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Actuarial Science : Introduction

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You must have seen, heard and read about companies which provide insurance cover to policy holders in case of any eventuality like accidents, hospitalization, household hazards, thefts or death and still others who look after investment schemes, employee benefits, retirement benefits and pension schemes. The policy holders are required to pay a fixed amount as installments at regular intervals and they get this money back in the event of any untoward incident or upon the maturity of the policy. Have you ever wondered who decides as to what amount of money a policy holder should pay as premium or what sum should be given as pension amount or returns by the company?.

Well, this exactly is what an actuary does. They calculate insurance risks and premiums. Technically speaking the job of an actuary is to assess the financial impact of an uncertain future event. Roughly speaking they look at the financial aspect of disasters, sarcastically speaking they are financial astrologers.

An actuary has to combine the skills of a statistician, economist and financier and employ techniques of probability, compound interest, law, marketing, management etc to predict the outcome of future contingencies and design solutions to lessen the financial severity of such events. 

Actuarial profession was formally established in 1848, with the formation of Institute of Actuaries, London. In India, traditionally actuaries were found only in the life-insurance sector but now with the opening up of the economy they are wanted by non-life insurance companies, banks, stock exchanges, private and government agencies and this is one field where demand exceeds supply.

The Actuarial Society of India (ASI), the only professional body of Actuaries in India was formed in 1944 and was admitted as a member of the International Actuarial Association (IAA), an umbrella organization to all actuarial bodies across the world, in 1979. It was registered in 1982 under registration of Literacy, Scientific and Charitable Societies Act XIII of 1960. Its objectives include the advancement of Actuarial profession in India, providing opportunities for interaction among members of the profession, facilitating research, arranging lectures on relevant subjects and providing facilities and Guidance to those studying for the professional Actuarial Examination.

The Institute of Actuaries Of India (IAI or formally ASI) was initially started as a non-examining body when Actuaries used to get qualified from Institute of Actuaries or Faculty of Actuaries of UK. The Institute of Actuaries of India started conducting Entrance Examinations in India for students of Institute of Actuaries, UK, in 1975. In 1989, it started conducting examinations for its Indian qualification up to Associate ship level, and in 1992, it started conducting Fellowship level exams. The IAI has been following the UK pattern of examinations since November 2000 with an eye to be a part of global standards set by the International Actuarial Association (IAA). 

To become an actuary one must be a Fellow of a recognised professional examining body like the Actuarial Society of India (ASI), Mumbai or the Institute of Actuaries, London. The work of an actuary involves a lot of number crunching and the nature of work is quite tedious, nevertheless it offers rewards in terms of intellectual challenge, status, job satisfaction and earnings. As their judgment is the basis of decision making for many business activities, their career paths often lead to upper management and executive positions.

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