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Professor's Guide

Preparing Your Students for Actuarial Examinations

A Guide for Professors About:

The actuarial profession, becoming an actuary,
& making sure bright students have the best chance at success

In the following guide you will find answers to questions you may have about starting up or expanding the actuarial program at your university. Much of the information and tips below is useful when explaining to prospective actuarial students what it takes to get credentialed and thrive in a business setting as an actuary. We also outline how students can best obtain credentials in the absence of a dedicated actuarial program with a self-study program.

Professors can also access complimentary 60-Day Digital Review copies of our textbooks and preliminary exam study manuals, plus free resources like formula cards and sample practice exams, through our new Actuarial Resource Center (ARC).
Register for access to ARC.

We hope you will find all your answers in the following pages, but if you should come away with any more questions, or simply wish to discuss any topics further with our knowledgeable staff, please don't hesitate to contact us! We want you and your students to succeed!

What is an Actuary?

Like many people, your students may only have a vague idea of what an actuary does for a living.

An actuary is a business professional who applies mathematics, finance, and statistics to analyze and predict the financial impact of uncertain events. Actuaries manage risk in order to help insurance companies, government agencies, consulting firms, and other entities protect themselves from loss, optimize earnings, and to plan for the future. Actuaries have a variety of job responsibilities including analysis, research, strategy development, and written and verbal communication.

The actuarial profession is specialized, with fewer than 30,000 credentialed actuaries in the United States (compared to 1.8 million accountants). Actuaries enjoy high wages in a profession that is estimated to grow 27% by 2020.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Actuaries.

The Actuarial Credentialing Process

To become a professional actuary, a student must pass a series of online courses and rigorous examinations, most of which are taken while employed in an actuarial capacity in industry or government.

The first five actuarial examinations are considered to be preliminary because they give the student a foundational knowledge in probability, interest theory, financial instruments, financial models, and life contingencies.

After passing the preliminary tests, students take specific exams and courses that pertain to the industry in which they work. Once a student passes all the requirements, he or she may apply for the professional designation of an Associate or Fellow with the credentialing body in their industry.

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) and Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) plan to implempent a number of changes in 2018 to the requirements to become a Associate. Visit our 2018 Exam Changes page to learn more.

To Become Credentialed

In the United States - Life, insurance, annuity, healthcare, advanced pension and general insurance actuaries are credentialed by the Society of Actuaries [SOA]. Property and casualty actuaries receive their designations from the Casualty Actuarial Society [CAS].

In Canada - Actuaries are credentialed by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, which coordinates their standards with the SOA and CAS.

Becoming an Actuary

Undergraduates Interested In Actuarial Studies Have Many Options Available To Them. If your school does not currently have a formal actuarial science program, you can encourage your students by guiding them through these steps to help prepare them for exams with a Self-Study Program. You can mentor students with an interest in actuarial careers with this step-by-step guide that explains the process from preliminary courses, to actuarial accreditation.

Take undergraduate courses in general business, communication, and mathematical concepts to gain prerequisite knowledge.

Students need to have knowledge in a range of subjects in order to have the necessary foundation for the actuarial exam material. Encourage your students to take courses in the following areas:

  • Calculus
  • Calculus-Based Probability
  • Accounting
  • Technical Writing
  • Economics
  • Financial Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Communications
  • Computer Programming

Take required undergraduate courses.

Students are required to pass college-level courses in these topics:

  • Mathematical Statistics
  • Accounting and Finance (Intermediate Level)
  • Microeconomics and Macroeconomics

Advise your students to take the coursework above as an undergraduate. These courses are not prerequisites for the actuarial exams and may be taken while students are working on passing exams.

If a student's schedule will not permit all the classes, we offer online courses approved by the SOA that also meet these requirements.

For more information Visit

Begin taking actuarial exams.

There are five preliminary actuarial exams. Preliminary exams administered by the SOA will be accepted for credit by CAS.

The SOA and CAS plan to implempent a number of changes in 2018 to the preliminary exams and requirements to become a Associate. Visit our 2018 Exam Changes page to learn more.

Students have the flexibility of taking a few exams without having to immediately choose between the life/annuity and the property/casualty career paths.

For more information on these exams visit: | |

Get an internship in an actuarial department.

Internships are an excellent way for students to practice interviewing and working in a government, professional insurance, or consulting business environment.

Enter the workforce and keep taking exams.

Once students near graduation (or are new graduates), and have passed one or two exams, they are ready to seek full-time employment.

