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Actuaries are experts in probability and statistics who use their skills and the study of historical data to assess the likelihood of future uncertainties. They also advise insurance companies on how to price premiums for this risk, or pension funds on how best to set aside reserves to prepare for uncertainty. They study historical mortality, morbidity, weather, claims costs and other data looking for insights on how unknowable future events may play out. The field requires a strong background in mathematics, statistics and finance. Some areas also require some medical expertise. There is no single actuarial license. Instead, actuaries are admitted to specific professional organizations based on their educational qualifications and upon successfully passing a series of challenging exams.
Take advanced-level mathematics courses. Actuaries must have a solid grasp of mathematics through the calculus level. Take college-level calculus. Supplement your calculus training with practical mathematics training in statistics and finance. Take additional coursework in computer science, since actuaries must frequently manipulate sophisticated databases.
Take a series of actuarial exams. The precise exams you must take depend on your career path. The Casual Actuary Society focuses on property and casualty insurance fields, while the Society of Actuaries focuses on life insurance, health insurance, long term care underwriting and pension planning. However, the first four tests you must take to become an enrolled actuary are the same for both groups: Probability, Financial Mathematics, Actuarial Models: Financial Economics, and Construction and Evaluation of Actuarial Models. The different specialties will also require you to pass additional examinations.
Validate your educational experience. The professional organizations validate your educational qualificatons in three areas: economics, corporate finance and applied statistical methods. These areas are not directly tested, but you must still show evidence of having mastered these areas of actuarial science in your academic career.
Gain associate status. After passing the initial series of examinations, you will be admitted to either the Society of Actuaries or the Casual Actuary Society as an associate. From this point, much of your training and experience will take place on the job as you work under more senior actuaries.
Gain fellowship status. The actuarial professional organizations grant fellowship status to associates in good standing who have completed several years of practical on-the-job experience as actuaries, and who have also successfully passed additional examinations within the life and health or casualty fields. In the Society of Actuaries, you must select a specialty. Options are life and annuities, retirement benefits, investments, group and health, or finance/ERM. Requirements for felloship status vary with each specialty. For the Casualty Actuarial Society, you must complete two additional exams.
While the exam regimen is designed for self-study, the exams themselves are very demanding. Preparing for them will take a significant amount of time.
Leslie McClintock has been writing professionally since 2001. She has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Senior Market Advisor," "The Annuity Selling Guide," and many other outlets. A licensed life and health insurance agent, McClintock holds a B.A. from the University of Southern California.