Here’s to your journey to become an Actuary

Gain the technical skills in order to do actuarial work.  If you are a college student or if you are a career changer looking to get into the field, these videos will give you exposure to the tools Actuaries use in the real world.  Visit The Infinite Actuary to learn more about the Technical Skills Course by clicking here.

                                                            

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For those who feel inactive

I’ve heard a lot of feedback about those who want to enter the actuarial profession, but they feel their “inactivity” has hurt them.

It’s been a tough job market the last few years. But things are really starting to turn around. The stock market is booming and you are starting to see entry level actuarial positions all over the country.

If you have been out of work for a while, I encourage you to stay active. Take actuarial exams, do volunteer work, and/or obtain a job in a related field that could be a stepping stone. If you can show progress toward your goal of becoming an actuary, that is great. If you are seen as just waiting around, that might not be good sign.

One thing to consider is getting a master’s degree in actuarial science. Maybe you graduated with a B.S. in a non math related field or maybe you don’t have an actuarial internship under your belt. Or maybe you have a poor GPA coming out of undergrad. Getting a master’s degree in actuarial science might not be a bad idea. You could boost your GPA and possibly get an internship through that program.

If you do indeed have free time, you should look to build up your technical skills, and the Technical Skills Course can help you. Sign up today.

Congrats to the newest aspiring actuaries!

I want to say congratulations to the TSC students that have recently obtained entry level actuarial positions (Jonathan, BaoAnh, Christopher, Chen Chen, Elizabeth). Proud of all of you and please represent our profession well. If you have a success story, use the form on the About page and tell us all about it.

Also, I heard the Technical Skills Course was mentioned at the recent ASNY conference. Awesome and please keep spreading the word!

Build up your technical skills with the Technical Skills Course right now.

2013 in Review

Wow time flies! 2013 is now gone, but we have 2014 to look forward to.

Actuwaiters was launched in 2013 from my imagination; the site got around 40,000 hits while 350+ aspiring actuaries purchased the Technical Skills Course. Your ideas and goals can become reality if you believe and work toward them. I’m living proof of that. Best of luck this year and I hope you can reach all your goals for 2014.

– Roger Rosales, FSA, CERA (Founder of Actuwaiters LLC)

world2013

Decisions Decisions

For this blog post, I wanted to reflect on my experience entering the actuarial field. I was a junior in college and I knew I wanted to be an Actuary. Like many of you, I was in search of my first internship.

I submitted multiple job applications to various companies. I finally received an offer a couple weeks into the process. But the offer was not my first choice. It would have been an hour commute each way from my house. Either I drive that every day or I would have to move out there for the summer. The company was a Property and Casualty insurance company with the actuarial department in another state across the country. In fact, I don’t think I would’ve actually been doing “actuarial work.” Instead, I would answer phone calls from policyholders. Then I would fill out paperwork regarding their claims.

The pros: I would get experience with an insurance company, I would learn about claims and policyholders, and I would learn about the business and its systems.

The cons: I would have to commute far every day, the position was not an actuarial internship, and I would likely have to move out of state to work in their actuarial department later in my career.

Once I pondered the pros and cons, I called my “first choice” company and asked where they were in the process.  Luckily, they sped up the process and I was hired for their actuarial internship. Plus the commute was minutes away for me.

The point is, the decisions you make can easily shape your future path. Make sure to be “self-aware” of what you want to be. If the answer is that you want to be an Actuary, set your game plan to achieve that goal.  Pass your exams, learn your technical skills, network, and know exactly what you want. It takes “self-regulation” to say no if an opportunity doesn’t fit into your game plan.

I believe that if I accepted either position, I would have gained a lot of experience.  My drive and determination would have eventually landed me in an actuarial position.

If you definitely want to be an Actuary, get yourself ready by taking the Technical Skills Course where you will learn the technical skills needed to help you become successful. If you are not sure yet, the course will teach you valuable skills that you can apply in various business settings. Sign up now!

Any regrets choosing the actuarial profession?

If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change? 

If I could do it all over again, I would still choose the actuarial profession.  It’s a great profession because of its job stability, high pay, and great work environment. When I was in college, I knew I was good at math, but I wasn’t sure what kind of job I could get. Then I heard about being an Actuary and I felt that was what I wanted to do.

