Preparing to be an Actuary

Jeff Klanderman, FSA, MAAA, Consulting Actuary, KMPG Peat Marwick

Let me preface by saying that there is no specific major or degree required for an actuarial certification. It does not even require a high school diploma. What is required is to successfully pass the actuarial exams, whatever it takes to accomplish that feat. The formulas used by actuaries for success in this endeavor are as varied as the number of actuaries. However, before I create the impression that one shouldn't bother attending college to work in this field, I think there are some areas of study that a person can focus on to improve their chances of passing exams. Further, there are some areas of study that as an interviewer and prospective hirer of students I like to see exposure to.

I have reviewed the catalog you sent me. I was pleased to see that many courses I remembered are still available. I would suggest the following courses/areas of study for a budding actuary:

I have attached the conversion rules and outline for the new exams for the year 2000 and later. I will attempt to note which coursework may be helpful to which exam. It should be noted that with the exception of Part 1, a student would likely have to use the recommended text for the exact material tested. The VA Tech coursework would be supplemental, although hopefully very helpful, instruction.

I think many courses offered at Virginia Tech are helpful in supplementing the actuarial exam process. There are some courses that would have been helpful to me had I structured my own program of study differently. (However, the physics courses I took are occasionally helpful in Trivial Pursuit.) Given the preparation time that the actuarial exams take, I recommend that any student with an interest start sooner rather than later. In addition to being more in a studying frame of mind, I think it would be advantageous to use the appropriate coursework as a study aid if applicable.

I hope this helps you in providing some advice to prospective actuarial students. The students may also look for additional information on the Society of Actuaries web page.