Becoming an Actuary


Actuaries are number crunchers, who play very vital roles in a wide range of fields. Insurance businesses will not be able to function without them. This is because actuaries are responsible for evaluating insurance statistics to estimate financial risks in the future and based on this, insurance premium rates are calculated.  Actuaries can also be found in private corporations, providing inputs in strategic management decisions. They walk the hallways of public accounting firms and rating bureaus. They are highly-demanded workers. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that employment for actuaries will likely grow by 27 percent between 2010 and 2020.

How to Become an Actuary

So how does one become an actuary? What are the relevant college degrees that one should get to be considered? Here are the requirements on how to become an actuary.

Background in Mathematics and Statistics

To become an actuary, you should at least have a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science, statistics, mathematics, economics, accounting, or finance.  Those who have graduated from universities with strong math programs should have an edge. Actuaries adore numbers and do not mind taking exams full of math problems. They bring specialized math skills to their work, such as proficiency in calculus and probability. They are highly proficient in finance, economic, and accounting.  If you truly want to become an actuary, you should already have taken advanced mathematics courses, as well as advanced placement courses (AP) when you were still in high school.

Proficiency in Database and Statistical Software

Actuaries compile information using database software and analyze these through advanced statistical software to model events. The final outputs include forecasts of the costs and likelihood of certain events. A strong proficiency in these software programs is, therefore, an important requirement.

Other Skills and Relevant Interests

Actuaries solve complicated problems, and so, they need to enjoy learning and studying. They have great written and oral communication skills. They are effective whether they work independently or as part of a team. They pay careful attention to social, political, and legislative issues as these tend to impact their work.

Pass Exams

To become a certified professional, you must pass a round of actuarial exams.  These exams are taken biannually, and they take a great deal of preparation. In fact, it can take up to ten years to complete these series of exams. You may prepare independently and attend a few seminars before each exam.  Check the website of various actuarial organizations like the Society of Actuaries (SOA), Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), and American Society of Pension Actuaries for the details. Being a member in such organizations is also a way to meet other requirements to earn an actuarial qualification.

Likewise, it is recommended that even before graduation, you should take at least two exams to improve your chances for an entry-level job. Once you pass the exams, you can then apply for a job so you can get acquainted with various specializations to choose from within the field. 

Extensive Knowledge and Adequate Preparation

To successfully complete all exams and receive a professional status, you need to study regularly and prepare adequately before each exam. You should aim to reach associate or beginner level in four to six years time and a professional or fellowship level within a few years after that.