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Actuarial Science Overview - Preparation - Day In The Life - Earnings - Employment - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations -
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Preparation
Actuaries need a strong background in mathematics. Applicants for beginning actuarial jobs usually have a bachelor's degree in mathematics, actuarial science, statistics, or a business-related discipline such as economics, finance, or accounting. Many colleges and universities offer an actuarial science program, and most offer a degree in mathematics, statistics, economics, or finance. Some companies hire applicants without specifying a major, provided that the applicant has a working knowledge of mathematics, including calculus, probability, and statistics, and has demonstrated this knowledge by passing one or two actuarial exams required for professional designation. Courses in economics, accounting, finance, and insurance also are useful. Companies increasingly prefer well-rounded individuals who, in addition to having acquired a strong technical background, have some training in liberal arts and business and possess strong communication skills.

In addition to knowledge of mathematics, computer skills are becoming increasingly important. Actuaries should be able to develop and use spreadsheets and databases, as well as standard statistical analysis software. Knowledge of computer programming languages, such as Visual Basic, also is useful.

Actuarial Exams
Two professional societies sponsor programs leading to full professional status in their specialty. The Society of Actuaries (SOA) administers a series of actuarial examinations in the life insurance, health benefits systems, retirement systems, and finance and investment fields. The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) gives a series of examinations in the property and casualty field, which includes fire, accident, medical malpractice, worker's compensation, and personal injury liability.

Three of the first four exams (exams 1, 2, and 4) in the SOA and CAS examination series are jointly sponsored by the two societies and cover the same material. Because exam 3 is no longer a joint exam, candidates who take the SOA exam 3, which has more testing on life contingencies, will receive a waiver from the CAS, but the SOA does not waive candidates who take the CAS exam 3. These initial examinations test an individual's competence in probability, calculus, statistics, and other branches of mathematics. The first few examinations help students evaluate their potential as actuaries. Many prospective actuaries begin taking the exams in college with the help of self-study guides and courses. Those who pass one or more examinations have better opportunities for employment at higher starting salaries than those who do not.

After graduating from college, most prospective actuaries gain on-the job experience at an insurance company or consulting firm, while at the same time working to complete the examination process. Actuaries are encouraged to finish the entire series of examinations as soon as possible, advancing first to the Associate level (with an ASA or ACAS designation) and then to the Fellowship level (FSA or FCAS designation). Advanced topics in the casualty field include investment and assets, dynamic financial analysis, and valuation of insurance. Candidates in the SOA examination series must choose a specialty -- group and health benefits, individual life and annuities, pensions, investments, or finance.

Examinations are given four times a year. Although many companies allot time to their employees for study, home study is required to pass the examinations, and many actuaries study for months to prepare for each examination. It is likewise common for employers to pay the hundreds of dollars for examination fees and study materials. Most actuaries reach the Associate level within 4 to 6 years and the Fellowship level a few years later.

Specific requirements apply to pension actuaries, who verify the financial status of defined benefit pension plans for the Federal Government. These actuaries must be enrolled by the Joint Board of the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Labor for the Enrollment of Actuaries. To qualify for enrollment, applicants must meet certain experience and examination requirements, as stipulated by the Board.

To perform their duties effectively, actuaries must keep up with current economic and social trends and legislation, as well as with health, business, finance, and economic developments that could affect insurance or investment practices. Good communication and interpersonal skills also are important, particularly for prospective consulting actuaries.

Beginning actuaries often rotate among different jobs in an organization to learn various actuarial operations and phases of insurance work, such as marketing, underwriting, and product development. At first, they prepare data for actuarial projects or perform other simple tasks. As they gain experience, actuaries may supervise clerks, prepare correspondence, draft reports, and conduct research. They may move from one company to another early in their careers as they advance to higher positions.

Advancement depends largely on job performance and the number of actuarial examinations passed. Actuaries with a broad knowledge of the insurance, pension, investment, or employee benefits fields can rise to administrative and executive positions in their companies. Actuaries with supervisory ability may advance to management positions in other areas, such as underwriting, accounting, data processing, marketing, and advertising. Some actuaries assume college and university faculty positions.

Programs
Programs offering degrees in Actuarial Science are organized by the number of tests each prepares a student to take.

Undergraduate – Introductory
Curriculum covers all topics on the first CAS/SOA exam, and includes courses in introductory mathematics of finance along with micro and macro economics courses.

