What Is Actuarial Science?

Actuarial science is a discipline that assesses financial risks in the insurance and finance fields, using mathematical and statistical methods. Actuarial science applies the mathematics of probability and statistics to define, analyze, and solve the financial implications of uncertain future events. Traditional actuarial science largely revolves around the analysis of mortality and the production of life tables, and the application of compound interest.


Understanding Actuarial Science

Actuarial science attempts to quantify the risk of an event occurring using probability analysis so that its financial impact can be determined. Actuarial science is typically used in the insurance industry by actuaries. Actuaries analyze mathematical models to predict or forecast the reasonableness of an event occurring so that an insurance company can allocate funds to pay out any claims that might result from the event. For example, studying mortality rates of individuals of a certain age would help insurance companies understand the likelihood or timeframe of paying out a life insurance policy.

Actuarial science became a formal mathematical discipline in the late 17th century with the increased demand for long-term insurance coverage. Actuarial science spans several interrelated subjects, including mathematics, probability theory, statistics, finance, economics, and computer science. Historically, actuarial science used deterministic models in the construction of tables and premiums. In the last 30 years, science has undergone revolutionary changes due to the proliferation of high-speed computers and the union of stochastic actuarial models with modern financial theory.

Many colleges and universities offer degrees in actuarial science, which consists of a solid foundation course in mathematics, statistics, and economics and on all types of investments.

Applications of Actuarial Science

Life insurance and pension plans are the two main applications of actuarial science. However, actuarial science is also applied in the study of financial organizations to analyze their liabilities and improve financial decision-making. Actuaries employ this specialty science to evaluate the financial, economic, and other business applications of future events.


In traditional life insurance, actuarial science focuses on the analysis of mortality, the production of life tables, and the application of compound interest, which is the accumulated interest from previous periods plus the interest on the principal investment. As a result, actuarial science can help develop policies for financial products such as annuities, which are investments that pay a fixed income stream. Actuarial science is also used to determine the various financial outcomes for investable assets held by non-profit corporations as a result of endowments. 

In health insurance, including employer-provided plans and social insurance, actuarial science includes analyzing rates of

For example, disability rates are determined for veterans that may have been wounded in the line of duty. Certain percentages are assigned to the extent of the disability to determine the payout from disability insurance.

Actuarial science is also applied to property, casualty, liability, and general insurance–instances in which coverage is generally provided on a renewable period, (such as yearly). Coverage can be canceled at the end of the period by either party.


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