7/24/12

I have been researching various finance jobs, and actuary pops up at me as the one with the most pay for the least hours. Would anyone know whether this is actually true?

I realize that it might take 6 or so years to do all the exams, but I would be happy eventually making ~130-150k and running a personal trading account in my free time. This seems like a really low-stress, low-hours alternative to the IB or HF grind. Of course, there is a price for everything, but I'd personally gladly pay that price in order to have a better family life and more free time.

Are there any people here that might like to comment on their actuarial jobs or on other alternatives that might seem equally attractive?

Thanks.

Comments (25)

7/15/12

Downsides according to some people,

1) Not as recognizable, when you say Actuary prepare to hear "what?" and explain what it is.
2) Not only are the exams quite long, they are very hard which is why there is such a high attrition rate. But if you have some perseverance and mathematical ability you should pass.

That said, the career is not low stress all the time. Its like any high stake job and you will be quite busy at when you are evaluating risks in certain big insurance deals or projects. However, for the most part actuaries love what they do, are paid well and their work is intellectually challenging which can't be said for every career.

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7/15/12

If you want a finance job that provides good work/life balance, low-stress environment, enables huge potential for salary accretion, but takes time to get there, think about PWM.

7/15/12
Connor:

If you want a finance job that provides good work/life balance, low-stress environment, enables huge potential for salary accretion, but takes time to get there, think about PWM.

There not much of a personality overlap between people who would excel in PWM and Actuarial Sciences. From my experience PWM people are people oriented and enjoy sales, whereas people in actuarial sciences are math oriented and enjoy crunching numbers.

7/15/12

I studied Actuarial Science but swapped over. Ridiculous amount of math/stats etc and really hard too. Not worth the effort imo. Yes the salary is good - IF you get there. People are mega smart but don't really have that 'type A' personality which I prefer to surround myself with (no offence). I agree with hood internet - act sci people like crunching numbers - and thats all they like doing.

12/2/13

I agree with Charles-perry. I moved over to finance after few years on actuarial roles. Actuaries are pretty laid-back and not the most ambitious type. Once you make fellowship designation and have several years of solid work experience, it's a great profession and provides opportunity to make big impact in your firm if you choose to go to the leadership route. If you are ambitious and outgoing personality type, you should consider other career paths as well.

7/15/12

He wasn't limiting himself to just jobs that require extensive knowledge of math math/stats. He was asking for all viable alternatives to Actuarial Science, which is something way the hell beyond me as to why ANYONE would want to do that for the rest of their lives. corporate finance and Asset Management should also be considered.

7/15/12

I'm not very optimistic for the future of the actuarial profession. It used to be one of the best kept secrets, but now everyone who's halfway decent at math wants to become an actuary. Unless they make the tests harder there will probably be a glut of actuaries soon. And of course if the supply is too high then the wage will drop. Also the insurance industry seems like a bore.

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7/15/12

Actuary is just memorizing equations, period. Don't consider it real math myself(same with engineering/cs ).

7/15/12

If you're looking for easy hours and a decent salary (130k should be easily attainable in 6-7 years) and don't mind repetitive work, product control might be for you.
Compliance is another decent option, though the hours might be a bit worse.

7/15/12

An actuary is someone who wanted to be an accountant, but didn't have the personality for it.

My good friend is an actuarial analyst right now, has passed the first 4 exams and is going for the FCAS designation. He works 37.5 hours a week, and makes about 85k a year. For every exam passed he gets a net 5k bonus and a net 5k raise. In about 10 years he'll be making ~200k, and up to 400k if he decides to join a consulting firm.

Pros for him: Stability, Relatively high pay, very little stress, high barrier to entry

Cons for him: Not intellectually stimulating

If you hate working with people, and can handle the mind numbing nature of the work, actuarial science is a solid profession. Other professions you might consider: Patent law, accounting, dentistry, optometry, audiology.

7/15/12
Babyj18777:

An actuary is someone who wanted to be an accountant, but didn't have the personality for it.

