Previous Interview with Harry Ballantyne
by Chinyere Communications


Harry Ballantyne is the Chief Actuary of a government office in D.C. During the research phase of this interview, we discovered that certain government offices, like those that have the power to decide who receives disability benefits, are well hidden in order to protect the government employees. Mr. Ballantyne has been an actuary, working for the federal government, for several decades and describes the process of, and criteria for, becoming a professional actuary.

CC: Mr. Ballantyne, would you please tell us what kind of training was required to become an entry-level actuary? And if there are further requirements for working as an actuary for the government?

HB: Yes. To become an actuary one should attend college with a major in mathematics or in some science such as physics where mathematics is also required.

Actuaries sponsor a series of examinations. Passing these examinations allows you to become a member of the Society and gives you some credentials as an actuary.

There are two levels of membership: an Associate member and a Fellow.

CC: Which society? And what examinations are required?

HB: The Society of Actuaries. It is a professional society for actuaries in Canada and the United States.

The examinations are a series covering more mathematics of mortality, life annuities, and life insurance accounting and so on... pension mathematics.

CC: Are these the subject matter of pension mathematics?

HB: Yes. It’s sort of the engineering of all kinds of insurances: life, disability income, and life annuities...

Life insurance, which pays a benefit at death, is also a kind of different area from pensions… Actually, the examinations branch into life insurance on the one hand, and pensions on the other, so the actuary pursuing the exams must choose which branch he or she wants.

The requirement of the Federal government really is only that the college graduate must have at least 24 (credit) hours of mathematics.

CC: From what year, approximately, did actuaries include women?

HB: I’m not sure that women were ever really excluded, but there weren’t many, or maybe none at some point. I’m not sure when there began to be women actuaries... it was slow. There weren’t many women when I took the exams from 1958 through about 1967. I only became an Associate, by the way. I’m not a Fellow in the Society. But now there are many women who are actuaries or studying to become actuaries.

[Re. the exam requirement:] The passage of exams is not an official requirement in the government but it certainly helps to pass them in advance.

CC: Are women equally distributed among the ranks or are there disproportionate percentages among Fellows vs. Associates, etc.?

HB: I would say that women are still in the minority, with smaller proportions who are Fellows [rather] than associates. But I also suspect the proportion who are women is increasing all the time. I don’t know the statistics exactly, and I don’t know if there are data on it. There are probably such data though.

[Re. the typical process:] The usual process is that the potential actuary goes to college, takes a major, or strong minor, in mathematics, and then starts taking the actuarial exams while still in college.

CC: How long do the exams usually take?

HB: After graduation, usually with a bachelor’s degree, but sometimes with a master’s or a Ph.D., the person gets a job as an actuary and passes the rest of the exams while working. Usually it takes several years to pass all the exams, many times as long as 10 to 15 years.

CC: And what are the salary ranges for private and public actuaries from entry level through to a typical retirement?

HB: Entry-level salaries are at about $30,000 in the government and can range as high $40,000 to $55,000 in the private sector.

In the government, depending on advancement, salaries can range up to about $125,000 by retirement. In the private sector they can of course go much higher, I suppose in the range of $200,000 to $300,000 or higher. More typical in the government might be a salary of about $80,000 at retirement.

Chinyere Communications wishes all our readers good grades and prosperity! See you next week.



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