What is an Actuarial Science Degree?

Actuarial science is the science – and art – of using mathematics, statistics, and the principles of economics and finance to analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty.

Actuarial scientists, commonly called actuaries, build actuarial models to determine the likelihood of numerous risk factors that every business and organization faces. They then use these models to anticipate future events and take preventative measures.

Students of actuarial science are trained in the fundamental and practical tools they will need to work in this complicated field of financial risk and become the next generation of risk specialists.

Program Options

Bachelor’s Degree in Actuarial Science – Four Year Duration
Bachelor’s programs in actuarial science are structured to prepare students to pass the initial actuary certification exam before they graduate. The typical curriculum is composed of classroom work and real-world experience through internships in a variety of related fields.

Here are some common actuarial science undergrad courses:

  • Principles of Accounting – classifying and recording business transactions, understanding assets, liabilities, revenues, and expenses, preparation and analysis of financial statements
  • Communication for Business Professionals – business communications skills including business letter, memo, and report writing; oral presentation skills; communication theory and technology
  • Business Finance – introduction to financial markets, financial ratio analysis, valuation of stocks and bonds, long-term planning, and working capital management
  • Principles of Insurance – how the insurance industry helps businesses and individuals manage property, casualty, life, health, and disability risks
  • Financial Modeling – Excel modeling for professional portfolio management, fixed income analysis, asset-liability management, option pricing, capital budgeting, and structured finance
  • Introduction to Information Systems – hardware and data communication technology, software and data management, business applications of the technology
  • Introduction to Computers and Programming – fundamentals of structured and object-oriented programming methodology with a high-level language, algorithm development and a variety of applications
  • Principles of Macroeconomics – theory of economic analysis, supply / demand, social provisioning with applications to trade, poverty, labor, and taxes; macroeconomic data such as GDP, inflation, unemployment, and exchange rates; business cycles and fiscal / monetary policy responses; long-run economic growth
  • Principles of Microeconomics – elasticity of supply and demand, consumer behavior, analysis of firm production costs; behavior of firms under different market conditions; regulation and deregulation; applications to business planning, strategy, competitive advantage, and international contexts
  • Financial Markets and Modern Money – analysis of stock, bond, and derivative markets and their relationship to the economy and to modern banking and fiscal policy-making institutions
  • Econometrics – introduction to econometrics, the science of confronting economic models with data for the purposes of testing and models, predicting future events, or advising on policy
  • Applied Calculus – topics from algebra and differential and integral calculus; functions, difference equations, derivatives, integrals, and applications
  • Foundational Differential Calculus – analytic concepts of differential calculus
  • Foundations of Integral Calculus – analytic concepts of integral calculus
  • Multivariable Calculus – functions of several variables, vector calculus, analytic geometry of three dimensions, partial derivatives, and multiple integrals
  • Linear Algebra – systems of linear equations, linear transformations, determinants, algebra of matrices, and theory of finite dimensional vector spaces
  • Mathematical Probability and Statistics – theoretical probability distributions; elementary probability and counting techniques such as permutations and combinations; continuous random variables, modeling waiting time, lifetimes of components, and masses of particles
  • Statistical Applications – application of statistical techniques used in a variety of fields; gathering data, developing a statistics model, drawing conclusions, making predictions to develop a solution
  • Actuarial Mathematics – actuarial applications of calculus and probability, present and accumulated value as used in reserving, valuation, and pricing
  • Seminar in Business – analysis and application of strategic planning models to business decision making, business ethics, and corporate social responsibility

Master’s Degree in Actuarial Science – One and a Half to Two Year Duration
The objective of the master’s program in actuarial science is to prepare students for the examinations administered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuary Society (CAS). The program is targeted at undergraduates with a bachelor’s in actuarial science or a related discipline, career changers with quantitative skills who wish to transition into the actuarial field, and practising actuaries seeking career advancement and exam preparation. The curriculum is focused on fundamental knowledge, specialized knowledge, and leadership development.

