If you’re considering becoming an actuary, this is probably one of the first questions that came to mind.  All the math and statistics you’d need to know, as well as passing the tough actuarial exams can make it all seem a bit intimidating.

So how smart do you need to be to be an actuary? Are you smart enough?

If you’re not completed turned off by all the math, and you’re able to understand the math concepts that you learned in your university level high school courses, then you’re smart enough to be an actuary.

Smarts isn’t all you need to be successful in this career though. Actually, there’s one thing that is even more critical and probably a bigger deciding factor in whether or not you’ll be able to make it as an actuary. More about that in a bit.

What sort of math do actuaries use?

The math that actuaries use on a daily basis isn’t anything that you’ve never heard of before. We use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Everything you had already learned learned by 5th grade!

But the thing that makes the actuarial career so unique is how we apply these concepts to different problems on a regular basis.

The whole insurance industry thrives around the law of large numbers and the fact that we can use past data, apply mathematical formulas to it, and fairly accurately predict the future outcome.

But in order to do this actuaries need to develop a very good mathematical intuition. They need to be able to make judgements and decisions based on numbers. They need to be able to understand how one factor may impact another factor.

The math itself isn’t all that complex though, you just need to know how to apply it in a logical way.

How much math do actuaries use?

It’s safe to say that as an actuary you’ll be using math pretty much every day. Your world will revolve around numbers and making projections and approximations, as well as doing statistical analysis to create assumptions.

It takes quite a bit of brain power at times! But if you enjoy it then it’ll be interesting, engaging and challenging work.

How to tell if you’ll be smart enough

Since the underlying math that actuaries use isn’t all that complex, it’s safe to say that you’ll be smart enough to be an actuary if you were able to understand the math concepts that were taught in your last year of high school.

Actually you may not even need to use many of those concepts (like trigonometry) in your day-to-day work.

Most experienced actuaries, however, are very smart. As you get further and further into your career you’ll start to develop the same insight and intuition too. It’s something that takes years to develop and you’re constantly learning.

One thing you need more that smarts

As you probably know, being an actuary takes years of hard work. The schooling and actuarial exams take most people 7-10 years to complete.

Even the smartest aspiring actuaries usually fail a few exams along the way.

So if you really want to make it as an actuary then it probably won’t be the math that will hold you back.

Instead, what you really need is a strong ability to persevere and keep going when you fail an exam. You’ll need self discipline and lots of motivation to study even when you don’t want to. And you’ll need to learn to manage your time well so that you can fit in enough study time even when you have other priorities in your life.

Lacking those qualities are much more likely to make someone unsuccessful in becoming an actuary than not being smart enough.

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