a Career in Actuarial Science
Joy Jordan, Associate Professor of Statistics (email@example.com)
What is an Actuary? (Directly
future is full of uncertainty. Some of the events that can happen are
undesirable. ‘Risk’ is the possibility that an undesirable event will occur.
Actuaries are experts in:
- evaluating the likelihood of
- designing creative ways to reduce
the likelihood of undesirable events,
the impact of undesirable events that do occur.
impact of undesirable events can be both emotional and financial. Reducing the
likelihood of these events helps relieve emotional pain. But some events, such
as death, cannot be totally avoided. So, reducing their financial impact is
very important. Actuaries are the leading professionals in finding ways to
manage risk. It takes a combination of
strong analytical skills, business knowledge and understanding of human
behavior to design and manage programs that control risk.
Actuaries love what they do. Their work is intellectually
challenging and they are very well-paid.
Actuaries are key players in the management team of the companies that employ
them. In a fast-changing world, with new risks and the need for ever-more
creative ways to tackle them, there is the constant opportunity for personal
and professional growth in an actuarial career, and the pleasure of life-long
learning. Most actuaries work in a pleasant environment, alongside other
professionals, and enjoy the respect of their peers.
is why the actuarial profession has consistently been rated as one of the top
five jobs in the United States according to Jobs Rated Almanac.”
and Validation of Educational Experience
must pass a series of exams (first to become an “Associate” and then, if
desired, to become a “Fellow”). The exam studying is intense, but often
compensated for by employers. If you no longer want to take exams upon
completion of college, then actuarial science is not for you. If you’re still
interested in learning and happy to log extra hours studying, then you can
typically pass enough exams to become a Fellow within your first seven years on
the job (even fewer years if only interested in becoming an Associate). For
more exam information: http://www.beanactuary.org/exams/exam_info.cfm.
In place of some exams, the Society of Actuaries now requires validation of
education experience (VEE). Lawrence courses are approved by the SOA to meet most
VEE requirements (see applicable courses below).
and Advice from Working Actuaries
alums currently working as actuaries give the following information and advice:
- The majority of actuaries
work for insurance companies, while others work for consulting firms,
banks, the US government, and investment firms.
- There are two branches of
insurance for which actuaries work: life & health (www.soa.org) and property & casualty (www.casact.org). The first three exams
are the same for the two branches, so you needn’t choose immediately
between the two pathways.
- There are many positive
aspects of a career in actuarial science: the work is dynamic and
challenging (no monotony), you get to work with many different people, you
can control your salary (by passing exams), and you get to solve fun
problems. The main downside of work in actuarial science is the time spent
studying for exams.
- Two very important
qualities of a successful actuary: 1) the ability to effectively communicate,
both in speaking and writing, and 2) the ability to solve novel problems
(to think outside the box). These are hallmarks of a liberal arts
education, so Lawrence students (particularly math majors) are well-suited
for this profession.
- Because there is no
actuarial science major at Lawrence, you are at a disadvantage in your job
search. To counter this, you must network, find an internship, sell
yourself and your liberal arts education, and work hard to pass an exam
before you graduate.
- If you have difficulty
finding a job (e.g., because of no passed exams), then you should consider
graduate school in actuarial science. There are many masters program in
actuarial science that allow you copious time to study for exams (you take
coursework on which the exams are based), and for many programs you are
all but guaranteed a job upon graduation. (Note: The master’s degree means
nothing within the field of actuarial science—the upside of graduate
school is passing many exams and getting a good internship and/or job.) The
Society of Actuaries website has a listing of graduate programs: http://www.soa.org/education/resources/actuarial-colleges/grad-edu/graduate-education-details.aspx
Courses offered at Lawrence University
I, II, and III (MATH 140, 150, 160)
directly tested, but indirectly tested by the use of calculus within
to Probability and Statistics (MATH 207)
introduction to the mathematical/statistical topics used in actuarial
Theory (MATH 440)
- This is
the material on which the first actuarial exam (Exam P) is based
Statistics (MATH 445)
in-depth look at statistical techniques used to solve real-world problems
to Microeconomics (ECON 100) and/or Intermediate Microeconomics (ECON 300)
(Lawrence’s courses are pre-approved)
to Macroeconomics (ECON 120) and/or Intermediate Macroeconomics (ECON 320)
(Lawrence’s courses are pre-approved)
Finance (ECON 220)
(Lawrence’s course is pre-approved)
(Lawrence’s course is pre-approved for the regression-analysis portion,
but this must be paired with a time-series analysis course, which can be
taken online once you have a job)
Computer Science (CMSC 100) or Introduction to Scientific Computing (CMSC
by working actuaries, who must have knowledge of databases and computers