Actuary science is the study of risks related to finance and insurance. Using mathematical tools and methods, actuaries assess short-term and long-term risks to ensure that a business or government agency will be financially stable in the future. Actuary science includes the studies of uncertain events, predictable patterns of individuals, cultures and communities, then applying statistics to overcome potential risk factors.
Actuarial science encompasses studies in mathematics, statistics, economics and finance. If you're interested in becoming an actuary, STEM classes -- science, technology, engineering and math -- can form a strong academic background for advanced studies. Computer programming classes are also part of actuarial science studies because of the profession's extensive use of computer programs and applications. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree, but many pursue a master’s degree. Some educational programs allow students to concentrate their studies related to property and casualty or insurance, benefits and investments.
Accrediting Agencies and Certification
Two accrediting agencies offer certification for actuaries: the Causal Actuarial Society and the Society of Actuaries. The CAS offers certification for actuaries in fields, including property and casualty insurance. The SOA offers certification for actuaries in the field of life and health insurance, retirement and investments. Becoming a certified actuary entails additional studies from a program accredited by the CAS or SOA and a series of exams.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 27 percent growth from 2010 to 2020 for actuaries. Actuary careers were ranked one of the top 10 best jobs in America by both CNBC and CNNMoney in 2011. Many organizations require the skills of actuaries to ensure long-term financial growth and stability. Growth in the field is expected, but employment is competitive because the actuarial science field is small, and salaries for actuaries are high. Although most actuaries are men, according to The Actuary magazine, FTSE 100 boards have been advised to boost female participation in the field to at least 25 percent women by 2015.
The average salary for actuaries was $103,000 per year in 2011, according to BLS. Salaries ranged from $54,350 to $167,270 per year, including BLS’s 10th through 90th percentiles. Actuaries work for employers such as insurance carriers, consulting firms, as well as local, state and federal government agencies.
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