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How valuable is my experience?

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  • How valuable is my experience?

    Hi everyone,

    I'm new to this forum, and I am exploring the possibility of a new career as an actuary, as I am at a change-of-plans juncture. Here's a bit of my story, as background to the question in the title to my post.

    I have a master's and Ph.D. in quantitative psychology, and I taught statistics at a university for a number of years, but I didn't get enough publications, so I decided not to go up for tenure. Even though I've won awards as a stats teacher and applied for 30+ college teaching jobs at smaller universities, it seems that my low number of publications doomed me, and I haven't been able to get another professorship.

    Now I'm looking for a stats job in govt or a research job at a university (as a staff member), and I'm also considering a career change. I'd like to land a university job where I could take one course a semester and perhaps re-tool for a career as an actuary. But is this realistic?

    A bit more background on my computer and quantitative skills: My research included extensive use of SAS and SPSS, as well as item response theory software (Facets). In grad school, my coursework included three semesters of calculus, linear algebra, and probability in the math dept, and the following courses (among others) in the psych dept: experimental design, factor analysis, multidimensional scaling, test theory, nonparametric stats, general linear models, multivariate stats, etc. In addition to this quant background, I've got strong communication skills, both written and verbal, and I have a decent personality.

    I've seen some universities that offer courses aimed at preparing people for the actuarial exams. Is it realistic to think I could go somewhere like, say, the University of Texas and take one course a semester as a non-degree-seeking student, pass the first two exams within a year or so, and land an entry-level actuarial job with the kind of experience I already have?

    If this is not realistic, what could I expect my career-changing training to entail?

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.


  • #2
    Questions. Are you looking for a job in the private sector or do you still want to be working for the feds. Do you still want to be doing research as an actuary. Would you feel bad if people younger than you with less education are further along in your career than you. Your three semesters of calc, lin. alg., probability, are those graduate level courses or undergraduate? By quant background, do you mean you have a knowledge of numbers or that you have worked as a quant before. I think you have enough math background to take the exams without going back to school.
    Whether you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running.


    • #3
      Hi Ken,

      Thanks for your reply. I'll answer your questions and pose a few of my own to help clarify what we mean by certain terminology.

      At the moment I'm looking into state govt jobs -- stats, data analysis, research and such -- because of the stability and benefits. Not so much fed because most of the jobs are in the DC area, and that's not where I want to live.

      No, I don't think I'd want to do research as an actuary -- that is, research into various ways of tackling problems and writing journal articles on my findings. No, I wouldn't mind younger folks being further along in their careers. I've been a supervisor of older employees (when I was in my 20s, before grad school), I've taught people of all ages, and I have been supervised by younger people before, so I've been on both sides of that fence. And my math courses were undergrad.

      When I said "quant background," I was referring to the list of courses in the previous sentence of my first post, but you also could include the work I've done since grad school. I have written complicated Monte Carlo simulations of statistics, and I have used stats packages (SAS, SPSS, etc.) extensively in applied data analysis projects. That's what I mean by quant, but I'm not sure what you're thinking when you say "have a knowledge of numbers or that you have worked as a quant before." Maybe you could clarify it for me. What does it mean to have a "knowledge of numbers?" What do you mean when you say someone has "worked as a quant"?

      I've looked at some example questions from the first exam, and the probability course I took didn't get into the kinds of more complicated joint conditional probabilities I saw on the exam. I'm also definitely rusty on calculus -- would I need to be able to use calc to solve questions on the exams?

      Thanks again.



      • #4
        Hi Ell

        My father came to US as a refugee. He used to be a math professor in Bosnia, but his strenght was Calculus and not probablity or statistics. Like you, he did not publish too many papers. In his late forties, he passed an exam and landed an actuarial job. It took some time an effort for him to get a job though.

        I think you can become an actuary if you really wanted too. I do not think that you need to take university courses, unless you need to satisfy a VEE requirement. If you are willing to study non-stop at least 20 hours a week, just pick up a book and start studying for next exam. I feel that starting 6 months in advance and studying for 20 hours a week almoust gurantees that you will pass one of the entery level exams.