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What is so bad about being an actuary?

Over the past couple of months I’ve done some very informal research on what it means to be an actuary. From reading the Wikipedia article and also the Be An Actuary website it seems like a pretty interesting job. Here is where it gets surprising, though: nearly everyone I know in the insurance industry has communicated that it is a very lonely and boring job. This leaves my question to you: what is so bad about being an actuary?

Here are two other links I’ve yet to research: Society of Actuaries and Casuality Actuarial Society (thanks Dr. Rowe), and clearly I need to do more.

45 Comments

  1. Steve wrote:

    The incompetent FSA/MAAA/EA certified pension actuaries at CalPERS (the largest public pension fund in California) allowed the state and the unions to skip a couple of years of contributions into the pension fund because the market was doing exceedingly well for a few years in the early to mid 2000s, with the result that when the market downturn took hold in 2008, the pension fund dipped to just around 60% funded. Any competent actuary with even the most basic grasp of market volatility and risk theory would tell you the high market returns from flush years should have been banked to prepare for the inevitable downturns, but these incompetent moron actuaries at CalPERS let politics get in the way, with the result that we are now only around 65% funded. They have now come up with a scheme for a 30-yr. “rolling” plan to repay the deficit, sort of like paying a perpetual 30-yr mortgage. We California public employees better hope the market doesn’t nose dive in the next 30 years! Fat chance it won’t happen! I don’t know what these CalPERS pension actuaries have been smoking. (Well potsmoking is legal in California.)

    Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 11:11 | Permalink
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    Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 12:16 | Permalink
  3. Mr Facts wrote:

    The UK Actuarial job market is saturated.

    A typical Actuarial Analyst job advert for an established employer will get more than 50 applications. They will state £35-50k on the job advert but my money’s on them paying the successful candidate £35k. It’s called supply and demand although HR will always deny this. They’ll always pretend “we will pay more for the right candidate” but it’s a lie. Why is it a lie? Because this would mean, from a pool of 50 CV’s, that they would pick the best candidate and pay £50k each time. They don’t. That’s because they pick an adequate candidate that will accept £35k. Wouldn’t you? Who would really pay £15k more for someone to do the same job? Think about it.

    It’s all a big scam. HR are the villains here, doing the dirty work of companies to shield people from the dirty truth.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 12:23 | Permalink
  4. Mohammed wrote:

    I have been reading this thread for several days looking for answers to questions. I am currently working on my PhD and looking to write my thesis on actuarial science and how to improve the school curriculums in order for students who are interested to pursue this major.

    I have been teaching mathematics and statistics for thirteen years , both A levels and Advanced Placements. Many of my students have shown interest in the field of actuarial science but many have dropped out. What can be done in schools to help them avoid these obstacles?

    I am also looking for volunteers willing to answer a questionnaire and help me collect data on this subject. There is not much information available on this topic so any input from you guys with experience will be very helpful.

    Any advise or comments?

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 10:33 | Permalink
  5. DOUBLE TROUBLE wrote:

    According to the Hare Krishna book snatcher and the Nam Myoho Renge Kyo back turner the Boy Scouts are obviously the ultimate and final path. As we all know the Boy Scouts now consecrated through no effort on their part don’t do cigarettes-and-neckties. So I owe it to myself to keep the abominable duo from creeping into my place of work. Also its high time to consign the campfire-and-neckerchief incorrect actuaries to the junk pile of history so I can find something else somewhere else. The blue state bridges and tunnels and islands and peninsulas of MetLife San Francisco and MetLife New York City are only playing and doing nothing. They are not for anybody getting their work done.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 11:35 | Permalink
  6. ali-H wrote:

    The British Institute of Actuaries wastes many UK graduates talent with wasteful acturial careers with a disgusting drop out rate = 80-90% approx (allegedly).
    Everyone who ultimately leaves the highly secretive IofA in London usually hates the entire profession. ADVICE: AVOID LIKE THE BUBONIC PLAGUE THAT HIT THE UK YEARS AGO.

    Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 04:17 | Permalink
  7. Quant in Insurance wrote:

    Did not study any actuarual sciences, but I am working for the largest insurance company as quant analyst. I have a PhD in Machine Learning / Computer Science and have been a Fellow at one of world’s leading universities. Just having good programming skills, math skills and research skills open s a lot of gates…not only in insurance, but also hedge funds and investment banking become an option.

    Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 09:30 | Permalink
  8. Lin wrote:

    Having worked as an Actuarial Analyst for 5 years in the UK I think I can sympathise with many of the above comments, and especially those made by Jon.
    1. I didn’t do maths at school but still got into the field – this is not rocket science. I had no problems with the earlier math-related exams.
    2. I’m unexpectedly stuck with the later non-math related subjects (actually just the last one), largely due to, I believe, lack of real motivation – the exams don’t give you real knowledge at all – it’s just tactics. The questions are really open-ended but you only score if you say sth that matches the marking schedule…it’s been more and more like a lottery draw.
    3. There’s a lot of politics. I was lucky enough to earn largely exagerated daily rates even as a student, since I was lucky enough to have met and be ‘liked’ by a few very senior people early in my career. There were occasions where I worked hard on interviews and didn’t get an offer for months but other occasions where I got a call from a senior person and didn’t even need to go through an interview to get a well-paid job.

    Friday, July 11, 2014 at 01:48 | Permalink
  9. Mr Facts wrote:

    ALI-H is completely correct about the huge drop out rate in the British Actuary IFoA and the waste of time career it is due to that. Also he is completely correct about the highly secretive nature of it. They may claim that exam passes makes you a fellow of that profession but I have seen many very bright, hard working people pass all exams except the last one and the communications exam. They have no idea why they keep getting failed yet we see people with poor communication skills or lack of actuarial knowledge passing them. They will bluff people it’s about exam technique just to sucker you in for more tutorials and expense. Some suspect that due to the highly secretive method of determining pass or fail, reluctance to state the pass mark, that it’s not as meritocratic as it seems and makes one wonder if people are vetted somehow before being allowed fellows, regardless of exam performance…

    Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 18:52 | Permalink
  10. kiwi analyst wrote:

    This will not be my only post.

    As an actuarial analyst for four years, assuming my experience is typical or anything to go by, there are numerous things a person new to the profession needs to know.

    Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 00:04 | Permalink
  11. MechMan wrote:

    I do not know how anyone could claim that an actuary is a “technician” with a “high school level of math.” Actuaries must have a very high level of mathematical knowledge or they will bomb the tests.

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 01:25 | Permalink
  12. PT_First wrote:

    I’m looking for some advice from all the actuaries out there. I’m almost 34 years old and am thinking of changing careers to become an actuary. I’ve been a physical therapist for 7 years and know that I am not going to be able to do it forever.

    Things that I’ve learned about myself:
    – I enjoy solving problems, especially those with solutions that you can prove to be correct
    – I prefer to work by myself
    – I dislike the significant social aspect of my current occupation
    – It upsets me to know that if it health insurance didn’t exist, I’d have very few patients because they wouldn’t be motivated to actually subscribe to the idea of a lifestyle change to improve their health
    – I enjoy challenges and goals
    – I’m analytical and have good attention to detail
    – I love working math problems, especially when I understand the problem :)

    I graduated college with a bachelors in biology before starting PT school. I took two semesters of calculus – the last being 15 years ago. I was told that I’d have better luck with taking FM first if I was unsure of my abilities with calculus. I’ve spent probably 30-40 hours already on making it through 120 pages in the FM manual from ASM and have difficulty with almost all of the material so far. Is this normal?

    I’d like to know if there is an easier way to get through this material more quickly while working a full-time job. Based on what I know about myself at this point, is it reasonable to believe that I will like this career more than the present one I’m in? What type of things can I expect to be doing day-to-day in a typical actuary job? Any help or insight would be significantly appreciated. Thanks.

    Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 19:04 | Permalink
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    Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 17:24 | Permalink
  14. What's an actuary wrote:

    PT_FIRST:

    Best of luck to you on the career shift! My company has had great success with career changers (maturity, professionalism, etc).

    “working by myself” doesn’t lend itself well to actuarial (At least not where I work). This is certainly a business field and being a business partner is difficult if you don’t like working with people.

    However, I would also say, if you are unsure about your math chops, I would start with exam P. Why take the exam you are more likely to pass if there’s a chance you can’t get through the rest of them? May as well start with the harder one see if you can hack it.

