How to Become an Actuary

By Elizabeth Freeman , last updated October 13, 2011

You need a bachelor’s degree to become an actuary. You'll also need to pass certain examinations to earn the appropriate licenses and certification. You'll need to choose a specialty as well. Actuaries generally earn high salaries, making the profession ideal for people who enjoy analyzing statistics, have good computer skills and can work well with others.

The first step to becoming an actuary is enrolling in an appropriate bachelor’s degree program. Some schools do offer majors in actuarial science. Schools that do not have a specific major for aspiring actuaries offer majors in math, finance or business, all of which are useful if you plan on becoming an actuary. To increase your chances of landing a good position after graduation strive to keep your GPA over 3.25.

You may need to take specific courses to become an actuary. Corporate finance is usually a class that is required if you plan on earning professional certification. Economics and applied statistics are two other courses you should take during your college years.

During your college years, you should take at least one of the actuary exams and have an internship. Ideally, you'll take the exam so that potential internships can evaluate your skills. Before you graduate, you should complete a second examination to help improve your chances of landing a job.

There are two societies that issue the examinations and certify professional actuaries. The societies differ in focus. The Society of Actuaries (SOA) is for actuaries who intend to work in life and health benefits insurance fields or in retirement or other investment systems. The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) certifies people who wish to work in property insurance, such as home-owner or automotive insurance. A third society, The American Society of Pension Actuaries, is for people who work to certify pension plans for the government.

You must pass a number of exams to become a certified associate actuary. The first four exams are the same, whether you take them with SOA or CAS, so you will not have to decide on your focus, such as life insurance or car insurance, to take them. The requirements to become an associate with SOA differ slightly from CAS. CAS requires 7 exams, plus coursework. SOA only requires 5 exams, but you must also complete several computer modules and write two essays. Both societies require a class or seminar on professionalism.

The process of becoming an associate takes up to 8 years. Both societies have a fellowship level that follows the associate level. To reach the fellowship level, you need to pass two more examinations for both CAS and SOA. SOA requires computer modules as well. The process to become a fellow takes up to three more years after you become an associate.

If you decide to work with pensions, you must take additional steps to become an actuary. Pension actuaries need to be enrolled by the Joint Board of the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Labor for the Enrollment of Actuaries, which requires an additional two exams given by the SOA.

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