Actuarial Science

Actuarial Science is a part of applied mathematics that originated at least 200 years ago. Two of the earliest examples involved mortality or life tables and compound calculations. These were combined in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to provide the scientific basis for individual life insurance and life annuity contracts.

Most actuaries work in insurance companies. There, the actuary is responsible for seeing that risks are properly defined and evaluated, that a fair price is charged for assuming risks, and that proper provision is made to pay all claims and expenses as they occur. Insurance company actuaries engage in a variety of other important activities ranging from research to management functions.

Consulting actuaries offer professional advice to corporations, insurance companies, federal, state, and local governments, labor unions, joint labor-management trustees, and attorneys.

The need for actuaries in government work is steadily increasing because of governmental involvement in old age, survivors, disability, and medical benefits provided by Social Security, and in the supervision of insurance and pension funds.

What should one study in college?

Professional certification as an actuary comes from the Society of Actuaries for those working in life or health insurance and from the Casualty Actuarial Society for those who work in property and liability insurance. Certification requires passing a sequence of examinations.

The material for many of these exams is given in courses offered by the Mathematics Department. Study materials for the exams can be purchased from Mad River Books (A Division of ACTEX Publications).

Typically, a student should aim to pass at least two of the examinations before leaving college. The other actuarial examinations are typically taken after the student is employed.

Courses in calculus, linear algebra, probability, statistics, numerical analysis, operations research, and computer science are particularly important in preparing for the first four examinations, and courses in accounting, economics, finance, and marketing can also prepare students for later examinations. 

Additional Resource:

Be an Actuary, by the Casualty Actuarial Society and Society of Actuaries