FAQs About Insurance Careers: Actuary


Life is full of risks. From lighting a candle to trying a new ice cream flavour to applying for a new job, many different areas of your life fall under the category of “risky.”

Although you can likely manage your own uncertainties regarding whether or not to try that new chocolate brownie bonanza ice cream, some of those more serious gambles need to be handled by a professional.

This professional is called an Actuary and is, to put it simply, someone who assesses and manages risk and helps organizations plan for their futures.

What do Actuaries do?

Actuaries use numbers to evaluate the likelihood of future events and create ways to reduce this likelihood, given the event is something undesirable.

For example, an Actuary may work with or at a bank to manage their assets and develop ways to manage financial risk. They might also assist a business with developing a retirement plan, or advise insurance companies on how much to charge for homeowner’s insurance based on a variety of factors (such as where the home is located and how old it is).

Where do Actuaries work?

Actuaries are needed anywhere and everywhere that risk is present. The most obvious example is in the insurance industry. However, many private corporations also rely on an Actuary’s ability to evaluate risk in order to plan and execute big management decisions.

Actuaries are also employed as consultants, assisting companies both large and small in the development of their pension and benefits plans.

However, employment is pretty limitless. Being an Actuary could also mean you work somewhere such as the government, an educational institution, a public accounting firm or a labour union.

What skills do you need to be an Actuary?

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Competent in math and problem solving
  • A solid understanding of human behaviour
  • Impeccable communication skills and a genuine enjoyment for talking to people
  • Self motivation
  • Project management skills

What education and experience is required?

First things first: you need your bachelor’s degree. The most desirable (and employable) candidates possess a quantitative area of study. For example, computer science, engineering, physics, statistics, actuarial sciences or finance.

Actuaries must achieve professional status by passing a set of exams offered by the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA). Passing these exams demonstrates your aptitude, interest and commitment to the actuarial field. It can take a few years to accomplish this, but you can begin your career after passing the first two by working as an Actuarial Assistant while taking subsequent exams.

Similar to most fields, experience is highly-valued in this industry. Having that degree sets you on par; gaining some practical experience while in school is what’s going to set you above.

Acquiring a summer internship is a great way to do this while simultaneously giving you the opportunity to test out different disciplines. For example, one summer you could try out life insurance, and give property and casualty a try next year.

What are the perks of this career path?

Regardless of the source, an actuary is consistently rated as one of the top jobs to hold. Not only does it offer a competitive and high salary (starting at $40,000 for entry level roles with the potential to take in more than $200,000 per year later in your career in a senior role), but it also allows for job security in an intellectually-stimulating environment.

Take the Career Connections Quiz to find out if being an Actuary is the insurance career for you.

Photo credit: Scott Kidder

About the author

Leah Ruehlicke works in video production, living in a tiny apartment in Toronto with bad water pressure and an amazing book collection. Follow her on @LeahRuehlicke.