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Actuarial Science Overview - Preparation - Day In The Life - Earnings - Employment - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations

One of the main functions of actuaries is to help businesses assess the risk of certain events occurring and to formulate policies that minimize the cost of that risk. For this reason, actuaries are essential to the insurance industry. Actuaries assemble and analyze data to estimate the probability and likely cost of the occurrence of an event such as death, sickness, injury, disability, or loss of property. Actuaries also address financial questions, including those involving the level of pension contributions required to produce a certain retirement income and the way in which a company should invest resources to maximize its return on investments in light of potential risk.

Using their broad knowledge of statistics, finance, and business, actuaries help design insurance policies, pension plans, and other financial strategies in a manner which will help ensure that the plans are maintained on a sound financial basis.

Most actuaries are employed in the insurance industry, specializing in life and health insurance or property and casualty insurance. They produce probability tables which determine the likelihood that a potential future event will generate a claim. From these tables, they estimate the amount a company can expect to pay in claims. For example, property and casualty actuaries calculate the expected amount payable in claims resulting from automobile accidents, an amount that varies with the insured person's age, sex, driving history, type of car, and other factors. Actuaries ensure that the price, or premium, charged for such insurance will enable the company to cover claims and other expenses. The premium must be profitable, yet competitive with other insurance companies.

Within the life and health insurance fields, actuaries help companies develop health and long-term-care insurance policies by predicting the likelihood of occurrence of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and other chronic ailments among a particular group of people who have something in common, such as living in a certain area or having a family history of illness. Such work of actuaries can be beneficial to both the consumer and the company because the ability to accurately predict the likelihood of a particular health event among a certain group ensures that premiums are assessed fairly based on the risk to the company. Additionally, life insurance actuaries help companies develop annuity and life insurance policies for individuals by estimating how long someone is expected to live.

Actuaries in other financial services industries manage credit and price corporate security offerings. They also devise new investment tools to help their firms compete with other financial services companies. Pension actuaries working under the provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 evaluate pension plans covered by that Act and report on the plans' financial soundness to participants, sponsors, and Federal regulators. Actuaries working in government help manage social programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Actuaries help determine corporate policy on risk, for example, and also help explain complex technical matters to company executives, government officials, shareholders, policyholders, or the general public. They may testify before public agencies on proposed legislation that affects their businesses or explain changes in contract provisions to customers. They also may help companies develop plans to enter new lines of business or new geographic markets by forecasting demand in competitive settings.

Consulting actuaries provide advice to clients on a contract basis. The duties of most consulting actuaries are similar to those of other actuaries. For example, some may evaluate company pension plans by calculating the future value of employee and employer contributions and determining whether the amounts are sufficient to meet the future needs of retirees. Others help companies reduce their insurance costs by offering them advice on how to lessen the risk of injury on the job. Consulting actuaries sometimes testify in court regarding the value of potential lifetime earnings of a person who is disabled or killed in an accident, the current value of future pension benefits (in divorce cases), or other values arrived at by complex calculations. Some actuaries work in reinsurance, a field in which one insurance company arranges to share a large prospective liability policy with another insurance company in exchange for a percentage of the premium.

Actuarial Science Resources


Overview of Actuarial Science

Admission Requirements, Alternate Degree Paths

Day in the Life:
Teams and Coworkers, Tasks, the Workplace

Employer Options, Salary Ranges, Types of Employers

Statistics, Industries, Employers

Career Path Forecast:

Professional Organizations:
Resources, Networking, Support

Internet Resources:
American Academy of Actuaries
American Society of Pension Actuaries
Be An Actuary
Casualty Actuarial Society
Society of Actuaries
The Actuarial Foundation

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 Actuarial Science



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