Any regrets? Well, I actually completed my path to fellowship exactly as I planned it out. I wanted to be an FSA by age 30, then I wanted to start a family after that. Passing all the exams is a tough journey, but I enjoyed everything along the way. I was obtaining knowledge to help me solve actuarial problems and I was rewarded if I passed the exams through salary increases.

Since I found out about the profession while I was a freshman in college, choosing a college with an actuarial science program was not on my radar. If I would have known about actuaries while in high school, I might have attended an actuarial science program. Is this a regret? Not really; I feel my liberal arts education has given me advantages. It’s important for an Actuary to have strong math skills, but just as important is knowing what is going on around us (e.g. Political Science, Religion, Economics, Science).  Our actuarial models are based on assumptions about what is happening out in the world.

One regret I do have is this. When I was applying for actuarial internships, I did not have any technical skills in Excel, Access, VBA, SQL, and SAS. I was lucky to get an actuarial internship with a health insurance company, but I spent a large part of the internship learning the very basics of Excel. That first month was not very productive by my current standards.  An internship is your chance to show what you can do.  During a job interview, they may even ask you to demonstrate your technical skills.

You need to be ready to work from day one. Don’t make the mistake I did and learn those technical skills now through the Technical Skills Course.  I created this course for you to mitigate this risk. Over 350 aspiring actuaries have already enrolled in the course.

What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?

An aspiring actuary, who is a college student, asked me to answer some questions about my profession. Here was the first question and my answer:

Knowing the goal is to become a fully credentialed Actuary, it’s important to:

  • Be goal oriented
  • Be smart and be a hard worker
  • Have discipline to stay on task  (e.g. Do you complete your assignments on time?)
  • Have time management skills to both study and do the work
  • Have the drive and determination to pass each actuarial exam
  • Have a strong math background  (Take those probability, calculus, and statistics classes!)
  • Have strong writing skills  (Can you write a paper? Better yet, can your write a memo with your recommendations with analysis?)
  • Have the ability to solve problems in a logical way   (Who said those upper division math classes requiring you to write proofs has no value? Of course it does!)
  • Have the ability to balance different parts of your life  (e.g. Studying 100 hours per exam hour with seeing friends and having a relationship or possibly having a family)
  • Be willing to make some tough sacrifices

As far as doing the work as an Actuary, these traits can be important:

  • Being a team player  (This is where team sports come into play)
  • Being independent to work on your projects
  • Having the creativity to solve problems  (Can you demonstrate this?)
  • Strong communication skills
  • Strong writing skills
  • Strong technical skills  (A lot of us spend a lot of time coding to analyze data!)
  • Demonstrating time management skills
  • Knowing current events that can impact our work  (e.g. Politics, Economics, Statistical Methods used by other fields)
  • Being coachable  (Again, think sports)
  • Demonstrating leadership qualities  (This is where experience with Clubs, Student Council, and Volunteer work is valuable)

Does this sound like you?

You can build up your technical/computer skills over here by enrolling in the Technical Skills Course!

Lessons of an Actuarial Independent Study

Last Spring, I wanted to give back to my Alma Mater, so I agreed to help teach an Actuarial Independent Study. The topics were entirely based on Exam 3/MLC, Actuarial Mathematics, where the first goal was to create a mortality table.  Before creating such a table, my students and I needed some data. Luckily we came across virtual island data. This data simulated the lives of hundreds of individuals.  Eventually, the virtual island individuals reached their death and we were supplied with important information about their death.

As the students went about creating the mortality table, Excel skills became very important for their efficiency.  They had to calculate how long somebody lived by taking the difference of two dates. Excel functions came into play here.  Then the students had to group individuals together by different age brackets, which Pivot tables came into play.  At this point, they started to calculate the probability of death within the next year.

After a week of hard work, the mortality table was developed. But the fun didn’t stop there!  From Exam 3/MLC, the students knew that with a mortality table, they could use it to theoretically price Life insurance.  To make this leap though, knowing how to use Lookup functions based on various categories made the students very efficient.  Better yet, with Excel VBA, they were able to run a few hundred simulations!

