What is an actuary?

If you follow my instagram, you may notice that I’m going to continue to post about studying, even though I graduated this past December.  So, I wanted to make a post to explain why!  *drum roll* It’s because I’m an actuary!  Well, kind of.  I’m an actuarial analyst.  And, in order to become an actual actuary, I have to take several more exams, so that’s why I’ll continue studying for the next few years.  This post explains what being an actuary is, as well as a little about the exam process and my personal experience with the career.  Let me know if you have any questions!  I’ll continue to update this post with the answers if any come in.  And, if you don’t want to comment with your questions, feel free to send me an email at JessicaAckley7@gmail.com.

The job

  • A lot of insurance, math, statistics, data, and computer science
  • Work at insurance company headquarters or at actuarial consulting firms, which consult for small insurance companies and businesses that self-insure instead of purchasing certain types of insurance
    • Jobs are focused in the Northeast, Midwest, and in big cities like Chicago, Hartford, New York City, and Boston

The education

  • Typically, actuaries major in Math, Actuarial Science, or Statistics
    • Business classes are really great to take too, especially if you can take any focused on insurance!
  • You can find a list of the certified schools here (the Centers of Actuarial Excellence have the most prestigious programs) and here (this is a relatively new award).
  • Only an undergraduate degree is required
    • If your undergraduate degree is in an unrelated field, like biology, you may want to get your master’s in actuarial science in order to increase the likelihood of finding a job
  • During college, it is expected that you have 1-3 internships during the summer. Some people are able to get internships during the school year, as well, depending on the school & office location, or the ability to work from home

 The work

  • Pricing actuaries: make sure insurance rates / prices are reasonable, legal, and profitable
  • Reserving actuaries: make sure there is enough money in reserves to pay out all potential claims
  • At insurance companies, actuaries usually do rotations between insurance products and the two sides every few years so they get a variety of experience
  • In consulting firms, actuaries do projects on both sides and may not be designated to a specific product or pricing/reserving

The exams and certifications

  • Society of Actuaries (SOA): Life and Health Insurance
    • 5 exams, a very large learning module, and a professionalism course: Associate of the Society of Actuaries, or ASA
    • ASA, choose a specialty, take several online courses, and 2-3 more exams (exact amounts depend on specialty): Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, or FSA
  • Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS): Property & Casualty Insurance (anything that isn’t life or health insurance)
    • 7 exams, 2 online courses, and a professionalism course: Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society, or ACAS
    • ACAS, 3 more exams: Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society, or FCAS
  • The society you become certified through depends on your line of work. If you are hired by a property & casualty insurer, you wouldn’t take the SOA exams
  • The first four exams (soon, only the first three) are offered jointly by both societies, which allows college students to start taking exams in college without having to choose a side before they have full-time jobs

The studying

  • For each hour of the exam, people who pass typically put in 100 hours of studying. So, if it’s a three-hour exam, you should put in 300 hours of studying.  Exams are typically 3 or 4 hours long
  • Companies (insurance and consulting) typically give employees paid study time. So, you may get 120 hours per exam to study, which is about 8 hours for 15 weeks.  This varies by company and by workload

My experience!

  • Exams: I’ve passed the first four, and will be taking my fifth (with the CAS) in May!
  • Degree: I got my B.S. in Mathematics as an Actuarial Science major from Illinois State University in December of 2017
  • First summer internship: with a P&C insurer in Chicago.  I worked in Small Business Pricing, which is the team that works on pricing insurance products for small businesses
  • Second summer internship: with the same company. I worked in Cyber insurance Pricing, which is the team that prices insurance products that pay for cyber claims, like the Target and Home Depot security breaches a few years ago
  • Third summer internship: with a life reinsurance company close to St. Louis. I worked in US Mortality Markets Valuation, which is the team that ensures the company has enough money to pay out US claims. (note: reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies)First full-time job (my current job!): P&C consulting in central Illinois. I’ll primarily work on homeowners and auto insurance, and do both pricing and reserving


So that’s just about everything I can think of that you need to know about actuarial science!  Like I said, let me know if you have any other questions, and I’ll add more bullet points.


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