Janet P. DenBleyker
What is the probability that the roulette wheel will stop on 33 black? What is your expected payoff if you bet $100? How long are social security benefits expected to last? These are the types of problems actuaries can solve. The job of an actuary is to assign probabilities to expected events and determine the expected cost associated with the outcome. Actuaries are involved in determining the expected wealth of your pension plan, developing a medical benefit package for your company, calculating the amount you save on auto insurance by installing an anti-theft device, and advising your mayor on the costs of providing care to the elderly in your city. There are actuaries in all areas of the business world: insurance companies, consulting companies, investing companies and government organizations. I selected a career at a consulting company in the health and welfare department.
At my job, we are involved in all aspects of an employer's benefit package, from start to finish. We help the company decide what types of benefits they want to provide and how much each benefit will cost. We help the company select an insurance company to insure the benefits. We price their renewal rates and negotiate with the insurance company when it is time to renew the policy. When a change to the plan is needed, we price the cost and savings associated with adding, changing and eliminating certain benefits.
We also provide consulting advice to insurance companies and those providing the insured benefits. We help determine the level of funding needed to pay out the expected claims. We price the rates to be charged for new insurance products, keeping in mind the company needs to remain competitive in the marketplace yet charge enough to cover all the expected expenses. Additionally, we help providers manage the high costs of healthcare and provide benefits to those that need healthcare but can't afford it.
In addition to the daily functions of my job, as an actuary I continue my education by taking exams administered by the Society of Actuaries. The tests are challenging but should not scare a candidate away. Most employers provide their actuarial students with the time and resources necessary to help a potential actuary successfully make their way through the testing process.
My advice to someone interested in the actuarial profession: talk to many actuaries in different areas of the industry to get a feel for what is right for you, pay attention to the constant changes in the healthcare and insurance industry and start taking the tests. A career as an actuary can be very interesting and rewarding.