If you’re thinking about becoming an actuary in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, you might be wondering if you’ve missed your opportunity. Are you too old? Is it too late?
The good news is that you’re definitely not too old nor too late. Lots of people have done this before and managed to successfully switch to the actuarial career.
But there are some things to consider before you commit. As I’m sure you know, becoming an actuary isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes years to become fully qualified. The question is, are you willing (and able to) put in the time and energy that it takes to do that?
Most likely that’s what’s going to have the biggest impact on whether or not you’re successful at switching careers.
How long will it take?
As a rough estimate, you should assume that it will take you anywhere from 6-10 years to get through all the exams to become a fully qualified actuary. It’s going to vary for everyone though. Some people take a little less. Some people never finish.
A few things that may lead to it taking longer are:
– Limited hours (only 1-2) to study each day
– Being a bit rusty on your math skills
– Using the trial and error approach to studying
Of course, there are ways around all of these things, which I’ll talk about a bit later.
Where to start
Before changing your whole life around to accommodate for your new career as an actuary, there are some simple things you should do to see if this is really feasible for you.
If it has been a while since you’ve studied math, check out some of the courses on Khan Academy to get yourself back up to speed in calculus, algebra and probability. That’s a free resource that you should review before you purchase any paid study materials specific to actuarial exams.
Once you’ve reviewed and are fairly comfortable with the concepts there, the next step is to work on passing your first exam. You’ll likely end up doing this in your spare time after work but it’ll be a good opportunity to see if you can really fit in enough time for actuarial exams into your life. They require hundreds of hours of study time for most people so you may have to make some drastic changes to your schedule and your habits.
Your first exam
Exam P or Exam FM are the first two exams you should take. It doesn’t matter which you take first, but generally people find Exam FM to be the easier of the two. Exam P covers probability topics and requires calculus, algebra and probability knowledge. Exam FM covers financial topics like the time value of money, bonds, and loans.
Once you’ve decided which exam to write first you’ll want to pick a study guide that will help you pass the exam. A study guide explains in detail everything you need to know for the exam.
How to pass your first exam
There are two ways to study for an actuarial exam. The second is much more effective and is more likely to be successful.
1. Use the trial-and-error studying approach.
Less than 50% of candidates pass Exam P and FM each sitting. That includes candidates that have already attempted the exam before too, so passing on the first attempt is not typical. Usually, it’s because they used a study approach that didn’t “cover all the bases”. It’s hard to know what you need to do to prepare properly when you’re writing for the first time.
2. Get guidance from someone who has already passed.
You’re in a fortunate situation to already (likely) have a job that will allow you to get the study materials and support that are most likely to give you success. This is a huge advantage for you because you’ll get through exams quicker and with less stress than someone in college who may not be able to afford the help.
If you’re interested in getting help and guidance, here are the details on how you could work with me to pass your first actuarial exam.
Getting your first actuarial job or internship
When you pass 1-2 exams, usually that’s a good time to start looking for a job or internship. But things may feel a bit different since you’re starting from the bottom again.
Since most actuaries start writing their exams when they’re still in school, it’s very possible that your manager will be younger than you. It’s common for managers to be as young as 26-30 in the actuarial field. That may be different than what you’re used to.
There’s a quote here that probably describes this feeling perfectly:
“Your boss/supervisor/team member is going to be younger than you—and probably smarter. I have met some incredibly intelligent and talented people in this profession. But there are times when I just feel old—and dumb. I stop, swallow my “but I’m older than you” reaction, and realize that there’s a lot I can learn from the people around me.”
But don’t let that hold you back! Just be aware of the situation that you’re likely to be in when you start actuarial exams years after college.
Another thing to think about is your willingness to relocate. Although there are lots of entry-level actuarial positions available, it’s not necessarily going to be easy to find a job. You may have to consider moving to a different city or state in order to get some experience.
So, is switching careers worth it to you? Being an actuary is definitely a rewarding, well-paying career option, but it does take a lot of commitment and dedication.
If you’ve decided “yes”, be sure to check out the Actuary Accelerator Community for step-by-step guidance on how to turn your actuarial dream into a reality!