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Question about being an actuary

  1. Nov 17, 2011 #1
    What's the process like? I've heard there are many exams to write and they are quite difficult. Is it possible to be prepared in writing the actuarial exam by taking a 3 year general math degree? Would you guys recomend a statistics degree instead of a math degree? What classes should i be taking to prepare myself in the road for being an actuary?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2011 #2
    Where are you located? Becoming an actuary varies by country; it is a very different process in France than the UK, and both are different from the US. I only know about the US process.

    What is your background?

    I found the tests given in the US very difficult.
  4. Nov 22, 2011 #3


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    The very first test (US) is similar to the GRE math test. Most insurance companies will hire a person who has taken the first test, then have classes for succeeding tests.
  5. Nov 22, 2011 #4
    Thanks for your input HallsofIvy. I personally found the first actuarial exam (1/P) to be much harder than the GRE math test, but I think the comparison is good. Someone with a good probability and statistics background might agree and I think it speaks highly of you that you felt they were similar difficulty.

    I was hired with one exam passed (the second, FM/2, actually), and there are other examples of this. However, this has become increasingly rare. The general consensus is that students hired these days typically have at least two and often more exams. The first two exams are easier than the other exams and I’d suggest they be knocked out quickly to maximize the chance of employment. While pass rates are typically low (30%-50%, tending around 40%), the early exams are offered with increasing frequency and many applicants have several under their belt.

    Most companies in the US have study programs, but they are very different than traditional classes. Students are essentially responsible for teaching themselves the material. There are seminars, but I found that these were not very helpful if I did not already know the material (but were very helpful improving my skills on material I knew). Most companies will pay for exam fees, study aids and a seminar, and also have a number of study hours. It is quite common to hear about actuarial students having difficulty finding time to actually take their study hours, especially at consulting shops.
  6. Nov 22, 2011 #5


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    kramer, one suggestion i can give you is to go to your respective actuarial organization in your country and look at either prior or sample exams. This should give you a better idea of what you are going to be in for.
  7. Nov 22, 2011 #6
    I live in canada. I think i'll take chiro's advice.
  8. Nov 23, 2011 #7
    Getting your letters in Canada will be essentially the same as the US, though there are some different professional organizations. You'll be taking the same tests as your US counterparts.

    However the typical educational track and EL job situation are very different. Canada has a number of universities with very good actuarial programs that produce large numbers of students with several exams taken and (typically) internships. You can make an argument that they produce more actuaries than the Canadian market can handle, but those actuaries often find it tough to get jobs in the US.

    This shouldn't stop you if you've got a great work ethic. You'll graduate with more exams and more experience than most students in the US do, which means a shorter time being a student on the job. But I do think you should be aware that the competition will be significant. Hard work and networking will overcome that challenge.
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