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Should I become an actuary?

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  • Should I become an actuary?

    I am going to be a senior in high school (in the IB program) this year, and it's time to start filling out some college applications. I have been trying to find a possible career that I would want to pursue that incorporates math but still pays decently, and I have landed on being an actuary. I have heard that it is extremely challenging and time consuming to pass the exams and become an established actuary. I have no problem with working hard and dedicating my time to something, but I would like to know if it is really as time consuming as others say it is? Also, how good do you have to be at math to be successful? I'm good at math and will be taking IB Calculus this year but I'm no savant by any means. I have to work hard to get math topics sometimes, but I always end up getting them. Also, is it true that it is a lonely profession? That is somewhat worrisome to me because I am a people person. In regards to college I know that Florida State University has an Actuarial Science Program through which you can major in it, but is that necessary or even the best idea? I would think that that restricts your job options in the future whereas at the University of Florida you can minor in Actuarial Science and major in something else. I know that was a mouthful, but I would really appreciate if any current actuaries could shed some light on these questions for me. Thanks!

  • #2
    1. Yes, it's really that time consuming - because the exams are really that difficult. They may not look that difficult, but when you have 3-4 hours to show what you know [and especially on upper-level exams, where you have to write everything out] they can be a nightmare for the "I'm sort of prepared but not prepared enough" crowd - and you don't know how prepared you really are until you're in the exam room leafing through the questions.

    2. Math is important; probability and statistics are maybe even more important. If you can do Calc I and Calc II, you probably have all the pure math you need ... but if you struggle with the probability and statistics concepts, you're going to have a really tough time.

    3. "Lonely" is subjective. It's lonely in that there's not really another area in the insurance company that matches up with the actuarial department, and most actuaries tend to be introverts; however, if you understand what's going on your word will be highly sought after and highly respected. By and large, it's as lonely as you make it out to be.

    4. See this thread for the importance of what your major is in:

    The biggest issue with the actuarial field right now [from your perspective] is the sheer number of people trying to get in. Some are truly interested in the actuarial profession, some are just trying to find a job and hide out here waiting for the economy to get better so they can go back to their old jobs/professions. As a result, the entry-level field is more competitive than ever. 7 years ago when I started, if you had 2 exams under your belt that was enough to get employers interested and bring you in for interviews; now, there's so many people with 2 exams that it really takes 3-4 exams to stand out and attract attention. A lot of the attention is due to the image of the profession as being "recession proof" or "having 0% unemployment" or "pass an exam or two and you'll definitely get hired" - all of those may have been true years ago, but they're not now. As a result, if you want in you need to nail down a couple of exams along with a strong [at least 3.50] GPA and bring some technical and business skills [know how to program in at least 1 language, know Excel beyond minimal competency, know one of SAS or Access at some level of basic understanding, understand how business decisions can affect the "big picture" for a company, etc.] to the table to be considered.
    "You better get to living, because dying's a pain in the ***." - Frank Sinatra - where I talk about the Blues and the NHL.


    • #3
      Thank you so much for the information! Greatly appreciated!