Computers and Mathematics

Actuaries: If you’re thinking about pursuing a degree in mathematics or you’re already well on your way to obtaining your degree, you may be trying to figure out exactly what you can do with that degree. There are a number of career opportunities available to an individual with a degree in mathematics, but one occupation that is often overlooked is that of an actuary. Actuaries are individuals who use statistics to determine the likelihood that a particular event (typically an event that a business is hoping to avoid) will occur. An actuary’s determinations help insurance companies, investment firms, and businesses identify the level of risk that is associated with a specific venture. In other words, an actuary is an individual who determines the likelihood that a business will receive a return on its investment, that an insurance company will have to pay a claim to a specific individual or group of individuals, that a new piece of legislation will increase a company’s costs, and/or that any other similar event will occur. As a result, an actuary can help a company predict the events that it can reasonably expect to occur in the foreseeable future, and it is this ability that has made the actuary position an extremely important part of a variety of businesses in a number of industries.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the number of actuary jobs to increase significantly over the next 10 years, with businesses creating more than 4,000 new jobs for actuaries within the United States alone. This means that there will be thousands of opportunities for individuals interested in a career as an actuary to find a position, and employers wanting to attract these individuals will be willing to provide a wide array of benefits such as health insurance and pension plans in addition to a salary of $50,000 to $160,000 a year.

There are, however, a few important considerations to keep in mind before making the decision to pursue a career as an actuary.

  • First, if you’re looking for an exciting job and numbers don’t excite you, or if you’re looking for a job that doesn’t require you to spend a lot of time in the office, this may not be the career for you. Actuaries typically spend anywhere from 40 to 60 hours a week in an office examining information in the form of numbers and tables to determine whether an event is likely to occur, researching hazards and perils, and writing reports.
  • Second, if you’re looking for a career that doesn’t require a lot of education and/or exams, you may want to look elsewhere. Most employers will require you to have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or business, proof (usually in the form of a college transcript) that you have completed a series of courses in statistics and finance, and proof that you have successfully passed the first exam in the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or the Society of Actuaries (SOA) certification exam series. You may also be required to pass up to eight other exams from the CAS or SOA to become fully certified. (Because it can take years for an individual to pass all of the exams needed to become fully certified, most employers will allow an individual to work as an actuary after the individual completes the first exam.)
  • Finally, if you’re thinking that you won’t have any problem finding a job, you may want rethink your assessment. Although the BLS expects there to be more than 4,000 new jobs for actuaries over the next 10 years, the BLS also expects there to be a much larger pool of certified actuaries for businesses to hire from.