Actuaries analyze statistics in order to calculate the risk and financial cost associated with a certain event. By assessing the potential risks and cost of an event, actuaries can help businesses develop a plan to minimize any negative outcomes.
Actuaries can work in a variety of industries, ranging from healthcare and insurance to the financial sector. The work they do is all encompassing and affects business as a whole, so actuaries find themselves in constant contact with other members of a business, including managers, accountants, underwriters, and financial officers.
Actuary responsibilities may include:
- Analyzing statistical data
- Generating tables, graphs, and reports
- Recommending insurance policy pricing
- Translating technical data into easily understood reports
- Designing and testing company pension plans
One bad decision can cost a company millions of dollars. In order to provide businesses with plans to minimize risks, a skilled actuary will:
- Possess an eye for detail to evaluate plans
- Employ statistics to develop risk management policies
- Communicate clearly and effectively with members across departments
- Approach problems from a holistic position in order to develop plans that will improve all aspects of the business
- Possess an ability to think critically for effective problem solving
In order to qualify for an entry-level job as a trainee, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science, business, or a related field. However, candidates should plan to pursue associate- or fellow-level certificates with the Casualty Actuarial Society or a similar organization if they wish to practice as a full professional.
In addition, candidates are required to complete continuing education requirements throughout the duration of their time as a professional actuary.
If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as an actuary, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.
Salaries for actuaries range between $67K and $101K with the median being $81K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as an actuary include:
- Degrees and certifications (bachelor's, master's of science, associate, Society of Actuaries [ASA] designation)
- Years of experience
- Reporting structure (seniority of the manager you report to, number of direct reports)
- Level of performance - exceeding expectations
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Actuary Interview Question
Question: Can you explain the role of an actuarial analyst in the insurance company?
Explanation: This is an example of a general question which the interviewer will use to open the interview. The purpose of this is to find out what you believe your role will be in order to get you talking and provide the interviewer with additional information about which they can question you. Your answer to this should be similar to your elevator pitch where you describe your profession.
Example: “An actuarial’s role at an insurance company is to analyze specific risk factors for events that will impact the company’s customers. The actuarial uses statistical modeling and analysis to perform this work. The events they analyze include accidents, natural disasters, injury and death, product failures, and other events covered by the insurance company.”
Question: What do you consider to be the most important skills an actuarial needs to possess?
Explanation: This is another general question that will be asked early. It enables the interviewer to understand what skills you feel are important with the assumption that you possess these same skills. It also provides you with the opportunity to move the interview in a direction you are comfortable with. You can expect the interviewer to ask some specific follow-up questions about some of the skills you mention.
Example: “The key skills required to be a successful actuarial include proficiency in math and statistics, a general understanding of business and finance, and some fundamental programming skills in spreadsheets, databases, and statistical analysis programs. It also requires good problem-solving abilities and strong communication skills, especially the ability to conduct presentations.”
Question: Explain what you enjoy about working as an actuary?
Explanation: As yet another general question with the purpose to understand what you like about this job, an interviewer will ask it to make sure your expectations for the position align with their description of the job. Once they determine you’re qualified, they want to make sure you are a good fit for their organization.
Example: “First and foremost, I enjoy analyzing data to spot trends and make assumptions. This is especially rewarding when my assumptions are born out in the real world. Other things I enjoy about the job are the flexibility it offers, the opportunity to work in a variety of industries, and the impact I have both on the business and on people’s lives who are affected by my work.”
Question: We are aware that most actuarials work in the insurance industry. Since we are a financial firm, can you discuss the role of an actuary analyst in investment?
Explanation: This is similar to the first question but specific to a different industry, organization, and role. If you’re applying for an actuarial position in the investment industry, you should be able to easily respond to this question.
Example: “An actuary’s role in the investment industry is similar to that which insurance actuaries perform in that both deal with risk assessment. Actuaries in this industry provide quantifiable risk assessments for a variety of investment vehicles by creating financial models. It still involves statistics but also takes into account other factors that could impact an investment’s performance. The output of this work is a risk-reward ratio which is stack ranked against other investment options.”
