what is an actuary?

You will be required to be a strategic thinker and a problem solver in your position as an actuary. Your mathematical skills will be put to the test as you evaluate future events based on their probability and risk. As an actuary, you will use your skills to foresee the financial impact of risk events on your business and your clients.

Governments and businesses rely on actuaries to help them plan for future growth and unforeseen occurrences. Your skill set will allow your employer to face the rapidly changing world scene in a way that evaluates and mitigates risk. When you are hired as an actuary, you will be pivotal in helping your business navigate an evolving landscape.

use creativity to predict future uncertainty

You will be called on to use your creativity, adaptability and curiosity to guard against the potential negative effects of future uncertainty. Actuaries are involved in every aspect of a business, from planning to calculating pension plans to insurance premiums. You will be entrusted with managing financial assets and evaluating liabilities. Whether it is cybersecurity, data science or climate change, your input will be invaluable.

Would working as an actuary suit your skill or interest? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an actuary role.

actuary jobs

average actuary salary

According to our latest salary guide, the median pay for actuaries in Canada is around $100,000. Actuaries starting in their careers may earn around $60,000, while the top 10% of experienced actuaries can earn $150,000 or more annually.

The work hours for actuaries in Canada are generally around 40 hours per week. When it comes to different sectors, actuaries working for the government can expect a median salary of approximately $105,000. In the insurance industry, the median salary is slightly higher at around $110,000. actuaries employed in the technology services, scientific, or professional fields have a median salary of about $100,000. For those in the management of companies and enterprise fields, the median salary is around $100,500.

According to data from Payscale Canada, an actuary's annual salary can increase significantly with experience over a 20-year career. It is estimated that they could see their salary rise by up to $80,000 or more during this time. As with any profession, salaries can also be influenced by the location of employment. In Canada, the top regions for actuarial work are Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec.

Moreover, the level of education can play a role in determining an actuary's pay. In general, having a master's degree in actuarial science is likely to result in a higher earning potential compared to having only a bachelor's degree.

It's important to note that the Canadian actuarial landscape may evolve over time due to various factors such as economic conditions and industry demands, which can influence salary trends and opportunities for actuaries across the country.

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types of actuaries

  • life insurance actuary: as a life insurance actuary, you are responsible for creating policies that cover groups and individuals. You will evaluate demographic data, life expectancy tables, risk behaviors and health.
  • property and casualty actuary: when you work as a property and casualty actuary, your focus will be creating insurance policies linked to property loss and liability. This could include natural disasters, car accidents, fires and other types of accidents.
  • healthcare insurance actuary: working as an actuary in the health insurance field means you will focus on estimating the likelihood that groups or individuals will need medical treatment. You will predict the cost of healthcare and determine what each policy will cover.

Other types of actuaries include:

  • enterprise risk actuaries 
  • savings and retirement actuaries 
  • public-sector actuaries 
  • investment actuaries

working as an actuary

As an actuary, you may work for financial institutions, insurance companies, and consulting firms. Your daily tasks will vary based on your specialty.


actuary education and skills

If you want to become an actuary, it is important to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some professionals also have a master's or doctorate. The most direct path is to major in a study that includes statistics, mathematics and industry-related topics. Other majors can also produce well-qualified actuaries, like:

  • economics
  • mathematics
  • statistics
  • computer science
  • physics
  • substantial coursework in mathematics

You will want to focus on a major that focuses on business management, statistics, accounting or mathematics to be an actuary. Studying finance and computer programming can also help you get a job in this field. The more you know about topics like government and law, the better. You can improve your ability to communicate complex financial topics by including humanities, especially English, in your studies.

  • personal development and continuing education

As an actuary, it is important to earn CE (continuing education) every year and ensure that you complete at least three CE hours on professional topics. You will be required to complete one CE hour on bias topics, six CE hours on organized activities, and not exceed three CE hours on general business skills topics.

  • join professional organizations

When you join the Society of actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society, you can pursue associate-level certification. Although the American Academy of actuaries does not give certifications, it is a great resource for actuaries. The earlier in your career that you start the certification process, the better. You might consider beginning while you’re still earning your degree.

  • pursue fellowship level certification

If you are an actuarial associate in good standing, you can pursue fellowship-level certification by obtaining the FCAS credential through the CAS or the FSA credential through SOA. If you opt for SOA's FSA certification, you will be required to select a specialty track.

skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of an actuary include:

  • industry knowledge: as an actuary, you need specific industry knowledge to identify patterns and trends. For instance, if you want to work in finance or healthcare analytics, you require a background in the field. Familiarity with issues in the industry gives you an advantage.
  • problem-solving skills: an actuary needs exceptional problem-solving skills to handle challenges during analysis. Critical thinking skills are also important to allow you to focus on the appropriate data and identify gaps in your work.
  • communication skills: you make presentations to top-level executives and managers. You need exceptional speaking skills to communicate with stakeholders and managers. Written communication skills are also crucial for writing reports.
  • technical skills: as an actuary, you need knowledge of database languages, spreadsheets and data visualization software. You also require skills in statistical methods to help you organize, gather and analyze data.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of an actuary.


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