    Lastly, and not to be snarky, but the best way to get through the material is to learn it. There really is no other way to do it effectively. I’ve seen people learn the “exam” instead of the material, and almost everytime, those people have a poor work product because they didn’t actually learn the material. I am a big believer that the exams are there for a reason, 1. barrier to entry and 2. because you need the knowledge to be a very successful and valuable actuary (but it’s only preliminary knowledge).

    Best of luck!

    Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 07:50 | Permalink
  15. What's an Actuary? wrote:

    Quoting KDG:

    One other thing…actuaries and “programming” or “developing software” is a joke. They typically don’t have the proper background and don’t appreciate the difference between writing some formulas in their modelling software scripting environment, writing some code in Excel vba and what a full fledged software developer does. Then, when you have a real programmer actuary, the time that they take to actually make functional and efficient systems is looked down upon.

    END QUOTE

    I’ve been working as an actuary for a little over 4 years. I am credentialed by the CAS. I really enjoy my work.

    KDG is mostly correct, but there are exceptions to the rule. At the right companies, actuaries like the one KDG is referencing are not nearly as respected as those who can think critically. I don’t know what the statistic is, but I’m one of few who didn’t memorize 10 versions of the same formula bet derived it from basic principals. This has helped me immensely.

    What I’m trying to say is that there is room for thinkers in the field, but it may be an uphill battle due to the “old ways”.

    The new CAS exams are trying to weed out those who just memorize and cram, and it appears to be quite effective.

    I haven’t worked in a different field (other than a couple internships in software programming), but there is definitely a place for the thinking actuary who wants to create an efficient process for advanced analytics. Is it for everyone? No. There are still quite a few uphill battles. Good luck all!

    Monday, September 29, 2014 at 04:48 | Permalink
  16. What's an Actuary? wrote:

    Oops I meant to quote all of KDG:

    “OUTDATED wrote the best comments. Some will say that the best way to study for actuarial exams is with flash cards; this alone should illustrate why being an actuary may be painful if you are a more abstract or higher-level thinker. You work very hard at studying material that really needs a specific Master’s or PhD level grounding to truly understand. However, most credentialed actuaries do not have this level of education. As a result, most of the work just revolves “repeating what we was done before” because there is no layer of abstraction for most of these supervisors and so they can’t think critically about what they are doing.”

    END QUOTE

    Monday, September 29, 2014 at 04:50 | Permalink
  17. dharan wrote:

    i just wanted to know about how many exams we shud pass to be an actuary and averagely how long wud it take?

    Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 02:21 | Permalink
  18. What's an Actuary? wrote:

    Dharan –

    Depends on the society you are trying to join (SOA, CAS, etc) and your study habits/ability (i.e. some folks need 250 hours for each exam, some need 400+).

    For the CAS, it’s 9 exams ( in 11 parts) which usually takes between 4 and 8 years.

    Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 07:07 | Permalink
  19. Actuarial Mistake wrote:

    I got my Bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science and – hey!- because I’m in an African country we don’t get any Institute or SOA excemptions. Wound up working as an accountant for a while then a claims analyst then an underwriter cause over here those are the jobs you get after crunching bullshit numbers non stop for 4 years. It might be for you but in my experience, it was a huge mistake I wish I’d never made. I still regret taking the course till today. I wish I’d known then, its not all it appears to be.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 01:28 | Permalink
  20. AGADEFE wrote:

    Hi, I’m Agadefe. Well, actually I’m not. But sometimes I wish I was. He is better than I am.

    Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 22:54 | Permalink
  21. Grant wrote:

    NOT AGADEFE:

    You are surely a fine human being, too.

    Friday, April 17, 2015 at 17:34 | Permalink
  22. Question wrote:

    Actuarial Science seems really interesting. As soon as I’m finished with High School I’m going to Europe to study it there. Any advice?

