An actuary is a member of a profession which specializes in applying financial and statistical theories to real life situations. They analyze future financial events, especially when the amount of a future payment, or the timing of when it is paid, is uncertain. They assess how likely an event may be and the costs associated with it.
The traditional areas in which actuaries operate are life insurance, general insurance, pensions and investment.
In the United States, practicing actuaries must be members of either the Society of Actuaries (SOA) or the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). Members of the SOA generally work in the life insurance, health insurance, pension, and financial services industries, while members of the CAS work in property and casualty insurance.
Members of both societies are granted two levels of membership: Associate and Fellow. A Fellow is recognized as a "full" Actuary, and may sign Letters of Actuarial Opinion. Both societies require a series of exams to obtain Fellowship; in general, the travel time to Fellow is generally between 7 and 10 years.