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Thinking of beoming an actuary. Help/advice would be appreciated.

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  • Thinking of beoming an actuary. Help/advice would be appreciated.

    Hi. I have just finished my second year of college and am interested in becoming an actuary. I am majoring in math, and have completed up through abstract algebra; I was looking at a few sample exam questions for the 1st exam, and a lot of it was stuff that I haven't specifically gone over. I know I should probably take a stats course (I'v enever taken one, the closest to it was discrete math that included a little bit of probability). If anyone could recommend some other types of courses I might take, or any good actuarial math books, I would very much appreciate it.

    Also, from what I was reading it seems that the exam has about 30 questions. About how many questions do you need to have correct in order to pass? Also, how many exams does one need to pass to get a job in the field (and are the generally a good amount internship opportunites available after passing the first exam or even before)?

    Also, if anyone reading this is/was an actuary, what was major in college, how difficult did you find the actuarial exams, and how do you like your job?

    Thanks.

  • #2
    Take a course in Calculus based probability as soon as possible. After you've taken that course you can prepare yourself specifically for Exam P.

    You typically need about 60%-65% to pass the exam but it varies.

    You can get a job with only one exam, that's what I did. Try to pass Exam P ASAP and then look for an intership. Then you can work on Exam FM (much easier now than it has been in the past) If you have two exams and and intership and can communicate well, you'll have no problem finding a job.

    Don't underestimate the exams and you'll do fine. The work is fun and the pay is great but you have to have the discipline to study on your own for quite awhile.

    Good luck.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Trojan_Horse
      Take a course in Calculus based probability as soon as possible. After you've taken that course you can prepare yourself specifically for Exam P.
      That's probably a good idea. I was checking out more of the questions, and I think I might do abysmal if I took it now. I have never taken a stats/probability course (closest thing was a section on combinations and permutations in discrete math), but I think I could teach myself a lot of it if I had a good book on the subject. Unfortunately, my next two semesters are pretty much set in stone (I may be able to do a probability course in place of combinatorics/crypto in the spring, though)

      Also, I have a few questions about the basics of the exams. Like, I noticed the first exam is called Exam 1 and Exam P by the different actuarial societies; is there a difference between the two? Also, I was browsing some other threads, and some people said they were either "sitting" in an exam, or "writing" an exam, someone mentioned using a computer for one. Are there different formats of the exams depending on what time of the year you take it (and how many times is it offered)? Or is there an FAQ that explains all this type of stuff?

      Thanks.

      EDIT: A few more questions I wanted to ask to any actuaries. What kind of things do you do at your work. I mean, you're obviously not spend the whole day solving a bunch of small questions like on the exams. I'd assume it's usually a larger project, and if so, do you work in teams? How long could one project take: days, weeks, a month or more? Also, have you had any points in your career where you couldn't simply can't use your mathematical knowledge alone, i.e. you had to think about it more abstractly or even make a personal judgement based on what you simply felt the best idea was?
      Last edited by rjs_117; May 27 2005, 12:42 AM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by rjs_117
        That's probably a good idea. I was checking out more of the questions, and I think I might do abysmal if I took it now. I have never taken a stats/probability course (closest thing was a section on combinations and permutations in discrete math), but I think I could teach myself a lot of it if I had a good book on the subject. Unfortunately, my next two semesters are pretty much set in stone (I may be able to do a probability course in place of combinatorics/crypto in the spring, though)

        Also, I have a few questions about the basics of the exams. Like, I noticed the first exam is called Exam 1 and Exam P by the different actuarial societies; is there a difference between the two? Also, I was browsing some other threads, and some people said they were either "sitting" in an exam, or "writing" an exam, someone mentioned using a computer for one. Are there different formats of the exams depending on what time of the year you take it (and how many times is it offered)? Or is there an FAQ that explains all this type of stuff?

        Thanks.

        EDIT: A few more questions I wanted to ask to any actuaries. What kind of things do you do at your work. I mean, you're obviously not spend the whole day solving a bunch of small questions like on the exams. I'd assume it's usually a larger project, and if so, do you work in teams? How long could one project take: days, weeks, a month or more? Also, have you had any points in your career where you couldn't simply can't use your mathematical knowledge alone, i.e. you had to think about it more abstractly or even make a personal judgement based on what you simply felt the best idea was?
        If you're going to try it on your own, I recommend the BPP training material at www.bpptraining.com. Exam 1, 2, and 4 and the same for SOA and CAS but the other exams are different. The first exam, called P by SOA is now computer-based, but still multiple choice. The first several exams are all multiple choice, then the rest of the exams are written answers. Try browsing through www.soa.org, www.casact.org, www.actuary.com, and www.beanactuary.com for more info.

        As far as what we do at work, that varies quite a bit. I work with VULs (Variable life insurance products) and there are basically three "teams": Products development (they create new products), Valuation (determines reserves and works heavily with financial statements), and Projections (mostly forecasting and modeling). When you're in the profession, you'll have a chance to experience many different roles.

        Also, in addition to the obvious course in Prob, Stats, etc., be sure to take a programming class (preferably in Visual Basic). Most employers expects you to be proficient in Excel, Access and to be able to use VB to program macros in these applications.

        Comment


        • #5
          I can give some perspective from a health consulting view point. Typically I get involved in many aspects such as valuations of post-employment benefits(FAS 106 & 112) which usually take about 3 to 4 months, I have some complex and very large clients. I also do pricing for active and retiree medical, dental, vision, and Rx products. Depending on the size of the client and the complexity of the products the client has, this could take antwhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. Both of the above projects i have worked alone and in teams ranging from 2 to 8 people. A lot of times I am working with 2 to 6 people from the clients organization.

          Other projects I get involved in are:
          >Medicare Part-D actuarial attestations
          >negotiations with healthplan renewels
          >Strategy and design financial illustrations
          >Build Excel and Access based projection and pricing models
          >I also get involved in a lot of misc one off requests, which include being asked to use our fine actuarial skills to get future values using techniques like Monte-Carlo simulation.
          >Internal Initiatives related to recruiting and actuarial career development, who knew I would get involved on an HR basis

          I would say that for most if not all projects I encounter, there is always personal judgment involved and rarely does a real-world problem fit precisely into a theoretical application. I would say I use more non-mathematical knowledge such as business and financial acumen, then my pure mathematics knowledge.

          I can say that I really enjoy what I do and find it very rewarding.

          To your initial point, I majored in Actuarial Science and I find the exams from a theoretical standpoint challenging at times but from the most part, the difficult aspect is finding the time and commitment to study when you have a job. For the first 4 exams, I put in around 60 to 80 hours of study time (not counting the courses I took in school), but for the later exams, I am putting in 200 to 300 hours to pass, which can be difficult when you work a full week.

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          • #6
            You can find some good study materials from Actexmadriver.com. I don't think I ever figured out how many questions you need to answer correctly to pass an exam. My guess would be about 50%. The exams are pretty brutal. You really need to be committed to putting in alot of hours of study time. I was a music major in college with a minor in math.

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            • #7
              Advice to beginning actuaries

              My friend Jerry Tuttle has a page that answers a lot of questions that beginning actuaries ask:

              http://users.aol.com/fcas/advice.html

              Comment

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