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  • Questions about Career change

    I am considering a career as an Actuary. I've been employed as an Analyst in the Direct/Database Marketing industry for almost 5 years since I earned my BS in Business. Here are some of my questions:

    1) I only took 1 Calculus and 2 Statistics courses in college, will I stand a chance at passing the exams? I have always scored well in quantitative portions of standardized aptitude tests. I did very well in all of my Finance and Economics courses as well.

    2) I'm 27, will employers shy away from me because of my age?

    3) Will my work experience help me a) get hired b) get a higher entry level salary?

    4) As a career changer, is an internship needed?

    5) Should I wait until I pass exam 1 before contacting employers about positions.

    6) I got a dui about 5 years ago. I hasn't hurt my career much, as I've been hired several times by respectable companies since then, and basically my whole career has happened after this event. How much will this hurt me in this field?

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    I'm a career changer as well and my best advice is take the first test, then you'll be able to go from there. All of my research has told me to pass the first test before pursuing a career in the field. That way you can earn experience as you go as well as getting paid.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by farley
      I am considering a career as an Actuary. I've been employed as an Analyst in the Direct/Database Marketing industry for almost 5 years since I earned my BS in Business. Here are some of my questions:

      1) I only took 1 Calculus and 2 Statistics courses in college, will I stand a chance at passing the exams? I have always scored well in quantitative portions of standardized aptitude tests. I did very well in all of my Finance and Economics courses as well.

      2) I'm 27, will employers shy away from me because of my age?

      3) Will my work experience help me a) get hired b) get a higher entry level salary?

      4) As a career changer, is an internship needed?

      5) Should I wait until I pass exam 1 before contacting employers about positions.

      6) I got a dui about 5 years ago. I hasn't hurt my career much, as I've been hired several times by respectable companies since then, and basically my whole career has happened after this event. How much will this hurt me in this field?

      Thanks in advance!
      1) To pass Exam P (the first one), I think you need to be fairly familiar with multi-variable calculus and calculus-based probability. Are these subjects that you covered in your classes? If not, then maybe you should pick up a manual or two (Dr. Ostazsewski should be commenting soon). Anyone can take these tests - it's whether you're willing to put in the effort and time to pass them.


      2) There are people that have gotten jobs as career changers (as Tsingtao is providing anecdotal evidence for). For example, a co-worker of mine who got hired around the same time I did was 32 or so when he first got the job. It was his first actuarial position.

      3) Your job experience should make you a reasonably good candidate for an actuarial position. I'm guessing you've had experience with Excel and Access, and some type of statistical modeling software? Either way, 5 years of experience certainly helps in getting a job. You may have to take a cut in the pay you're receiving now (I don't know this for sure - I don't know the going rate for analysts outside of actuarial science, but if you're curious about salaries for actuaries, check out www.dwsimpson.com/salary.html), but if you pass a few exams, you may not have to.

      4 & 5) Internships and exams are nice to have, but not completely necessary. If you live in one of the big cities (Chicago, New York, etc.) and try to get a job with a big company, keep in mind that these are students that have just graduated and already have at least 2-3 exams passed and a couple internships before entering the field full-time. I think exams are more important than internships, but neither are mandatory (for some companies, they are). I would contact a few smaller companies and inquire about actuarial positions - that way, even if they don't hire you because you don't have exams, they'll have your name on record for the future.

      6) It's a slight blemish ... but don't hide anything in an interview. They'll find out eventually, and it's better to be up front - otherwise, the company will be weary of your decisions and probably won't trust that you won't make similar decisions when working for them.

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      • #4
        Thanks for both your insights.


        1. I honestly don't remember much from my statistics and calculus courses. Would Dr. Ostazsewski's manual along with plenty of study hours alone be enough to pass, or would I need more materials?

        2. That is good to hear.

        3. You are correct in that I have plenty of Excel and Access. I have used SAS a little, but I've forgotten anything I knew about it. Most of my technical skills lie in the SQL/data management. I am a pretty good Oracle PL/SQL programmer. How much if any SQL do actuaries use (I'm sure it varies)? From the numbers on that link, I may or may not have to take a pay cut. I earn in the mid 60's now, so it depends on how many exams and where I fall into the range.

        4 & 5. Thats good to hear because I really don't want to intern. I'd prefer staying in my current role until being hired as an Actuary. What is the best method for contacting employers, phone or email? Should I try contacting Actuaries (from the SOA directory) directly or by going through HR? I have a feeling that HR's would ignore me until I pass an exam. That is what DWSimpson basically said. I will try some smaller companies first.

        6. That's pretty much what I've done so far. I don't advertise it up front, but I am always honest about it on applications. I wasn't sure if the background requirements for actuaries were any more stringent than they are for non-actuarial analyst positions.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by farley
          Thanks for both your insights.


          1. I honestly don't remember much from my statistics and calculus courses. Would Dr. Ostazsewski's manual along with plenty of study hours alone be enough to pass, or would I need more materials?

          2. That is good to hear.

          3. You are correct in that I have plenty of Excel and Access. I have used SAS a little, but I've forgotten anything I knew about it. Most of my technical skills lie in the SQL/data management. I am a pretty good Oracle PL/SQL programmer. How much if any SQL do actuaries use (I'm sure it varies)? From the numbers on that link, I may or may not have to take a pay cut. I earn in the mid 60's now, so it depends on how many exams and where I fall into the range.

          4 & 5. Thats good to hear because I really don't want to intern. I'd prefer staying in my current role until being hired as an Actuary. What is the best method for contacting employers, phone or email? Should I try contacting Actuaries (from the SOA directory) directly or by going through HR? I have a feeling that HR's would ignore me until I pass an exam. That is what DWSimpson basically said. I will try some smaller companies first.

          6. That's pretty much what I've done so far. I don't advertise it up front, but I am always honest about it on applications. I wasn't sure if the background requirements for actuaries were any more stringent than they are for non-actuarial analyst positions.
          For Exam P, it sounds like Dr. Ostazsewski's manual is sufficient to pass Exam P. He might be a good person to discuss it with.

          SQL can be fairly useful, but a lot of the times (at least, in my observations), it looks like actuarial departments use Excel and Access liberally, and with it, the use of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) in Excel and Access. Macros are very useful, and make the data-analyzing job (which is what you'll be subjected to in an entry-level setting) a little less drawn-out. I think any type of formal programming knowledge will give you an upper hand, whether it is in VBA or not.

          For contacting companies, many say that contacting actuarial departments directly is preferred. Sometimes HR is out of touch with their actuarial departments, so if the job application says "2 exams required", HR may turn down your application immediately, while the hiring actuary may see your programming/data analysis experience as a plus.

          But try to pass some exams. That's probably the best way to boost your chances at a job. If you go to a smaller company, you may be able to get a job w/out any exams.

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