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From Actuarial Science to Physics

  1. Jan 20, 2012 #1
    Hi all,

    I am 21 this year, have a BSc in Actuarial Science, and am working in an insurance firm now. Recently, I spoke to a few friends, physicists (both experimental and theoretical) and found that I am really interested in physics, and more specifically, astrophysics.

    This is not something that just came out of thin air. Ever since high school, I have always been interested in stuff like stars, galaxies etc, but coming from a typical Asian family, my parents are worried about the career prospects of pursuing this. I suggested aerospace engineering as it is closely related to this area, but they again rejected it, saying job opportunity in this area is scarce. I finally landed on Actuarial Science, as I heard that it requires a heavy application of mathematics, and thought that it might interest me.

    However, that was only at university level. Now that I'm working in a firm, it's all economics and finance. Bonds, intesest rate, discount rate etc are the things i hear all day and these do not excite me. I spoke to a theoretical physicist who is teaching maths at my university, and he recommended to me a few books to read. I started reading Gravitation (by Misner Thorne and Wheeler). It was very interesting, much more interesting than what I do at work everyday, but it was way too deep. A friend of mine who has just graduated in BSc Physics with Theoretical Physics suggested that I start from step 1, that is classical mechanics. So I bought 'Introduction to Classical Mechanics' by David Morin. I have been working through this book, both the contents and problems, spending hours everyday on it and finding it very interesting.

    I would love to switch careers, but there are so many restrictions, and I don't know what to do.

    1. My parents are still against me ditching actuarial science and studying physics. The path towards being an actuary doesn't end at university. I have 15 professional papers to sit for in order to qualify as one. They prefer that I focus on qualifying, and then doing whatever I want. It is, however, very difficult to pass them, especially when I have little interest in finance (and studying physics on my own is so much more interesting!).

    2. I have spoken to a few physicists, and they said that money is scarce in the world of academia. There isn't enough money channelled into research and so it is very difficult to get a job in a university.

    3. A theorist told me that because he doesn't support the string theory, no university wanted him, so he ends up teaching maths at several universities, while doing research on the side.

    4. An experimentalist has described to me the work she does. Designing experiment, calibration, data collection and analysis, these aren't the things I'm interested in. I think I am more interested in theories, but there's only one place theorists can go to, and that is a university. So it's back to job security problems.

    There are few paths I can take, and they are as follows:

    1. Study physics on my own while working (and not studying for the actuarial exams), and cover all undergraduate topics. But what next? Would any university take my word that I have an undergraduate level of understanding in physics, and offer me a position in a masters programme? Or if I study all undergraduate and masters level physics on my own, and do my own research, would anyone recognise it? All that aside, it would also be incredibly difficult to work my day job and research in physics at the same time.

    2. Apply for an undergraduate in physics. There are two problems here. Firstly, I already have an undergraduate degree, so I'm not sure how many universities would want to take me in. Secondly, money. My parents have stated clearly that they will not fund my studies for second undergraduate. That means if I want to start an undergraduate this year or the next, I will need full financial support. I can probably save up to £10,000 with my current job for two years, but that's no where near the tuition fees for even a year in an undergraduate degree. I suspect that these two problems will make me a very undesirable candidate to any university. As far as I know, US universities are probably the only ones who can afford to provide me with full sponsorship.

    Would anyone be able to advise me on what I could do? Any help at all would be much appreciated! Thanks!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2012 #2


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    Where did you get such a misinformation?

  4. Jan 20, 2012 #3


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  5. Jan 20, 2012 #4
    Why not just drop out of acturial work and do statistical work for other organizations. I'm sure there's even an astrophysical organization that could use a data analyst.
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