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
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.
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: