Can a math teacher become an actuary?
If certain aspects of your teaching career aren’t cutting it for you anymore, you may be wondering if becoming an actuary is a potential alternative.
So, can a math teacher become an actuary?
Yes, a math teacher can become an actuary. It’s actually a fairly common transition but it isn’t necessarily an easy one. Anyone that wants to become an actuary has to have a bachelor’s degree and pass at least 1-2 actuarial exams before being considered for a job.
If you’re not completely familiar with how the actuarial career works, it’s important to know those details before making this decision. It requires a lot of time and dedication.
How to Become an Actuary
Becoming a fully qualified actuary isn’t a quick process. First off, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, as a teacher that’s something you may already have.
The field of study that you majored in isn’t all that important. Most actuaries studied math, finance, statistics, or actuarial science. While having prior knowledge of these topics will help in an actuarial career, it’s not absolutely necessary.
The hardest part of becoming an actuary are the actuarial exams. There are 10 professional examinations that you’d need to pass in order to become fully qualified. These exams test you on your mathematical ability as well as insurance concepts.
Fortunately, you don’t have to pass all of them before you start working!
Most entry-level actuarial jobs require that you have passed 1-3 exams in order to be considered. An internship and technical skills are helpful in getting a job too.
Once you’ve been able to land one job, you’re pretty much set as an actuary! Anyone with actuarial experience tends to have a fairly easy time finding a job. It’s getting the first job that’s tricky.
For more information on the steps to becoming an actuary in Canada or the U.S., check out this post that goes into all the details.
How long will it take to be able to start working?
Now that you have an understanding of how to become an actuary, you’re probably wondering how long you’ll have to wait to make the switch.
Like I said above, most entry-level jobs will require that you’ve passed at least 1-3 exams. For most people with a busy schedule (ie a full time job teaching and a family) it takes about 6 months to be fully prepared for one exam.
Failing actuarial exams is common. The pass rate for the first 2 exams is usually somewhere around 45% (so 55% of candidates fail). People writing for their first time have an even lower pass rate (you can rewrite if you fail) but those percentages aren’t published publicly.
So, in order to pass 1-3 exams, it could be anywhere between 6 months to 2 years before you’ll be eligible for most entry-level jobs. Here’s more info on how actuarial exams work if you’d like more details.
During that time, brushing up on your Excel skills and learning a programming language would be a good idea. These are valuable skills that you can add to your resume that would help you to be more competitive in the job market.
What’s the demand for actuaries?
Actuaries are an absolute necessity for any insurance company (unless they outsource their actuarial work to a consulting company), so there is a demand for actuaries.
But currently (in late 2018) there are far more candidates looking for jobs than there are jobs available. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get a job, but it means that you have dedicate quite a bit of time and money towards becoming well qualified for the entry-level positions that are available.
In the U.S. the majority of job candidates have passed 1-2 actuarial exams, but don’t have much on-the-job technical experience (like Excel and programming). Many don’t have much relevant past work experience either.
Fortunately, as a teacher, your past experience may give you an upper-hand. Math teachers have many skills (like being able to understand and explain complex concepts, organization and communication skills) that will help towards a job as an actuary.
To make yourself stand out, it will be important that you make it very clear how your teaching experience translates into skills that are relevant for an actuarial position.
Considerations in Making this Decision
One of the biggest things to consider when deciding whether becoming an actuary is the right path for you or not is the time commitment.
This isn’t something that is specific to math teachers. Actuarial exams take hundreds of hours to study for and they’re very hard. You have to be willing to put in lots of time.
So, if you have a family already or you have lots of other obligations in your life, you may feel that making this switch isn’t an option for you due to the time commitment, especially when there’s no guarantee that you’ll get an actuarial job at the end.
Another thing to know is that since you’re getting a late start on your exams and actuarial career, you’ll likely be working with people that are quite a bit younger than you are. In fact, your direct manager may be younger than you.
For some people, that bothers them. But the knowledge that you learn in an entry-level position is essential for progressing up the ranks in a company so this situation is unavoidable. You can’t go directly into a management position.
What’s your first step?
I’ll assume that you already have a bachelor’s degree. If you don’t, obtaining one would be your highest priority. You could also go ahead and work on the step below at the same time.
With a bachelor’s degree, the next step would be to take your first actuarial exam. It’s recommended that you take Exam P or FM first. Here’s how to decide.
You may remember above, I mentioned the pass rates for these exams is very low. They’re much different exams than you may have taken in school. They can actually feel quite intimidating.
First and foremost, it’s important to have a good study strategy in place, as well as quality study materials.
I give away tons of study strategy tips and advice for free in my emails (sign up at the top of this page) and once you decide on the exam you’re going to take first (P or FM) you can find my recommended study materials by using the menu at the top of this post.
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