Career Story: Insurance Company Actuary

Insurance Company Actuary

Job Title: Actuary

Type of Company: I work for an insurance company.

Education: BS, Mathematics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Previous Experience: I started as an actuarial trainee at one insurance company and now I work as an actuary at a different one.

Job Tasks: I work in product development. We develop new insurance products. First we think of an idea, though it usually comes from more creative people who work with consumers and know what they want. It is the actuary's responsibility to price the product features requested and determine how to make sure the company meets its profit goals while making sure that the product is competitive enough to sell and will meet the needs of the consumer. There are a lot of things that need to be considered in addition to the profitability of the product. There are state laws that need to be met and the product features and the cost to the consumer are subject to many constraints. We need to file any new products with every state in which we would like to sell the product. It is the actuary's responsibility to prove to the state insurance department that the product meets the Standard Nonforfeiture Law and the Standard Valuation Law in each state. These laws are adopted by each state in order to protect consumers. There are many numerical demonstrations that need to be done in order to have a state approve the product.

Another responsibility of the actuary is to answer questions to the people who are responsible for administering the product on the system. An actuary needs to make sure that everyone understands exactly how the product should work and that they test to make sure it works properly. Another constraint that can affect product features is the tax laws. There are certain tax laws that affect insurance products and the ways the contract holders are taxed. An actuary needs to be aware of these tax laws in order to ensure that our products conform to them. The product development actuary is usually involved from start to finish of a new product.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the good feeling I have when a product that I worked on developing is launched successfully. The worst part of my job is that in the beginning you need to take exams in order to become an actuary. The exams are mostly math, so if you don't like math, don't become an actuary. Even if you do like it, though, the exams are hard and many people fail. Your job is normally tied to passing the exams and that can be very stressful. It helps that most companies give actuarial students study time.

Job Tips:
1. If you want to become an actuary, I suggest that you take exams while you are still in college.

2. The first time I took an actuarial exam, I thought, "I never need to study for math, I always do well, so I'll just study a little and try it." Well, it took me four tries to pass my first exam. My advice is "Don't underestimate the difficulty of actuarial exams."

3. Take as many math classes as you can in college and if possible, get into an actuarial science program.

4. When studying for actuarial exams, focus on practice tests and just do as many as you can over and over. You need to be able to recognize how to do the problems quickly - and many times they use the same problems over and over. You usually see problems on the exam that you had done in practice tests with slightly different numbers.

Additional Thoughts: When I first graduated from college, I had only passed one actuarial exam. I spent the summer studying for my second exam and passed it that fall. I found that it was much easier to find a job once I had 2 exams. Many companies will not even interview for actuarial jobs with 1 or no exams.

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