Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed?

1. Nov 18, 2011

hyurnat4

Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

I'm still in high school and talking things through with my career's advisor. At the moment, I'm looking at three career paths: medicine, actuarial science and biomed engineering. I've got my own preferences and statistics for all three, but I'm really searching for opinions on the careers themselves, currently -- yes, even on the internet. I'm wondering if anyone is taking these careers or knows anyone who is. If so, I would be grateful for any opinions/experiences.

2. Nov 18, 2011

Highway

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

bio med ---> med school are basically the same thing, so im inclined to say go with that path, since it's 2/3rds of your choices. . .

best way to get into med school is to have a killer gpa in undergrad, so if you study neuro, bio, or engineering it literally makes zero difference -- but keep your grades up

3. Nov 18, 2011

Choppy

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

He's asking about biomedical engineering, which is very different from the study of medicine. Obviously they can have some overlap, but I'm not sure I'd call them the same thing.

Hyurnat4, it might help if you had a specific question in mind. Each of those careers has its advantages and disadvantages.

4. Nov 18, 2011

chiro

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

Hey hyurnat4 and welcome to the forums.

For actuarial science here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

1) How much statistics have you done and how badly do you enjoy statistics?
2) Do you like the idea of working in insurance?
3) Does the idea of doing exams for the next 5-10 years (some of which will be while you work, so you need to allocate time in this regard) appeal to you?

There are other issues but these are pretty important to consider. Hopefully Locrian can give you more specific advice since he works in the field.

5. Nov 18, 2011

Staff: Mentor

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

Welcome to the PF.

Based on my personal experiences, I think the question hinges how you feel about patient contacts.

I'm a full-time EE, but because of a lot of emergency response training, I decided to upgrade from basic CPR/First Aid training to EMT-Basic certification. I do part-time paid EMT shifts and a lot of volunteer EMT shifts. What I've found is that I do enjoy patient contacts, even with difficult patients and on long, difficult shifts.

So it may be good for you to try to get some volunteer hours in with patients, to see how you feel about treating/helping people. If you don't feel a strong link with the patients, you may not be suited to the doctor/medical school track.

6. Nov 19, 2011

Highway

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

lol, everyone who does bio med work aka research is working in applied medicine, and towards research that has a medical end. not to mention that your degree requires every class necessary for the mcat.

7. Nov 21, 2011

hyurnat4

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

Thanks for the comments so far, guys, I've only just discovered this gem of a site:) All three courses involve fairly intensive study, but going deep enough into them there's meant to be quite big money involved. In particular, I've read that medical school is very hard to get into, with something like 80% failing the entrance test, does anyone have any experiences regarding that? Also, one problem with being an actuary is that I have had very little experience in finance or economics. Will that be a hindrance, or should I pick up economics next year??

8. Nov 21, 2011

chiro

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

With actuarial science, it's the math and the applications of it to insurance.

You have to like probability/statistics to a point where you don't mind spending many hours applying it to insurance-like problems.

Also apart from that you will be doing the whole financial side of mathematics from simple and compound interest right up to the mathematics of derivatives.

If I were you I would take a good university A-level statistics course to get an idea of what to expect. Some universities offer actuarial science majors where you do a lot of the courses that should help you pass a few exams, but it would be wiser to get a major in say statistics or finance if you ended up choosing against the actuary pathway.

You should be aware that there are many ways to make a comfortable living that don't involve being a doctor, laywer, engineer, or actuary.

Find a pathway that allows you to build up experience to a point where its not only saught after, but specific enough so that its hard to obtain. You can do this in an endless amount of ways from say being a chef, to being an engineer.

That is why people can charge a lot of money: it's usually the barriers to entry. Sometimes its things like getting in (medical school for instance) and licensing, but for others it may just be time. It might take 10 to 15 years to accumulate enough experience to be able to solve a complex problem in an hour, and that's why you can charge enough money.

