Certified Actuary Career and Certification Facts

Certified actuaries use their knowledge of business and mathematics in risk management for companies or organizations. For more information about job responsibilities and professional certification in this field, keep reading. Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is the Career of an Actuary Like?

Actuaries assess the financial risk associated with a particular event, like death, illness or property damage, for individuals and businesses. Many actuaries work in the insurance industry. In most cases, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in mathematics, actuarial science, economics or a related subject in order to work in this field. A keen understanding of statistics is also necessary. In addition, most actuaries are professionally certified through the Society of Actuaries (SOA) or the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS).

How Does the Certification Process Work?

The SOA and the CAS have their own separate certification processes, but they work together to provide four preliminary exams. These tests assess whether an individual is prepared to work in the actuary field. Each exam is offered in a multiple-choice format and takes roughly three hours to complete. Both the SOA and the CAS offer a syllabus and a set of practice questions to help you prepare for each of these tests.

The first exam tests your knowledge of mathematical probability and requires a thorough understanding of calculus. In the second exam, you'll deal with concepts in financial mathematics, like derivatives and capital budgeting. The third exam is broken into two separate tests and focuses on financial economics, as well as life contingencies. You'll need to have a strong grasp of actuarial modeling techniques in order to complete the fourth exam.

However, you'll need to meet additional requirements in order to obtain initial or associate-level certification through either the SOA or the CAS. For example, the SOA requires completion of one online class in actuarial practice and one course in professionalism, in addition to prior coursework in economics, corporate finance and applied statistics (www.soa.org).

What Are the Benefits of Certification?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some employers look for entry-level actuaries who hold not only a bachelor's degree, but who have also passed at least two certification exams (www.bls.gov). In fact, the SOA and the CAS encourage aspiring actuaries to begin taking these exams while pursuing an undergraduate degree. The BLS notes that many employers promote certification by paying for review materials and examination fees. You may even receive a pay increase when you successfully pass a certification exam.

Can I Pursue Additional Credentials?

Both the SOA and the CAS offer advanced credentials beyond the associate designation. For example, after completing the necessary requirements for SOA's associate-level certification, you could pursue the Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA) credential. Requirements for this designation include selection of a specialty track, like investment or retirement benefits, and completion of additional online modules and exams.

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