Christ, that says a lot right there.

7/15/12

Thanks for the kind replies. They have elucidated a lot for me. Would anyone know what a good job might be to have while one is studying in preparation for the first few actuarial exams? And would the choice matter a lot?

7/15/12

i work as an actuary.
worked in industry and then switched to consulting. It is not fun after a while. Yes it is challenging and "hard" but it is not interesting. As a consultant, you can make six figures as a partner which is not achievable in industry unless you are the CLA at a big insurance company in europe or the states.

If you end up deciding on becoming and actuary then become a life actuary and specialize in capital management (economic capital, solvency II pillar 1, etc). That is the most interesting field nowadays.

Also, you should learn to program prophet, moses or alpha which is really frustrating.

7/22/12

I'm also wondering if pursuing a career as an Actuary is still worthwhile at this stage in my life (I'm already 30 but haven't taken a single Actuarial Exam yet.)

Some useful info about my career aspirations:

  • I do not wish to work long hours. I'm not the type who wishes to spend a great deal of my life in the office.
  • On the other hand, I very much enjoy Finance, esp. Asset Management. I already have a great track record managing my own portfolio using a conservative, passive indexing strategy. I don't mind not working in "Finance" as long as I have the money to run my own portfolio.
  • KEY: I'd much rather take risks with my career rather than with my own money.
  • I don't mind the time commitment required for the exams.
  • I'd rather pick a career with a high and stable pay with little prospect for bonuses than a career with lower salary but a small chance of earning a 1+ million bonus.
  • I want to retire as early as possible, preferably by 50.

My qualifications:

  • I have a very strong math background.. I hold an Engineering degree from one of the top schools in the country and have 2 Masters (1 in Physics and 1 in Finance.)
  • I have attempted the CFA Level 1 but have failed multiple times (I've constantly struggled with the Accounting and Financial Reporting sections although I've usually aced the more quantitatively oriented sections.)
7/24/12
Longcat1982:

- I have attempted the CFA Level 1 but have failed multiple times (I've constantly struggled with the Accounting and Financial Reporting sections although I've usually aced the more quantitatively oriented sections.)

i considered being an actuary at one point, and even did my summer undergrad internship as an actuarial intern at a life insurance company. not to deter you, but most of the actuaries i know who are having difficulty with actuarial exams said that the CFA was a breeze in terms of difficulty. actuary exams are many times harder than the CFA exams and take on average 10 years to complete...

Money Never Sleeps? More like Money Never SUCKS amirite?!?!?!?

7/24/12

i'd like to add that what ultimately deterred me from an actuarial career was the level of specialization early on...

at the life insurance company that i was working at, they described the typical actuary will work on something very specific (like asset liability management) for 5-6 years before they get an opportunity to move onto anything else. i don't know if other actuarial jobs are like this, but it really scared me off.

additionally, while there is a ton of job stability, most actuarial jobs are in the midwest, so there aren't a ton of options to move around if you're on the west coast.

Money Never Sleeps? More like Money Never SUCKS amirite?!?!?!?

7/24/12

Does CLA mean Certified Legal Actuary?

If you can't kill them with kindness, just kill them.

7/24/12

A friend of mine graduated recently and already passed two exams and he still had a hard time finding a job. The only offer he got was in Boston so he's currently relocating there. Sayandarula is correct in saying actuarial jobs are often in less desirable places (at least compared to NYC). However, if math gets you going, the field is perfect for you. Good luck.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." - IlliniProgrammer

11/4/12

creamdream:
I have been researching various finance jobs, and actuary pops up at me as the one with the most pay for the least hours. Would anyone know whether this is actually true?

I realize that it might take 6 or so years to do all the exams, but I would be happy eventually making ~130-150k and running a personal trading account in my free time. This seems like a really low-stress, low-hours alternative to the IB or HF grind. Of course, there is a price for everything, but I'd personally gladly pay that price in order to have a better family life and more free time.

Are there any people here that might like to comment on their actuarial jobs or on other alternatives that might seem equally attractive?

