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March 31, 2009


That change of scenery can take many forms. Many smaller companies would love to get their hands on someone trained at a MetLife or UnitedHealth. Their work isn't as esoteric as the top corporations' can be. Some actuaries who left the behemoth firms to work for smaller companies say they've found increased job satisfaction. They're more in control of their work and careers, and they often rise through the ranks faster. They may not be making as much as a New York City insurance actuary, but there's something to be said for a fish finding a smaller pond to swim in.

You may also want to apply your actuarial skills to other areas of business. If you started in the insurance field, you may find new challenges in a different type of insurance. Currently, that could prove more difficult than it sounds. Most major insurers, of any stripe, have strong collegiate programs that provide more than enough troops to fill their ranks each year. Even as new actuaries in each "class" drop out due to poor performance or to go elsewhere, others quickly take their place. And the competition for higher-paying jobs with more responsibility is already intense inside the company, even if the job is posted to the outside world.

Many consulting firms also hire straight from college, but there's a little more flexibility there. The firm may bring in new clients that require a surge in workers, or a client may have specific needs that aren't yet covered adequately by the firm's in-house expertise.

The government, federal or state, often does not have the training programs necessary to bring actuaries along like corporate employers do. The pay, while good, is generally less than that of the corporate world, but it's a very easy transition and the pressure to advance in SOA/CAS testing is less. There's also more opportunity to advance in the various financially-centered departments of government as well.

Broader financial services companies are quickly coming to appreciate what actuaries can do with risk mitigation. Whether an asset management firm is developing a new investment product, a hedge fund or private equity firm is pondering a major investment, or an investment bank is crunching the numbers on alleged synergies between two would-be merger partners, the actuary can have a front-and-center role. Few of these companies have full-blown hiring programs like the insurance and pension industries do, and thus are great alternatives for actuaries seeking career transitions.

Likewise, the rest of corporate America will always have use for actuaries. The roles certainly may vary from company to company. One company may have you developing risk profiles and mitigation plans for store expansions throughout the Northeast, while another may simply ask you to manage the company's life and health insurance programs. Naturally, it's the former positions that offer the best opportunities for growth and challenging work. Again, most of these companies don't hire actuaries out of college, so a move here is far more likely for mid-career actuaries.


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