Preparing for a Career as an Actuary
No matter the source, actuary is consistently rated as one of the best jobs in America. Numerous publications agree: few other occupations offer the combination of benefits that an actuarial career can offer. In almost every category, such as work environment, employment outlook, job security, growth opportunity, and salary, a career as an actuary is hard to beat.
A person considering this career need not be a math major but should be comfortable with math.
What Courses to Take
On the mathematics side, the curriculum should include:
- three semesters of calculus
- one semester of linear algebra (MATH 2310 or 2210)
- two semesters of calculus-based probability and statistics (such as MATH 4710-4720 or BTRY 3080-4090)
A course on stochastic processes, such as MATH 4740, would also be advantageous.
Other desirable courses are:
- computer science courses
- finance (such as ORIE 3150, ORIE 4600)
- business courses, such as marketing
- communication courses, such as speech, business writing, and technical writing
The Actuarial Exams
Being an actuary requires passing a series of examinations to earn an actuarial designation through the Casualty Actuarial Society or the Society of Actuaries. It could take 6–10 years to pass all of the exams, but one can begin a career as an actuary by passing the first two exams and then taking subsequent exams while working as an actuarial assistant.
While still an undergraduate, one should pass at least the first exam, also called the Probability Exam. This is a three-hour multiple-choice examination. It is called Exam P by the Society of Actuaries and Exam 1 by the Casualty Actuarial Society. The Probability Exam is offered via computer-based testing (CBT), with multiple testing windows each year. For detailed information on how to prepare and how to register, see the websites beanactuary.org and soa.org, in particular:
The second exam is the Financial Mathematics exam, preferably also taken during undergraduate study. For details see:
- The most comprehensive source: Beanactuary.org
- The Society of Actuaries
- Casualty Actuarial Society
- Wikipedia article “Actuary”
- An advertiser-supported site focused on job search: www.actuary.com
- DW Simpson Actuary jobs: www.actuaryjobs.com
- Actuarial Salary Surveys from Ezra Penland Actuarial Recruitment