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View Full Version : Why be an actuary if you're going to spend 10 years of life studying for exams?



wmanko
November 30th 2010, 12:16 PM
Sure, you get a lot of study time per day in several companies, but for many consulting companies, that isn't the case. Regardless, you still have to spend a lot of time at home doing practice problems and studying material. That's more ways to be a social recluse. On top of the exams requiring hundreds of hours of studying, the pass rates are still pretty low. More and more people take these exams each sitting and they get harder over time for that reason. If you fail, you don't really know which questions you got wrong or which topics you were weaker at. You could have known the material well but simply failed enough questions due to silly arithmetic errors. Oh yeah, and I'm probably not that smart either. I never did too well thinking on my feet in college level exams, but still did well because I studied harder and kept grinding problems/proofs.

I guess I'm just a little frustrated with all of this and I'm venting here. I graduated from a good school this past June with a math degree and had no luck finding any real jobs...I took 1/P twice but barely passed it the second time around - I got a 6. Actuarial work is probably the only field I can get into at the moment because I've had no luck anywhere else...as a result, I spend a lot of my time studying for exam FM, but it really stinks being a social recluse. '''', I'm 22 and still need to get laid...I don't really know if I wanna be studying for exams for the next 8 years or so just so I can get a job that is easily outsourced while everyone else is enjoying and living their life and also raising a family....

Is it worth it in the end? I had interest in actuarial work because I heard it was the best career path for math people and that also instead of grad school, you just have to take some exams and go at your own pace....However, part of me is inclined to believe that it's a lot easier to become a lawyer or doctor. Sure, the schooling is rough, but it's much easier to pass a course than it is to pass any actuarial exam.

So what do you think? Will probably get some flack for this thread, but I just wanted to vent.

NoMoreExams
November 30th 2010, 12:21 PM
1) If you are dedicated, it shouldn't take you 10 years to pass

2) Job security

3) If you are smart, you can go a lot of places within the company or at least any company where actuaries are respected (which is the case in a lot of big / good companies)

JMO Fan
November 30th 2010, 12:39 PM
10 years seemed like forever when I started exams at 24.

I finished 23 years ago. It was well worth it. I'm glad I didn't give up after failing the first exam.

Spartanrob
November 30th 2010, 01:00 PM
I actually met my current girlfriend by studying at the coffee shop where she worked. You can have a life and pursue a career in this field if you manage your time well. I'd say to a greater degree than law or med school, the studying is part of the journey. Just treat it like a job, and set aside a chunk of time each day. That's what I do (on top of a full-time job, btw), and it's working so far.

conguero2717
November 30th 2010, 01:25 PM
To give you some perspective, I graduated with a degree in mathematics and received my teacher certification shortly after. Teaching requires you be at school 7 - 3 plus more most of the time, plus the work you take home, plus your after school professional development, plus meetings, curriculum nights, etc. And that's not including the grad school that is mandatory.

Now you may say "yeah, but teachers do that because they LOVE it," which is true. But you've got to love being an actuary, or 5 - 10 years of exams is going to be awful. Personally, I enjoy studying for exams.

Don't think teaching is an extreme example either. I work in a customer service environment where my managers, who really aren't making much money, and will probably have to bounce around for 5 years in their current position to get anywhere, are working horrible hours, are bringing work home, and are working at the office off the clock. They have college degrees. Some of them deserve a much more rewarding career, but they're stuck.

If you have friends with dream jobs and a great social lives, believe me it will change for them, and for you too.

Sorry for the rant.

pepper2000
November 30th 2010, 03:39 PM
It's a matter of priorities. If it's not important enough to you to invest the effort, then don't do it. Pursue some other career. Actuarial work is for people who are genuinely interested in the material and want to learn it.

Although, bear in mind that the job market is harder now than it was in the past. I don't think that it's a recession any more; by all appearance, we have entered a new normal that, from now on, will be characterized by high unemployment and working harder for less reward. If you think there's another career out there that will give you a six figure salary for little effort, then you're fooling yourself.

wmanko
November 30th 2010, 04:36 PM
what if I'm too stupid to pass more exams?

For all intents and purposes, the material on 1/P was pretty easy, but I still barely passed it. 2/FM seems to have trickier problems and the material comes off as a bit more alien to me. Don't get me wrong; the material is pretty interesting, especially moreso on FM and I'm wondering what later material looks like. However, I couldn't imagine handling the higher exams all too well. You're probably thinking that I should be more confident, but the best I can do is fake that.

