Anyone know anything about the Actuarial exams?

Hi a friend of mine told me that these exams are very technical but that they lead to a very satisfying career. I’ve not heard of them, does anyone have experience with actuarial exams? What are they called? There are a series of exams no? How difficult are they? (comparing with other exams like CFA, GRE, GMAT, Subject tests etc.)

Actuarial exams are very difficult, very math oriented…e.g. for CFA, you need to know how to use the BS model…for Actuarial exams, you need to know how to derive the model…

Well, that’s intresting. Is there an offical name for the exams? Like something I could look for online so I can get mroe information? Are there study booklets for these exams (akin to the study booklets fot eh CFA?) Thank you very much.

They are offered by the Society of Actuary (SOA) most actuaries start off writing these exams in University and finish 1 or 2 before they graduate. Actuaries started off with Insurance modeling but have moved into other areas dealing with risk management. There are i think 7 or 8 exams or so when i looked at it last, you become an associate member after the 4th exam, and the highest level you can get to is fellowship. I only took the first one to get a feel when i was in Uni, the first test deals with probability using continuous and discrete random variables. Using stuff like single and multivariate calculus used etc. The next one was Finance and the one after that i think after that is modelling etc. I think it was easier then the CFA1, but there are a lot more exams and in terms of length of the program, the SOA exams are much longer and harder to complete. Haven’t looked at the SOA exams in a while so i’m sure it has changed. And my memory is just bad :P. All i remember it is very technical, and many classes i took for Actuarial Science deals with higher level math. But they are also required to study finance etc, so there are plenty of actuaries that go for their CFA as well, or move away from the SOA towards getting their CFA.

I used to teach these. They aren’t more or less difficult than CFA exams - they are just different. They are more quantitative than CFA exams, but not nearly as quantitative as some actuaries would have you believe. There are a ton of them though so they take awhile. Doing these exams while you are not employed by some company sponsoring you seems pretty nutty to me. Places that employ actuaries provide much more support in general to studying for the exams than virtually anyplace I have heard of for CFA exams.

It’s not something you really do just to do. An actuary has a very specific career, and it makes sense if it’s something you want to do. In the context of your previous posts, there aren’t many people who want to either be an actuary or be an economist. I’m no expert, but from what I gather, the actuary job is essentially finding the right probability distributions to apply to mostly insurance related problems, am I wrong Joey?

There are two societies: the SOA (the society of actuaries) and the CAS (the casualty actuarial society). The two societies offer the first 4 exams jointly. The SOA exams have been recently redesigned, so I can’t comment on the structure. For the last 5 years, I have been a casualty actuarial analyst. There are 9 CAS exams and a professionalism course. You are an ACAS (Associate of the CAS) if you pass the first 7 and a FCAS (Fellow of the CAS) if you pass all 9. For more info, you can check out: (SOA homepage) (CAS homepage) (general info for students) (a career forum similar to this one) (largest actuarial recruiters) For salary info you can check out: The salary ranges have always been spot on for me.

^ and there are some sickos who want to be Fellows of both and thus take 14 exams…

ahahah Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > It’s not something you really do just to do. An > actuary has a very specific career, and it makes > sense if it’s something you want to do. In the > context of your previous posts, there aren’t many > people who want to either be an actuary or be an > economist. I’m no expert, but from what I gather, > the actuary job is essentially finding the right > probability distributions to apply to mostly > insurance related problems, am I wrong Joey? It’s a little broader than that. Actuaries are the brains behind the insurance and pension industries.

The first 4 exams are offered twice a year. For the CAS, the next 5 are offered only once a year. Most employers give 120 hours of study time per exam sitting and pay for the exam, study material, seminars, etc. My employer expects you to pass at least one exam per 3 sittings. If you fail to meet this goal, you are dropped from the exam program and have to pay your own way and study on your own. Most employers also give a raise for passing an exam. My employer gives a $3,000 raise if you pass an exam and an extra $3,000 raise when you get your ACAS and again when you get your FCAS. We also give a $1,000 bonus if you pass an exam on your first try. The exam difficulty simply hinges on getting your study time in. If you study 300-400 hours an exam, you should have no problem. The difficulty is getting the 120 hours of study time in at work and another 200 hours at home. Its difficult to stay that motivated for so long. In my last post, I forgot to mention that there are also VEE credits that you must have to become either a ACAS or FCAS. I had to take two online classes to satisfy the VEE requirements. However, many people are able to apply credit from classes they took in college to satisfy the VEE requirements.