Thanks.

Best Response
2/8/13

I switched careers 3 years ago from product management in the tech industry to an entry level actuarial job at a large insurer. I have an engineering degree and an MBA from an Ivy League school. In three years I passed 7 exams. My salary is now about where I was with 10 years and an MBA. That itself tells you something about the pay. The work is not boring at all, it is actually very interesting. The thing is though if you are not an academic person who is intellectually curious then you will not excel at the technical part of the job. Also, if you are not somewhat aggressive you won't be able to move up very fast and take on leadership positions in the company. Let me give you one statistic, we hired 30 people into the actuarial program last year, yet we received > 5000 resumes. Don't be a lemming and follow the CFA IB HF BS, that market is full of posers. Do something real with your life, of course, no offense.

2/9/13

robinbanks:
I switched careers 3 years ago from product management in the tech industry to an entry level actuarial job at a large insurer. I have an engineering degree and an MBA from an Ivy League school. In three years I passed 7 exams. My salary is now about where I was with 10 years and an MBA. That itself tells you something about the pay. The work is not boring at all, it is actually very interesting. The thing is though if you are not an academic person who is intellectually curious then you will not excel at the technical part of the job. Also, if you are not somewhat aggressive you won't be able to move up very fast and take on leadership positions in the company. Let me give you one statistic, we hired 30 people into the actuarial program last year, yet we received > 5000 resumes. Don't be a lemming and follow the CFA IB HF BS, that market is full of posers. Do something real with your life, of course, no offense.

can you talk a bit more about the day to day work and the technical skills required?
2/12/13

robinbanks:
I switched careers 3 years ago from product management in the tech industry to an entry level actuarial job at a large insurer. I have an engineering degree and an MBA from an Ivy League school. In three years I passed 7 exams. My salary is now about where I was with 10 years and an MBA. That itself tells you something about the pay. The work is not boring at all, it is actually very interesting. The thing is though if you are not an academic person who is intellectually curious then you will not excel at the technical part of the job. Also, if you are not somewhat aggressive you won't be able to move up very fast and take on leadership positions in the company. Let me give you one statistic, we hired 30 people into the actuarial program last year, yet we received > 5000 resumes. Don't be a lemming and follow the CFA IB HF BS, that market is full of posers. Do something real with your life, of course, no offense.

Hi, Robin,

I have a similar background as yours. Engineering degree from one of top schools, experience in tech industry for 10 years and recently got a Masters in Finance (mix of quant and corp). Basically, I wanted to get out of what I was doing before and am currently toying with the idea of becoming an actuary. My attraction for the career is because of analytical, intellectual nature of work.

I wanted to speak over phone with you regarding certain concerns I have regarding career change as well as hearing about your experiences when you did the transition and your perspective on the industry. Would you have time to talk, I was thinking of about an half an hour or so? Regards...

- Sanjiv

2/24/13

Starting on the possible transition taking math courses and I can take the courses covering content for the first two exams. I was discouraged from changing over studies but had thought about it for over a year. I am finishing the 150 and accounting courses for CPA license (which I think would be really boring but practical did VITA hours last season) . I feel bored in my accounting studies just finishing the requirements and find math more interesting. I feel alive again! And enjoy my studies more.even though it will take time to get the background.

Robin, Your experience is interesting. I have been told for Masters that I should do specialized, I would love to do either a Masters in Stats./Applied Math or to get an MBA instead of a Masters in Accounting (more of the same). I don't think MBA would be that beneficial for someone who has just had student jobs (accounting tutoring etc.) though and some MBA programs have actuarial science concentration option (think Georgia State Univ for example). I've heard passing exam 1 &/ 2 should be enough for recruitment as an actuary and that if I had both actuary and CPA, I can run CPE on both. Not sure I want to take the CPA exam at all at this point, the content on the actuary exams is more interesting though I still need more math classes, that is my alternative since I have sunk cost with the accounting bachelors and 12 extra accounting credits for licensure.

2/2/15

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