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What does an Actuary do?

In a world in which risk and uncertainty are present in all aspects of human life, an actuary is a skilled professional who has been trained in the assessment of those elements to determine their financial impact. Actuaries use their mathematical skills to evaluate the likelihood of certain events, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes, then go on to tally the possible outcomes and propose measures to minimize the financial impact associated to them. For example, when a hurricane causes heavy damage to a certain area, an actuary must assess the risk of it happening again over the long term to be able to set prices for property insurance and reserves that will prevent future financial loss.

What sort of training and education will prepare me to become an actuary?

Because of the specialization an actuary needs to be able to accurately assess risk and uncertainty, training is extensive and involves several years. When you are looking to become an actuary, you will need to place your focus on subjects such as calculus, probability and statistics, economics, finance, and business.

While courses in finance, math, economics, or statistics are desirable when you want to become an actuary, many different backgrounds can be helpful, including research and physics. This means you will require at least four years of college prior to becoming an actuary. In some cases, a master’s degree in math or actuarial science are a good choice if your undergraduate studies were in liberal arts or other unrelated subjects.

Once you have finished college and earned your bachelor’s degree, you will have to start taking a series of preliminary exams that will determine whether you have the necessary skills to become an actuary. These exams can take place over a span of 6 to 10 years, but passing the first two is the most important step forward into an actuarial career and will allow you to start out as an actuarial assistant. Eventually, with hard work and good skills, you will reach your goal of becoming an actuary and reap the benefits of what has been deemed as one of the most satisfying careers today.

What does a Business Analyst do?

Business Analysts provide the much needed logistical core of many technological and service related industries. Business Analysts often are responsible for the collection and analysis of data. This can include information on customers, potential and established markets, products and services, financial regulations and products, and training or business needs. A Business Analyst will then review the data for trends, opportunities, advantages, and areas for improvement and translate this information into a readable format, often for the upper level management of a corporation. This information allows business leaders to make educated and informed business decisions.

business analyst

The recent economic climate has greatly increased the demand for Business Analysts, as companies often utilize consultants or employees in this role to analyze business processes for areas where technology may allow for a streamlining of a process or a cost savings. As demand increases for businesses to operate more “lean”, complex analysis is required to determine areas of a businesses supply chain, production, or delivery methods that may show potential for reduction.

Business Analysts must have excellent communication skills and must be able to concisely deliver complex information both verbally and written in a method laypeople can understand. Leadership skills are needed, as this position may require the questioning of established procedure and necessitates a personality able to pursue the answers to difficult questions. Experience in cost-benefit analysis and computer modeling are often an asset in this position. IT departments are the most common focus for Business Analysts, so knowledge of networking, communication, and software is often required. The ability to work within a team is also helpful, as many businesses are now choosing to utilize project teams to analyze production and supply concerns.

Most Business Analysts obtain an MBA (Masters of Business Administration). This is the most common credential sought by employers. However, some analysts may hold degrees in specific areas of study and specialize in those areas. Finance and International Business are two other common areas of study for Business Analysts. Masters degrees are preferred by hiring organizations, though individuals with four year degrees that have applicable experience and a background of success may also be considered for hire.

What does a Data Analyst do?

A data analyst (sometimes called systems analyst) helps businesses use their computer systems. Your knowledge of computers and problem-solving skills could help you gain the qualifications needed to become a data analyst.

data analyst

More than computers: data analyst responsibilities

To help businesses use their computers, data analysts solve processing problems, figure out what each user needs, and review a computer system’s capabilities. You can figure out which hardware and software should be used and how to configure them.

Other tasks can include working with management on computer systems to determine whether goals are being met, and coordinating and linking computer systems.

But a data analyst job involves more than computers–these professionals need to be able to work with the people who use them. An analyst needs to be able to listen, solve problems, and communicate with all levels of staff and management, some of whom might not have a computer background.

Education, training and degrees for a data analyst

Many employers are interested in a data analyst with education and relevant work experience in this field. Recommended bachelor’s degrees are in computer science, information science, applied mathematics, engineering, or the physical sciences. If the job is more technical, many employers may prefer a data analyst with a graduate degree. However, some employers may hire data analysts who do not have a degree but who have taken courses in computer science or related subjects and have relevant experience.

Education continues even after securing a job, though. Because technology changes frequently, data analysts are usually expected to keep up with the latest developments in their field by taking additional courses, which can be offered by employers, colleges and universities, and private institutions as well as professional computing societies.

What does a data analyst earn?

You can benefit by applying within job sectors hiring the greatest number of creative directors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the following were the top three job sectors hiring the most data analysts:

  • Computers systems design and related services
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Insurance carriers

Career outlook for data analysts

Because computers are such an important part of businesses, employment in the computer field is expected to grow faster than average, by 20 percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Data analysts with experience, strong leadership or business skills may have the opportunity to be promoted to positions as senior or lead analysts, managers, or chief information officers. Some data analysts with experience and a specialty may choose to become individual consultants or start their own consulting firms.