High-powered, mathematical careers often require additional schooling beyond the bachelor’s degree level. Actuaries are no exception.
Actuaries are in high demand. Those who have the education and skills to qualify for this profession enjoy a high-paying career that’s expected to grow at a fast rate over the next decade. Actuaries work in a number of different industries, including insurance, finance and business.
If you think you might be interested in becoming an actuary, it’s important to understand the employment outlook as well as how much education is required for this career. One thing to note: While you can get your foot in the door with just a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, actuaries often hold advanced degrees—and those who do tend to make more money than those with less schooling.
The actuarial profession offers a strong employment outlook for those motivated to pursue a career in actuarial science. To become an actuary, youll need to obtain certification through a rigorous, yet gratifying career process. After youve passed the first few actuarial exams and worked in the industry for a while, you can look forward to job satisfaction, excellent pay and superior working conditions.
Becoming an actuary is a challenging process, but the end results are more than worth the effort. The actuarial profession has been named one of the best professions in America by multiple publications.
The actuarial exams are difficult, but you can pass them with adequate preparation. If youre looking for a well-paying job that provides great opportunities for personal growth and professional empowerment, then working as an actuary might be right for you.
Become an Actuary
The American Institute of Actuaries summarizes the requirements by saying you must:
- Obtain a degree in mathematics, statistics, business, finance or actuarial science. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement, but some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree.
- Find a job in the field—the experience gained is vital to passing the exams and becoming an actuary.
- Sign up for an actuarial exam. You may take as many as you wish, but you must pass two before progressing to final certification as an associate actuary and six before reaching fellowship status.
- Pass the first exam by achieving a score higher than the minimum set by the Society of Actuaries (SOA). This can take years of part-time study while working full time.
- Find a mentor who is helpful and has passed multiple exams; they will help guide you through your studies and career as an actuary .
- Pass the second exam, which typically takes at least one year from when you started studying for it . Once again, having an experienced mentor will help motivate you through this process .
- Get a job as an actuary at a consulting firm or insurance company to gain experience and complete on-the-job training requirements that are part of becoming certified .
Gain work experience in any field of business that interests you but dont necessarily settle on a specific accounting or math job as an actuary until after youve passed your actuarial exams. Youre free to switch employers at any time, so take advantage of this flexibility and explore a variety of different types of businesses and industries related to insurance and financial services before deciding where you want to settle down.
Gain work experience in any field of business that interests you, but don’t necessarily settle on a specific accounting or math-related job as an actuary until after you’ve passed your actuarial exams. You’re free to switch employers at any time, so take advantage of this flexibility and explore a variety of different types of businesses and industries related to insurance and financial services before deciding where you want to settle down.
After obtaining your degree, your next step is passing the preliminary exams, or actuarial exams as they are commonly known. The Society of Actuaries offers all the information you need to know about the process and has practice tests available online.
The exam format is simple: a multiple choice style test that takes between 2 and 4 hours to complete. Breaking it down further, there are 3 different types of questions on the exam:
- 1/3 of the questions require you to calculate a solution on scratch paper then select the correct answer from 5 choices given.
- 1/3 of the questions involve solving a problem and choosing one out of 5 answers that match your result.
- Finally, 1/3 of the questions simply require you to choose the best answer from 5 options given (no calculations required).
The difficulty level varies between exams, with some being easier than others. Exam FM is considered by most as one of the easiest exams given its straightforward material and simple calculation requirements. On the other hand, Exam P tends to be more difficult because it includes more complex mathematics than Exam FM does.