to advance in their career. Through these exams, many of which can be taken while already employed, they are able to achieve different levels of professional designation.

Insurance actuaries must be licensed by one of two professional society sponsor programs. In doing so, they can achieve full professional status within their chosen specialty of health and life insurance or property and casualty insurance. The Society of Actuaries (SOA) certifies actuaries in health and life insurance, as well as finance, investment and retirement systems (www.soa.org). The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) licenses actuaries in property and casualty insurance. The CAS examinations cover subjects such as workers compensation, personal injury liability and home and automobile insurance ( www.casact.org).

By passing a number of examinations and participating in continuing education programs, an actuary can achieve the professional designation of an Associate from either professional society. This typically takes 4-8 years.

The highest professional designation is known as the Fellowship level. This can be achieved through either professional society by completing more continuing education and passing more exams. This process takes an additional 2-3 year for an Associate to complete.

Insurance actuaries develop policies related to the potential risks that a company or person might face, such as death, property loss, and disability. They need a bachelor's degree with a strong focus on math as well as professional certification obtained by passing several tough exams. Jobs for actuaries are expected to increase by 18% from 2014 to 2024, and the average salary was about $110,000 in 2015.


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