A bachelor's degree program in actuarial science teaches students to use mathematical principles to calculate financial risk. Applicants to bachelor's programs should have at least a 3.0 GPA and be prepared to completed 40 hours of undergraduate coursework in relevant topics. Graduates may be eligible for certification from an association of actuaries.
In a master's degree program in actuarial science, students can choose an area of concentration, such as insurance or mathematical finance. Applicants to a master's program in actuarial science need a bachelor's degree with coursework in relevant topics.
Many doctoral degree programs in statistics offer concentrations in actuary science and financial mathematics, which teach students to use math and statistics to monitor financial stability and predict risk. Courses cover topics such as cross-validation and numerical differentiation. A dissertation and comprehensive examinations are required for graduation.
Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science
Actuarial science is the science of financial decision-making and includes the use of mathematics to determine financial stability and risk. Generally offered in an institution's Department of Mathematics, a program offers courses in applied, mathematical and spatial statistics, insurance losses, compound interest, annuities, inflation and financial derivatives. Other areas of focus are statistical methods and computing, hypothesis testing, decision theory and probability. Students attend seminars and complete an internship towards the close of the program.
A highly selective program, admissions requirements entail completion of prerequisite coursework in calculus, linear algebra, probability and statistics.
The curriculum consists of elective courses in financial and managerial accounting, law, corporate finance and more, designed to complement the major. Students may take courses in:
- Descriptive statistics
- Statistical software
- Financial applications
- Interest measurement
- Life insurance
Master of Science in Actuarial Science
Offered with the option to choose a concentration area, such as insurance or mathematical finance, the program includes the study of statistics, finance, economics and more. Studies in compound interest examine topics in annuities and mortgages, and a course in finance investigates the areas of corporate finance, budgeting and valuation. Courses in math cover actuarial mathematics, mathematical finance and statistics. Students must complete an internship experience at an insurance company, financial institution or other actuarial setting. Admission to the program requires a bachelor's degree and prerequisite coursework in calculus and multivariable calculus.
Students take courses in a broad range of subjects, including substantial coursework in mathematics and statistics. Other areas of focus include:
- Casualty insurance
- Derivative products
- Deferred annuities
- Premium determination
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Statistics
The actuary science and financial mathematics concentration includes studies in applied statistics, probability and statistical inference. Coursework examines statistical methods, linear algebra, convergence and statistics derived from computer programs. Ph.D. candidates utilize mathematics and statistics to monitor assets, predict risk in financial corporations and determine financial weakness and stability. Additional coursework in actuarial examinations prepare students to take credentialing examinations offered by the Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society.
Actuarial science courses examine hypothesis testing, data analysis and advanced topics in probability and statistics. Topics of discussion in coursework include:
- Matrix theory
- Delta method
- Numerical differentiation
- Computer arithmetic
Popular Career Options
Graduates find employment opportunities in insurance, finance, banking and more. Popular careers for graduates include the following job titles:
- Actuarial analyst
- Chief financial officer
- Chief risk officer
Graduates go on to careers as educators, researchers or private consultants for insurance companies and other financial institutions. Possible career titles for graduates include:
- Research analyst
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), actuaries held about 20,760 jobs in the U.S. in 2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that jobs in this profession were expected to grow by 20% between the years 2018 and 2028. The median annual salary of an actuary in 2018 was $102,880.
Certification or Licensure
Graduates with qualifying experience in a specialization, e-learning coursework and professional seminar credits are eligible to seek certification or licensure. The Society of Actuaries' certification is a process, starting with the Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) credential. Actuaries go on to earn next the Chartered Enterprise Risk Analysis (CERA) and then the Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA) credentials. They are required to complete 50 continuing education credits annually to maintain certification. The Casualty Actuarial Society also offers certification, but in different areas than the Society of Actuaries.
Actuarial science degrees are very dynamic and can lead to a wide variety of careers. Depending on a student's interests, they may choose a certain area to focus on in their studies that may then help them narrow their career search.