At the end of the Actuarial Independent Study, the students created a mortality table, knew how to set a theoretical price based on the mortality table, and could now price a premium for hundreds of virtual individuals wanting to buy Life insurance using Simulation.  But just as important, they learned valuable skills in Excel and VBA that made them more marketable as an aspiring Actuary.

You too can learn the fundamental technical skills used in this Independent Study to become an Actuary. Sign up for the Technical Skills Course today!

We live in a “Show and Tell” age

In this day and age, you need to be able to stand out. One way to do this is to actually do actuarial tasks before you get the actuarial job. You’ve study actuarial concepts if you have studied for the first few actuarial exams. Can you stretch yourself and apply those concepts to data available on the web? Once you have done some analysis, consider sharing it to the world.  Build a website and show what you can do. Someone is bound to notice your great work and will try to hire you.

Let’s take an example. There’s this individual who was curious about the actuarial exam progress of people. He pulled in all of the pass list data and compiled it into one database. From his website, people can enter in a name and the results are queried onto the webpage. This shows off his database skills and web design skills that can help a company out there. He was recently hired.

Where can you get data? There is a great source in data.gov. At this website, you can download thousands of datasets for free such as the Social Security Administration’s disability claim data. But you can also learn how to “scrape” a webpage of its data to create your own data. “Scraping” uses computer programing to build data as you define it.

Learn the fundamental skills to perform actuarial analysis with the Technical Skills Course and share your talent to the world! 

How are your interview skills?

You’ve passed a couple of actuarial exams and you’ve built your technical skills with the Technical Skills Course (of course!). This puts you in a great position to get that entry-level actuarial job.  After getting your resume in good shape, you start getting scheduled for interviews.  This is a critical time and you need to practice your interviewing skills.

Here are a few basics to work on:

  • First impression.  How are you dressed? It is appropriate for the work environment? Do you exude confidence in your posture?  You are portraying an image of yourself to your prospective employer.  They want to see that you can represent them well now and in the future.
  • Handshake. Do you have a firm handshake showing confidence and self-worth?  Handshakes that are weak can display that you are timid, passive, or even scared of the situation. Instead shake hands firm enough (not too hard!) that you are friendly, you welcome the situation, and you want to join in this partnership.
  • Eye Contact. Do you have strong eye contact when you are listening to the interviewer? What about when you are speaking? Having good eye contact shows attention and interest in the conversation.  It also shows you are open to coaching and you take direction well.
  • Confidence. Do you speak with confidence in yourself and in the skills you have to offer?  You are trying to sell that you are best applicant for this job. Show it and convince the interviewer!
  • Relevance of answers.  When asked a question, listen carefully and give the best answer possible. You need to put yourself in a positive light here.  If they ask about your Excel skills, say “Yes, I have worked on my excel skills.  For example, I worked through the Actuwaiters All-Around Course practicing vlookups, sumproducts, etc.” If they ask you to analyze a chart to make decisions, ask confirming questions first to make sure you have all the facts before making a decision.  Often times, people will just ramble on about the first thing that comes to their mind. Work on this skill to listen and be relevant in your answers.
  • Saying thank you.  When your interview is about to conclude, make sure to thank them for their time and for considering you for their position.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer questions especially when it comes to their business.  This further shows your interest in the position.

Make sure to complete the Technical Skills Course to build your technical skills before interviews take place.  You don’t want to have that feeling of being asked of your Excel, Access, VBA, and SQL during your interview, only to respond that you don’t have any experience with these programs.

Idea: Helping out Non-Profits to gain experience

There are a lot of non-profit businesses out there needing help with their business issues (e.g. Reading Programs, Health clinics, Boys & Girls Clubs, Cancer Associations, Food Banks). Actuaries and people wanting to become Actuaries have potential to help them out. Developing simple metrics such as how many customers do they serve, what kind of customers are buying their products, is the price appropriate, what would sales look like if they tweaked this assumption?  They will enjoy the charts you create for them.  What about a database you build, but they can maintain and run monthly? If you are looking for experience, you can possibly reach out to these non-profits and see if you can perform some technical analysis. Your services may end up being free, but at least you can put it on your resume, gaining good practical experience for a great cause.

Of course, you will need technical skills to help these businesses out and promote yourself.  Sign up for the Technical Skills Course to gain an array of technical skills.

Discover your strengths to focus your Actuarial Career

A great exercise for your actuarial career is to discover your strengths.  To discover my strengths, I read a book titled “Now, discover your strengths” by Marcus Buckingham.  This book allows you to take a survey and it picks out your five strongest strengths.  Mine are Strategy, Competition, Futuristic, Learner, and Focus.  Based on my strengths, I was able to create this innovative website to guide future Actuaries like yourself.

There are many types of Actuaries out there. You can strive to become a CEO or CFO someday where you drive home strategy and know how to run a business. You can be a technical expert and not manage anybody. For instance, you focus on calculating a reserve for Pension funds.  You can be a product development Actuary who thinks of new products to put on the market.  This is great for someone who is an entrepreneur and has a creative mind.  You can lead Underwriting where you focus on analyzing risk and implementing prices.  You can work for a consulting firm where you’ll work with various clients each day.  You can even start your own actuarial consulting firm.  There are even Actuaries who are also lawyers that work in the justice system.  There are also Actuaries who work in the medical field analyzing risk for a hospital.

There’s a great flavor of actuarial careers to choose from.  But a great initial step is to discover your natural strengths so you can put yourself in a position to succeed.

Sign up for the All-Around Course where you’ll learn the must-have technical skills to get that first Actuarial position.  Then you can be on your way to become an Actuary and choose the career type you want to be.

What’s more important to an Actuary… Mathematics or Statistics?

I would say both are very important to be an Actuary. For mathematics, the important part is your process of solving a problem. Calculus and proof-based classes such as Real Analysis teach you how to go from a set of assumptions to a final answer through a “logical” process. For instance, you are given all sorts of information in the question and you need to somehow derive the answer. This skill is not only important in the day to day work for an Actuary, but this skill is needed to pass Actuarial exams. Once you come up with your answer, you’ll often need to make recommendations based on your analysis. This train of thought is tested heavily with the FSA written exams. So yes, Mathematics teaches you this skill and is very important.

Statistics is also very important to do the day to day work. If you are an Actuary, you’ll likely be working with a lot of data. Big data I might add. You need to make sense of your data to build your models. When you are developing your models, you’ll first need to explore the data and see how it behaves. This is where Statistics comes in where you’ll look at the distribution, P-values, Regression, Time Series etc. You’ll need to determine which variables are important in your data to help build actuarial models.  You’ll also be trying to “correlate” your data with the external environment.  Actuaries call this external factors.  Statistics will help you make conclusions on how the external environment impacts what you are trying to model.

Sign up for the All-Around course where you’ll learn the foundational skills to do entry-level actuarial work.  You’ll get to practice how mathematics and statistics come into play to do Actuarial work.

Actuary vs. Graduate School

If you are like me and you majored in Mathematics in college, you might be considering to become an Actuary or going to Graduate school (to become a teacher or get your PhD in the field). I was there and I want to shed light on what swayed me.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to an REU (Research experience for Undergraduates) at Duke University. A lot of Math majors try to attend REUs. This gave me a valuable experience on what graduate school might be like. At Duke, I modeled the dynamics of a heart disorder known as ventricular fibrillation using physics of a bouncing ball. This was a combination of Physics with Differential Equations. Anyways, I figured out maybe graduate school was not for me. I was ready  to start making an income after four years in college.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for that opportunity at Duke, but it just wasn’t for me.

As an employed Actuarial Student (aka Actuarial Assistant in most companies), you are paid a full-time salary, but are also required to study and pass exams. You are given paid study time. Not only are you studying, but you are also earning an income.  Plus you are not going into debt because your employer is paying for your actuarial exam fees and study materials (which includes books, study manuals, and exam prep seminars).  Plus your salary usually goes up as you pass more exams (check with the actuarial employer on this).  Lastly, being an Actuary really is a dream job for me because we are using math and actuarial science applied to real world problems.  So that in a nutshell is why I chose becoming an Actuary vs. going to graduate school.

You will need strong technical skills to get that entry level actuarial position due to the very competitive market. Be sure to sign up for the All-Around Course.

10,000 hits!