9. Nov 21, 2011

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

I agree with chiro's advice, but would like to note that actuarial science is not only about insurance, although it is indeed the most typical application. Actuaries also work in banks and other financial institutions (e.g. FSA or investments/risk management department of a large any-sector company). Actuarial science if often contrasted with biostatistics: the mathematical methods have large overlap, but an actuary 99% of his time works with risks/probabilities that are somehow related to money, which is rarely the case for biostatistics.

Actuarial science is also a science, which means you may end up doing research if you feel like it (and not necesserily directly related to insurance). Check out some actuarial journals and see if the themes there interest you.

10. Nov 21, 2011

chiro

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

Just to be clear for the OP, as vlad as pointed out, replace insurance with risk management to cover the other areas.

11. Nov 22, 2011

Locrian

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

You need math, probability, statistics and a good work ethic, with emphasis on the last. When I started studying for the actuarial exams I had basically no economic or finance background at all.

If you're in the US, it would help to take a few economics courses and one corporate finance course just to get the VEE's out of the way. Not a big deal, though. Make sure your university classes are approved by the SOA or CAS before doing this.

12. Nov 22, 2011

Locrian

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this dichotomy: Actuarial Science or Medicine (same poster?). I can’t tell you how weird it is. You’ve “narrowed” things down to

1) A gigantic field (medicine) that includes many different jobs that have many different skills that employ a very, very large number of people in a number of industries. . . and

2) A tiny little field (actuarial work) that includes a small number of people doing very specific jobs that have basically nothing in common with the skills needed to succeed in medicine.

I smell a “top 25 jobs” list behind this, but would happy to be told otherwise.

13. Nov 22, 2011

hyurnat4

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

Yeah, they do contrast a bit don't they? (And there is no top 25 jobs list; I despise those things.)
Basically, I've always been looking at medicine, partially because my mum was a GP, but mainly because it has always fascinated me. It's a massive field, I know, but I'm kind of reluctant to look in into it too deeply. In New Zealand it is 6 years study to practice and then 1 or 2 years extra to get registered. Only then can you choose where you want to go next. Opinions could change really easily in 7/8 years. I'm tentatively looking at neurology, but mainly medicine as a whole.

It was my career's advisor who suggested actuarial work to me. He is actually my calc teacher as well and he sees maths as my "great gift". I told him money and job stability were important to me and he suggested the job to me (I think he is the one who is reading those lists). Anyway, he suggested I look into at least one mathematical career and it seems pretty interesting, but I'm a bit put off by the whole business aspect, which I'm not too keen on.

Biomed Engineering is the third wheel, to badly misuse a metaphor. It doesn't require as much study ('only' masters) and the competition isn't nearly as fierce. It's not nearly as interesting as the other two: you guys have barely mentioned it:tongue:.

14. Nov 22, 2011

Locrian

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

NZ, can't say much about actuarial work down there.

Wish you the very best and hope you'll come back and let us know what you chose and how it worked out some day.

15. Nov 22, 2011

chiro

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

hynurnat4, if your in NZ, that means that you need to be licensed under the Australian Actuary society.

Now for the core technical exams, the material is based on the UK syllabus and exams. There are quite a few sample and past papers online for these exams. There are also study materials that you can purchase for the exams that contain notes for every area of the syllabus and you can purchase these in Australia (one office is in Sydney and I went there to physically pick them up), and they do mail these notes.

This is the site for the society:

http://www.actuaries.asn.au

Here is the education resource site:

http://www.acted.com.au/ [Broken]

Now don't worry about the exams past core-technical: you can only do the others if you do well in the rest of the core technical.

That should give you information that is a lot more specific, and that applies to you as a resident of NZ, and most likely, as someone who would have to go through the IAAA training framework.

Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
16. Nov 27, 2011

bpatrick

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

If I can chip in my two cents: I feel you need to be a certain type of person to ultimately get into actuarial work. I could never stomach being an actuary and going to work every day doing what they do, but that's just who I am. To me, it has to rank up there as one of the most boring jobs you can have (and during college, I folded and taped cardboard boxes together and put them on an assembly line for 6 hours straight ... 6 days a week). Plus the subject matter has always been in that gray area for me where I find it philosophically unsettling.

