Actuaries use skills primarily in mathematics, particularly calculus-based probability and mathematical statistics, but also economics, computer science, finance, and business. For this reason, actuaries are essential to the insurance and reinsurance industries, either as staff employees or as consultants; to other businesses, including sponsors of pension plans; and to government agencies such as the Government Actuary’s Department in the United Kingdom or the Social Security Administration in the United States of America. Actuaries assemble and analyze data to estimate the probability and likely cost of the occurrence of an event such as death, sickness, injury, disability, or loss of property. Actuaries also address financial questions, including those involving the level of pension contributions required to produce a certain retirement income and the way in which a company should invest resources to maximize its return on investments in light of potential risk. Using their broad knowledge, actuaries help design and price insurance policies, pension plans, and other financial strategies in a manner that will help ensure that the plans are maintained on a sound financial basis.
Most traditional actuarial disciplines fall into two main categories: life and non-life.
Life actuaries, which include health and pension actuaries, primarily deal with mortality risk, morbidity risk, and investment risk. Products prominent in their work include life insurance, annuities, pensions, short and long term disability insurance, health insurance, health savings accounts, and long-term care insurance In addition to these risks, social insurance programs are influenced by public opinion, politics, budget constraints, changing demographics, and other factors such as medical technology, inflation, and cost of living considerations.
Non-life actuaries, also known as property and casualty or general insurance actuaries, deal with both physical and legal risks that affect people or their property. Products prominent in their work include auto insurance, homeowners insurance, commercial property insurance, workers’ compensation, malpractice insurance, product liability insurance, marine insurance, terrorism insurance, and other types of liability insurance.
Actuaries are also called upon for their expertise in enterprise risk management. This can involve dynamic financial analysis, stress testing, the formulation of corporate risk policy, and the setting up and running of corporate risk departments. Actuaries are also involved in other areas of the financial services industry, such as analysing securities offerings or market research.