Actuarial societies exist primarily to serve and support members of the actuary profession. They provide a means for networking, offer opportunities for continued education, and usually also promote industry-wide standards of ethics and fair dealing. Membership in an actuarial society is almost always voluntary, and sometimes even subject to application and approval. Actuaries often find that a host of professional benefits come with society membership, however. Membership is often viewed as a mark of an actuary’s caliber as a professional, and can distinguish one actuary from another.
Much of what an actuarial society actually does is dictated by its member base. On a very basic level, an actuarial society is an organization run by and designed for professionals involved in the practice of actuarial science. It is first and foremost a resource for professionals engaged in similar work. Some societies are run on a national level, while others are more focused on local communities or particular kinds of actuarial practice.
Networking is one of the most immediate benefits of membership in an actuarial society. In most professions, keeping current with prevailing trends and maintaining a wide net of professional contacts is an important part of providing top-notch service to clients. Actuarial science is no different, and one of the first roles of an actuarial society is to create a place where actuaries can meet, exchange ideas, and learn from each other.
Actuaries usually work in the fields of insurance risk assessment and retirement and pension finance risk analysis. The profession has broadened, however, and more and more actuaries are working in the fields of general investment risk analysis and risk management. An actuarial society charts changes in the profession, and provides a place for members to discuss and learn from each other’s work.
Most of the time, an actuarial society is also dedicated to furthering actuaries’ education. Societies commonly sponsor lecture series or educational presentations on topics from up-and-coming insurance risks to tips for dealing with difficult clients. The work of most actuaries is highly mathematical and precise, and societies often give these professionals a place to hear different approaches, try their hands at new techniques, and collaborate with colleagues on ways to promote efficiency and effectiveness. Depending on the society, education of the general public with respect to the work of actuaries and what an actuarial analyst actually does may also be a goal.
Actuaries work in different fields for different employers, and although they must usually meet a certain education threshold to qualify for work, there are not generally any corresponding ethical codes to which they must abide. A hallmark of membership in most actuarial societies is adherence to a code of professional conduct. Different societies have different codes, but the underlying goal is usually to hold actuaries accountable for their actions, and to hold the profession generally to a high standard of care and ethical grounding. An actuary who is a member of an actuarial society can use this ethical basis as an asset when looking for work, or when marketing actuarial services.