Students who are interested in the field of actuarial science can enroll in a four-year Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science or a two-year Master of Science in Actuarial Science degree program. In general, these programs cover actuarial methods extensively, along with calculus, probability, geometry and financial theories. Master's programs are primarily designed for students who hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than actuarial science.
Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science
A bachelor's degree program in actuarial science provides undergraduate students with a solid understanding of the mathematical foundations of the field as well as an understanding of basic business principles and communication. Incoming students are required to have a high school diploma prior to admission into a program. The basic curriculum of the program covers the necessary theoretical and practical components of actuarial science, including statistics, mathematics, economics and finance. Graduates of a bachelor's degree in actuarial science should have the educational background necessary to sit for professional actuary examinations.
The courses found within a bachelor's degree program in actuarial science cover both theories of mathematics and practical mathematical applications. Some examples might include:
- Mathematical reasoning, statistical reasoning and modeling
- Applied calculus
- Finite mathematics
- Interest theory
- Analytic geometry
- Business communication
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Master of Science in Actuarial Science
Some universities offer two-year graduate degree programs in actuarial science through their departments of statistics or continuing education. These master's degree programs are typically designed for students who have a baccalaureate degree in a field such as business or finance and who are interested in preparing to sit for the CAS or SOA examinations. These programs provide an in-depth education into the statistics and mathematics that make up actuarial science, and can typically be taken either part-time or full-time.
In addition to courses covering business and advanced mathematics, courses included in a master's degree program in actuarial science also typically cover professional standards. Some examples include:
- Advanced actuarial methods
- Corporate finance principles
- Mathematical methods for derivatives pricing
- Probability and statistical inference
- Microeconomics and macroeconomics
- Time series models and linear regression
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 19,770 actuaries employed in the United States in 2015. The majority of these professionals was employed in brokerages, agencies and related insurance industries. In 2015, actuaries earned a median annual salary of $97,070. The BLS predicts an employment growth of 18% for actuaries from 2014-2024.
Graduates of master's degree programs in actuarial science are entering the same employment field as those graduates of bachelor's degree programs in actuarial science. The salary range is the same, regardless of education. However, graduates of a master's degree program in the field can leverage their education to receive positions in the sectors of the industry most open to advancement, including those in consulting firms.
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in actuarial science can pass examinations and gain licensure through two separate organizations, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). Many of the examinations given by the two organizations cover the same material. However, the SOA exams prepare actuaries for careers in life insurance, finance, investment and retirement systems, while the CAS exams prepare actuaries for careers in property insurance, medical malpractice and personal injury.
Professional actuaries can enroll in graduate programs in statistics, finance or mathematics in order to move up the ladder into positions as financial analyst, financial consultants, statisticians or personal financial advisors. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in these fields can also lead to positions in research or academia.
Students interested in becoming actuaries may pursue a bachelor's degree in actuarial science. If an individual interested in the career already has a bachelor's degree in a related field they may instead pursue a master's degree. Both programs prepare students for actuarial licensing exams.