Question: Can you explain what an actuarial report is and how it is used?
Explanation: This is an operational question that is meant to determine your knowledge of the processes which take place when performing actuarial duties. This is a bit of a softball question in that it is very easy to answer. The interviewer will ask this as the interview shifts away from general questions and into more specific operational and technical questions.
Example: “An actuarial report includes several different items such as the future and current conditions of a company’s reserves fund as in the case of a pension or insurance organization. This information is helpful when determining if the reserves meet the expectations of people managing the fund. If related to a specific risk, the report will provide an assessment of the risk and the factors that impact it.”
Question: Can you identify some of the most common actuarial software used in industry and the ones in which you are proficient?
Explanation: This is another difficult operational question. It asks you to identify the tools you use in your job. The interviewer is interested in seeing if you’re familiar with the software their organization uses and if you can recommend programs that would be more effective. Again, be prepared for follow-up questions related to the items you identify in your answer.
Example: “Some of the most common actuarial software used in this industry are Milliman Actuarial Software Solutions, Moses, Prophet, RMISWeb, SAS, TAS, and Towers Watson. In my previous roles, I used Milliman Actuarial due to its ease of use and the breadth of features it has. I’ve also found this software produces the most accurate results.”
Question: Can you list some of the topics and skills in which an actuary should be proficient?
Explanation: This is a technical question in which the interviewer is trying to determine your specific skills as an actuary. Again, they are looking for alignment between what you can do and the role they are interviewing you about. The best way to answer technical questions is straightforward with little embellishment. Be prepared for follow-up questions.
Example: “Some of the key skills an actuary needs to be proficient in include calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, probability and statistics, and regression analysis. They should also have a strong understanding of other business-related topics such as accounting, finance and management, economics, and computer science.”
Question: Can you explain what actuarial tables are and how they are used?
Explanation: Here is another technical question addressing a very specific topic relevant to an actuary. You should be able to answer this question easily. Don’t try to get into too much detail and keep in mind that the interviewer is more interested in your knowledge and skills than they are in the specific answer to the question. They will ask for more information if they need it.
Example: “Actuarial tables are statistical charts that provide details about a specific event or risk. One example is the life expectancy of a given population. This helps insurance companies determine their rates based on the insured’s age.”
Question: Can you explain how lognormal distribution is used in the context of insurance actuarial practices?
Explanation: By now, you should recognize this question as a technical one. As the interview progresses, the questions become more difficult. This is because the interviewer is becoming more confident of your qualifications and is digging deeper to understand how broad your skills and knowledge are. If you ever encounter a question you do not know how to answer, simply state that and then describe how you would find the answer were it to come up in the course of your job.
Example: “A lognormal distribution is a continuous probability distribution of a random variable whose logarithm is normally distributed. It is used as a model to determine the size of the distribution. It is positively skewed and has a range from zero to infinity.”
Question: Even though you are not interviewing for the position of a property or casualty actuary, can you tell me what their responsibilities are?
Explanation: This is an interesting question because it asks you for information not related to the job you’re interviewing for. An interviewer may ask this either because they are genuinely curious or to see if you may have worked in an industry or profession other than this one. Since interviews are not scripted, you never know what kind of question you will be asked. Do not let this throw you. Either answer the question with the information you have, or state that you don’t know.
Example: “Even though I’ve never worked as a casualty actuary, I am familiar with the role and have some idea of what they do. A property or casualty actuary’s responsibilities include conducting studies and analyzing insurance rates according to geographical areas and types of insurance such as homeowner rates or automobile rates. They also prepare materials or evidence that supports the legitimacy of any changes to insurance rates. Finally, they research new statistical models and methods for estimating insurance claims.”
Additional Actuary Interview Questions
How would you explain what an actuarial report is to someone who is not familiar with it?
What actuarial software are you familiar with? How much experience do you have with it?
What are Actuarial Life Tables?
What is lognormal distribution?
How comfortable are you working with staff in other departments?
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