It’s a great feeling that my blog got 10,000 hits! I made the blog because I wanted to give back to our aspiring Actuaries. I’ve given a bunch of talks at different universities and the same questions always came up about being an Actuary. I felt I could just put my thoughts in one place so you all can read it.

This whole thing brings me back to when I first met an Actuary. I was on a college business trip  to Australia and New Zealand. I called around to see if I could chat with a Chief Actuary. Luckily one of the them responded and I went up to his office. His advice to me at the time was to
“Finish my exams as fast I can, so I can begin my career.” I took that advice to heart. Obviously, you don’t really want to finish all your exams without being employed as an Actuarial Student, but it does feel great to be done with exams. Coming full circle, one of the All-Around students is from Australia. It is a great feeling.

Special shout-out to Michael M. for being the first All-Around student, to Adil for making the mention on LinkedIn, and to Buu for making this comment “thank you for creating the website. It’s so wonderful to see someone help pave the way for others. It’s obvious that you put a lot of effort an time into it.”  It is important to give back and help out our future. Thanks everyone for checking out the blog and best of luck in becoming an Actuary!  If you have a blog post question, submit it on the About page.

How do you fit in a “family”?

A question in a lot of people’s mind is can you really start a family while studying to become an Actuary? Again, there are Actuaries on both sides of the fence here. Personally, I’ve been engaged/married to my lovely wife since getting out of college. There were definitely huge sacrifices there. It is no joke how much you have to study. Often times, your significant other picks up the slack while you are studying before and after work. It may become taxing on your relationship. Having children while taking exams would be challenging on another level. Sure, your company will give you study time from work, but it often isn’t enough to pass your tests. You need to put in major time before and after work as well. Having a child will force you to study when you have the time allotted. But again, you may miss out on their childhood.  Personally, I didn’t have kids while taking exams. Other Actuaries have though, and they have made it work. The pace may be a bit slower to finish all the exams, but eventually they got there.  It is definitely something you need to think about when becoming an Actuary. Also, make sure you and your significant other are on the same page regarding the commitment you have to make to the profession.  You should discuss how much you need to study every sitting and how many years you’d expect until you finish all the actuarial exam requirements.  Best of luck!

This one is for the Career Changers

A big question for career changers is how to get relevant experience to break into the actuarial field. Career Changers often did not participate in an actuarial internship while in college. I do know a lot of Actuaries who did not start out as an Actuary out of college (they are great by the way!). I can think of two strategies for you.

First, big data is the way of the future. Companies all over the world are trying to use big data to help make business decisions. From this big data, they are building models to analyze risk and opportunities. This is right up our “wheel house.”  One strategy could be to work in one of these jobs and gain that experience. Those kind of skills are relevant to our work.

Second, many break into the field using the “Get my foot in the door” approach. This means trying to get a job within that insurance company but not as an Actuary from the get go. Then if you continue to pass actuarial exams, you can start applying for a transfer to the Actuarial department.  Not only will you bring experience into the Actuarial department, but you are also building your business acumen and seniority within the company.

You’ll need some strong technical skills to break into the actuarial field, sign up for the All-Around Course to become a strong candidate.  This discussion for Career Changers is expanded in the All-Around course as well.

Batting 0.500

I understand while in college it looks really bad to fail a course. With actuarial exams though, many actuaries did not pass every single requirement with one attempt. I myself passed 19 out of the 22 requirements on the first try. Others have batted 0.500 which means they fail an exam on the first attempt but pass on the second. Employers are also understanding of this and usually allow you pass each individual exam within 2-3 attempts. Check on this within their Actuarial Study Program.  The important thing is that you do make progress and try to knock out a couple of requirements within a calendar year.  Sign up for the Technical Skills Course so you will have the technical skills to get that entry level job and enter into an Actuarial Study Program.

From an FSA, What courses to take while in College?

Becoming a well rounded Actuary takes more than just being good at Math. We do not sit at our desks doing math all day long. So while in College, I encourage you to take a few classes.  Here I list a few:

  • Take business classes such as Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Economics
  • Take Computer Programming classes such as Java, C++, Process Improvement, Database Management, Simulation, Algorithms, Data Analysis
  • Take Liberal Arts classes such as Public Speaking, Communications,  Human Psychology, Sociology, and English Writing
  • Of course don’t forget your Math classes such as Applied Statistics, Logic, Probability, and Calculus. You are likely good at math so you know how to get from point A (given assumptions) to point B (the final answer) by a sequence of steps. That is an important skill.