  • Appalachian State University
  • Arcadia University
  • Arizona State University
  • Auburn University
  • Baldwin–Wallace College
  • Baruch College
  • Baylor University
  • Bellarmine University
  • Beloit College
  • Benedictine University
  • Bentley College
  • Binghamton University
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Brooklyn College
  • California Polytechnic State University
  • Canisius College
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Central Institute for Actuaries Studies
  • Central Michigan University
    University of Cincinnati
  • Clemson University
  • Colorado State University
  • Concordia University–Seward, Nebraska
  • University of Delaware
  • Doane College
  • Elizabethtown College
  • Florida State University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Howard University
  • University of Idaho
  • Indiana State University
  • University of Southern Indiana
  • Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis
  • Iowa State University
  • Kansas State University
  • Le Moyne College
  • Long Island University–C.W. Post Campus
  • Louisiana State University–Shreveport
  • Luther College
  • Marist College
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • Miami University
  • Murray State University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Michigan–Flint
  • Michigan Technological University
  • University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • University of Nevada–Reno
  • The College of New Jersey
  • Niagara University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Pittsburg State University
  • University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
  • Portland State University
  • Purdue University
  • Queens College of City University of New York
  • Randolph–Macon College
  • The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Roosevelt University
  • Rose–Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Siena College
  • Siena Heights University
  • Slippery Rock University
  • University of South Carolina
  • South Dakota State University
  • University of Southern Mississippi
  • Southern Utah University
  • St. Cloud State University
  • University of St. Francis
  • St. Lawrence University
  • St. Mary's College
  • St. Norbert College
  • SUNY–Albany
  • SUNY–Binghamton
  • SUNY–Brockport
  • SUNY College at Fredonia
  • SUNY College at Potsdam
  • University of Tennessee at Martin
  • University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Texas Christian University
  • Thiel College
  • University of Toledo
  • Union University
  • Valparaiso University
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Virginia
  • West Chester University of PA
  • Western Kentucky University
  • Western Washington University
  • William Paterson University
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • University of Wisconsin–Platteville
  • University of Wisconsin–Stout
  • University of Wisconsin–Superior
  • University of Wisconsin–Whitewater

Undergraduate – Advanced
Curriculum covers all topics on first two CAS/SOA exams plus 12 semester hours of topics on the third and fourth exams.

  • Abilene Christian University
  • University of Akron
  • Ball State University
  • Boston University
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Bradley University
  • Brigham Young University
  • Bryant University
  • Butler University
  • University of California at Santa Barbara
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Central Missouri
  • Columbia University
  • University of Connecticut
  • DePaul University
  • Drake University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • University of Evansville
  • Florida State University
  • George Mason University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
  • Illinois State University
  • Indiana University Northwest
  • Indiana University–South Bend
  • University of Iowa
  • Lebanon Valley College
  • University of Louisville
  • Maryville University of St. Louis
  • University of Michigan
  • Michigan State University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • University of Minnesota
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • New Jersey Institute
  • New York University Stern School of Business
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Northern Illinois University
  • University of Northern Iowa
  • Northwestern College–Iowa
  • The Ohio State University
  • Ohio University
  • Oregon State University
  • Otterbein College
  • Penn State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Regina
  • Rider University
  • Robert Morris University
  • Roosevelt University
  • Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville
  • Spring Arbor University
  • St. John's University–College of Insurance
  • University of St. Thomas
  • SUNY University at Albany
  • Temple University
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Towson University
  • Utah State University
  • Washburn University
  • University of Pennsylvania–Wharton School
  • University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • York University

Graduate – Education
Curriculum covers all topics on the first four CAS/SOA exams. These programs lead to a Masters degree.

  • Ball State University
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Central Connecticut State University
  • University of Connecticut
  • Columbia University
  • DePaul University
  • Florida State University
  • George Mason University
  • Maryville University of St. Louis
  • University of Michigan
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Oregon State University
  • Roosevelt University
  • St. John's University (College of Insurance)
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Youngstown State University

Graduate – Education and Research
Curriculum covers all of the topics on the first four CAS/SOA exams and includes at least six semester hours of courses covering advanced actuarial science topics. These programs have a research component and leads to a Masters or Ph.D. degree.

  • Boston University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Connecticut
  • Florida State University
  • Georgia State University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
  • Illinois State University
  • University of Iowa
  • Laval University, School of Actuarial Science
  • University of Michigan
  • Penn State University
  • University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Simon Fraser University
  • Temple University
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 


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