What does an actuary do?

What does an actuary do?

If you’ve always loved numbers, maybe you’re cut out to become an actuary. Find out more and see if this might be a good career option for you.

Definition of an actuary

Actuaries do a lot more than calculate insurance premiums; they are experts in calculating risk.

While actuaries work with mathematics and, in particular, statistics, they also have a keen interest in business, management and finance.

By applying statistics and risk theories, an actuary predicts the future to a certain extent, and evaluates the financial consequences of different scenarios likely to occur such areas as:

  • Insurance (life, auto, home, group, critical illness, disability, etc.)
  • Retirement plans
  • Investments
  • Corporate financial statements
  • Organizational risk
  • Reinsurance

An actuary therefore plays a vital role in helping companies make informed business decisions.

In terms of skills, actuaries must demonstrate:

  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity
  • Strong ethics
  • Autonomy
  • Efficiency
  • Communication

Step 1: Education

To become an actuary, your academic profile should include pure sciences or natural sciences.

Depending on which university you attend, you must have passed all the math modules. Sometimes, certain physics courses might also be prerequisites for a Bachelor’s degree.

The Bachelor’s takes three years to complete and may include internships.

An advanced level of English is important since university and continuing education programs are often given in English.

A Bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Sciences is required to practice as an actuary.

If you want to continue along the academic path, you can carry on to do a Masters degree or a PhD.

Step 2: Certification

The actuarial profession is overseen by professional bodies, spearheaded by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA).

With your Bachelor’s degree under your belt, you can start your career in the actuarial field.

If you wish, you can obtaine the two titles (in the following order) awarded by the CIA which will greatly help advance your career:

  1. Associate
  2. Fellow

These designations are obtained after passing exams sponsored by the Society of Actuaries and by the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) for professionals wanting to specialize in property and casualty insurance.

In general, candidates who aspire to obtaining associate and fellow designations start studying for these exams while still at the university or once they have graduated. There are several reasons for doing so:

  • They lead to better work opportunities (salary, career development, etc.).
  • Students are still in study mode.
  • Students are likely to have more energy and a less complex family situation, that allows them to devote the time to study for these demanding exams.

The outlook for actuaries

With the aging population and the monitoring of group pension plans and pension funds, job prospects for aspiring actuaries are excellent.

The majority of students find full-times jobs in their field of expertise.

Actuaries work in a variety of disciplines. In addition to insurance companies and financial institutions, actuaries can work for actuarial companies, for government organizations, consulting firms specializing in employee benefits or in investments, and they can also be self-employed.

Actuaries help set premiums and develop new insurance products, but they also provide invaluable advice on business development and insurance contract renewal for sales teams. They are also sought after to make recommendations on corporate financial statements, on the various risks that a company may be exposed to and the company’s performance.