1. PF Contest - Win "Conquering the Physics GRE" book! Click Here to Enter
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics/Math major thinking of an Actuary related job

  1. Dec 15, 2014 #1
    At the moment, I am a physics major and also putting a lot of emphasis on math. I am in my second year of undergrad at the moment. While my "dream" goal does include going into a PhD for physics, I do realize it's a long and demanding journey, so I have also been looking at actuary related jobs. If I were to go into actuary, I know I will also have to focus on economics and/or finances along with the math I am doing at the moment, but I am not entirely sure what specifically. Are there any good sources for this or anyone who can tell me what steps I should take to make the goal slightly more feasible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 16, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Hey sam400.

    If you want to be an actuary the most important thing is passing actuarial exams. The more exams you pass the better your chances will be (especially to get your foot into the door as an actuarial analyst or other role to become a fully qualified actuary).

    The actuarial field is very specialized in terms of what is used in the exams - although there are a few exams that focus on general statistics, mathematics, economics, and business knowledge.

    If you really understand mathematics, how to apply it, and what it actually means then you should be able to pass the exams - with a lot of studying.

    Most of the material is basically statistics so you need to not only understand the statistical theory, but more importantly what it says about the situation or model and why its used. You usually need to do a fair bit of mathematics to get this insight and it's not enough to have a superficial understanding of the equations and concepts because you will get lost in the sea of data (and there is a lot to know) and miss the forest from the trees.

    Go to the actuarial websites so you can get the past exams and the curriculum for said exams. You can sit the exams yourself (you pay a fee to sit them and have them marked) or some of the exams can be done as part of university studies. There are some exams that need to be done outside of university - especially the later exams where you study independently.

    Your country will determine the actuarial society to look at and you haven't mentioned that.

    Any applied degree that uses a lot of mathematics and statistics in every way possible will be good for getting that intuition of mathematics. Once you properly understand the mathematics and statistics you can then read another book and pickup what is really going on easier than trying to only understand it in the context of a specific application.

    You should look at the probability, financial mathematics, economics, and business exams (the first set of exams) before you commit to this. If you don't like spending most of your time solving statistics and insurance problems then you should something else because actuarial science is basically insurance mathematics (for the most part).
  4. Dec 16, 2014 #3
    Chiro gave a great summary.

    I would add:

    Actuaries are sophisticated business professionals who are a member of an actuarial organization. They are not necessarily mathematicians, statisticians, or data scientists. Though it is possible to also be those things, it is not typical, and those disciplines can be a lot less helpful than is often thought. While many actuaries need and use technical skills every day, it is ultimately their understanding of the business and the actuarial judgment they bring that earns them the salary they typically earn. (As a side note, this is not really atypical, as other career paths can have similar trajectories; there are engineers on this forum in a similar spot).

    Historically the actuarial profession has been open to people of broad backgrounds. While this is a little less true today, since there are actuarial science programs specific to the field, I still see people hired with many different backgrounds.

    The early exams and study materials are cheap in the scheme of things. Passing three exams will cost less than one or two college courses and give you options you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

    For salary estimates, try DW Simpson or Ezra-Penland.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook