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Actuarial Science Degree

Actuarial science can be described as the application of mathematical and statistical methods to assess financial risks. The importance of actuarial science has grown in recent years. Organizations are investing heavily in risk reduction and risk management to help boost profitability and market share. This discipline is mostly applied in the insurance industry, but can also be seen in other industries and professions. The field itself is interrelated to many other fields such as economics, computer programming, probability, and statistics.
The demand for actuaries is continuing to grow.  According to Business Insider, actuaries have the best jobs in USA. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has also predicted a 26% growth rate for this profession which is faster than average. The positive employment prospects are attracting many individuals towards this career.

Southern New Hampshire University

Actuarial Science Education

If you have a knack for numbers and enjoy challenges, you can prepare yourself for a career as an actuary by polishing your skills and earning a degree in actuarial science. There are a number of accredited colleges offering actuarial science programs. Students can pursue actuarial science major at bachelor, master, and doctorate level.

Bachelor Degree in Actuarial Science

This is an undergraduate degree designed to prepare students for entry-level positions. The program has a duration of four years and is offered both on-campus and online by actuarial science colleges. Students who have completed high school are eligible for enrollment in this program, given that they fulfill all other admission requirements as well.

Students will cover a wide range of courses that will help develop mathematical and statistical skills. During the initial phase of the program, students will learn about the fundamental concepts of actuarial sciences, its history, and current use in industries. Further in the program, the coursework will highlight statistical models and risk factors. Students will learn how to identify risk using different statistical techniques. Although a large portion of the curriculum is theory-based, a few courses are practice-oriented. Here are a few important topics covered in the degree program:

  • Probability
  • Statistical inference
  • Actuarial methods
  • Linear regression
  • Time series models
  • Corporate finance
  • Quantitative risk management

Master Degree in Actuarial Science

This is a two-year graduate degree. It is designed to provide students with advanced skill and in-depth knowledge of actuarial science. Students will learn how to apply relevant theories to insurance pricing and relevant areas. The coursework will entail a number of theoretical and practical subjects. Some colleges may also include case-studies, research projects, and internships in the curriculum. Here are a few important subjects covered in the program:


  • Mathematical statistics
  • Quantitative methods for actuaries
  • Mathematics of finance
  • Loss distributions
  • Regression and forecasting
  • Credibility and survival analysis
  • Life contingencies

Doctorate in Actuarial Science

This is the highest level of qualification students can earn in the field of actuarial science. It is intended for students who already have a fundamental understanding of the science and are interested in research. The program can take anywhere from four to eight years to complete, depending upon the university and the students’ pace.
The curriculum is distinctly divided into theory-based learning, research and dissertation. During classroom-based learning, students will undergo a thorough study of the courses such as the following:


  • Numerical analysis and approximation theory
  • Real analysis
  • Risk theory
  • Complex analysis

PhD candidates may have to pass a few qualifying examinations and an oral exam. They must also present a topic for research and dissertation. Under the supervision of an instructor, candidates must compile and write a dissertation.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will acquire a detailed understanding of mathematics and statistics
  • Students will learn how to successfully conduct actuarial calculations
  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of financial mathematics, derivatives, and actuarial practices
  • Understand what practices are used in the development of insurance products
  • Use various computer applications and tools for analyzing financial data

Distance Learning Option

Did you know that students can also pursue an online actuarial science degree? The increasing trend of online learning has pushed many renowned universities to add this academic discipline to their online program offerings. This mode of learning has enabled many professionals to pursue their academic goals conveniently without sacrificing either jobs or other commitments. Videos, online lectures, slideshows, and classroom conferencing enable students to cover the coursework online.

Here are a few benefits associated with online colleges:
  • Low costs – Students do not have to worry about costs related to travelling or textbooks, only a computer and an internet connection are needed to study online.
  • Flexibility – Students can study from any location at any time.
  • Self-paced – The coursework is self-paced, allowing students to study according to their own convenience without feeling pressured.

How to Enroll?

The enrollment criteria will vary from college to college. If you plan to enroll in an undergraduate degree, you must have completed your high school education with satisfactory scores. On the other hand, a bachelor and master degrees will be needed to qualify for admission in a doctorate-level degree. Other requirements may include:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • Meeting a minimum CGPA requirement
  • Submitting an admission fee

Some schools may also require applicants to write a personal essay or pass an entrance examination.

Career Options

With an actuarial science degree, there are many industries to choose from. For example, you can apply for a position in insurance companies, banking institutions, government offices, and accounting firms. Most actuaries begin their career as trainees, working with experienced professionals. Through on-the-job training, trainees can acquire skill and professional exposure that can help take their career to the next level. Some basic duties that fall within the job description of an actuary are:

  • Gathering and compiling statistical data
  • Analyzing statistical data
  • Applying statistical tests and methods to estimate risk
  • Prepare reports, charts, and tables

According to the BLS, actuaries made a median annual income of $93,680 in 2012. The actuarial science salary may be slightly lower in the initial phase of the career. Salary is influenced by factors such as organization, state, and qualification.
With a few years of work experience in the field, actuaries may qualify for professional certification. The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA) are two main credentialing organizations. Individuals will have to meet the certification requirements and pass examinations to gain a full professional status.
The career prospects for actuaries are positive in today’s economy, with many new job openings expected. Interested individuals can look forward to growth and can excel in this career.


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Q:How do I know which are the best actuarial science programs?

A:When searching for the best program in the field of actuarial science, it is important that you evaluate the following factors: accreditation, costs, faculty, program structure, school, etc. Selecting the right program can be a tricky task. However, make sure you research well and pick a program that fits your academic goals and budget.

Q:How to become an actuary?

A:To become an actuary, you must have at least a bachelor degree. It is recommended you go for majors in areas such as mathematics, business, statistics, accounting, and relevant disciplines. If you are seeking certification, you may have to complete coursework in economics, corporate finance, and applied statistics. A graduate level qualification an help boost your career opportunities.

Q:What do colleges with actuarial science programs teach?

A:Actuarial science programs are designed to prepare students for careers in this field. Students enrolled in an actuarial degree will learn how to use mathematical and statistical methods to assess management and financial risks. The coursework comprises of theoretical subjects and practice-based subjects such as linear regression, statistical inference, time series model, corporate finance, and more.

Q:Who should get an actuarial science degree?

A:To decide this, assess your skills. To become an actuarial scientist, you need to have a strong understanding of higher level statistics, economics and calculus. If you are good with the concepts of these subjects, you are on the right path. In addition to that, if you have a diverse educational background, with knowledge of subjects ranging from sciences to humanities and even fine arts, this will add to your potential for becoming an actuarial scientist.

Q:What do actuarial science schools teach?

A:Actuarial science schools teach concepts of math, statistics and economics in great detail. The first year of studies revolves around elementary statistical theory, mathematical methods and basic economic concepts. The later years go on to teach concepts of probability, distribution theory and inference, further math, survival modes, stochastic processes, time series, regression and actuarial methods in finance.

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