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Thread: Considering career change from pure math background. Need advice!

  1. #1
    Actuary.com - Newbie Poster
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    Considering career change from pure math background. Need advice!

    Hi, I'm new here (obviously) and new to the actuarial profession and was hoping some of you kind people could answer some questions.

    I graduated in the spring with a B.S. in mathematics and a physics minor. I was planning on going to graduate school (PhD program) in mathematics and moved to Oregon to do so. For health reasons, I had to withdraw from the university. So now I'm considering my options and trying to figure out what to do with myself. My options appear to be:

    1) Reapply to graduate school
    2) Become certified to teach mathematics
    3) Take actuarial exams and become an actuary

    I am leaning towards becoming an actuary, but given my background I am unsure about my chances of employment. I have never had classes in probability, statistics, business, or economics. I have had classes in basic calculus (4 semesters), linear algebra (2), discrete math (1), modern algebra (2), advanced calculus (2), and analysis (2), as well as several advanced physics classes. I've had low-level classes in computer science and can do basic programming in Java, C, and C++. I made A's in all these classes, but on the other hand, my degree is from a 4th tier university.

    My plan is to take 2 - 3 actuarial exams over the next year while seeking an entry level position. I don't anticipate problems in passing the exam as I am very good at self-study and taking standardized tests. However, I fear the absence of applied math and business courses, along with my lack of experience, will decrease my prospects.

    So, my questions:

    Assuming I can pass 2 - 3 exams, what kind of expectation should I have of finding employment?

    What else (besides passing exams) can I do to improve my chances?

    How common is it for actuaries to come from pure math backgrounds?

    I don't want to spend a year studying and taking exams, only to find out I never had a chance. If that's the case, I'd rather know now, so I can work on reapplying to graduate school.

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Actuary.com - Level IV Poster
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    Hi Shai Hulud, be an actuary! It's a nice gig, and I think there's value in getting out of school and into the workforce. Of course as you've probably already heard, it's a tough field to break into now, but if you pass some exams then you will be a real candidate. You could always try signing up for a staffing agency to do insurance or financial work while you're taking exams.

    But if you decide to keep going to school, who can blame you? A lot of people doing that right now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alekhine4149 View Post
    Hi Shai Hulud, be an actuary! It's a nice gig, and I think there's value in getting out of school and into the workforce. Of course as you've probably already heard, it's a tough field to break into now, but if you pass some exams then you will be a real candidate. You could always try signing up for a staffing agency to do insurance or financial work while you're taking exams.

    But if you decide to keep going to school, who can blame you? A lot of people doing that right now.
    So you don't think I would need to go back to school and take business / economics classes? That I would look like a good candidate with just the pure math background and exams passed?

    You play chess, alekhine?

  4. #4
    Actuary.com - Level II Poster Sinjin's Avatar
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    How could you have done a BS in maths and never taken a course in probability or statistics? I would think it would be a given that you do at least one course.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shai Hulud View Post
    You play chess, alekhine?
    Only a chess player would say that.
    Do you have a USCF/FIDE rating?
    Actuaries do it with models!

  5. #5
    Actuary.com - Level IV Poster
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shai Hulud View Post
    So you don't think I would need to go back to school and take business / economics classes? That I would look like a good candidate with just the pure math background and exams passed?

    You play chess, alekhine?
    Employers just don't seem to care what classes you took if you can pass exams. If you go back to school, it should be to pursue a non-actuarial goal. If you want to be an actuary, start taking exams and getting related experience ASAP. You will learn all the necessary business and economics topics as an actuarial student.

    I make blunders on a chessboard and call it "playing chess". USCF 1606.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinjin View Post
    How could you have done a BS in maths and never taken a course in probability or statistics? I would think it would be a given that you do at least one course.
    A lot of schools allow their students to take different tracks in completing their degree. Things like and applied math track or pure math track. If you're interested in graduate school in mathematics, you really don't need probability and statistics in many fields. I don't think I would have had difficulty passing probability and statistics classes, but since I was planning on getting a PhD in a pure math field like algebra, it seemed my time was better spent taking lots and lots of pure math classes.



    Quote Originally Posted by Sinjin
    Only a chess player would say that.
    Do you have a USCF/FIDE rating?
    I haven't played much in a couple years, but my rating was around 1600. I'm not great but I do okay sometimes.

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