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Actuary vs Econonomics

  1. Jan 2, 2014 #1
    I have chance to go to a less expensive school (Westfield State) 40 minutes away or a more expensive school (UMass Amherst) an hour away. I am older and can not relocate due to family/job.

    Westfield only offers an Economics/Math BA (which I had not thought much about).
    UMass has an actuary program (which I was originally going to get into).

    Whats the difference between the two, especially how they would translate into future work?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2014 #2
    If you want a proper job, the actuary program is clearly a better choice. By the way, the fields have little in common.
  4. Jan 5, 2014 #3


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    Actuarial coursework is extremely specialized. The area looks at risk management and has its roots in insurance (which is what most actuaries do - they do risk management for insurance companies).

    The specialized nature can work in your favor if you really want to be an actuary or get analyst type roles in insurance or other forms of risk management. Just note though, that quantitative analyst positions may not take in actuarial graduates as the mathematics is not "advanced" enough (the math is hard but not as hard as the pure mathematical finance stochastic calculus, PDEs, and so on).

    The advantage to the actuarial program is that if you do well, then you can basically get a few exams under your belt which will make you competitive to get an actuarial analyst role and this will give you an opportunity to pass more exams while working so that you can go on to full actuary status.

    In summary I would just be aware of the specialized nature of actuarial work. You don't have to have the actuarial undergraduate to become an actuary - it just speeds up the process a little.

    I'd recommend you look at the probability exam, the financial mathematics exam, and the stochastic calculus exams. If you think you can pass those then I think you'll have a chance. You should do the probability exam first and if you don't pass it the first or second time, then you should re-think your career choices.
  5. Jan 5, 2014 #4
    Theres a sharp divide in the actuarial community over whether an actuarial science degree is even a good idea. Some see it positively. Most think it's unnecessary. A few even look down on it.

    Personally I'd strongly recommend a stat degree plus taking a few exams over an act sci degree.

    I'm not that knowledgeable about economics job opportunities. I don't think they're terrible, but there are better options available.
  6. Jan 6, 2014 #5


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    Not an Actuarial here, but I am a statistician. I always felt that an actuary degree was a bit to specialized of a degree for a career field where what matters most is your ability to pass test. As long as the school offers a solid foundation in probability and statistics, and you spend the necessary time studying and finding internships, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to become an actuary.

    A good way to stay broad and employable would be economics and statistics as a double major. Just an idea.
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