Becoming an actuary isn’t something that can be done quickly. There are 5 requirements that need to be met, and it takes years of hard work and dedication to do so.
So, what are the requirements to be an actuary?
- Get a Bachelor’s degree.
- Pass 10 actuarial exams.
- Pass several online courses.
- Attend conferences.
- Continuing education.
Technically getting a Bachelor’s degree isn’t required to become a fully qualified actuary, but an employer is unlikely to hire anyone without such a degree.
Also, I haven’t included any applications that you’d need to submit in order to become an actuary. Those applications don’t require any additional work on your behalf and are easily approved once certain requirements are met.
Now, let’s talk a bit more about each of these requirements listed above and the steps you need to take to fulfill them.
Get a Bachelor’s Degree
I mentioned above that having a Bachelor’s degree isn’t actually required to become a fully qualified actuary. But, it is something that you’ll need in order to get an entry-level actuarial job.
So, that being said, you are going to need one!
The subject or field of study that your degree is in isn’t all that important. Some people decide to become an actuary with a computer science degree, or an engineering degree for example.
However there are degrees that will be more beneficial in an actuarial career. In this post I go through all the best majors for an actuary and how each will help you in your career.
As a quick summary, my recommendations are statistics, economics, finance, or math. A degree in actuarial science would be very helpful too, but I don’t recommend going that route. I explain why here.
Typically it takes about 4 years to obtain a Bachelor’s degree if you have a full-time courseload.
During this 4-year period, it would be ideal for you to find one or two actuarial internships so that you could gain on-the-job experience while you’re still in school. This will help you significantly later when you’re looking for your first job.
Pass 10 Actuarial Exams
Passing actuarial exams is the longest and most difficult requirement. It takes most people 7 – 10 years to complete all the exams and they’re quite hard.
If you’ve never heard of actuarial exams, or you want to know every possible detail about them, you should read this post. In the post I explain everything you’ll ever need to know about actuarial exams and how they work.
As a brief summary, actuarial exams are designed to teach you all the math, statistics, and finance knowledge that you need to understand for a career as an actuary. You’ll also learn insurance concepts and regulations.
Fortunately you don’t have to pass all 10 exams before you can start working in an entry-level actuarial role. Usually only 1-3 exams are required for these jobs.
This gives you the opportunity to improve your “actuarial intuition” over time so that when you are a fully-qualified actuary you have the experience and expertise to make well-informed decisions.
If you plan to become an actuary in Canada, then you may be able to get exemptions on some of the exams. Certain university courses can be used to get credit for the exams if you get a satisfactory grade.
Pass Several Online Courses
These courses teach up-and-coming actuaries different concepts that aren’t learned through the examination process.
The courses are completed online and each one requires you to do lots of reading and then an assignment or a 2-hour exam at the end.
The number of courses that you’ll need to pass in order to become a fully qualified actuary depends on which actuarial designation you pursue.
There are two primary designations for actuaries. They are FSA (Fellow of the Society of Actuaries) and FCAS (Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society).
Currently an actuary looking to obtain the FSA designation will need to pass a total of 11 online courses that have a graded assignment at the end. An FCAS designation will require just 2 courses but there is a 2 hour exam that needs to be passed for each course.
You would expect each course to take approximately one month to complete. The timing of when you’d take the courses is a personal decision. You probably won’t want to start until you’ve already passed at least 4-5 actuarial exams and have secured an entry-level actuarial job.
There are also VEE (Validation by Education Experience) credits that need to be obtained. The FSA designation requires 3 credits and the FCAS designation requires just 2.
VEE credits can be earned by getting high enough grades in certain university courses but if that is not achieved then more online courses will be required.
There will be 1 – 3 conferences that you’ll have to attend in order to become an actuary.
The first is the Professionalism Course. This is a one-day in person conference where you’ll learn about the Code of Professional Standards that actuaries must abide by.
The next one only applies if you decide to pursue the FSA designation. It’s called FAC (Fellowship Admissions Course). It’s a 3 day conference where you learn about how to make an effective presentation and more about actuarial ethics. At this conference you’re required to do a short presentation too.
The last one is PEC (Practice Education Course) which is only required for actuaries that are going to work in Canada. It’s a 2.5 day meeting with a 3 hour open book exam at the end.
In order to attend FAC and PEC all other requirements must be achieved.
Once you’re a fully qualified actuary, you’re required to keep up with new industry regulations and standards if you want to remain compliant. To do this, you need to spend about 30 hours reading or watching industry-related material every year.
You can also attend actuarial conferences and online seminars to meet this requirement.
Your hours are tracked through CPD (Continued Professional Development) credits.
Some of these requirements need to be completed in a certain order, whereas others can be completed at any time.
You should read this to get a sense of the specific steps that you need to take in order to start on your actuarial journey. I’ve broken the whole process down into 8 steps so that you know exactly where you should start.
But, as a quick overview, you should start by getting your Bachelor’s degree, and simultaneously pass some actuarial exams. If you’ve got your degree already then just start on the exams.
I linked to this post above, but it gives you all the information you’ll need about exams and how to get started on those.
Online courses and conferences shouldn’t be completed/attended until you are working in an actuarial position and have passed 4-5 exams.
The continuing education, obviously, won’t be worked on until you’re fully qualified with your FSA or FCAS designation.