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Associate actuaries study data to determine the probability of certain events, such as death, illness or injury, and the cost that will result to insurance carriers or other companies should the event occur. They also use statistics to decide what investments companies should make or what the best retirement plan for individuals may be. Associate actuaries also help craft pension plans and insurance policies. They analyze insurance rates for various policies, including automotive, home owners' and life insurance, and estimate what sums must be earmarked for claims that have not yet been paid. Associate actuaries may also play a role in the planning of mergers or acquisitions.
Most associate actuaries earn a bachelor's degree in actuarial science, mathematics, statistics, finance or business. In college, students may also take classes in applied statistical methods, micro and macroeconomics and corporate finance. A strong mathematical background is essential for associate actuaries so students should also take courses in calculus, linear algebra and probability. Many actuarial sciences students also participate in internships while in college to gain professional experience in the field. In addition to college coursework, actuaries must complete a series of examinations offered by the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or the Society of Actuaries (SOA) in order to obtain professional certification. To achieve CAS Associateship status, candidates must complete seven exams, attend a CAS professionalism
course and meet coursework requirements. The SOA requires associate actuaries to pass five exams, complete the required coursework and computer modules, and attend a professionalism seminar.
Associate actuaries usually work in offices and spend most of the day behind a desk. They must often devote hours to analyzing statistics, which can be tedious. Most associate actuaries work standard 40-hour weeks, but some may be required to travel and put in overtime hours as well.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages for actuaries, including associate actuaries, were $84,810 as of May 2008. The highest 10 percent were paid more than $160,780, while the lowest 10 percent were paid less than $49,150. The middle 50 percent were paid between $62,020 and $119,110.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for all actuaries, including associate actuaries, will increase by 21 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is a much faster rate than the average for all occupations. The financial services and consulting industry will see the greatest growth, though there will be significant opportunities in the insurance field as well. Associate actuaries will face fierce competition, however, because it is expected that the number of qualified candidates will outpace the number of openings. Individuals with a college degree and experience in the field should enjoy the best prospects.