A Day in the Life: Newly Hired Insurance Actuary

8:30 a.m.: I usually roll in the door right about now. We don't have to be there until 9 a.m., but I need the time to check my e-mail, do a quick check of my work from the night before and just get my head on straight before it all starts.

9 a.m.: Me and my fellow "classmates" spend the morning in training classes. I've passed two of my SOA exams and I'm aiming for the third. This is pretty critical, too. It's the one that really dives deep into the insurance industry models that everybody uses. Classes last all morning. We look at real-life examples of models being used in the company right now, and some interesting things that the actuaries here have come across in the work. A new drug or surgical breakthrough can really have big implications for our modeling. It's a lot about learning the science behind those breakthroughs, for one, then estimating the section of our policy population that'll be affected, and then figuring out how they'll be affected.

12:00 p.m.: Most of the time, we're on our own for lunch. Every couple of weeks, they'll bring in the head of this or that department, or even more senior people, to talk about the firm's direction and challenges. Most of the time it doesn't really apply to what we're doing, but it's kind of nice to feel that you're part of something bigger.

1:00 p.m.: We spend the next few hours doing exercises related to the test and to the company's work. Sometimes it's just sample questions, but other times they'll bring in problems that the company's more senior folks are working on, and we'll hash it out together and see what we come up with. Twice a week, we work on longer-term assignments that will actually help the company's work, like updating life-table data or whatever. At least that makes you feel like you're contributing.

4:00 p.m.: We come back together as a class and discuss our afternoon's work. Every few days, we're given reading assignments and homework. Yes, homework. When they first give you that assignment, you're like, "Didn't I leave this behind in college?" But actuaries always have to keep studying. And my firm wants everyone to get up to speed and get their exams out of the way.

6:00 p.m.: Done for the day. Except, of course, if we're given homework, in which case I head home, scarf down dinner and hit the books for a few hours.