After students have been hired by an insurance company, consulting firm, or government entity, they will be given opportunities and support to study and pass exams as they progress in their careers.

Thinking About Starting Your Own Actuarial Science Program?

Undergraduates who pass the first two exams have an advantage in the job market – you can help.

In the absence of a formal actuarial program, you can help your students by offering comprehensive courses in probability and interest theory while considering the possibility of a full program.

Adopt the suggested course reading for existing courses.

Each exam has an approved topic syllabus and a list of textbooks recommended by the SOA and CAS that cover the required topics in sufficient depth. ACTEX has specialty texts on this list for most topics, written by our world-class actuarial educators.

Make sure to include practice problems from old exams in your course curriculum. Students will need proficiency with the kind of questions that are on the exam. You can get additional practice problems from ACTEX for each exam.

Set expectations for your students.

Taking a course in the tested topic is only the beginning. Having sufficient proficiency to pass demanding actuarial exams will take self-study too—lots of self study. Your students should plan to study between 300 and 400 hours for each exam. Offer to tutor your students on difficult topics.

Passing exams requires a rhythm of condensing, outlining, reviewing, and practicing the hundreds of new concepts required for each exam. Reassure your students that it is normal for students to fail an exam or two at first—a notion which can be a shock to bright students accustomed to earning high grades.

Consider taking actuarial exams yourself.

Tackling the exams will give you first-hand experience that you can translate into insights for your students. Reimbursement is available through the SOA for some exam fees, and grants are available for institutions whose faculty obtain the ASA or FSA distinction.

Reach out to the actuarial community.

Actuaries value education and most companies would be pleased to communicate with you as you design your program.

If you live near an area with active actuarial employment, you and your students can participate in actuarial clubs, internships, and other opportunities.

Build an Official Actuarial Science Degree Program.

Begin building a defined actuarial program using resources available from the SOA and ACTEX. Create the courses from the SOA or CAS Syllabus of Examinations.

Attain the Centers for Actuarial Excellence designation.

If your college or university chooses to become active in actuarial education, your school may become eligible for the SOA's Centers for Actuarial Excellence designation.

This designation is awarded to colleges and universities worldwide with extensive resources devoted to actuarial education and research. Accredited schools are eligible for research grants up to $100,000 per year.

The accreditation process has stringent requirements on curriculum, graduate count, faculty composition, industry connection, and research. Designated schools must also pass a site visit from the SOA.

A Full Complement of Risk Management Educational Materials


You and your students will appreciate having a course textbook that focuses on the key topics of importance for each exam.

Study Manuals

Study guides are the foundation of good study practices for actuarial students. ACTEX study manuals feature comprehensive reviews of all syllabus material, worked examples, and problem sets with complete solutions.

Skill Development

ACTEX has published three books that give young students a feel for the process of exam study and developing a strong actuarial skill set.

By: Mike Jennings, ASA, CERA & Roy Ju, FSA, CERA

  • This book presents the study strategies that helped Roy Ju become the world’s youngest actuary, finishing the SOA’s exams, and becoming an FSA, at the age of 20. At this point, most actuarial students will be asking: these strategies worked for Roy, but will they work for the average actuarial student?
  • This was the primary question that co-author Mike Jennings asked when first learning of Roy’s strategies. After fifteen months of testing these strategies and accelerating his own exam process (passing 2 preliminary exams, a fellowship exam, the FAP modules and the FSA modules over this period), Mike knew that he and Roy had to share these strategies with all actuarial students.
  • With early endorsement from professors and actuaries who have been through the exam process, this book is sure to transform the study habits of actuarial students to help them pass their exams while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • Specifically targeted to actuarial students.

By: Nicholas Mocciolo, FSA, FRM & Updated By: Stephen Camilli, FSA

  • Written specifically for actuarial students and those who are considering an actuarial career.
  • Includes detailed information on the various actuarial organizations in the United States, Canada and beyond, along with descriptions of many organizations' education programs.
  • Topics covered include techniques to maximize success on the exams, non-technical skills critical to longer-term success in the profession, and career advice.
  • It is a perfect single-source career development reference for aspiring actuaries.

By: David C. Miller MS, PCC

  • The skills that four influential actuaries believe most contributed to their success.
  • 5 core competencies needed to master interpersonal effectiveness.
  • 10 critical mistakes that make communication ineffective and how to avoid them.
  • A specific model to use when selling your ideas to senior management.
  • How to build your relationship portfolio.
  • How to effectively communicate technical concepts to non-actuaries.
  • Practical strategies to successfully move out of your comfort zone and set yourself apart!