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How Do I Begin an Actuarial Career?

By K. Kinsella
Updated May 17, 2024
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Actuaries use statistical data to calculate the probability of certain events occurring. Someone wishing to embark on an actuarial career must have a good knowledge of mathematics and in most instances, actuaries must complete a college degree. Additionally, regulatory agencies or industry associations in some countries administer an actuarial examination and people typically cannot seek employment as actuaries until they have successfully completed this examination.

The first step in an actuarial career normally begins with high school graduation. Some colleges offer actuarial degree programs and high school students typically need to have above average grades in mathematics to enroll. Other actuaries complete undergraduate degrees in mathematics, finance or a related topic. Some firms require applicants for actuary roles to have also completed a postgraduate degree in statistics, risk management or a finance related topic.

Prior to finishing college, prospective actuaries can work as interns for insurance firms or finance companies. Many of these firms employ large numbers of students as unpaid interns and use internships to find new recruits. Students are able to gain some insight into actuarial work and people who impress during internship programs are sometimes given job offers although in most instances such offers are contingent upon the student successfully graduating from college.

In many countries, actuaries must be licensed or certified and the certification process begins when college graduates attend an actuarial training class that is offered either by a government agency or an industry association. During the course, students are taught about risk management concepts and risk calculation techniques. The course normally concludes with an examination, and people who pass this test are able to apply for an actuarial license. In some instances, these licenses do not expire, while in other countries licensed actuaries must regularly attend continuing education classes if the license is to remain active.

Insurance companies are primarily engaged in risk management and therefore large numbers of actuaries are employed by these firms. Someone wishing to have an actuarial career may benefit from gaining some work experience as an insurance agent or policy underwriter. People employed in these roles are not responsible for calculating risk but gain an understanding of the process since insurance applications are either approved or denied based in part on the data listed on actuarial charts. Laws in many countries require insurance firm employees to be licensed in which case someone attempting to forge an actuarial career may have to pass an insurance examination as well as the actuarial test.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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