Most of us Actuaries work with other departments throughout a company so it is important we try to understand their point of view. The Liberal Arts classes help us become effective communicators.  We can do all the fancy math in the world, but if we cannot communicate those results to a non-technical audience, what is the point? Also, external factors such as the economy plays a crucial role in our actuarial models. It is important to understand the economy and human psychology and sociology to improve our models. I can teach you some of the technical skills you need to become an Actuary, join the Course.

Don’t overlook Exam 4/C

Just when you think you are getting the hang of these Actuarial preliminary exams you might run into a brick wall with Exam 4/C.  This exam is difficult because it is 3.5 hours (the longest out of all the prelims). It also tests a potpourri of items from loss models (i.e. frequency and severity) to fitting parametric and empirical models to Credibility to Simulation. I found it very helpful to use the TI-30XS Multiview calculator because it has a Data Table function.  This allows you to put data into a table and calculate statistics off this table.  See if you can learn how to use that function just in time for the exam.

How to become an Actuary?

Every time I give an “Actuarial” talk at a local university or college. This question always comes up.

First off, in order for you to become an Actuary, you must pass the Actuarial Exams sponsored by an Actuarial Organization. In my case, I had to pass the exams offered through the Society of Actuaries (www.soa.org).  It often takes many years (4+) after graduating from college for people to pass all the Actuarial Exams to become fully credentialed (i.e.  Fellow of the Society of Actuaries: FSA)!  I’m counting 22 different requirements you have to pass which includes both difficult exams and online E-learning modules.

Most employers who hire actuaries require that you have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.  Many of us major in Mathematics, Statistics, Actuarial Science, Computer Science, or Business.  Having a strong GPA and having computer skills will also increase your chances of getting that entry level position.

While in college, it is also a good idea to try to get an Actuarial internship with a company. This will give you a leg up when you try to apply for a full-time position.  Don’t forget to try to pass a few actuarial exams while you are still in college.  The competition out there is stiff!

Once you graduate, it may now be time to try to apply for a full-time actuarial job. Most companies who hire actuaries have an Actuarial Study Program.  This means that you will be expected to pass actuarial exams while working, but the company will often pay for your exam fees and books/study manuals. They will also give you study time and likely a raise when you pass each exam.  This varies by company so make sure to research this.  Study time means, you can take time away from work to study. For instance, a work week could be 30 hours of work and 10 hours of study time. Beware though, you can be kicked out of an Actuarial Study Program if you can’t pass your Actuarial exams.  That ultimately means you can lose your job!

So there you go… How to become an Actuary? If you want to build your technical skills to stand out, make sure to sign up for my courses. Good luck!

The Actuarial Exam Process

To become an Actuary through the Society of Actuaries, you must pass a series of actuarial exams and E-Learning Modules.  Let me explain the entire process.

When you come to the realization that yes, I want to pursue becoming an Actuary, you must take your first Actuarial Exam. Typically people take Exam 1/P, which is in multiple choice format covering the topics of probability.  Knowing that you have a 50% chance of landing a heads on a coin flip sounds like a cake walk, but this exam gives a lot of people trouble.  Typically in order to pass this exam, you must get 65-70% of answers right.  The SOA then assigns you a grade from 0 to 10 where 6 and above passes.  This grading applies to all the multiple choice and written exams later on.

The second exam is Exam 2/FM which covers financial mathematics.  This test is based on the Theory of Interest.  For instance, if I had $100 in the bank today, and the savings rate is 1% per year, how much would my $100 grow in 10 years?  Exam 1/P and Exam 2/P are totally independent so you can take Exam 2/FM first if you want to.

After these two exams, there are even more preliminary multiple choice exams you must take which includes Exam 3/MFE, Exam 3/MLC, and Exam 4/C.  MFE stands for Models in Financial Economics. Here you learn about Option Pricing Theory which is all great stuff to know if you play around in the Stock Market.  Exam 3/MLC stands for Models in Life Contingencies.  This is the heart and soul of the insurance industry.  You learn how to price and reserve for Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Annuities just to name a few.  Exam 4/C stands for Construction of Actuarial Models.  This is where you learn about Loss Models, Actuarial Statistics, Credibility and other topics.

You also need to pass what we call VEEs which is Validation by Education Experience. There are three requirements for that: Applied Statistics, Economics, and Corporate Finance.  You can earn credit if you took University coursework on this topic.  Check out if any of your courses qualify here (http://www.soa.org/education/exam-req/edu-vee.aspx). If not, you can earn credit through online courses such as Actex.

So at this point, you are almost there to becoming an Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA).  But now, you need to go through the Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP).  This is a series of E-Learning modules that continue to give you practical knowledge of what it means to be an Actuary.  There is an Interim Assessment that you must pass after module 5 and a Final Assessment after module 8. In addition, after each module, you must complete an End of Module Exercise.

You are almost home free.  Now you qualify to attend the Associate Professionalism Course where you learn of the ethics of being an Actuary.  Show up on time and you will now become an ASA.

At this point, you are at the halfway point of the SOA exam process. If you decide to continue on to become a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA), you must take a few more exams and modules.  First you begin by selecting an FSA track which includes Group Insurance, Finance/Enterprise Risk Management, Investments, Individual Life and Annuities, and Retirement Benefits.  Each track has its own set of FSA level exams. The FSA level exams are written answer not multiple choice.  Not only will you be doing mathematics, but you have to write down bullet point lists, and make recommendations based on your analysis.  When I took the FSA exams, they were 6 hour exams, which really will make your hand hurt! In the current system, there are 3 FSA written exams.

In addition to the written exams, you must also pass FSA modules (3). These are very similar to the FAP modules but a bit longer and more indepth.  Then you complete a capstone project called DMAC which stands for Decision Making and Communication.

Once you are all done with these requirements, you can now go to the Fellowship Admissions Course where you learn more about Ethics and Professionalism to uphold our profession.  Then you get to party and get your FSA Diploma.  You might cry once you get that piece of paper because you literally just spent years trying to get to this point.  The SOA Actuarial Exam system is constantly changing, so continue to check out their website for the latest updates (http://www.soa.org/Education/landing.aspx)

You really can get someone to pay for you to go through this entire process.  This someone is called an Actuarial Employer where they will typically pay for your exam fees and give you raises when you pass. But you must get an Actuarial Entry Level Position first.  For that you need some technical skills to show you can do great Actuarial work for them.  Sign up for my Technical Skills Course and you can learn those skills.

Initial Steps to get that Internship or first Entry Level job

Getting that first internship or first entry level job may seem difficult.  I hope I can give you some tips that worked for me.

First off, I encourage you to put yourself in a good position to get hired. That means a few things.  1) Having some actuarial exams passed (at least 2 exams passed is a good number), 2) having a strong GPA and working toward a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, Statistics, Actuarial Science, Computer Science, or Business, 3) having a strong and error proof resume, 4) practicing your interviewing skills, 5) having a variety of technical skills so you can do great work from day 1.

Once you have all of this down, I have a few more crucial strategies exclusively for my All Around Course students.  Sign up for my Technical Skills Course and I can share those with you.

What exactly do Actuaries do everyday?

Every Actuary is a bit different. Personally, I work with a lot of data. I prep it to help me make decisions.  It is all about statistics. What does the past inform you about the future?  Can you make a mathematical model that takes in data and spits out what you think may happen in the future?  What variables are important?  How can things change?  As you can probably tell, we have technical skills that work with numbers. We have software that can help make our lives easier to do calculations. Finally, we communicate our results to other people to help make decisions. I hope this gives you a better picture of what we do.  Build your technical skills to prepare yourself for our line of work; sign up for my courses.

Why I became an Actuary?

I’m a huge basketball fan. I grew up watching Michael Jordan. When I was a child, I would practice free throws everyday. I started bringing a journal out to the court and tracking how many free throws I made and missed. I kept track of this for weeks trying to perfect my craft. Without knowing it, I was calculating averages and determining how many free throws I needed to make tomorrow to reach 90% for the week. I’ve always been fascinated with using numbers to help paint a picture for the future. When I knew there was a job for this called an “Actuary” I knew that is what I wanted to do.  You too can use numbers to help paint a picture of what the future might look like. Become proficient in Excel and other software by signing up for my courses.

Networking (or knowing people!)

Networking is a huge part of your success. As an entry level candidate, it is important to know who are the actuaries in your community.  They work for the companies that hire actuaries.  One way to go about this is to find your local Actuarial Club.  My area’s actuarial club is the Portland Actuarial Club which I am currently serving as the President.  I get to interact with all the actuaries in my area because of this club!  I encourage you to try to attend your local club meetings. Your network will bring you opportunities in the future.  Continue to build it!  Your network of actuaries will all have worked with Excel; make sure to sign up for my courses so you can speak to it with them.

Goal Setting

It look me a bit over 5 years to pass all the actuarial exams to obtain the FSA credential (Fellow of the Society of Actuaries).  My strategy was to get through my exams as fast I could and not waste time. I wanted to start a family.  Going through college and studying more after that for these tests was a lot to go through. From the very beginning, I listed all the exams and other requirements I had to pass to get the FSA. All of this was within an Excel document. With that I put down a projected finish date for each item.  This kept me on task toward my goal. I suggest you do the same. Envision your future and passing. Say “I’m going to be an FSA by age 28!” This is what worked for me.  Feel free to download my Excel template below:

Actuarial Goal Setting

Speaking of goals, one of them should be to have experience with the technological tools we use. Sign up for my courses and knock that item off your “To Do” List.

Actuarial Exam Seminars

I am a big fan of Actuarial Exam Seminars.  I know the trend is going more toward online seminars rather than live seminars, but both have value.  I went to live seminars for Exam 3/MLC (Life Contingencies), Exam 4/C (Construction of Actuarial Models), and FSA Exam AFE (Advanced Finance and Enterprise Risk Management).  Here is why I push for live seminars if you can attend.

  • It is difficult to get focused study time.  Often times, you need to just get away from everything and focus on the test for a week.  Live Seminars will do that for you.
  • You learn shortcuts that you just can’t get from the textbook.  You drill problem after problem for 5 days/ 8 hours per day.
  • You can ask questions to the instructor right there in person.

Online Seminars have their advantages too

  • You can study at your own pace. Rewind, fast forward, rewatch all of the tutorials.
  • You can have constant communication with the instructor through email.
  • You can watch video solutions to the exam problems as much as you want.

Both types are great. If you have the luxury to doing an online seminar and attending a live seminar, you will have a great shot at passing the actuarial exam.

They don’t teach technical skills at seminars, but you’ll need it to do your job. Sign up for one of my courses.

Exam P or FM first? Does it matter?

Honestly, when I first started my actuarial exam taking life, I started with Exam 1/P (Probability). I had a hard time with it. I did not know how to study for an actuarial exam at all.  As a result, I did not pass Exam P on the first attempt. But I was driven. I decided to take Exam FM (Financial Mathematics) while waiting for the Exam P results.  I was able to pass Exam FM on the first try.  Then I passed P during the next sitting.  Some say FM is easier than P.  It is up to you, but getting credit for an exam is all in the same, no matter which one you choose to take first.  If you are struggling with P, maybe take a break and switch gears to FM.

Passing Exams is required to become an Actuary, but you’ll need strong technical skills to stand out, make sure to sign up for my courses.

How to pass your first Actuarial Exam

Passing your first preliminary actuarial exam is a huge accomplishment. Here are the do’s and don’ts that got me over the hurdle. First the Don’ts.

Don’t:

  • Don’t approach the exam like you would study for a college course
  • Don’t study from the required textbook
  • With that, don’t study from the end of the textbook exercise problems
  • Don’t wing it thinking you know everything about math
  • Don’t rely exclusively on the SOA sample problems and memorize the solutions
  • Don’t start your studying two weeks before the exam
  • Don’t bring just one calculator during exam day

Do’s

  • Do study from an Actuarial Exam study manual
  • Do plan out a study schedule for four to six months out
  • Do take time to learn the material and apply it to any odd situation
  • Do practice many problems. Practice makes perfect.
  • Do bring two calculators to the exam

For more do’s and don’ts along with more specific exam strategies, make sure you purchase the All Around course where I share those tips with my students.