actuarial myths


There are a number of actuarial myths that seem to persist even in the bright light of reality. Here are a number of actuarial myths explained.

Myth: Actuaries only work for insurance companies.

Reality: It is true that insurance has the highest percentage of accredited actuaries, but there are a wide variety of companies that seek accredited actuaries and those with actuarial training. “We are seeing increased demand in the tech industry, Uber, Lyft and Google for instance, as well as financial services, health care and even NASA,” volunteered Rory Hauser, Actuarial Practice Lead for Smith Hanley Associates.

Myth: Actuaries are the highest paid professionals.

Reality: At the entry level salaries for actuaries versus other statistical professionals are competitive but not significantly better. It is what happens once a junior actuary joins a firm that dictates their ability to outpace average statistical compensation. Those actuaries who continue to pass exams and get their ASA and FSA in a timely way will exceed their non-accredited associate’s earnings. “We see salaries often $50K higher than data scientists at the same experience level,” says Actuarial Recruiter, Chris Buckley.

Myth: Passing two exams is sufficient to get a job.

Reality: It is accurate that two exams is sufficient to get in an actuarial training program; however, communication skills and basic software skills in Excel, VBA even SQL and R are necessary as well. Distinguishing oneself by passing three exams, instead of two, while still in school also helps in the job search.

Myth: An actuary is someone who tells you when you are going to die.

Reality: Ick. This would be awful if it was the only thing an actuary did. Life actuaries do assess and work with mortality tables but there is so much more to actuarial work. The real job of actuaries is to find ways to define and manage risks and solve problems.

Myth: Because actuaries are math or stat experts they are confined to workstations and work predominantly with their computer.

Reality: The perception that actuaries have boring and monotonous jobs is very far from the truth. A large part of the job is figuring out with other people what the problem is and then being able to explain to non-technical people how your model will solve it. You must be a good businessperson and a good communicator as well as an excellent analyst.

Gaurav Singal, a bachelor’s student in actuarial studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia said it best, “The reality of the actuarial profession is that whilst it is constantly evolving, perceptions about it are lagging. It is essential that these misconceptions change to accurately reflect the dynamic and expansive scope of the profession and prevent these false conceived notions from dissuading potential budding actuaries.”

Interested in an actuarial career or in hiring an actuary? Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Actuarial Science Practice Lead, Rory Hauser at [email protected].

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