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Impossible to get a 'quantitative' job with *just* BA in math?

  1. Jul 22, 2014 #1
    I"m running through a couple options right now in my job hunt. I am a career changer who is aspiring to become an actuary. I only have 1 exam, and after a few months of job hunting without success for entry level actuarial, I have decided I also need to consider 'related' jobs, so I can make the switch later in time (when I have more exams).

    My background is insurance, so i'm looking at those. But I'm also looking at analyst related jobs. I,e pricing analyst, quantitative analyst, risk analyst, statistical analyst, etc etc.

    My question is, for a typical math major, how do they get in to the field? do they all start with something unrelated, and move in internally? It seems like none of these jobs are for the entry level at all. I don't have exceptional programming skills, which might be holding me back. I can do excel (v-look up) and basic SAS data manipulation.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2014 #2
    Sorry to hear your job search has been difficult so far. Some thoughts:

    • How many resumes have you sent out? Since it’s been 3 months, I’m thinking at least 100?
    • How many interviews (if any) have you gotten?
    • What role are you in now at the insurance company?
    • Are you geographically flexible?
    • Add the following job titles (or areas) to your search list: metrician, business intelligence, business consultant, data scientist.
    • It’s hard breaking into actuarial work now, but you may still have a good shot. You really need two more exams under your belt, ASAP.
  4. Jul 22, 2014 #3
    thanks for the input. yea, I'm planning to not put so much energy on actuarial jobs at the moment. I figured the chances are higher if I have more exams, and better experience.

    I don't know the exact figure, but I definitely have sent out more than 100 resumes. I'm treating job hunting like a full time career. It seems like most of these analyst jobs require xx years of experience.

    I have not gotten any interviews for a math related job. I got a few insurance related ones, but that's almost expected since that is my background.

    My background is claims, so more of the claims handling, customer service, leadership side of things.

    Right now, I"m focusing on Dallas, Austin, Seattle, Chicago, and maybe philly, or even DC

    thanks for the keywords. I'll definitely look in to those. Do you have any suggestions on where to look besides indeed.com? With insurance, I can pull a list of all insurance companies in the U.S, but with a math job...it's not as obvious on which companies to look into.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
  5. Jul 23, 2014 #4
    I'm in a similar situation, except with a PhD. All I've gotten as far as actuarial stuff goes is rejection letters--no interviews or anything, and it's been months and months. Seems like the closest I've come, though, is when I've had connections. I only sent out a handful of resumes, though. I've sort of turned more towards programming jobs because most of the connections I have are in that direction, rather than actuarial, and I always feel better if I have a connection than sending some resume out into the ether where it seems more than likely I'm wasting my time. It has turned up a few non-actuarial interviews. I just had one that came about purely because someone found me on LinkedIn, so sometimes, you do luck out.
  6. Jul 23, 2014 #5
    Man, claims handling and leadership – that’s great experience most actuaries would want on their team. Most, but not all, of the value will be specific to whatever industry you’re in (health, auto, life, etc.).

    Your geographic areas may be leaving out a lot of opportunities in the northeast. Many P&C companies have actuarial centers up there. Also note that health insurance tends to be geographically diverse and there are some great entry jobs in the middle of nowhere (so long as you don’t mind living in the middle of nowhere).

    Have someone review your resume – again, I presume. Note also that spring is a hard time to get an entry level job. The timing seems to work something like this: in fall & early winter, three kabillion college students send out their resumes to companies. Interviews continue throughout winter, with many/most jobs locked down early the next year. Then they start after graduating in the spring.

    The jobs I think you have the best shot at are ones that allow you to use your SAS/SQL skills to pull data, synthesize the data, and create reports that describe it. Additionally, you can use VBA or other (better) programming languages to automate processes, including that reporting. Last year I remember seeing such jobs at banks, often called “Business Intelligence”.

    If I were entry level and looking for work, I’d skip websites like indeed and monster completely. I’d just go through huge lists of companies, identify departments that could use me, and get people there my resume. For actuarial jobs, especially, skipping HR is encouraged.

    As a side note, I don’t think “math jobs” exist at a BS level, and I think there are precious few at any other level. Actuarial work, for instance, is certainly not a “math job”. In our economy, with only a few exceptions, computers do math. People program them. There are jobs that require a math background to perform well (actuarial work, statistics, etc.), but there are other critical skills that are more important. That may sound semantic, but I think it’s important to keep in mind.

    I wish you the very best of luck, please come back and update us.
  7. Jul 23, 2014 #6
    Which exam did you take? The advise I heard once from people in the actuarial industry was something like "If you have a math background, take the finance exam first. If you have a finance background, take the math exam first."

    -Dave K
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
  8. Jul 23, 2014 #7
    I took the math exam, P first. Just because it was up my alley. the finance one should be conquered by the end of the year. Hopefully, that'll give me more leverage.

    For actuarial, I have a couple of states i can consider to move to in the East coast, but I"m not really ready to be open to all of U.S. Mainly, because I'm also considering my other half's chance of employment too. We at least want a place that we will know for sure we are willing to stay for at least 4 to 5 years, without thinking about moving. Hence, I'd rather delay actuarial for a year, get some exams, and seek employment in a city I know that I will like. Heck, I've been delaying the actuarial dream for about 10 years, what's another year right?