Subjects Covered:

  • Insurance and Risk Management, Life Insurance, Property and Casualty Insurance, Pensions and Risk Management
  • Finance, Financial and Capital Market, Financial Management, and Investment
  • Data Science and Predictive Modeling

Sample Core Courses:

  • Probability Theory
  • Statistical Inference
  • Actuarial Methods
  • Actuarial Models
  • Models for Finance and Economics
  • Predictive Modeling in Finance and Insurance
  • Data Science in Finance and Insurance

Sample Elective Courses:

  • Life Insurance
  • Financial Markets and Management
  • Pensions and the Employee Retirement Income Act (ERISA)
  • Investment and Asset Liability Management (ALM) for Actuaries
  • Property and Casualty (P&C)
  • Global Markets and Investments
  • Quantitative Risk Management
  • Risk Management in P&C Insurance
  • Internship in Actuarial Science
  • Applied Data Mining
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Linear Regression Models
  • Statistical Machine Learning
  • Advanced Data Analysis
  • Data Visualization and Design
  • Enterprise Risk Management Modeling
  • Options and Futures
  • Quantitative Methods in Investment Management
  • Simulation

Degrees Similar to Actuarial Science

Degree programs in accounting prepare students for the work of gathering, recording, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and communicating financial information. This includes examining accounting records, reconciling accounts, preparing financial reports, and completing tax returns. The typical curriculum includes classes in mathematics, business management, business communication, business research, finance, and economics.

Applied Mathematics
Mathematics helps companies perform better in our data-driven marketplace. That is the foundation of applied mathematics. Students of the field learn to use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling and computational methods, to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, engineering, and the physical, life, and social sciences.

Auditors review accounting records and verify that they are accurate and legitimate. Auditing degree programs give students the skills needed to professionally carry out this responsibility. They are therefore focused on examination, analysis, and verification.

Economics asks wide questions about world economies, how governments should respond to financial crises, how stock prices and exchange rates are set, and how to help people living in poverty. The degree field is focused on how to use the concepts and theories of economics to study and solve real-world problems.

In very simple terms, the finance field is about helping businesses, organizations, and individuals make money. Degree programs in finance, therefore, teach students about investing, financial and estate planning, risk management, interest rates, insurance, and taxes. Their objective is to produce graduates who are ready to help both commercial and retail clients reach their short- and long- term financial goals.

Degree programs in insurance prepare students to work as insurance underwriters, the professionals who issue insurance policies. Students of the field learn how to consider individual circumstances and decide which policies to offer to potential clients.

The degree field of statistics is focused on the study of probability theory and sampling theory. Students use techniques like sample survey theory and variance analysis (the quantitative investigation of the difference between actual and planned behavior) to examine the relationships between groups and measurements. In simple terms, statistics is about collecting data, organizing it, analyzing it, and interpreting it in practical ways that guide decision making in both business sectors and politics.

Skills You’ll Learn

Actuarial science students gain several transferrable skills:

  • Ability to view issues from diverse perspectives
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Research and Statistical Analysis
  • Ability to simplify complex ideas for untrained audiences
  • Using models, charts, and graphs to present findings
  • Math and numeracy skills
  • Problem solving
  • Computer skills

What Can You Do with an Actuarial Science Degree?

The vast majority of actuarial science graduates go on to work in the insurance and finance fields, most often for insurance companies. But they also apply their skills in business analysis and managing uncertainty and financial risk in roles with companies in other sectors. Here is a snapshot of some of their most common career paths:

  • Insurance (health, life, property and casualty)
  • Finance (investment strategy, pension and retirement planning, enterprise risk)
  • Accounting
  • Rating bureaus
  • Labor unions
  • Intelligence agencies
  • Business schools
  • Government (examples: Medicare, Social Security, Department of Labor, welfare programs, assessing environmental issues such as climate change)
  • Shipping
  • Aviation
  • Energy

Many actuaries who work in the insurance industry specialize in a specific field of insurance. The titles they hold include:

  • Health Insurance Actuary
  • Life Insurance Actuary
  • Property and Casualty Insurance Actuary
  • Pension and Retirement Benefits Actuary
  • Enterprise Risk Actuary


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