I’m an Actuary. How I Can Become a Data Scientist?

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You’ve earned your ACAS or your FSA. You’re pleased with your level of success but a little concerned about your distance from actual statistical work. How can you continue to move ahead in responsibility and compensation, yet do the work you love? Data Science is fulfilling this need for Actuaries. How do you become a data scientist?

P&C or Health

You are an Actuary in the P&C or Health field. These specialty areas are making the transition to data science much easier for their current practitioners. Retirement or Life Actuaries probably shouldn’t and will find it difficult to pursue the data science path.

Learn on the Job

Move into a department or practice area that uses the largest data sets possible. Typically this is easiest to do with claims data. Many firms now have analytics groups that are made up of actuaries and non-actuaries with predictive modeling skills. A perfect place to learn from your associates.

Big Data Projects

Once in a department with large amounts of structured and unstructured (i.e. internet) data, choose to do big data projects.

  1. Pick a topic to research that you are passionate or curious about. Hopefully it will also be something that is beneficial to your firm, but initially that might not be obvious. It is this passion that will drive your work forward and lead to interesting, and often unexpected results.
  2. Articulate your hypothesis before you start. It will provide the framework for you, even it if ends up being wrong.
  3. Do the work yourself. Explore, clean and graph the data. Get your hands dirty, code! Be a detective. Come up with new questions and unexpected directions. It is this curiosity that best defines a data scientist.
  4. Communicate the results in a simple, clean and compelling way. If curiosity defines the data scientist, excellent technical communication skills defines their success. Data visualization is a must, but fancy pictures should only supplement insightful information.

Educate yourself

  1. You must have SAS or R (preferably R), Python and SQL skills or you won’t get past GO as a data scientist.
  2. Hadoop experience is a major plus but not mandatory as is working with unstructured data. Data Science boot camps can assist you with any of these skills. – https://www.thisismetis.com/data-science-bootcamps
  3. Already have or earn a Masters in Statistics, Math or similar technical, advanced degree. http://www.mastersindatascience.org/schools/23-great-schools-with-masters-programs-in-data-science/
  4. Contact the SOA and learn about their Predictive Analytics Initiative: https://www.soa.org/predictive-analytics/default/

Insurance Industry

Stay working in the insurance industry while you are accomplishing all of this. The credibility of your Actuarial credential and applied experience will help you sell the innovations you will come up with through your new data science skills.

Want to know more? Contact Rory Hauser, Actuarial Recruiting Practice Lead at Smith Hanley Associates, at rhauser@smithhanley.com or 203.319-4305.


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