Choosing a Major


Majoring in Actuarial Science

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What is Actuarial Science?

Actuarial science is an interdisciplinary profession that uses the principles of mathematics, statistics, economics, finance, and business to tackle some of the most pressing issues of risk across multiple industries. Insurance companies, banks, investment banks, pension management companies, and many arms of the government use actuaries for a variety of purposes. At their core, actuaries are risk analysts. They use complex methods to determine risk and likely outcomes in whichever area of the profession they choose to work.

Career Choices

While many actuarial science graduates do go on to become actuaries, others may go into other areas of business or economics, using the rigorous and thorough bachelor’s in actuarial science program to set themselves up for success.

Return on your study

The Jobs Rated Almanac (America's authority on good jobs) ranks mathematician, statistician, and actuary as one of the top three jobs. Earnings only go up from there as actuaries gain experience and pass more exams. Earning a quality degree from one of the best actuarial science programs can start you on one of the best career paths available in the modern economy.

How to be an Actuary?

Becoming an actuary is difficult. Advancement in the field is contingent upon the ability to pass the notoriously difficult actuary examinations administered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

There are eight professional exams in all, and it can take upwards of ten years to complete all of them. For this reason, the best schools help prepare students for as many of the exams as possible. Many actuarial degree programs require students to actually pass one exam before being admitted into the major.

Another consideration for students is Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) credits. There are three VEE categories that can be fulfilled by an undergraduate program: Corporate Finance, Applied Statistics, and Economics. Only certain courses will fulfill the curriculum requirements for VEE, so it’s important that an actuarial science degree cover as many of these as possible.

To be an Actuarial Science Student

Many students come to the profession from backgrounds in math, statistics, finance, economics and other areas. However, potential actuaries all seem to have a couple of key things in common an interest in, and an aptitude for, math and a desire to put math skills to use in a business context.

Actuaries bring a special set of skills to their work:

•          Specialized math knowledge - Calculus, statistics, probability

•          Keen analytical, project management, and problem solving skills

•          Good business sense – in Finance, accounting, economics

•          Solid communication skills (oral and written)

•          Strong computer skills – in formulating spreadsheets, statistical analysis programs, database manipulation, programming languages

Actuaries are talented professionals, with personal characteristics such as:

•          Self-motivation

•          Creativity

•          Independence

•          Ability to work with others

•          Ambition

To have a successful career in Actuarial Professions

The skills developed and honed by successful actuaries include an excellent business sense with knowledge of finance, accounting, and economics; keen analytical, project management, and problem solving skills; specialized math knowledge; strong computer skills; and solid written and oral communication skills.

In addition, actuaries enjoy learning, like to solve complicated problems, enjoy writing and talking to people, can work effectively alone or as part of a team, are interested in a variety of historical, social, legislative, and political issues, and are self-motivated achievers.

Courses a typical actuarial science program covered  

The objectives described in the Education section of the Society of Actuaries (SOA) website ( for the professional Actuarial Examinations covering Probability (P), Financial Mathematics (FM), Actuarial Models – Financial Economics (MFE), Actuarial Models – Life Contingencies (MLC), and Construction and Evaluation of Actuarial Models (C).

Courses offered should have been approved for the actuarial profession’s Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) program for the topics of Economics, Corporate Finance and Applied Statistics.

Students majoring or minoring in actuarial science are encouraged to take advantage of the potential benefits of being in the program, including summer internships, career guidance, job placement, and participation in the Actuarial Science Club.

Typical Major Requirements

Math courses:

Linear Algebra

Differential Equation

A complete calculus sequence

Statistics and Probability

Actuarial Science courses:

Actuarial Applications of Applied Statistics

Interest Theory

Life Contingencies I

Life Contingencies II

Introduction to Risk Theory

Actuarial Applications in Practices

Introduction to Credibility, Smoothing of Data, and Simulation

Introduction to Property/Casualty Actuarial Science

Survival Models

Stochastic Processes for Actuaries

Principles of Corporate Risk Management

Finance courses:

Options, Futures and Derivative Securities

Introduction to Financial Economics