Mike Boot, managing director at Society of Actuaries.
Actuaries have the best job in America, according to a recent study by CareerCast.com, which looked at work environment (includes physical and emotional demands), income, stress, and hiring outlook.
This was a rather surprising conclusion. Analyzing statistics for calculating insurance risks and premiums is not exactly a glamorous line of work.
For insight into this supposed great job, we talked to a real-life actuary — who agrees that he has the best job in America.
Growing up, Mike Boot was the guy you wanted to sit next to in math class.
"I would be that curve buster in the class," Boot says. "I scored very well in national tests, very much at the top and I loved the challenges that went along with that."
While a freshman math major at Calvin College in 1975, Boot first learned about being an actuary and realized it was the job for him.
"Q uite frankly, there are relatively few actuaries, and people in our profession are well compensated for their jobs" Boot tells us. "It's typically an office environment so it's not physically draining and there are opportunities to advance."
In 2010, the median salary for actuaries was $87,650 with 27% projected job growth , according to the Labor Department.
Actuaries evaluate the financial consequences of risks that people or, more often, corporations take. These include financial risks, operational risks, reputational risks, and longevity risks, which is what happens when people run out of money because they didn't expect to live so long.
It's not easy to price such complicated things.
Boot, who worked as an actuary for 25 years — first at Principal Financial Group, then at Allstate Financial — said it takes a lot of research, a lot of assumptions, and running "a lot of numbers through a whole range of interest rates."
Nearly three decades after starting his career, Boot — now the managing director at the Society of Actuaries — still finds his job exciting .
"A lot of our work is very much impacted by regulations, which change, and as they change you need to be able to recognize that and do the best for you and your company," Boot tells us. "The challenges people face today are different than five years ago. The economic environment is different, technology is different and so is big data."
In the past decade, Boot say he has seen a rise in actuaries working in life insurance, pensions, and enterprise risk management (ERM) which means you're looking broadly across an organization for risks.
Although the pay is good and the stress is manageable, Boot says he would be cautious in recommending this job to someone because of the "very challenging and rigorous program" you need to go through to become certified.
"You're competing against other people who are equally bright and I didn't pass every exam that I took" — not unusual for those studying to become an actuary — and sometimes, these people who have received good grades their entire lives, it's the first time they're faced with failing, so "you need to have a willingness to be a lifelong learner."
To become an actuary, you need to pass a series of exams offered by the Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society, although there are several universities who have launched actuary science programs.
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