    Monday, May 11, 2015 at 12:04 | Permalink
  23. Ms. Actuary wrote:

    I know there are a lot of opinions and perspectives already on this page, but I thought I’d share mine.
    First, to answer what can be seen as “downsides” to some people. Exams take up a lot of time and we have to give up some fun in order to focus and work through it. (But for at least some of us, the ones who stay and last, the motivator for the exams isn’t the job increase or the prestige; it’s the challenge; it’s working towards something and having a definite answer as to whether or not we succeeded; it’s the continued learning; it’s the job. The rigorous training also isn’t just limited to exams; if you start at a good company, the onboarding training is weeks of presentations and trainings that can last multiple hours each sitting, and quizzes and workbooks to test your knowledge and foundation to make sure you have a solid knowledge base to do the work when they start giving it to you. I do sit in a bland cube staring at a computer screen for a lot of my day, and it is a very sedentary (or with some companies making available standing desks – stationary) job. That is the job though. Yes, it is fairly repetitive and you are looking at data in cells most of the time. Yes, people over-exaggerate the pay, but it’s still good pay. It is salaried and you likely don’t get paid overtime. A lot of people don’t know what your job is and you end up saying “it’s math for insurance companies.”
    Now, for what else I have to say. There is a big difference depending on what specialty you choose to go into, what society you use, and what type of company you are working for. A lot of people don’t know that there are many different types of actuaries, with different specialties and different societies and that companies can be very different, especially a consulting vs an insurance firm.
    Yes, exams can eat into your personal life, but you still have time to catch up with friends and family, you just might not be able to go on that last minute vacation the month before your sitting (actuaries are planners – we plan our vacations between exams), and we might have to turn down a trip to the amusement park that our friend asked us to yesterday that would be during the only time you have to take a practice exam that weekend. But if you’re in a decent sized company, there are people taking exams with you, probably some taking the exact one at the same sitting, and you bond and form relationships with them from being in the same situation. It might not be a glamorous friendship, but it’s true.
    Personally, it seems like it’s a specific type of person who stays in the position of an actuary. There are a lot of people who are strong at math that see the rankings the field gets for “best jobs” and are enticed by the money (yes, there is money in it), but if you come in expecting to make 100k out of college or the money is your main reason for entering the career, it’ll wear you down fast. We are a weird bunch, but it’s like coming home when you find people like you. The career is a lot, but when you fit into it, it works.
    Also it’s really difficult, even as an actuary, to describe what it is that we do. We can’t really answer the “so take me through a typical day at work” question. So much of what we do is privileged, confidential, company-specific information that we have a hard time even updating our resumes. Indeed it is very rare to find someone who knows what an actuary is, even within insurance companies. It’s not saying something about the field or about the companies. It’s just that we are so specialized you don’t have enough of us to be at “Career Day” at every child’s school. There are people in HR, accountants, managers, etc. at nearly every company, so they are much more well-known. Or there are careers that are glamorized like astronauts and musicians. But the companies we work for really couldn’t work without us, and if you get in the right kind of company, they know that and show that they know it through different forms of recognition.

    Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 13:59 | Permalink
  24. Lys wrote:

    I am going into my senior year of high school this fall, and I am trying to decide if this profession would be a good fit for me. I love math, and am a year ahead in both math and science. In precalculus this year, I completely hated the way my teacher taught, and could not understand anything when she tried to explain it. I’m a little slow when it comes to understanding, (I have a 504 plan) but I’m crazy dedicated when I do something. I would spend 3 hours working on math a day, way slower than a lot of my peers, but I ended the last quarter with a 100%. My biggest fear is that I am not fast enough to keep up with my peers when in college and will therefore not make it through. I was wondering if anyone had any advise for me on whether or not I should go into this field. I am known to be extremely social and I have Really good people skills. I can easily make someone comfortable and am great at explaining and teaching concepts. Any advise would be amazingly appreciated. Thank you!

    Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 21:21 | Permalink
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    Friday, August 14, 2015 at 07:16 | Permalink
  26. KDG wrote:

    I find it funny when most actuaries say “its really hard to explain what we do…”. By definition that means they don’t know what they are doing.

    In short, actuaries are ultimately a form of bookie. Bookies don’t care about which team wins or loses as long as they have two sides to pay off each other and the book takes a bit off the top.
    Likewise, insurance companies are the exact same thing – bringing together risk and taking a bit off the top for doing so.
    While a bookie cares about setting odds and payoffs to bring in both sides, actuaries are basically doing something a bit more complex to achieve the same type of effect.. “given these assumptions about one bet (dying), what kind of payment/betting needs to occur on the other side (surviving) to pay it off with a particular ROI to us?”. Ultimately some part of the dyings payment will be used as part of his benefit, but in abstraction, it is basically the same as a bookie.

