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How to become an Actuary?

Actuaries are able to forecast the financial future by analysing past events, assessing the present risks and modelling what could happen in the future.

Actuaries need to be skilled mathematicians with keen analytical, project management and problem solving ability. Successful actuaries also have good business sense, solid oral and written communication skills and strong computer skills. Other valuable assets that can be beneficial on the road to becoming an actuary are self-motivation, creativity, independence, ambition and an ability to work either alone or as a part of a team.

It is widely suggested that high school students should develop their mathematical and computer skills by taking mathematics classes (and if possible advanced courses) every year and enrolling in computer science courses. At university level, prospective actuaries should develop a strong mathematical background by taking courses such as calculus, probability, statistics and actuarial science. Also recommended are business courses such as finance, accounting, management and economics. As mentioned before communication skills are a plus and taking courses in English, speech and business writing are beneficial.

Qualifying as an Actuary

Actuaries come from various academic backgrounds. Some have degrees in actuarial science, while others have degrees in business, economics, math, or the liberal arts. To join the profession in the United States, prospective actuaries must pass a series of exams given by the Society of Actuaries (SOA), the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), or the American Society of Pension Actuaries (ASPA). In the UK exams are jointly given by the Institute of Actuaries and the Faculty of Actuaries. Most actuarial students, after successfully completing their exams and meeting the eligibility requirements, qualify as Fellows of their respective examining bodies.

In the Caribbean a B.Sc. in Actuarial Science can be pursued at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. Qualifying exams from any of the aforementioned organizations can be taken in Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica. The exam process usually takes several years.

One of the attractions of the actuarial profession is that you can work toward professional qualification while earning a salary. After graduating, actuarial students usually join a company that offers employment in the field and at the same time prepare for their remaining professional examinations through correspondence courses, self-study and special tutorials. During that time, prospective actuaries usually choose one of the major specialty areas: life insurance, property/casualty insurance, health, or pensions.

 

A Career as an Actuary?

At present, the majority of actuaries work in careers that are associated with the insurance industry, though growing numbers work in other fields. They are heavily involved in insurance because that is society's most efficient way of managing risk. We reduce our risk of financial loss by transferring it to an insurance company that accepts the risk for a price (which is the insurance premium). Actuaries play a key role in designing insurance plans, determining the premium, monitoring the profitability of insurance companies and recommending corrective action when appropriate. Actuaries working in insurance companies also ensure that insurance companies have set aside enough funds to pay claims and provide advice on how to invest the insurance companies' assets.
Actuaries work in all sectors of the economy, though they are found more in the financial services sector, including insurance companies, commercial banks, investment banks and pension funds. Many work for consulting firms while others are employed by the government. Some are self-employed, enjoying financially rewarding careers that also come with the great flexibility of being one's own boss.
In the Caribbean the two main areas of actuarial work are life insurance and pensions.

Below are some helpful links to learning more about the actuarial profession and different actuarial organisations:


As the recognition of the importance of the actuarial profession grows, an increasing number of universities are offering actuarial programs at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Below are links to websites providing lists of these universities: