Why Study Actuarial Science?

An actuary uses mathematical and other skills to solve problems related to insurance and pensions. Most actuaries work for insurance companies; others work for government agencies, for unions or as consultants. For example, actuaries:

  • Design insurance plans and decide what the premiums should be so that the plan will be financially sound.
  • Design pension plans and decide how much needs to be paid in each year to obtain a desired retirement income.
  • Evaluate and compare investment options.
  • Evaluate insurance policies to see if they are fair and sound.

An actuary might deal with questions such as: What is the risk of an earthquake occurring in Western Washington and what is the expected cost of recovery? How will legislation regarding air bags affect the amount insurance companies pay out for auto accidents? How can we make the social security system financially sound even with all the baby boomers retiring?

Why Study Actuarial Science at PLU?

PLU has developed a minor in Actuarial Science to help students prepare for careers as actuaries. The requirements for this minor are 24 credit hours from the courses listed below. At least 12 hours must be from Mathematics and at least 4 hours must be from Economics.

It is important to get advice in planning your program. If you are considering the Actuarial Science minor, you should speak to Jeff Stuart (253-535-7403) to get more information or help with planning.

How do I become an Actuary?

The problems that actuaries face involve uncertainty, and solving them requires an understanding of probability and other areas of mathematics. Therefore, the vast majority of actuaries begin by getting a degree in mathematics.

To become an actuary, you must pass a series of examinations given by the Society of Actuaries. The first exam is mostly on calculus and probability, while the later ones focus on finance and more specialized actuarial topics. You can take one or more exams while still in college. If you have passed an exam while still in college, it is fairly easy to get a job as an actuarial assistant. While working as an actuarial assistant, you will study for the later exams. Most employers of actuaries provide paid study time and other assistance for their student actuaries. You should be prepared to work hard, because the exams are quite challenging. The exam process takes several years after graduation. Generally your pay will depend on how many exams you have passed.

To prepare for these exams you will find it helpful to take a number of advanced classes in mathematics and statistics. It is also useful to take economics (micro and macro) as well as finance.

The Web site www.BeAnActuary.org contains a wealth of information on actuarial careers and preparation for them. You can also get more information by contacting the Society of Actuaries www.soa.org.

Careers for Actuarial Science Minors

In a recent national survey of 250 different careers, actuary was rated number one. The survey addressed job satisfaction, salary, stress on the job, work environment, prospect of getting a job, job security, and physical demands. Other surveys have consistently rated actuary among the top careers. The pay is quite good, the working environment is usually congenial, there is little stress, and jobs are readily available for qualified actuaries.

Of course, the best career for one person is not the best for someone else. How do you know if you would enjoy being an actuary? If you answer yes to the following questions, it would be a good idea to look into the actuarial profession:

  • Do you enjoy working with mathematics?
  • Do you like solving problems, particularly applied problems?
  • Do you welcome intellectual challenges?