    In practice, outside of pricing, actuaries are basically reporting on the value of bets remaining (valuation) which is what the insurer needs to hold to pay off those bets. Additionally, they will calculate additional money to be held for contingencies not 100% considered in the benefit valuation (ie RBC etc).

    In short, actuaries are the bookies of insurance.

    Friday, August 14, 2015 at 11:09 | Permalink
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  29. john ndolo wrote:

    i beleive acturial is not a hard career provided you have the the passion

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 07:32 | Permalink
  30. Joe Shmoe wrote:

    I have a degree in Mathematics with a Finance concentration. 3.4 GPA, and passed the first two exams (P and FM) on my first try. I’m 30 minutes from NYC, and I can’t get shit. Not even an entry level finance or accounting position. I’m currently working as a substitute teacher for $12/hour with zero benefits. THIS SUCKS! I can’t pay the bills and my student loans without borrowing money. Don’t fall for it. Choose something else unless you have a friend/relative that can hook you up with a job.

    Monday, December 7, 2015 at 23:21 | Permalink
  31. What's an actuary? wrote:

    Joe –

    It’s getting tough out there. I recruit for a top 25 company (not in NY); we hire 10 people a year and get hundreds of applicants most of which have an exam and a gpa > 3.0 (heavy majority now > 3.5). Our hiring doesn’t have anything to do with who you know. The bare minimum is no longer enough, you really need to stand out; you need to be in the top ten percentile (and I’m guessing this is even more true for big firms in NY).

    That being said… “don’t fall for it”? No one ever promised you or anyone a job after passing a couple exams or borrowing that much money for college.

    Good luck.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 05:30 | Permalink
  32. What's an actuary? wrote:

    KDG –

    I actually really like that explanation. Not sure if you intended for it to sound “negative” or not, but it’s a pretty nice analogy.

    I don’t really agree with the first sentence though about not know what we are doing. Most actuaries say that b/c we do so many different things and some of those things are hard to explain to someone who have no understanding of insurance. So no, by “definition”, it doesn’t mean we don’t know what we do. Telling the average person “we make sure that premiums match losses and expenses (including profit) while also continuously providing a reason for new customers to join us and old customers to stay” is not exactly a helpful statement to your buddy at the bar.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 05:35 | Permalink
  33. James Bond wrote:

    I’m a valuation actuary with 9 years experience that’s about to leave the field. I work for an insurance company calculating statutory and GAAP reserves, cash flow testing, and we’re currently in the process of converting to AXIS for our reserve calculations and cash flow testing needs.

    Being an actuary can be a good career if you’re okay with working on insurance, pensions, &/or benefits for your entire career. If that doesn’t bother you, and seems interesting for you to do day in and day out for 20, 30, 40 years, then this is the field for you. Personally, insurance doesn’t interest me anymore, and I feel like none of the work that I do affects anyone outside of the company’s four walls. I need to find a career where the work that I do actually affects other people, not just the company I work for.

    You should be excited about your job/career, something I can’t say anymore about my career as an actuary.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 12:10 | Permalink
  34. Joe Shmoe wrote:

    WHAT’S AN ACTUARY?:

    Being that Actuary is high up on the list of top professions, any normal person would assume that includes job availability. If you likely need to be in the top 10 percent of applicants to get the job, while the other 90 percent get screwed, then it shouldn’t be on the list of top professions. That’s the part they don’t tell you, hence my statement “don’t fall for it”. Those that teach Actuary classes, sell Actuary study materials, and administer Actuary exams have it in their best interest to bull shit.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 16:07 | Permalink
  35. What's an Actuary wrote:

    Joe –

    Fair point; job opportunities is a reasonable metric on how to get best jobs. I’ll counter what you are saying with a few things:

    1. Job Opportunities probably isn’t measured by what % of college candidates will find a job. Certainly just because more people are graduating and looking for actuarial jobs (this is true from what I’ve seen) doesn’t mean we’ll just make more jobs

    2. This is just speaking about my company, the most hiring department in the entire company is actuarial. While we only have <100 actuaries out of 5,000 total employees; for 1 department to hire 10-12 (extra 10%) college grads is unheard of in this economy.

