Online studies in actuary science include a basic actuarial practice program offered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and limited number of post-bachelor's certificate programs available from public and private universities. Both of these online-only programs are designed to prepare current actuaries for professional certification. While still voluntary, certification as a professional actuary is quickly becoming the standard in the industry.
The online actuarial science certificate programs can generally be completed in one year or less and include topics in actuarial models, investment science and asset liability management. Besides new actuaries looking to earn certification, this program can also benefit current professionals looking to advance their career. Some programs require applicants to hold a certain degree or have previous job experience.
Certificate Program in Actuarial Science
Online certificate programs in actuarial science, although small in number, are open to students who already hold an undergraduate degree in a quantitative field of study as well as entry-level actuaries and qualified professionals. The programs are designed to prepare students for the actuarial associate certification or fellow exams available from the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or the SOA, as well as prepare them for advanced positions in the field. Learning outcomes include the ability to analyze data, forecast trends and manage risk, and the credits may be transferred to a master's programs in actuarial science.
Program Information and Requirements
An online certificate program in actuarial science usually requires 12-16 credits to complete, and academic prerequisites can include prior coursework in economics, linear algebra and multivariate calculus. Students use Web-conferencing software and other online tools to interact with their peers and professors, as well as spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel and an R finance package for statistical computing.
Through an online certificate program, students can learn how to work with advanced modeling and probability tools and develop their decision-making abilities. They will also have the chance to pursue more complex studies in econometrics, math and statistics. Depending on the program, the curriculum may include topics and training in property and casualty, life insurance, pensions and R programming.
Students use R packages to perform calculations and reinforce their knowledge of finance, math and statistics. Topics include fixed income securities, interest rates, options and portfolio theory.
Actuarial Models and Estimation
This course is designed to familiarize students with the statistical models and steps associated with actuarial science. Aspiring professional learn how to use the models to resolve insurance and risk management issues, while studying financial credibility methods, fitness tests and simulations.
Models for Life Contingencies
Learning outcomes for this course include the ability to apply contingent rate models to real-world financial and insurance risk problems. Content emphasis is on the relationship between prospective cash flows and death or rights of survivorship.
Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice Program
Available through the Society of Actuaries (SOA), the online Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP) program is designed for individuals who wish to earn the Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) credential and are currently involved in the actuarial profession. Introductory topics provide an overview of traditional areas of actuary practice, including property and casualty insurance, life insurance, retirement benefits and health insurance. Course content presents various aspects of the business environment and asks students to examine real-world actuarial issues by studying the control cycle as a framework for problem solving. Students learn practical techniques to assist in their day-to-day responsibilities as actuaries.
Program Information and Requirements
Students are required to complete the eight modules in sequential order, as principles and concepts build upon what is covered in previous lessons. This program presents actuarial concepts and principals by using the control cycle as a framework. Some of the courses include:
The Role of the Professional Actuary Module
Instruction provides a basic overview of actuarial functions and work opportunities, including the major areas of practice and required professional skills. Focus is placed on the control cycle model.
Risk in Actuarial Problems Module
This module provides students with a foundation for identifying and defining problems within the practice areas. Students learn to understand the risk involved in various actuarial problems and the commonalities found among them.
Design and Pricing of an Actuarial Solution Module
Focus is placed on the principles and tools used to solve common actuarial problems. Students are introduced to the components of actuarial solutions, including models, coverage and benefit design.
By utilizing their knowledge of statistics, business, mathematics and finance, actuaries assess the risk of events and help clients and companies create policies and strategies that minimize their potential costs. Actuaries are most often employed by health, life and casualty companies, as well as consulting firms and government agencies. Although competition for available jobs is expected to be high, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the employment of actuaries to increase by 18% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the BLS reported that actuaries in the United States earned a median annual wage of $97,070.
Online certificate programs in actuary science include interdisciplinary courses in math, business and technology in order to prepare students for professional certification in the field.