Actuary: It’s not a mispronunciation, it’s a profession

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People in this profession are not called actuarists, actuarialists, or even actuarial scientists. (And they do not have anything to do with labs). They’re actuaries (Actuary in singular form ).

Actuaries deal primarily with risk management. They use past statistics to help companies make decisions which involve risk. For instance, they’re responsible for advising insurance companies how much to charge in their premiums and how much coverage to provide.

Actuaries also help companies make business decisions, such as whether to perform acquisitions and mergers.

Though they tend to work behind the scenes, actuaries are the backbone of most companies. An actuary’s job involves a lot of judgements which are often based on personal experience rather than merely crunching numbers. Their recommendations often determine whether a company will end up making huge losses or gains.

Actuaries aren’t geniuses who can tell when you will drop dead. Rather, their job scope may include forecasting when a number of people will die within a large group of homogenous people. They’re not mathematical psychics.

“I love maths” is not a sufficient reason to pursue actuarial science. (We have a name for that degree course: Mathematics). Actuaries require knowledge on probability, statistics, economics, risk management, portfolio management, insurance practices, and most importantly, good communication skills.

A bachelor’s degree is not the ticket to becoming an actuary or a Fellow (the highest qualification possible in this field).

In fact, becoming an actuary requires passing external examinations (which are open to students from other courses too).

There are approximately 60-70 Fellows in Malaysia. Now that’s a rare breed!

Actuaries do not spend all their time staring at computer screen and suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Depending on their post and field, actuaries may end up working in managerial jobs. Actuaries spend a lot of time explaining complex ideas to people in simpler terms. You can think of them as the middlemen between humans and that scary pile of jargon.

An article in the Wall Street Journal cites a study based on factors such as job environment, income, and stress which placed actuaries among the top jobs for the past few years.

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) is holding an Actuary Today event on the 23rd and 24th July 2011 where people from all walks of life (school-going students, university students, general public) can obtain information about Actuarial Science. Attendees can get a taste of the actuarial profession via exhibitions, games, talks and competitions.

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