Actuaries measure and manage financial risk through applied mathematics. They are primarily employed by insurance companies and pensions providers to calculate factors such as life expectancy, accident rates and likely payouts by using complex mathematical formulas. However, Actuaries can be found throughout corporate America, helping executives make intelligent and informed financial decisions. In addition to helping insurers mitigate the chances of losses, actuaries help weigh risk in pension funds, stock and bond portfolios, and even hedge funds. Actuaries also work in areas beyond the financial industry, helping to determine and alleviate risks for product launches, production facility expansions and much more.
For actuarial work, required skills include: complex problem solving, critical thinking, mathematics, systems analysis and evaluation.
The backbone of a career in the actuarial field is education. You will need a thorough understanding of advanced mathematics just to get through the first of many actuarial exams, and advancement in your career will depend on your continuing education not only in mathematics and actuarial science, but also economics and finance Successful actuaries are some of the most well-educated, trained and tested people in white-collar America. And it all starts with your undergraduate degree.
Actuaries do need to have a keen analytical mind. Most have a penchant for problem solving and logic that leads them to advanced mathematics. Not only must they be able to use advanced calculus and probability theories to produce results—they really have to enjoy it.
Yet there's the other side of the brain to consider. Mathematics, problem solving and analytical skills need to be applied creatively. It's impossible to think of every contingency, even when computing a basic life table for an insurance company. But the actuary must be able to come up with possibilities that can't easily be quantified.