“Why did you decide to become an actuary?”
It’s a question you’ve likely fielded at one point or another from family members, friends, colleagues and new acquaintances. In fact, the frequency of the question is perhaps trumped only by the ubiquitous, “What is an actuary?”
So how do you respond when someone asks why you became an actuary? Do you refer to the number-crunching, saying that you love math and statistics, or data analysis? Do you refer to the bigger picture, saying that you enjoy applying your math skills to help businesses solve complex problems and mitigate their risks? Or perhaps you mention actuary’s broad skillset – even those that are familiar with the profession might be surprised to learn about the communication skills and business acumen required for the job.
No matter your reasons for becoming an actuary, it remains an indisputable fact that the profession continues to grow and expand. Consistent with the recent report by CareerCast.com that ranked actuary as the top job in the U.S., the CAS has seen an increasing demand for its credentials. Last year the organization welcomed 266 new Fellows and 453 new Associates, in addition to setting attendance records at its past three exam sittings.
So please tell us: what makes actuary the #1 job for you? We are collecting testimonials from CAS members to share with the over 3,000 members of CAS Student Central. Leave your comments below!
I was a high school math teacher and engaged in 1979. I saw the other male teachers with family struggling, working multiple jobs, etc and decided it was time to find a more secure career for me and my family. I had no idea what a fantastic decision that was. I love my job and the Company that I work for. I have served on several CAS committees, to pay back the organization that made it all possible and to assist those on their way up the career ladder. I have always considered mentoring my students to be a primary responsibility of mine as I have benefited from those who mentored me.
I made the initial decision to become an actuary when I was a junior in high school. At the time, I did not have a complete understanding of what I was getting into, I just knew that I liked math but didn’t want to be an engineer (was not crazy about science) or teach (my mother was an amazing teacher and I knew early on I did not have the right makeup to be really good at teaching). After doing some research, I decided that the actuarial profession would be a challenging and rewarding career choice.
27 years later, I can truly say the career has been more challenging and rewarding than I ever imagined. My university education and the CAS exams provided me with the fundamental skills and training to assess risk and uncertainty, and my career as an actuary has open up amazing doors to apply these fundamentals to a variety of areas. The pace of change in the world continually leads to new challenges, and with each challenge comes a new opportunity to broaden our skills and sphere of influence.
Another highlight of the profession for me has been the real sense of community that comes with being a member of the CAS. Through volunteering and attending meetings, I have developed both professional relationships and friendships that I truly value with actuaries in the US and abroad.
It is for these and many other reasons that being an actuary continues to be the #1 career for me.
I was introduced to the actuarial career 7 years out of school by simply searching Yahoo Questions for jobs available to graduates with math degrees. After a little research, I was drawn to the potential for high pay and comfortable working conditions. Like many candidates, I was also attracted by the ability to largely self-direct early career progress via the exam process. Given that I was a fairly good test taker and enjoyed brainteasers, it seemed like a great fit and I ordered some study manuals.
Professors at my school (this was the 90’s) didn’t talk much about the actuarial profession. They generally referred to national security work, academia, or education as major career options, and actuarial work was only sometimes mentioned in passing. However, given that the career has established a strong reputation in the last decade, I am guessing this is no longer the case, and that any math department would promote actuarial work as a serious consideration for its students.
My advice to curious students would be: Math doesn’t play as much a role as you may initially guess. While the underlying theories have to be understood when working on a task, business considerations are the most important part of this career. The work is extremely challenging and competitive. Prioritize exam progress since it’s easy to let this slip when life happens. Listen well, take careful notes, and learn how different departments work together (don’t get too caught in the actuarial bubble). Make your colleagues’ work easier by automating tasks. Stay ahead of your workload, volunteer to help others, get involved with side projects, and make strong social connections.
I started my work life as a High School math teacher and discovered that it was not the career for me. After 8-9 years of uninteresting and non-career employment (I passed the old Part One math exam just for grins during this period), I landed a job as a beginning COBOL programmer for an insurance company. After talking to an established actuary, I took the mostly unprecedented step of moving from IT to Actuarial (the other direction was quite common). I liked math, liked taking exams (I obviously did not know what I was in for) and eventually moved up the actuarial ladder.
30 years later, I think it was a good decision. My teaching background has served me well – I often educate and mentor both young actuaries and others in my company. Clearly, the exam process is difficult but rewarding. I still enjoy my job and find my work challenging and interesting.
If I can offer the prospective student some advice, find a career that fits your personality. The actuarial career is one of learning and a fair amount of solitary analytical exercise. But one of the best skills is the ability to impart your findings to the non-technical side of the insurance industry.