What Is an Actuary?


An actuary is someone who analyzes the financial consequences of various risks. They use math, statistics and advanced theories to forecast future financial events or changes. Many actuaries work for insurance, financial and consulting companies. Although they may work in any industry, actuaries are business-based professionals who evaluate financial risks.

What is Their Education?

Because actuaries work in many fields, there are no standard educational requirements. Most employers expect them to have a broad education that covers math, statistics, accounting and economics. When it comes to math, actuaries should excel at calculus, probability and game theory. Employers expect actuaries to also have a strong background in management, business writing and corporate financial regulations. More and more organizations are tackling social and political issues, so students will benefit from courses in the humanities, liberal arts and social sciences. Most actuaries will have at least a master’s degree, but many end up earning a doctorate degree.


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Career Profile – Finance

Finance actuaries engage in a variety of enterprise risk management activities designed to protect their organization. They accomplish this through delivering insightful risk analytics that add value, promote action and drive business results. The financial risk areas they deal with may include pricing, product development and asset management. Their risk management duties include developing and upgrading the quality of actuarial investigations and internal controls that stimulate financial well-being. They assist in the development of risk pricing standards and management methodologies based on current actuarial research and traditional economic principles. They may also set financial priorities for the organization and performance goals for employees that
align with corporate objectives.

Career Profile – Corporate

Actuaries that work for corporations perform risk self-assessments that evaluate the enterprise, competition and market. They contribute insights to new product designs, strategies and pricing campaigns. They advise executives on probably product risks, then provide actionable techniques and opportunities to mitigate risks. These actuaries conduct internal work groups for management by presenting case scenarios, evaluating issues and debating the levels of risk. They also perform important relationship management duties, such as through maintaining informal networks of strategic partners. They collect insider information and formal research to create collaborative approaches that achieve business objectives and drive customer-focused solutions.

Career Profile – Health Care

Almost all health care organizations need to continually analyze financial data in order to make the right decisions for health care consumers. Health care actuaries perform duties related to projections, rate reviews, trend analyses and financial planning. They also analyze the development of fee schedules, provider reimbursements, new health services and medical cost limitations. They work closely with managers from billing, contracting, insurance and medical departments. Health care actuaries are often assigned specific projects, so they must have excellent design, planning and implementation skills. A sample project may involve analyzing the financial risks of new health care products within different Medicare demographic groups.

An actuary in North America will achieve their professional status by passing exams and meeting requirements that are collaboratively provided by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS).