Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in this field, you should pursue a traditional college preparatory curriculum including mathematical and computer science classes and also take advantage of advanced courses such as calculus. Introductory business, economics, accounting, statistics, and finance courses are important, as is English to develop your oral and written skills. Be sure to take advantage of Advanced Placement and advanced courses such as calculus and statistics.

Postsecondary Training

A bachelor’s degree with a major in actuarial science, mathematics, or statistics, or a business-related field such as economics, finance, or business management is highly recommended for entry into the industry. Courses in elementary and advanced algebra, differential and integral calculus, finance, microeconomics, macroeconomics, descriptive and analytical statistics, principles of mathematical statistics, probability, and numerical analysis are all important. Computer science is also a vital part of actuarial training. Employers are increasingly hiring graduates with majors in economics, business, physics, and engineering who have a strong math background. College students should broaden their education to include business, economics, and finance as well as English and communications. Because actuarial work revolves around social and political issues, course work in the humanities and social sciences will also prove useful.

While in college, it's extremely important to participate in several actuarial internships, which are excellent ways to try out various specialties in the field such as pensions or property and casualty.

Visit for a list of colleges and universities that offer programs in actuarial science.

Other Education or Training

Continuing education opportunities are provided by state and national professional associations and some employers. For example, the Society of Actuaries offers e-courses, podcasts, and other learning opportunities. Recent topics included decision making and communication, financial reporting, and government regulation and taxation. Other organizations that provide continuing education opportunities include the American Academy of Actuaries, American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries, Casualty Actuarial Society, Conference of Consulting Actuaries, and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Actuaries must be licensed by either the Society of Actuaries (SOA) or Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). Full professional status in an actuarial specialty is based on completing a series of nine to 10 examinations, depending on the specialty. SOA certifies actuaries in the fields of life insurance, health benefits systems, retirement systems, and finance and investment. CAS gives a series of examinations in the property and casualty field, which includes automobile, homeowners, medical malpractice, workers compensation, and personal injury liability. Success is based on both formal and on-the-job training.

Actuaries can become associate members of SOA after successfully completing five initial exams; course work in applied statistics, corporate finance, and economics; eight computer modules with two subsequent essays; and a seminar in professionalism. This process generally takes from four to eight years. Similarly, they can reach associate status in the CAS after completing six exams, attending one course on professionalism, and completing the same course work required by SOA. Actuaries who successfully complete the entire series of exams for either organization are granted full membership and become fellows.

The American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries also offers several different designations (both actuarial and non-actuarial) to individuals who pass the required examinations in the pension field and have the appropriate work experience.

Consulting pension actuaries who service private pension plans must be enrolled and licensed by the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries (, a U.S. government agency. Only these actuaries can work with pension plans set up under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. To be accepted, applicants must meet certain professional and educational requirements stipulated by the Joint Board.

Completion of the entire series of exams may take from five to 10 years. Because the first exams offered by these various boards and societies cover core material (such as calculus, linear algebra, probability and statistics, risk theory, and actuarial math), students generally wait to commit to a specialty until they have taken the initial tests. Students pursuing a career as an actuary should complete the first two or three preliminary examinations while still in college, since these tests cover subjects usually taught in school; the more advanced examinations cover aspects of the profession itself.

Employers prefer to hire individuals who have already passed the first two exams. Once employed, companies generally give employees time during the workday to study. They may also pay exam fees, provide study materials, and award raises upon an employee's successful completion of an exam.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Aspiring actuaries should participate in at least one internship while in college. To become certified, you will need to obtain several years of experience in the field.

An aptitude in mathematics, statistics, and computer science is a must to become a successful actuary, as are sound analytical and problem-solving skills. Knowledge of basic regression and time series methods, specifically, has become more important due to the growing use of predictive analytics. Solid oral and written communication skills are also required in order to be able to explain and interpret complex work to the client, as is skill with programming languages such as Visual Basic for Applications, C++, SAS, and SQL.

Prospective actuaries should also have an inquisitive mind with an interest in historical, social, and political issues and trends. You should have a general feel for the business world and be able to assimilate a wide range of complex information in order to see the "big picture" when planning policies. Actuaries like to solve problems; they are strategists who enjoy and generally excel at games such as chess. Actuaries need to be motivated and self-disciplined to concentrate on detailed work, especially under stress, and to undertake the rigorous study for licensing examinations.