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Old 10-01-2002, 02:52 PM
Asok Asok is offline
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 6
Default Career change

I am looking for some advice about becoming an actuary.

I am 25 years old with a liberal arts degree. I work for a independent financial planner, selling things like variable annuities and variable universal life. Basically, I don't like it, and I'm looking to change careers into something that requires a little more brainpower and less BS.

Considering that I have not taken a math class since high school, and only have a couple of years' experience in business and investing, how should I proceed? Do I need a second bachelor's in math or statistics, or do I just need take the classes that will prepare me for the first couple of exams?

Up until now I had been planning on getting my MBA, but I don't see how that would really help me if I decide to become an actuary. Would it?

I would greatly appreciate any insight anyone could give me.
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Old 10-01-2002, 03:43 PM
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GA Peach GA Peach is offline
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I too had a bit of a late start - I was your age when I graduated from college - although, I got a degree in Actuarial Science. So, I wouldn't say you're exactly "over the hill" to begin the exam process and get a double degree.

When trying to find a job, I think having a degree in math, stats or even better - actuarial science/math will be beneficial. It shouldn't take you too long to get this and while you're in the process, try to study for exam 1 or 2. Personally, I couldn't pass exams while in college because I worked full time, but you might be a bit more talented than me! Take a look at what's required for the first few exams and set your classes around them that way you can nail down an exam or so.

Also, since you're new in this area, a must are the study manuals that you can buy as well as the seminars. I'm a true believer in both - yes, they can be pricey, but when you pass your exam because you had an extra edge, it's worth it. I can't advise you on which manual/seminar is/are the best since I didn't take the new exam 1 o r2 (I was grandfathered in under the old system). I'm sure there are lots of discussions on this topic in the Course 1-4 section - just do a search.

Good luck to you!
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Old 10-01-2002, 04:10 PM
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Skip the classes and go with the study manuals. A math major is not required, especially with the change of careers factored in (might be harder coming right out of school). But I would get two exams under my belt to answer the "does he have the quantitative skills" question. You can always pursue the math major if you're really interested in it, but don't do it just because you think it's required.
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Old 10-01-2002, 04:19 PM
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Gandalf Gandalf is offline
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I can understand "skip the degrees", but "skip the classes" is dubious advice. Course 1 is very intensive math, and is passed by only 35% of the people who take it, even though many will have math or actuarial science majors and almost all will have had at least a couple of years of college math, more recently than Asok has had high school math.

If the study manuals are sufficient, great. I fear that suggestion gives way too rosy a picture of the difficulty of Course 1 and 2.
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Old 10-01-2002, 04:27 PM
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Maine-iac Maine-iac is offline
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Unless you have a very strong math aptitude, I would guess you will have a very hard time on the early exams without taking some serious college math courses. Even with the manuals, high school math just isn't enough background.

But, to be sure, get some sample exams for Parts 1 and 2 off the SOA or CAS websites. Look 'em over. It should be pretty obvious to you whether you need some courses or not.

The full blown math-stats degree isn't necessary if you already have a bachelor's degree of some kind.

Good luck!
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Old 10-01-2002, 05:57 PM
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The math required for 1 & 2 is college level. And as pointed out , you will need a fairly strong math aptiitute to get through them.

However, the _sole_ route to becoming an actuary is passing exams, not a degree in Math or Act Sci. Thus you should only worry about the material required to pass an exam and not what would be required for an ActSci degree (they are different). While you will be at a disadvantage in the first few exams - compared to most who have taken college level math - Course 3 and up is new material for many of the students so your disadvantage will have mostly disappeared.

Check out for the material for course 1. Then try and find some inexpensive textbooks that cover the material and start studying (any textbook that covers the listed material should do). You'll soon know if you are going to master the material.

In addition, once you've passed 1 &2, you can probably find an actuarial position and start getting assistance with the exams; books, study time, access to other students, etc.

With no background in the math, I suggest you attempt just Course 1 initially.

The other notable site is, which is supposed to be useful for folks in your predicament.
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Old 10-01-2002, 06:55 PM
Dr T Non-Fan Dr T Non-Fan is offline
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To be blunt: Forget it. For these reasons, already listed above:
1. You'll be tested on college-level math. You haven't taken any college-level math.
2. Those with college-level math fail at a 60% clip. You haven't taken any college-level math.
3. Your liberal arts degree would have been valuable in the actuarial profession with a math minor. You haven't taken any college-level math.

To be mean and cruel: Try the next career on the Jobs Rated list.
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Old 10-01-2002, 08:34 PM
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Sorry, asok, but the T non fan is the only one being honest w/ you. You spent four years getting a liberal arts degree. MBA wouldn't be a bad way to go, because it was originally designed for those who wanted to pursue a liberal arts undergrad then get serious about a career. For an MBA, you would be required to take 12 - 15 hours of background work, then probably 30-45 hours of business classes. You can generally choose an "emphasis" such as finance, investments, marketing, etc. If you think you might have good math aptitude, you can choose investments, and you should be able to pass CFA's w/o ever taking a college calculus class.

As for act sci, you'd be starting from square 1. You would really have to go back to school and get a second undergrad, in act sci, stat, or math. This would take you 3 years. Not to mention that you would need to review a lot of math before even taking calculus, if you haven't had any since HS. Then, w/ a little luck, you'd graduate w/ 2 exams, and you'd be ready to START your actuarial education, at the age of 29. Followed by years and years of grueling study. Hate to tell you, but this career ain't that great. Not to justify starting life over at 25.
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Old 10-01-2002, 08:58 PM
Roasted Almond Roasted Almond is offline
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 80

Based on my personal experience, 1-4 are doable with the help of self-studying everything (if you are serious about passing) WITHOUT any specific math-courses in your graduation program. I got graduated in an un-related field (engineering) and the probability/Stats math course in my degree came in 2nd year (when I had already passed 1 and 2). So basically I studied Probability/Stats for the first time in life for SoA 110.

My take:

1) Forget about any more degrees, plan to get good study guide(s) for parts 1 and 2. I recall that Mehta manual (for SoA 110) was a great
source for learning Probability and Stats for students like me (who never had any background except Calculus), check about Mehta's availability for parts 1 and/or 2.

2) Plan to take part 1 only, as your first actuarial exam.

The key for passing Actuarial exams is: Self-studying everything. Equally true for Written exams(5-9) as well as for lower level M/C crap(1-4).
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Old 10-01-2002, 10:06 PM
Asok Asok is offline
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Posts: 6
Default Thanks!

Thanks for all the feedback. Especially T and opiate--I appreciate the straight talk. Any other ideas on why this might be a bad idea?

I've already enrolled at the local university and I plan to start with some calculus classes in the Spring. I figure I've got nothing to lose. If I discover that I lack the necessary aptitude for math, then it will be worth the price of tuition to find that out. Brushing up on math won't hurt if I decide to pursue the MBA, anyway.

But what if I can do the math, and what if I do pass the first two exams? Would I really need the second bachelor's? What other difficulties would I face entering the career at such an "old" age?
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