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Actuarial Science Program


Quick Links

  1. Actuarial Science as a Career
  2. What is an Actuary?
  3. Actuarial Exams
  4. Actuarial Science Related Courses at DePauw
  5. Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) credits
  6. Internship
  7. Employment & Job Outlook
  8. Useful Links

Actuarial Science as a Career

In the past six editions of the Jobs Rated Almanac, actuary has never been rated lower than fourth. The editors compile statistics on 250 occupations and rank them based on six key criteria: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands, security and stress. The data comes from government sources, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and industry groups.

Compensation depends on experience, employment location and the number of exams passed. A recent survey conducted by D.W. Simpson & Co. found that 80 percent of first-year actuaries with one SOA exam passed were compensated between $42,000 and $53,000 per year (excluding signing bonuses). The salary growth potential for the actuarial profession is one of the highest available. For example, Fellows of the Society of Actuaries with 15 years of experience often earn in excess of $250,000 annually. For more detailed salary and compensation information, visit www.dwsimpson.com/salary.html.

What is an actuary?

Actuaries apply mathematical principles and techniques to solve problems in finance, insurance and related fields. Actuaries are involved with every aspect of the insurance industry and must possess strong mathematical skills and a solid business background to apply their technical knowledge.

Actuaries are responsible for determining rates and premiums on insurance policies (e.g. life, health, home and auto) and forecasting future events affecting the soundness of insurance programs. Some actuaries work with consulting firms as advisors to corporations regarding human resource and pension benefits. Government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or insurance regulatory boards, also employ actuaries. Actuaries can specialize in life and health insurance, in property and casualty insurance, or in pension benefit programs.

Actuarial science is a collection of mathematical and statistical techniques that make it possible to calculate the monetary value of uncertain future events. For example, an insurance company that sells homeowner’s insurance must take into account how often houses burn down and what the replacement costs are when setting the insurance premium (yearly payment) for homeowners’ insurance. If the premium is set too low, then on average the company will not collect enough money in premiums to cover the replacement costs of the homes it insures. But if the premium is set too high, customers will choose other insurance companies which offer lower rates.

Another example is that the State of Indiana manages a pension fund for its employees. Out of each employee’s paycheck a certain percentage is contributed to the fund and this money is invested until the employee retires. At that point the employee begins to receive a monthly pension check which continues until their death. Some questions confronting the managers of the pension plan are:

  • How much money must be invested at the time of retirement in order to be able to make the pension payments until the employee’s death? It is not known how long the employee will live, so this must be answered after a careful statistical analysis.

  • What percentage must be taken from the salary each month in order to have the required amount invested at the time of retirement?

  • How should the money be invested in order to strike a balance between risky, high-return investments and reliable investments with lower return?

Most actuaries are employed in the insurance industry, specializing in either life and health insurance or property and casualty insurance. They produce probability tables or use more sophisticated dynamic modeling techniques that determine the likelihood that a potential event will generate a claim. From these tables, they estimate the amount a company can expect to pay in claims. For example, property and casualty actuaries calculate the expected number of claims resulting from automobile accidents, which varies depending on the insured person’s age, sex, driving history, type of car, and other factors. Actuaries ensure that the price, or premium, charged for such insurance will enable the company to cover claims and other expenses. This premium must be profitable, yet competitive with other insurance companies. Within the life and health insurance fields, actuaries help to develop long-term-care insurance and annuity policies, the latter a growing investment tool for many individuals.

Actuaries in other financial service industries manage credit and help price corporate security offerings. They also devise new investment tools to help their firms compete with other financial service companies. Pension actuaries work under the provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 to evaluate pension plans covered by that Act and report on the plans’ financial soundness to participants, sponsors, and Federal regulators. Actuaries working for the government help manage social programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Actuaries may help determine company policy and may need to explain complex technical matters to company executives, government officials, shareholders, policyholders, or the public in general. They may testify before public agencies on proposed legislation that affects their businesses or explain changes in contract provisions to customers. They also may help companies develop plans to enter new lines of business or new geographic markets by forecasting demand in competitive settings.

