Actuaries put a price tag on future risks. Those risks are usually associated with possible financial losses. An actuary uses mathematical skills to define, analyze, and solve business and social problems. Actuaries calculate costs of insurance, pensions, and social programs (e.g., Social Security, Medicare), represented in the premium or taxes paid, and they also estimate the amounts that insurance companies, or pension plans, or social insurance systems, must set aside in reserves to be able to meet their obligations.
The actuarial profession may be the best kept secret. If you have never heard of it, or never met an actuary, your experience is not unusual. The actuarial profession numbers only about 20,000 people in North America. But do not let that small number, or relative lack of prominence fool you. This may be the best job there is. Actuaries are respected professionals. They are paid very well (see here, and also here), and they like what they do for a living.
Since actuaries' calculations and judgments often influence organizational policies and practices, actuaries are involved in such business activities as management, marketing research, investments, accounting, and administrative and corporate planning. Actuaries may advance to high-level administrative and executive positions such as president, vice president, or senior partner in a variety of companies.
Two largest professional actuarial organizations in the United States are the Society of Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society. These two organizations have created a special Web page devoted to the actuarial career: http://www.BeAnActuary.org, which contains a great variety of valuable information about the profession. Other acturial organizations in North America are: American Academy of Actuaries, American Society of Pension Actuaries, Canadian Institute of Actuaries, Colegio Nacional de Actuarios, Conference of Consulting Actuaries.