Math Actuarial Webpage

Author: Prof. Joel Friedman (Mathematics and Computer Science), with input from Prof. Harry Joe (Statistics), various actuarial firms, and SOA representatives. Last modified June 2016.

The actuarial profession offers satisfying and lucrative careers for students who are talented in mathematics and statistics and have good communication skills, with an interest in business and finance. Actuaries work with financial problems involving uncertainties, dealing with various types of insurance, annuities, pension plans, and similar situations.

There is a steady but small demand for actuaries. In Vancouver the demand is especially small; it is significantly greater in Toronto, and in numerous cities in the US (and other countries). The exams are very demanding, so prospective actuaries should be honours students or very strong majors students in either arts or science.

The Society of Actuaries is the largest organization responsible for educating and certifying actuaries; their websites contain a wealth of information on most aspects of the actuarial profession. As of June 2016, their websites inclued:

Part of becoming an actuary involves passing a sequence of exams given by the Society of Actuaries and obtaining some educational credits. The exam sequence is completed when one is working for an actuarial firm; before applying to an actuarial firm, one should have already passed some of the exams and obtained some of the education credits. In today's market one should probably have passed at least two actuarial exams before applying to actuarial firms for a position.

An education suitable to actuarial studies would include a fair amount of technical studies, namely mathematics and statistics, coupled with enough commerce and economics studies to understand the practical issues involved; the career also requires good written and oral communcation skills (this would be apparent during an interview).

There are two formal requirements to being certified as an actuary: (1) Actuarial Exams, and (2) VEE Credit (Educational credit). For the exams you can register at the SOA, and will take the exam at an appointed place and date; one can find study materials at the SOA website for each exam, and one can also purchase third party exam study guides. The Educational credit can be certified by various courses, but each of the three credits can be obtained, at least at present, via one or two three-credit UBC classes, open to all UBC undergraduates.

While most actuarial students major in mathematics or statistics, actuarial studies are open to students in any major, and it is more important which courses you take than what is the name of your major. There is no single set of classes to take at UBC; most actuarial students will take many statistics and mathematics classes, some commerce and/or economics. At UBC there are no courses (at present) that are designed for a specific Actuarial Exam; there are specific UBC courses used to fulfill the Educational Credits.

At present UBC has no formal actuarial program. Despite this fact, UBC was rated (as of 2012) 69th of over 1000 universities in terms of education credits. This is an exceptionally strong actuarial showing for a school without a formal actuarial program, indicating a strong interest in actuarial studies. As of the last five years, all of the educational credits can be obtained through UBC courses to which all students have access.

The usual recommendation is to start by taking the first two acturial exams--Exam P and Exam FM--in either order, and consider taking some relevant courses. The SOA website gives you a list of exam topics, suggested references, and sample exam problems and answers for each exam. Even if you do not become an actuary, passing an actuarial exam or two is expose you to skills useful in a number of related career paths. This is also helpful to demonstrate skills (say, on your CV) to a potential employer.
I do not recommend that you completely change your studies to satisfy actuarial requirements. However, if the courses and topics listed below lie within your interests, you might add a few classes in this direction and start taking some exams.

Information on the actuarial exams can be found on the

SOA Exams & Requirements webpage.

The first two exams that people usually take are Exam P (which is called Exam 1 in the CAS designation) and Exam FM (which is Exam 2 in the CAS designation). There are three other preliminary exams, Exams MFE, P, and C. There are various designations for actuaries, each of which requires exams beyond the preliminary exams.
Exam P is an exam primarily in probability; normally you would take MATH 302 / STAT 302 (they are equivalent courses) before stuying for this exam. The SOA website gives you a list of exam topics, suggested references, and sample exam problems and answers for each exam.
As of June 2016, the SOA provided the following homepage for Exam P. As of June 2016, this included the following Exam P Syllabus. It included topics, suggested references (including a supplemental article entitled Risk and Insurance), and links to sample questions and solutions. I have downloaded these PDF files to this website for your convenience, but you should always check with the SOA for the latest versions, changes to the exam, and any corrections.
Exam FM is an exam in financial math that does not correspond to any one UBC course. One can study for this exam before taking Exam P. Exams FM and P are considered the most basic of the five "preliminary" SOA/CAS exams. As of June 2016, the SOA provided the following link for the homepage for Exam FM.
The other three preliminary SOA exams have (as of June 2016) the following homepages:
In addition to the exam sample problems provided by the SOA, there are a bunch of third party studying resources available at the SOA Review Seminars and Workshops webpage. This includes publications with sample problems and solutions, and various books and seminars. These resources are meant to supplement the SOA references, not serve as substitutes. The SOA doesn't have any particular recommendation for which companies are best. Perhaps the oldest company is ACTEX Publications/Mad River Books, which has many resources the exams, but there are many other good resources.

Part of the SOA requirements include taking classes. These can be at a university or an institution approved by the SOA. You can apply for VEE credit for any past courses taken once you have passed two exams; you must receive at least a B- in each course. There is a formal procedure; you must your transcripts to the SOA. As of June 2016, here are the main sources of information:

There are three VEE credits required by the SOA:
The following UBC courses have been approved or are currently approved for VEE credit. Generally speaking, courses that don't change much will continue to be approved. It is possible to get "preapproval" for a course, which is a formal procedure that can be carried out by faculty members at UBC. If you do not complete the VEE credits at UBC, you can always take these courses at a non-academic institution approved by the SOA. As of June 2016, the following link is the
list of UBC courses approved for VEE credit.
It is recommended that you take first year calculus (two semesters of various first-year math calculus sequences), MATH 200, MATH/STAT 302, STAT 305, STAT 306. This will give you an introduction to basic math and statistics that are needed for Exams P and FM.
Beyond that, you should take a number of MATH and STAT classes, and some ECON and COMM; consider those courses for which you can obtain VEE credit; recommended MATH courses are 307 and 340, and 400 level STAT classes.
Even if you don't become an actuary, the above courses are useful in a number of careers related to math, statistics, and finance.