Consulting actuaries provide advice to clients on a contract basis. The duties of most consulting actuaries are similar to those of other actuaries. For example, some may evaluate company pension plans by calculating the future value of employee and employer contributions and determining whether the amounts are sufficient to meet the future needs of retirees. Others help companies reduce their insurance costs by lowering the level of risk the companies take on. For example, they may provide advice on how to lessen the risk of injury on the job. Consulting actuaries sometimes testify in court regarding the value of potential lifetime earnings of a person who is disabled or killed in an accident, the current value of future pension benefits (in divorce cases), or other values arrived at by complex calculations. Some actuaries work in reinsurance, a field in which one insurance company arranges to share a large prospective liability policy with another insurance company in exchange for a percentage of the premium.

Work environment. Actuaries have desk jobs, and their offices usually are comfortable and pleasant. They often work at least 40 hours a week. Some actuaries—particularly consulting actuaries—may travel to meet with clients. Consulting actuaries also may experience more erratic employment and be expected to work more than 40 hours per week.

Actuarial Exams

In the United States, actuaries achieve professional status by passing a series of examinations administered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). The first few exams are the same, but later exams differ between these two professional groups.

Actuaries specializing in life insurance, health insurance, or retirement systems take the SOA exams. Those practicing in the property and casualty insurance area take the CAS exams. In each society, the designation of “associate” is awarded after approximately two-thirds of the exams are passed. Actuaries achieve “fellowship” standing after completing all exams. Fellowship in either society is the highest professional designation an actuary can attain.

Undergraduate students generally pass several exams while in college if they want to be an actuary after graduation, at least passing one exam, thereby qualifying for attractive employment opportunities. Actuaries continue to take exams while working, eventually attaining professional designations such as Associate and Fellow (the highest designation). Detailed information can be found at the Society of Actuaries, Casualty Actuarial Society, and Be An Actuary.

Actuarial Science Related Course at DePauw

We offer the following Actuarial Science related courses in the Math Department:

  • Math 441 Probability (Offered in Fall)

The Basic Principal of Counting, Permutations, Combinations, Axioms of Probability, Conditional Probability and Independence , Discrete and Continuous Random Variables, density and their distributions, Joint Distributed Random Variables, Properties of Expectation, Moment generating functions, Limit Theorem including Chebyshev’s inequality and Central Limit Theorem. This course covers SOA Exam P material.

Prerequisite: Math 152 Calculus II

  • Math 442 Probability Problem Seminar (Offered in Fall)

The seminar will include the topics of multivariate distributions, order statistics, the law of large numbers, basic insurance policies, frequency of loss, frequency distribution, severity, severity distribution, characteristics of an insurable risk, measurement of risk, economics risk, expected value of loss, loss distribution, premium payment, claim payment distribution, limits on policy benefit (deductible, maximum, benefit limits) and role of actuaries. After studying, students will be able to demonstrate a solid foundation in probability by their ability to solve a variety of basic and advanced actuarial practical problems.

Prerequisite: MATH 441 which may be taken concurrently.

  • Math 331 Mathematics of Compound Interest (Offered in Spring)

A mathematical treatment of measurements of interest and discount, present values, equations of value, basic annuities, more general annuities, amortization and sinking funds, bonds and other securities, yield rates, the term structure of interest rates, duration, convexity and immunization.. This course covers SOA Exam FM material.

Prerequisite: Math 152 Calculus II

  • Math 332 Seminar in Financial Math (Offered in Spring)

This is a problem solving seminar that looks at the application of general derivatives, options, hedging and investment strategies, forwards and futures, and swaps. The context of these topics is actuarial science and financial mathematics. This course is of great assistance for students who are preparing for the actuarial exam (FM).

Prerequisite: Math 331 which may be taken concurrently.

  • Math 336 Introduction to Financial Engineering  New Course (will be offered in Fall 2011)  

The course builds on mathematical models of bond and stock prices and focus on the mathematical modeling of financial derivatives. It covers several major areas of financial derivative pricing modeling, namely: Efficient market and No-Arbitrage Principle; basics of fixed-income instrument and risk-free asset; Risk-neutral Probability and Risk-Neutral Pricing; Black-Scholes’ arbitrage pricing of options and other derivative securities; Numerical Methods like Binomial Tree for derivative pricing; the Greeks and Hedging using derivatives. Assuming only a basic knowledge of probability and calculus, it covers the material in a mathematically rigorous and complete way at a level accessible to second or third year undergraduate students. This course is suitable not only for students of mathematics, but also students of business management, finance and economics, and anyone with an interest in finance who needs to understand the underlying theory.

Prerequisite: Math 151 (Calculus I) and Math 141 (Stats for Professionals) or Econ 350 (Statistics for Economics and Management) and Econ 100 (Introduction to Economics)

Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) credits

The VEE requirement is jointly sponsored by the Society of Actuaries (SOA), Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA). There are three VEE topics:

  • Economics (Microeconomics & Macroeconomics)
  • Corporate Finance
  • Applied Statistical Methods (Regression Analysis & Time Series)

The VEE topics are not prerequisites for the preliminary exams (Exams P, FM, MLC, MFE and C) and may be fulfilled independently of the exam process. However, you must pass two SOA or CAS actuarial exams before applying to have your VEE credit added to your record.

All three VEE topics are required for both the ASA (Associate of the Society of Actuaries) and FSA (Fellow of the Society of Actuaries) designations.

The CERA (Chattered Enterprise Risk Analyst) designation requires only the VEE Economics topic.

The following courses at Econ Department have been evaluated and approved by SOA for VEE credits:

  • VEE credit in Economics: Econ 294 Intermediate Microeconomics Theory & Econ 295 Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory
  • VEE credit in Corporate Finance: Econ 393 Managerial Finance
  • VEE Credit in Applied Statistical Methods: Econ 450 Econometrics

If you get B- or better in these two courses, you are eligible to apply for the VEE Economics credit. More details for the application process, please see http://www.soa.org/education/exam-req/edu-vee.aspx

Internship

Students who want to be an actuary are encouraged to participate an Actuarial Internship Program in winter term or in summer. From the actuarial internship programs, you will have the opportunity to experience what life is like as an actuary. You will be involved in important, relevant work from day one and gain invaluable experience to support your career development. There are a few excellent annual Actuarial Internship Programs in the States, such as

New York Life Summer Actuarial Internship Program

Hartford Undergraduate Internship Program

Penn Mutual Summer Internship Program

State Farm Actuarial Internship Program

More information and directories can be found on SOA Actuarial Training Programs.

Need help to write a resume or want to improve your interview skills?  Please contact DePauw career center, 306 Harrison Hall, 658-4280.

Employment and Job Outlook

Actuaries held about 18,000 jobs in 2006. Over half of all actuaries were employed by insurance carriers. Approximately 21 percent work for professional, scientific and technical consulting services. Others worked for insurance agents and brokers and in the management of companies and enterprises industry. A relatively small number of actuaries are employed by government agencies.

Employment of actuaries is expected to grow rapidly through 2016. Job opportunities should remain good for those who qualify, because the stringent qualifying examination system restricts the number of candidates.

Job prospects. Opportunities for actuaries should be good, particularly for those who have passed at least one or two of the initial exams. In addition, a small number of jobs will open up each year to replace actuaries who leave the occupation to retire or transfer new jobs. Candidates with additional knowledge or experience, such as computer programming skills, will be particularly attractive to employers. Most jobs in this occupation are located in urban areas, but opportunities vary by geographic location.

Useful Links

BeAnActuary.org

Actuary.com

Society of Actuaries Home Page

Casualty Actuarial Society Home Page

American Academy of Actuaries Home Page

Conference of Consulting Actuaries Home Page

American Society of Pension Actuaries Home Page

Canadian Institute of Actuaries Home Page

Institute of Actuaries (UK) Home Page

International Actuarial Association (IAA)

Actuarial Outpost (AO)

 

Any questions you have related to Actuarial study, please feel free to contact Professor Zhixin Wu (zhixinwu@depauw.edu, Julian 310).