Be an Actuarial Analyst: Education and Career Roadmap

Should I Become an Actuarial Analyst?

Also known as actuaries, these professionals examine risk factors to determine the financial costs of various types of insurance. For instance, they may review health care statistics to figure out how often certain patient populations use their insurance benefits. By reviewing these numbers, analysts can make recommendations on how much money insurance companies should charge members. Not all actuaries work in insurance; some work for corporations, and these professionals might analyze market trends, investment risks and costs estimations to help corporations make major financial decisions. Some actuaries work as consultants and may need to travel between work sites or spend time seeking new clients.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Actuarial science, business finance, mathematics or economics
Licensure and Certification State or federal licenses required for some actuarial analysts, certification highly recommended through one of the major actuarial certification societies
Experience Some internship experience recommended
Key Skills Well acquainted with actuarial software programs (statistical modeling, cost estimation and database management), knowledge of computer programming languages and capable of utilizing spreadsheet creation software, expertise in risk management, cost estimation and insurance systems, willingness to travel to clients, as needed
Salary $96,700 per year (Median salary from May, 2014 for actuaries)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Enroll in a Bachelor's Degree Program

Information from the BLS indicates that individuals interested in becoming actuaries often major in such fields as mathematics, finance, economics or business. Bachelor's degree programs in actuarial sciences actually incorporate most of these fields. Course topics often include statistics, risk management, calculus, actuarial models, probability and financial economics.

Success Tip:

  • Take computer science coursework. Most professionals use computer software programs to figure out mathematical probabilities and statistics for large-scale projects. Therefore, the BLS recommends that individuals take courses in computer sciences as a way to become more familiar with computer programs and applications. Lower-level computer science classes often discuss programming languages, data sorting and basic control structures.

Step 2: Get Intern Experience

While still in school, individuals may want to consider building experience by participating in internships. Interns often learn some of the basic duties of actuaries, such as gathering data from various sources. As interns gain experience, they also develop professional relationships with actuarial team managers. After interns finish their bachelor's degree programs, their professional relationships with managers could lead to potential job offers.

Step 3: Choose Actuarial Specialty

Although actuarial analysts can work in various settings, most choose to focus on individual actuarial fields. Within the insurance industry, the three most common fields that employ actuarial analysts include property and casualty insurance, medical insurance and life insurance, according to the BLS. Outside of the insurance industry, analysts can choose to specialize in corporate-level financial risk management. Some analysts may prefer working for government organizations, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Additionally, most actuarial analysts choose fields of specialty prior to becoming certified, since each organization only provides certification for certain types of actuaries.

Step 4: Pass Certification Exams

The BLS indicates that employers prefer applicants who have acquired professional certification. Some individuals take certification exams prior to graduating college. Several employers may also offer actuaries financial compensation for becoming certified, according to the BLS. For instance, employers may pay exam fees.

The BLS recognizes two major actuarial societies that offer certification programs. These membership organizations include the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). Each society provides certification to different types of actuaries. SOA certifies actuaries who specialize in life insurance, finance, retirement benefits, health insurance and investments. CAS focuses mainly on professionals who work in the property and casualty fields, including workers' compensation insurance, automobile insurance, medical malpractice and homeowners insurance.

Certification through either of these organizations does not happen quickly. Actuarial analysts have to pass five exams to be certified through SOA, and seven exams to be certified through CAS. Besides exams, certification applicants have to take training courses and participate in other seminars as part of the certification process. According to the BLS, it can take as long as six years to obtain minimal certification with either of these organizations.

Step 5: Obtain Necessary Licensing

Not all actuarial analysts require licenses. Data from the BLS shows that analysts who work as pension actuaries require licensing, since these professionals often work for the federal government. To become licensed, pension actuaries have to be accepted into the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries, and this board is maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Labor. Prior to board enrollment, actuaries must have the necessary experience, per the BLS. Upon meeting eligibility requirements, professionals still have to pass two different exams before they can be licensed.

Step 6: Renew Certifications and Licenses

According to the BLS, both actuarial societies require certified professionals to maintain their certifications through taking continuing education courses. Both SOA and CAS offer training seminars that count toward recertification. According to the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries, government pension actuaries have to go through a renewal of enrollment process every three years. Part of the process includes paying fees and completing the appropriate continuing education coursework. In addition to training seminars and certifications, SOA and CAS offer members access to networking opportunities, industry-related events and other resources for professional growth and career advancement.

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