    As for the job searches and not using indeed, I'm still a bit overwhelmed at how to approach this. I'm not asking for you guys to list all the companies for me, but I"m curious how I should start looking for companies that need analyst type jobs. Should I start with banks, and then move to......???
  9. Jul 23, 2014 #8
    Yeah. The advice I heard was due to the fact that

    a) You'll find in the background you don't already have, making you more appealing to employers
    b) You'll also find out if, when studying for the subject you are less interested in, you actually do not want to be an actuary. (This happens frequently, when a finance person takes the math, or vice versa, "oh god, I do not want to do this."

    Anyway, that's my only contribution and I can't add to the rest. Just something I heard.
  10. Jul 23, 2014 #9
    that's a good point. I never thought of that. It's funny, almost every one in the actuarial forums say that the finance exam is easier, but right now, I'm actually struggling on that, more than the probability exam. But at least, I"m finding the topic interesting. drawing cash flows seems kind of fun actually. and stocks and derivatives, to me at least, seems really useful and 'real life.'; so I"m enjoying that. But in the end, the probability portion is what excites me the most. The only part I really dread was the permutation section (3 blue balls and 4 red balls, what is the probability of....).
  11. Jul 23, 2014 #10
    Actuarial work is totally removed from the preliminary exams and they won't tell you anything about whether you will enjoy the work.

    I don't disagree with the advice about which exam to take first exactly, but the odds of it mattering are tiny. After all , anyone with two exams already has both and your resume is in the can already...
  12. Jul 23, 2014 #11
    Some of these are long-shots, but here are some thoughts:

    Hospitals/Large physician practices
    Consulting firms (ie medical billing groups)
    Benefits and administration companies
    Universities (though they usually have their own cheap labor)

    And I slightly retract my dismissal of indeed and monster - they're useful for coming up with company names. Just don't restrict yourself to whatever position happen to be there. Use them to get a scent and then dig for the possible real openings.

    You need to be calling places, getting to know people, making contacts. It's not easy, but it's the best way to find work.

    Best of luck.
  13. Jul 23, 2014 #12
    that helps a lot! thanks you and appreciate!
  14. Jul 24, 2014 #13
    But it should tell you if you won't enjoy it. i.e. if you Study for the finance exam and find out you hate it, it's probably not for you. I've heard this happens.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
  15. Jul 24, 2014 #14
    I'm sure some people do that. But I'm saying they shouldn't!

    And note that this is something of a crusade of mine – I think people should put much less emphasis on how much they enjoy coursework, both in college or out, as an indicator of whether they’d like the actual work done in the career.

    If you're bad at taking tests, you have a problem, for sure. It doesn't mean you won't like being an actuary, but it does question whether you will actually become one (remember, you're not an actuary till you're credentialled). But if you just don't like taking the tests, I would say that's pretty short-term thinking. Personally, the exams were a thorn in my life for years, and I did not enjoy taking them - but I'll never have to take another one, and I'm sure they were worth it.

    As for the content on the exams, you can hate doing colored balls in urns problems (blech) and still like every aspect of actuarial work, because actuarial work is just not like solving that kind of problem.

    Now if you hate calculating option prices (MFE/3F), you probably don’t want to be doing variable annuity work at a life insurance company, but you may still enjoy doing life insurance product development, regulatory rate review work, or disease program ROI calculations, because they’re all very different work.

    If you hate life contengencies (MLC/3L), stay away from most life insurance! Probably avoid long term care as well. But climate modeling or health claims trend monitoring may still be totally your bag.

    The range of actuarial work is surprising, given it’s all insurance work. I just cannot imagine how someone could determine they didn’t want to consult with employers about the benefits they provide their employees, or work with the Social Security Administration to ensure future generations receive their SS benefits, or ensure the financial stability of life insurance companies by setting aside appropriate cash reserves, or measure the savings from improving health plan member’s health, or determine the best way to set house insurance rates – all from one preliminary exam that doesn’t meaningfully touch on any of those areas!

    I'ts my opinion that you just don't get much insight into the profession from those first two tests, and very little from the three(ish) after them.
  16. Jul 24, 2014 #15
    Sure, but I think the advise has to do with love of the subject, not necessarily taking the test. I don't think anybody likes taking tests. I suffered through a semester of balls and urns (undergraduate combinatorics) but still always felt that I loved the subject. Studying and test taking are labors of love.

    I'll take you at your word, as I am only passing on something I heard some academic type actuaries say. They were PhD's in actuarial science - I'm not sure how much actuarial work they did or if they studied it as a science in an academic setting.

    Do you think the field suffers from a lack of people with a more quantitative than finance background? I would think people with a math background would have an easier time filling in the finance gap than the other way around. Sorry if this goes off topic a bit, but I hope it also benefits the OP.

    -Dave K
  17. Jul 24, 2014 #16
    In general, no. There may be a very few specific areas of work that suffer from that, but it’s probably very rare. For the most part the profession has the opposite problem; the testing system and type of individual attracted to it has historically created professionals with excellent quantitative skills, good problem solving skills, but poor communication and leadership skills. The SOA (especially) has worked to round out member skills, and I think it’s had some success.

    There are lots of skills that go into what I do every day, but it's become clear that my ultimate success will be determined by how well I influence others. I think this is true for most careers, in the end.
  18. Jul 24, 2014 #17
    Actually, not posting on internet forums would buy me at least 30 mins a day, which would add up.

    And yet here I am. . .
  19. Jul 24, 2014 #18
    ...polishing your social skills... :)
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