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  • Help-Career Changer

    Hi, I'm a 27 year old graduate student working on a PhD in Molecular Biology. I no longer want to do science and would like to start acturial exams. Although I did well in college calculus, it's been years. Should I retake a college course or review fundamentals. Also, are multivariable calculus and linear algebra needed for the exams? Also, am I too old to switch now?

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    You probably remember enough calculus to take the exams. Rather than taking courses, I would just learn the material on my own. Then again, I don't learn well in a class setting. Since the deadline's passed for Exam P, I would consider sitting for FM. You're not too old to switch careers, but you should be able to clearly explain to an interviewer why you are interested in actuarial science now. You may have a PhD, but an employer will probably not think of that as any benefit. You won't be any more qualified than someone with a BA and the same number of exams passed. Take a look at past exams available on to get an idea of what you'll be taking.
    Whether you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running.


    • #3
      dheslin, your Ph.D (or near-Ph.D) is not worthless; I've known of those with Ph.D.'s to obtain actuarial positions, so do not be discouraged. As was already said, though, you DO need to start preparing and taking actuarial exams as soon as possible, and it was a good suggestion to start preparing for Exam FM which will be given in November, which does not contain much calculus at all.

      On another forum, there was another poster who is in a similar situation, though he/she does already have two exams passed, but I think the discussion could still be helpful:

      Poster: I am currently doing my Ph.D in molecular biology and hopefully can graduate next year. Several years ago, I decided to change my career, so I started my master in applied statistics during my Ph.D and I will get this stat master in very near future. I was attracted to actuary science and already have 2 exams.

      At this point, I have several concerns. Firstly, whether I should go for exam M this Nov. After reading several threads on this forum, I started to wonder whether exam M will give me more chances to find an entry-level job (I don’t have any related work experience). Secondly whether I should mention my biology phd on my resume. I am afraid once people see my phd in biology, my resume will directly go into trash . Finally I also have a little concern with my age (turn to be 30 next year), whether it’s too old to be an actuary student.

      Thanks in advance for any of your input!
      Plus: I am an international student and got my green card last year.

      Response: Definitely include your experience and training in molecular biology. Completing your PhD indicates that you follow through with your commitments, and that you have the kind of intellegence needed to delve into complex information without hesitation...essential qualities for getting through an actuarial student program. Make sure your resume's cover letter points that out.

      I was hired for my first actuarial job at 29, so from my experience your age should not be a detriment (and in the US there are laws against age discrimination). But you will want to have a clear explanation for why you believe that an actuarial career will suit you better than a career in biology, given you must have been very committed to biology as well to finish your doctorate. Having the masters in statistics and having passed the first two exams should be a big help making that point. I think passing Course M would be beneficial as well, but you don't want to get too far through exams or the coresponding starting salary may be higher than some potential employers want to pay to someone without work experience.

      I enjoy being in the actuarial field for the same reason that I enjoyed my college chemistry and biology classes...because I love figuring out how systems work, how details relate, and I get a great deal of satisfaction from solving problems.

      If you're considering combining biology and statistics, you might want to check out Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. I think they also have an amazing actuarial program, but I'm not sure how it would correlate to the SOA or CAS exams.

      Poster: Thanks a lot for your generous reply and useful insights. I think I should go ahead to prepare exam M. As you pointed out, I definitly need to well justify why I choose an acturial career instead of a career in biology. I have been also thinking to be biostatistician, but seems like most positions require phd in stat or several years experience, although I could have some advantage in terms of my biological research experience over other potential candidates with masters in stat.

      I hope this helps somewhat.
      act justly. walk humbly. .


      • #4
        Thanks for your responses Ken and Godspeed,

        I do plan on taking the financial math exam in November, and am reading books on the actuary profession. If I feel the same way I do now after more research, I will probably leave my program. I just received my masters for my work so far but am probably 2-3 years from completing my PhD. Would I be able to apply for entry level positions if I do well on this first exam? My naive understanding of the profession is that it is possible to get an entry level job after 1 exam and that some companies offer support for future exams. I am open to all comments and suggestions.

        Thanks in advance,