Do you know if you can take this exams also in UK?

The SOA and CAS are the societies in the US. Most other countries/regions have their own societies and exam structures. In the UK there is the Facualty of Actuaries and Institute of Actuaries. India, Australia, Canada,… they all have their own societies.

how many hours do actuaries work a week?

It’s all statistics man!

Hours depend on the type of employer. Hours at a consulting firm are typically longer than at insurance/reinsurance companies and state insurance departments. I work for a consulting firm and put in around 45 hours a week most of the year. During December, January, and February, I put in closer to 55 hours. I’ve only worked a few weekends and the longest week I ever had was around 75 hours. However, I would say that my office is an exception to the rule. Analysts at other consulting firms probably regularly put in 50+ hours a week. For non-consulting, hours are closer to 37.5 a week. A reasonable work week is a benefit of the actuarial field.

Thanks for these valuable experiences. I appreciate everyone’s input!

maybe talk to a couple actuaries to find out what its like in the workplace? i started university in actuarial studies… passed the two actuarial maths subjects in first year… but failed an actuarial subject, so just dropped out… for me it was wayyyy tooo dry to be able to sit through for my whole undergrad… one of my mates actually went all teh way, and is now an actuarist at a big 4… get paid really really well, works very very hard, but by the sounds of it he isn’t liking it… he’s enrolling for cfa level 1 with his girlfriend (also an actuarist)… i think they want a bit of a change

i was an actuarial headhunter during my freshman summer, so i know a little bit about the industry. i placed candidates mainly in Asia (HK, Taiwan, Shanghai, Beijing, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia). HK, Taiwan and SH had the most people wanting to move (back in 2006 summer). my candidates included peeps with at least 3 years experience–usually 4+ (managers or senior managers) but had the occasional chief actuaries (a little intimidating at first hehheh) and were from all over the world. Just a little bit on exams. Generally, go for SOA for life and CAS for non-life. its difficult to switch after you’ve decided. Also, just because each country has their own society doesn’t mean you have to pursuit their local exams. in fact, it’s almost better if you follow the US or UK system because of mobility later on (Australia FIAA is also okay)… I once had a very strong candidate (several years post-fellowship) from indonesia wanting to move to HK but coudln’t because her exam progress wasn’t recognized. ive found the average candidate who completed their fellowship (SOA) 3 to 5 years after undergrad to be in above average shape with better opps. I knew this guy who became a fellow 2 years after graduation. He was top of the class from an Aust uni and climbed a lot faster. HR in that industry does value exam progress over almost everything else… one dude joked, “in your CV, put your exam progress as the first item, even above your name–it makes my life a lot easier” hope it helps

if only the finance/cfa side could be more like that… (in terms of valuing exam progress)

Actuarial science is about 25% math, 25% statistics, and 50% financial economic theory/investment science. If you are an economics/math major this is something that you can consider for a career. I am currently working as an actuarial analyst for one of the big 4, on the life and health side. I tend to find asset side work very interesting, and liability side work quite dry. Liability side work deals mainly with determining how much money insurance companies should set aside to pay for future claims. Asset side work includes providing investment strategies to clients, modeling investment products, creating hedging models, etc. I am planning to write the CFA exams along with my actuarial exams so I will be more involved on the asset side. The exams are difficult, and very time consuming, but you get up to 150-180 hours of paid study time off from your company, and a raise of 3000-5000 for passing each exam, as well as a couple thousand dollar bonus for passing on first try, which is the rewarding part of being in the actuarial profession. If the ideas of starting out with a good salary, getting 30-40 days of paid study time per year, getting raises and bonuses for passing exams (getting paid to study as opposed to paying a tuition to study) appeal to you, you can consider the actuarial profession.