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Changing careers advice

  1. Jan 7, 2013 #1
    Hi everyone. This is my first time posting but I've read a lot of what this forum has to offer. Good stuff all around. Anyway, to the point. I am working as an underwriter for an insurance carrier but I do not really enjoy the work all that much. It's kind of boring. I was thinking about changing careers and I wanted to hear the advice of people who are in the know. The three career choices I am thinking about, in order of preference are:

    1.) Get a master's in math and teach at a community college.
    2.) Get a second degree in engineering (most likely civil) with a focus on transportation.
    3.) Get a master's in statistics and work as a statistician (possibly actuary).
    4.) Just study for acturarial exams.

    My undergraduate degree is in economics so I am short on science courses. I did take the calculus series and did very well, but no further maths. I am also 24, if that matters, and have no debt and a little bit of savings so it wouldn't be a huge burden financially.

    I'd very much appreciate your thoughts on this and thanks to anyone who replies!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 7, 2013 #2


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    Re: Career Advice

    You had listed four career choices instead of three above! :wink:

    Anyways, in all seriousness, for option 1, to pursue a master's in math you will certainly need to take further undergraduate courses in math, in particular courses in algebra, analysis, differential equations, geometry, etc (given that you've stated you only have taken calculus).

    For option 3, it would depend on how much statistics you have taken as part of your undergraduate degree in economics, in which case an additional course in advanced algebra may be sufficient for you to qualify for a masters program, depending on the specific requirements of the statistics department you intend to apply to (of course, additional courses in math would help as well). Some further course work in programming or computer science (or self-study of programming languages) will also come in handy prior to applying for your statistics masters.
  4. Jan 7, 2013 #3


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    Re: Career Advice

    1-You're basically going to have to go back to school and take a lot more math courses. Ie Real Analysis, Abstract Algebra, Differential Equations, and mathematical stats.
    2-If you want to do engineering, then obviously go this well, but if you simply want to do engineering because it seems like a change in pace, then this might not end so well for you.
    3-This route depends entirely on what kind of department you apply too. If you apply through a program that offers say public affair and stat masters, you can probably be accepted. If you apply to a stats via a math department, so far you're a no go. No linear algebra, no real analysis places you behind the curve. Also as mention before, programming is an implicit requirement.
    4-Least amount of work, but if you hate being an underwriter why do you think you'll enjoy actuary work? I'm not saying that you would hate it, but I don't get a sense you really know what you want to do. Teaching, engineer, actuary, are all very different fields.
  5. Jan 7, 2013 #4
    Re: Career Advice

    If we were interviewing an actuarial candidate with underwriting experience in our area of insurance, we'd pick them over someone with a masters in stats in a heartbeat (all else being equal). That being said, a masters in stats should open up many other doors.
  6. Jan 7, 2013 #5
    Re: Career Advice

    Well I really enjoy my job as an actuary and I'd throw myself out the window if you made me work as an underwriter for more than a day. They're really, really different jobs where I work.

    Most actuaries feel similarly, though there are exceptions.
  7. Jan 8, 2013 #6
    Re: Career Advice

    Thanks so far for the responses, I really appreciate all of your comments. I know the three choices are kind of disparate but I wanted to hear from the community so I could winnow down my choices. Also, I posted so that if anyone in those careers would give me advice about what their careers are like and if they are at least mildly stimulating intellectually.

    I figure it would take about three years of full time-study to accomplish any of the choices I mentioned. I already looked into affordable schools that I thought would be solid choices for my ability. I figured at the very least I would need linear algebra, differential equations, a course (two would be better) in real analysis and maybe a course in abstract algebra. Of course, the more the better. If I am wrong in my assumptions, please let me know.

    To Locrian: I should point out that I am still an assistant underwriter, but my job is pretty much just making sure paperwork is filled out correctly. Unfortunately, I work in a regional office so I do not have contact with any actuaries or anyone else othe than salespeople and a couple of IT people. Could I message you to find out a little more about that career?
  8. Jan 8, 2013 #7
    You're welcome to message me. I've made number of posts on the profession, some of which may be of value as well.
  9. Jan 9, 2013 #8
    Thats a very, very tough position to get. Many/most community colleges these days simply dont hire full time math instructors. The schools are bound by rules that they have to pay a high rate with benefits. Its too high of pay for them to afford, so they simply dont hire full time teachers. They hire part time, no benefits teachers on a temporary basis. They are bound by rules so you can't even bargain for lower pay! Also the positions are extremely competitive. You will have to compete with PhDs for positions. I have even seen a PhD fly in from Europe just to interview for a community college teaching position. They are sweet jobs with high pay and many people want them.

    If this is something you really want to do you should get a PhD and be very flexible about where you live.
  10. Jan 9, 2013 #9

    George Jones

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    I am not sure about "sweet", but they are good jobs. In my area of Canada, salaries at community colleges have a floor of $52000 and a ceiling of $83000. High school teachers with Master's degrees have salaries that range from $45000 to $70000 (again, in my area of Canada).
  11. Jan 14, 2013 #10
    Thanks to everyone who posted.

    I did reseach into what kind of additional education I need to undertake to fulfill each option and looked into several schools before I initally posted. I figure each option would take roughly 3-3.5 years to complete. My question to the forum however, is what job option is the best and most likely to get? I know that each job will pay a mid-career salary of at least $60,000 and I would be very comfortable on that, so money isn't that big of an issue.

    1.) What job offers geographic mobility? That is, can I find work in both large and small cities? Even internationally?
    2.) What job provides the a fair deal of stability?
    3.) Are any of the choices very mentally and personally fulfilling? What is the nature of the work in each field?

    Thanks for any thoughtful responses.
  12. Jan 14, 2013 #11
    Actuarial work offers very little geographic mobility. Most actuarial jobs are in a small list of cities, and the rest aren't spread out very much.

    It's an extremely stable career. I worry about lots of things in life, but finding a job isn't one of them. I find my work very rewarding, but lots of actuaries don't. There's a lot of variation in that.

    It will probably take you more than 3.5 years to become an associate, and probably more like six or seven years to become a fellow. But you should be working full time, so at least you're putting money in the bank. The financial incentives as an actuary are much higher than you listed in your post. Google actuarial salary survey for a feel.
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