Can I still be very well off if I just stick with ASA (if I can even make it that far haha)?

And just because it was kind of mentioned - I took P in May 2009 and failed, and I essentially gave up for more than a year. Then in the summer of 2010 I got back into it and passed in October.

NoMoreExams
November 30th 2010, 05:08 PM
what if I'm too stupid to pass more exams?

For all intents and purposes, the material on 1/P was pretty easy, but I still barely passed it. 2/FM seems to have trickier problems and the material comes off as a bit more alien to me. Don't get me wrong; the material is pretty interesting, especially moreso on FM and I'm wondering what later material looks like. However, I couldn't imagine handling the higher exams all too well. You're probably thinking that I should be more confident, but the best I can do is fake that.

Can I still be very well off if I just stick with ASA (if I can even make it that far haha)?

And just because it was kind of mentioned - I took P in May 2009 and failed, and I essentially gave up for more than a year. Then in the summer of 2010 I got back into it and passed in October.

Exams def. get tougher. Make no mistake about that. Looking back, P and FM are a joke compared to MLC, which is easier than MFE which is easier than C (some people will switch those 3 around in difficulty).

For example, C is considered universally to be the toughest. It has about 4 times as much material as P, the material is pretty disconnected and the problems are overall more complex and trickier.

Assume you pass all those, and go the SOA route, then you have modules which are not too bad. But then you get to FSA exams which are pretty hard unless you have a great memory. If you go the CAS route, the essay exams start with exam 5 I believe (there are no modules) and there are 5 essay exams (5-9).

You COULD make a point for staying ASA but in my limited experience those are only found in consulting firms and you better prove yourself valuable through your work.

If you do not even make it to ASA, you will eventually leave the Actuarial study program in your company and go something along the lines of "healthcare consultant" (assuming you choose Health for example). You will get mostly the same work as far as an analyst but you won't progress as far, on the salary, responsibility, promotion, etc. scale. Your job is also less secure than that of an Actuary.

Irish Blues
November 30th 2010, 08:06 PM
You become an actuary because you enjoy the work and the challenges that come with it; the exams are part of the grind, but they're only as difficult as you make them. No one promises this field is going to be easy - like any job, it's as rewarding as you make it out to be. That said, there's something satisfying about knowing when you've made a contribution and it's recognized by others. It's nice to know that others are looking to you for your opinion and respect it.

Of course, I'm the kind of person who will come back to work after hours to work on something because I either see a problem that needs to be solved or want to work on some way to improve how things are done [whether anyone else sees it or not], and will be here until midnight trying to debug and work through things to make it all right ... but that's just me.

pepper2000
November 30th 2010, 11:22 PM
what if I'm too stupid to pass more exams?

For all intents and purposes, the material on 1/P was pretty easy, but I still barely passed it. 2/FM seems to have trickier problems and the material comes off as a bit more alien to me. Don't get me wrong; the material is pretty interesting, especially moreso on FM and I'm wondering what later material looks like. However, I couldn't imagine handling the higher exams all too well. You're probably thinking that I should be more confident, but the best I can do is fake that.

Can I still be very well off if I just stick with ASA (if I can even make it that far haha)?

And just because it was kind of mentioned - I took P in May 2009 and failed, and I essentially gave up for more than a year. Then in the summer of 2010 I got back into it and passed in October.

Let's be clear here. You're not "stupid" if you struggle with the exams. These are challenging tests and are not for everyone, and even successful actuaries struggle. And if you have trouble with the first, that by no means indicates that you won't be able to do the rest of them.

But I won't be sanguine about it either. No matter how hard you work or whatever clever tricks you have, there is no guarantee for success. So you have to go into this knowing what you're up against. Some of the experienced actuaries have given reasons why they think it is worth the effort and the risk, and for those reasons I'm keeping at it despite not having any success with the job market so far.

One more comment about looking for jobs. A company will invest a lot of resources into training an entry level actuary, and for that reason they need to know what whoever they hire is serious about it. I think that if you are going to do it, FSA or FCAS has to be the goal. Again, you have to decide if you're really serious or not.

Claude Penland
December 6th 2010, 10:44 AM
One of the Top 50 (http://www.claudepenland.com/2010/12/06/actuarial-careers-named-one-of-fifty-best-careers-for-2011/) career paths.