    3. On a similar note, we constantly have openings for more seasoned actuaries. So like any booming profession, you begin to get over saturated of inexperienced people when the work gets more advanced and complicated and there begins to be a search of more experience

    4. My comment on my company hiring top decile does NOT mean only 10% of all candidates get hired (I probably was unclear in that). Lots of companies out there; not everyone can have top 10. Have you looked at smaller companies and outside of NY? One guy who works for me (also from NY) sent out 40 applications with personalized letters to each before his job here; did you do that?

    I really have no idea who is "bull shitting" you. If you blindly followed Forbes that said actuary is the number one job and just assumed you are guaranteed a position, then shame on you. One of the top jobs is also being a quant/mathematician; not every PHD is jut going to get that job.

    The very first thing on BeAnActuary.org Advice is

    "Landing that first actuarial position may be one of the biggest challenges in your career" – doesn't sound like bull shit to me.

    At the summary portion of the same website it says

    "In the past two years hiring has been slow throughout the industry. With unwavering persistence, you will be able to secure a position and embark on an exciting and rewarding actuarial career."

    Again not seeing the BS, granted this was written quite some time ago.

    What have you done to try and boost up your resume and skill set? Have you made yourself stand out? Why should I or another hiring manager hire you? How are your communication/interview skills? Hopefully this isn't coming through as mean but as practical advice. If your passion is in statistics/business/insurance keep trying; perseverance is important. There are jobs out there, but also lots of people who want them. If that's not where you passion is I would reconsider – and as Ms. Actuary said wisely, if you are just in it for the money it won't be enough.

    Would be happy to answer any specific questions you have. You are entitled to your opinion; but considering I joined the profession just 5 years ago, knew absolutely zero people in the industry, and was denied even for an internship interview more times than I could count, I do not agree with your general statement that it's BS or you need to have an "in".

    Good luck.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 17:06 | Permalink
  36. Biology Teacher wrote:

    Hello all! I have been a high school biology for the past five years and it has finally taken me until this year to decide to get of the education profession (for many reasons, you could imagine).

    I have a B.S in Biology and an M.A.T in Science Adolescent Education. Now what is concerning is that neither of these degrees will be of much benefit to me as I look to go into the actuary profession. I am looking to take some courses online while I finish out the school year to expand my knowledge so I have the information needed to start to take the actuary exams. I was wondering what courses did you find the most helpful concerning the actuarial exams?

    I am also a bit confused about the pathways for ASA, CERA and FSA, many of the exams are similar, when should I decide on which pathway I will pursue?

    As am nervous about my educational background, is there any thing you would suggest I do in the meantime or the future that would help to make me a more desirable actuarial candidate?

    Thanks for any help or suggestions.

    Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 18:27 | Permalink
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  38. GFI wrote:

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    Sunday, December 27, 2015 at 18:40 | Permalink
  39. Joe Shmoe wrote:

    WHAT’S AN ACTUARY:

    I applied for positions in both NJ and NYC. I also did the online course “Computer Skills” from the Infinite Actuary ($70). So far I’ve had ONE phone call interview. I applied to entry level Actuary, Accounting, and Finance positions. I wonder if there were cases in which having the Actuary exams on my resume actually hurt my chances for non-Actuary positions since the company may be afraid that I will eventually leave for a better job given the chance.

    All I can say is that this is very disappointing. Considering about 1/3 of the candidates pass Exam P, I’m guessing about 1/10 pass both P and FM on their first try. So if people like me aren’t finding work, who is??? If I could go back in time, I would’ve went for Math teaching. I would have easily had a job last September.

    Sunday, December 27, 2015 at 20:27 | Permalink
  40. Ms. Actuary wrote:

    BIOLOGY TEACHER:

    I have a few pieces of information that might help you.

    1. ASA and FSA are the same track, an ASA is just an Associate (who hasn’t taken “all” the exams”) and an FSA is a Fellow (who has taken “all” the exams). CERA is something different but I have no experience with it. And you won’t have to pick a specialty right away. The real “track” question is “SOA or CAS.” SOA is the larger society (Society of Actuaries) in the United States. Pension, Health and Finance Actuaries are all part of this society, and I believe they have different exams for those specialties. CAS is the smaller society in the US (Casualty Actuarial Society), which is Property and Casualty. The first four exams (1/P, 2/FM, 3F/MFE and 4/C) are the “preliminary” exams no matter which society you wish to pursue.

    2. Economics, Probability/Statistics and Finance courses would be the most helpful. People usually start with Exam 1/P or Exam 2/FM. P stands for Probability and is mostly about different distribution and density functions. FM stands for Financial Mathematics and contains a lot of stocks, bonds, options, and annuities. There are also some requirements, called “Validation by Educational Experience” or VEEs, that you will eventually have to meet before you can get your Associate-ship in either society (though rules are somewhat changing). They are Economics, Corporate Finance, and Applied Statistical Methods. However, there are multiple ways to get them, and Exams show more dedication. Also, I highly recommend the A/S/M manuals for the preliminary exams, and Coaching Actuaries’ ADAPT online practice exam program.

    3. There are more people than you would think that switch into the actuarial world. I have at least 4 friends at my company who are “2nd Career” actuaries (2 are former teachers, one if a former salesman, and I never remember what the other was). Commitment is important. Passing exams is important. And, you might not want to hear this, but an internship might be the way to go. Two of my friends rolled into full-time positions directly from their internships. It’s a lot less risky for a company to hire you as a temporary (3 months or so) intern and see if you can cut it, than to hire someone who’s changing careers directly as a full-time hire (And most actuarial internships are paid). Also, even if you don’t get hired where you do your internship, it looks good to have it on your resume, especially as a 2nd Career.

    Tuesday, December 29, 2015 at 12:54 | Permalink
  41. Actuary No More wrote:

    I have been working in the actuarial profession for the past 7 years. Currently, I am preparing for a career switch.

    I am from a small island in the Caribbean. I have realized that the experience of actuaries in the third-world is very different from those in first-world countries. In third-world countries, opportunities for actuaries are scarce and salaries are a lot lower. This is partly due to the fact that actuarial expertise tends to be outsourced from the more developed countries. The actuarial market in my country is so small that most students with an actuarial degree never land actuarial jobs. Those who are lucky to land actuarial jobs tend to switch out after a couple years, or remain stuck in dead-end jobs for considerably periods of time. Most of the friends I started working with at my current job have either migrated or left to stay at home or teach.

    I have attempted to leave the actuarial profession many times. However, I have been unable to land employment anywhere else. I think perhaps the ‘actuarial science’ degree on my resume is to blame, as most people in the Caribbean have no idea what an actuary does.

    All the surveys online claim that actuaries have low-stress jobs…but my experience has been the opposite. I have worked for 2 consulting firms, and I can say with certainty, that my years working as an actuary have been the most stressful years of my life. I often had to work long hours (9-10 hr days) just to meet the demands of my clients. Furthermore, I had to carve out time during my already stressful week to study for grueling exams. For years, I suffered with chronic headaches. The stress really was too much for me. But I had to stick with it because it was impossible for me to land another job.

    I sincerely wish I had chosen a different career. I currently have all of my preliminary exams. With the amount of time and effort that I dedicated to the exams, I could have been ACCA qualified or obtained an MBA. Honestly, obtaining either of those things would probably have been less stressful…AND more financially rewarding.

    I am truly happy for those actuaries who find their jobs rewarding. Anyone who is ambitious and passionate enough can probably have a successful and enjoyable actuarial career. However, if you do not live in a developed country, you should do some thorough research about the actuarial market in your country before jumping down the rabbit-hole. Remember, the online surveys that hail the actuary as the no.1 profession were conducted in developed countries. I am sure that if similar surveys were conducted in the developing world, its rank would be considerably lower.

    Tuesday, December 29, 2015 at 19:09 | Permalink
  42. Actuary in Training? wrote:

    Hello, I am a 10th grade student in the US, and am trying to figure out how much math I need to take to be an actuary. Currently I’m in Pre-Calc Honors, does that put me on a good pace? Also, are there any other kinds of classes I shpuld take? I assume financial classes, any science? Thanks for reading

    Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 19:31 | Permalink
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  44. Salesman wrote:

    Hello,
    Feedback will be appreciated. I in my early 40’s and currently working in sales, I have a BA in Statistics (2004)and a MBA (2014). I have been playing with the idea of becoming an actuary and I am uncertain if this is doable at this stage in my life. I have strong math skills and I should be able to pass the exams, I am ok with R and SAS and I am looking for some insights before I make the exams commitment, any feedback would be appreciated specially about the Canadian job market for Actuarial analysts. Thank you

    Monday, January 25, 2016 at 08:54 | Permalink
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