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Actuaries: Career, Salary and Education Information
Actuary Career Profile
Actuaries use their knowledge of business, finance, and statistics to assess and minimize financial risk for companies and clients. Most actuaries are employed in the insurance industry, specializing in either property and casualty insurance or life and health insurance. Actuaries can also be found in other financial service industries and in the government.
Training in advanced mathematics and business helps actuaries accurately determine the cost of events like death, disability, injury, or property loss. Investments and pension plans are another chief concern of these specialized financial workers. Actuaries are highly skilled in mathematics, particularly statistics.
A Day in the Life of an Actuary
Most actuaries work a traditional 40 hour week, though consulting actuaries can spend much of their time traveling to meet with clients. Consulting actuaries can experience erratic schedules, sometimes working more than 40 hours a week.
Computer skills are important for actuaries, who are often required to use sophisticated statistics software to create spreadsheets and databases for their clients. In addition to time spent at the computer, consulting actuaries can spend a significant amount of time meeting and communicating with established and potential clients.
Actuary Training and Education
Actuaries generally have a bachelor's degree in mathematics, statistics, or a specialized actuarial science degree. Typical coursework for actuarial science majors includes calculus, economics, actuarial models, and life contingencies. Courses in corporate finance, economics, and applied statistics are required for professional certification.
Many actuaries find a job directly after graduation and work full time while passing certification exams. Advancement in the career depends highly on job performance and examinations passed. Management or supervisory positions may be possible with experience or specialized training.
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Employment & Outlook
About six out of ten actuaries are employed in the insurance industry. Due in part to a growing insurance industry, career opportunities for actuaries are expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. About 4,300 jobs are projected to open, an overall increase of 24%. Job opportunities for actuaries are expected to be good, particularly for those who have passed at least one certification exam.
Actuaries tend to be employed in urban areas, but career opportunities are spread relatively evenly across the nation. In 2007, the states with the highest concentration of actuaries were Connecticut, Kansas, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
Actuary Salary Information
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that actuaries earned mean annual wages of $95,420 in 2007. Average annual starting salaries for actuaries with bachelor's degrees were $53,754 in 2007, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Top-paying employers in the industry include management, scientific, and technical consulting services ($107,080), the federal executive branch ($99,380), and agencies, brokerages, and other insurance-related activities ($96,850).