Actuaries use their knowledge of finance, statistics, and business to determine risk and develop policies to minimize financial loss. Actuaries try to determine the probability that certain events will occur. As a result, actuaries are necessary for insurance companies.

Actuaries gather and analyze data to determine the probability a death, disability, injury, sickness, or destruction of property will occur. Actuaries also use their skills to answer financial questions such as determining how much money needs to be invested in a pension fund to reach a specified amount, or they develop strategies for companies to maximize profits in lieu of risk. Actuaries develop cost effective pension plans and insurance policies.

Most actuaries work for insurance companies specializing in life, health, casualty, or property insurance. They use dynamic modeling techniques and develop probability tables, to determine the probability an event will produce a claim, and from the tables, they estimate what a company will pay if a claim is filed. For example, casualty and property actuaries use information such as a person's age, sex, type of car they drive, and driving record, to determine accident probabilities. This information is used to set insurance premiums, so the company can meet its obligations. Life and health insurance actuaries develop long term care insurance and annuity polices.

Actuaries in the financial service sector determine corporate security offerings and oversee credit. Actuaries develop investment instruments to compete with other financial institutions. Pension actuaries evaluate a pension plans' solvency covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and report to federal regulators. Actuaries employed by the federal government manage programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Actuaries help develop company policies and explain to executives, shareholders, government officials, and the public complex technical details. They may be called to testify in public hearings and explain policy changes to customers. Actuaries also work with companies wanting to open branches in new locations and determine expected demand in the region.

Consulting actuaries contract their services to interested parties. Consulting actuaries provide the same sources as other actuaries. Some evaluate pension plans to determine whether investors will meet their goals, or some consult companies wanting to reduce their insurance costs by reducing risk. Consulting actuaries often testify in court about the potential income a person would expect to earn, usually after a person is killed or injured. Actuaries also work in reinsurance, an arrangement where insurance companies swap percentages of their liabilities with one another in exchange for premium percentages.

Work Environment
Actuaries work in comfortable offices usually working 40 hour weeks. Consulting actuaries travel a lot, work long hours, and often experience periods of unemployment.

Education and Training
First and foremost, prospects who wish to work as an actuary are encouraged to have a strong educational background in statistics, math and business. Undergraduate degrees are generally in similar fields. Other essential education would include classes in accounting, management and calculus.

Professional actuaries much complete their education with emphasis in areas such as corporate finance, economics and applied statistics.

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Another important area of study involves computers. Education in computer science, such as how to use programming languages, is essential. Prospects should also be familiar with analytical software tools such as spreadsheets and databases. Learning how to write effectively, as well as training in public speaking, helps prospects communicate in the challenging world of business.

Students are encouraged to gain experience in internships, which often lead to full-time employment. It’s a good idea to have passed at least one actuary exam before graduation. This can impress a future employers and lead to faster certification.

The entry-level positions for actuaries start prospects out as trainees, serving as a team member and utilizing a more experienced worker as a mentor. Initially, a trainee would work compiling data but eventually this could lead to more experienced work in research or in writing reports. A well-rounded internship can include learning about other departments in the company, such as product development or marketing.

For actuaries, a median wage would be around $93,680 (May 2012). The upper 10 percent of workers in this occupation can earn as much as $175,330, while the lower 10 percent can expect to take home around $55,780.

Job Outlook
The good news for prospective actuaries is that the profession is expected to grow at a much faster rate than most other jobs – as much as 26 percent from 2012-2022. Due to the small size of the occupation, that means an increase of only about 6,300 new jobs in that decade. Actuaries will be needed to analyze and calculate news risks and incorporate those numbers into insurance products in the future. Due to new health care laws and regulations, the need for actuaries will be constant. It is a challenge for insurance companies to keep up with the changing plans in coverage. Companies will need actuaries to evaluate health care plans and make recommendations.

Another area that will need actuary assistant is in property and casualty insurance. Weather-related risks for properties and communities will need to be constantly evaluated. Actuaries can predict the likelihood of such events and help to calculate insurance costs.

Actuaries will be used in enterprise risk management, which is an internal function of many companies. This management task can help businesses avoid potential trouble spots in their industry. When new financial regulations are enacted, actuaries can help businesses stay on top of achieving best success.

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