From what I understand (based on a few acquaintances of mine who are actuaries), you more or less number crunch probabilities and timetables of when people (who are applying for insurance) are likely to die / need extensive medical care / get into a car accidents / have their house burn down / etc... The company you're working for then takes that info and figures out what their premium, monthly payments, and benefits will be ... or even drops them or denies them in order to maximize profit for the insurance company.

On the other ends of your prospective career spectrum: I deeply enjoyed the time I spent in medical school, but I am glad that my path eventually lead me to what I'm studying now, which is applied mathematics to neurological modeling and neuro-biophysics. I feel that research is more my style and it keeps my interest rather than practicing medicine, even though that's a totally fine option too.

As far as college stuff goes ... just get in there and start taking the standard pre-med courses. That will cover your first year at least for all three of those possible fields. You'll need biology, chemistry, calculus, and physics to be a strong med school applicant ... all of those will obviously be necessary if you pursue biomedical engineering too. Taking calc early on and continuing with higher mathematics / statistics will be necessary for you to eventually get into actuarial science and it will never hurt a med school application. By your sophomore or junior year you'll probably know better (based on exposure to all your college intro courses) which one of those fields you want, or even something else.

If you end up not liking the math after 2-3 semesters, just focus on your biomed/premed stuff, if you don't see yourself doing all the medical stuff, focus on math (or whatever else) and at least you'll be a bit more well rounded and less ignorant of many other areas of science / the world.

You don't NEED to absolutely know what you're doing before you get to college ... you've got it narrowed down pretty well that you can explore for a year or MAYBE two and it won't hurt your undergraduate timeline since the courses are more or less the same at most universities/colleges ... even if you went with actuarial science, at least all the first year premed stuff would take care of a large majority of your gen-ed requirements.

Good luck.

17. Nov 27, 2011

nucl34rgg

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

If you have a passion for medicine and think you have a good shot at getting in to medical school, go for it! I used to think I wanted to be a doctor, but then I had my doubts. I will say this though: Literally everyone I know who has gone to medical school has said not to do it if you aren't 100% sure of it. Medical school requires a lot of time, effort, and dedication, like any other advanced degree, but it also costs a ton of money, so you can't really bail out.

Biomedical engineering is a fascinating interdisciplinary field that is growing rapidly, but as I understand it, the job market is relatively slim in this area. (It is expected to grow dramatically, though.)

If you become an actuary, you will make a lot of money and you are going to have a job. However, the work is pretty mind numbingly boring (for most people)! But on the other hand, some people love that type of job, and if you are one of those people, more power to you!

Since you are still in high school, I think you still have time to explore different things. If you have the option to major in Biomedical Engineering in college, I highly suggest doing that, especially if you have a knack for solving calculus problems. That way, you leave your options open for medical school. (Med schools love BME students.)

Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
18. Nov 27, 2011

Acid92

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

Thats why you shouldnt pursue a career primarily on the basis of income, chances are you might not enjoy the subject/degree and end up nowhere or you may not make it as in the case of competitive fields like medicine. Just do what you actually enjoy most / have most interest in and worry about work later on. Just my 2 cents.

19. Nov 27, 2011

hyurnat4

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

Thanks guys! I'm going to kind of leave off the decision until my senior year. I've just finished my 3rd to final year of high school and I'll leave all my options open next year, but I'm kind of tending towards medicine. Thanks for all the advice it was really helpful!

20. Nov 28, 2011

Locrian

Re: Opinions on Medicine, Actuarial science and Biomed??

It shouldn't. Ultimately actuaries are responsible for maintaining the financial stability of the company they work for. The company I work for makes promises and we help make sure they're kept.

If the company wants to sell a policy with X benefits, then we tell them they had better charge $Y for it or they won’t be able to pay their claims. When they sell 1000 policies with X benefits, we tell them to set aside$Z (which goes on the books as an expense) to pay future claims. There’s nothing unsettling about that.

As a side note, my job encompasses a great deal more than pricing and reserving. I encourage you to continue to think it’s boring, but not to forget how little you know about it.