I have degrees in mathematics and actuarial science, and I consider my actuarial science degree completely worthless. A mathematics and/or computer science degree will teach you more in terms of how to think than anyone with an actuarial science degree. If you’d like to take a major where your professors literally teach to the exam/test, then you’re in luck, because that’s what your degree will get.
Having been in the workforce a handful of years now, there are a lot of intelligent actuaries and also a lot of arrogance about the work they have done.
I personally am frustrated with the career, but the salary in a low cost of living area makes it difficult to transition into something else.
Given all of this, the valuation of how majors are ranked is silly to me. The criteria almost automatically weight actuarial science as the favorite.
Actually I found the partners to be great people. I think some went out of their way to be unlike the image. I also think their particular skills can be applied more widely than the profession normally encompasses. A lot of the actuaries I met backed horses and I'm sure they had an unfair advantage!
AIUI, in the UK at least, it, along with veterinaries, require the longest period of training before chartered qualification.
There are lots of data science roles at insurance companies, many of which seek out current and former actuaries, so that's probably the easiest foot-in-the-door role to transition out of the field if that's more in line with what you're looking for. However, I'm sure those roles are pretty boring as data science goes.
I was 18 and dumb and knew I was good at mathematics and that it was a good career. But it was actually quite dull and, like you say, very robotic. So I was able to switch degrees to pure math and then computer science and then crypto. I’m glad I did. It’s more interesting, challenging, and despite it never being my goal, more well-paid anyways.
Basically it just strikes me as a very safe, stable, dull job. Also what kind of 18 year old was I to want this?!
I think it's a very powerful job background to have if you ever want to get into investing hardcore. The financial background it gives you is incredibly helpful for making investment comparisons. I still use the stuff that I learned when studying for the FM test for personal finance decisions like paying off mortgage vs student loans vs various basic investments.
In this case, I thought Moodles meant cryptography. Also, I'm not sure whether you're joking by choosing to understand it as cryptocurrency. Or perhaps you're both talking about cryptocurrencies and I'm the only confused one here...
To give an example of the insidiousness, imagine a calculus problem that has about 6 or 7 steps required to solve this - calculate the derivative, then reduce it, and maybe a sum after that. Actuarial science problems are like that as well. The tests (at least the first two) are mutiple choice, 5 answers. Each “choice” has one of two situations for wrong answers.
- The answer is the correct number but it’s the number you arrive at stage 5 of solving the problem (instead of the final stage), so you are tricked into thinking you are done when you actually have more steps to go
- the number is what you arrive at when you make a common mistake
- some combination of the above
I will say I was told (at least) that passing one or two of the tests is enough to land you a full time entry level job (and entry level for an actuarial scientist is still really good)
But, people have to be weeded out in some way, amirite?
Technical ownership is distributed from the top down and can not be overridden from bottom-up process improvements. Even if it made sense to integrate two departments that regularly pass each other data, that will be fought because that interferes with someone's corporate fiefdom.
There is no clear high-level diagram of how the whole company functions. So unlike a web-app with a client-frontend-routing-backend-database pipeline that a smart 15 year old could learn to conceptualize, instead you're expected to learn the inter-process requirements in a piecemeal fashion, one detail at a time as it arises in a weekly task. In the best case, this big picture starts to emerge ~5 years into a full time job. In the more likely case, your tasks never expose you to some part of the company's operations and they remain a blackbox and you'll be unable to reason about.
While inter-process communication remains opaque, complexity within each process proliferates. If you do life insurance, you need to support every product you sell for fifty years, so you deal with often poorly documented product rules and hard core legacy systems. Note - you can't deprecate anything because must honor those complicated agreements made decades ago.
Basically the frustrations boil down to doing interesting systems/data work but with being forced to do it in a worst-practices fashion.
If it doesn't fulfil you, and you have a math degree, why not change careers?
My current position allows me to make use of some of those skills along with learning a wide variety of other skills. Although from the sounds of other people's posts I might be lucky in my current position, where I do have variety and challenges and more than only routine work.
But from an education stand point I am glad that I went the route that I did given the additional skills rather than an actuarial science degree. The one downside is that it has made the exam process a little longer.
For example, I could maybe make more money working in high frequency trading, but I don't want to. It wouldn't be a life-changing amount of money, and I value the ability to work on interesting problems in the open, with less concern for ethical issues†, over the potential additional income.
†I don't want to start an argument about whether HFT is unethical; in fact, I don't think it is necessarily unethical. I'm just saying it would always be at the back of my mind.
That said of all the actuaries I went to school with, none liked their jobs and all eventually moved on to do something else.
I was able to more than double my starting salary (ending at around 135k with bonus) 3 years out of school.
I worked in consulting and thought the work was incredibly boring. The main issue is that a lot of people in the field, even those good at passing exams, aren't particularly good at advanced modeling or programming. This means no one can or is interested in peer-reviewing complex models and as a result you end up spending most of your time shoveling numbers around in Excel. It was also very stressful. Leaving the profession, despite the time I sunk in it, was the best decision I ever made.
> I was able to more than double my starting salary (ending at around 135k with bonus) 3 years out of school.
Have you considered software engineering because current pay starts at around 150k in big tech and I'm now making 215k 2.5 years out of college? I say this because I work with a bunch of math and physics major people so it is definitely possible to switch careers (a lot of the advanced software we use utilizes complex concepts in physics and math so they are highly valued, though, you will definitely need to know basic algorithms and data structures but that isn't too hard to learn especially compared to advanced math and physics in my opinion).
This is highly area dependent though, surely?
In the UK, outside of London, those figures would likely be $50k and $60k
As a contractor, I'm making about 3x what I was for my last perm salary. But only if I work in London. I'm lucky to get two thirds of this near where I live, and AFAICT the perm staff in most places I've contracted nearer to home get paid really terribly.
Care to disclose locality?
I've come to this conclusion as well after losing a loved one, helping others makes me truly happy. Good luck in your future endeavors.
(ironically, the people with the capabilities and the people that actually enjoy the lifestyle inside an insurer, bank, or other hypercommercial/hypercapitalistic instance don't overlap that much)
"It's one of the reasons I added philosophy as another major"
Couldn't help but LOL at that juxtaposition, sorry :)
I suppose what I was trying to say is that by manual labor, I like being outside, and by adding a philosophy major, I get to do work that doesn't always require using the computer so I can do work under a tree and I get to think about something else. If I didn't add a philosophy major, I would just be inside and engulfed in front of the computer, thinking about computers. If any of that makes any sense and has any correlation to each other whatsoever.
Know who gets paid a lot (relative to education)? Sanitation workers.
You know who doesn't? Pilots
Most 'workable' jobs have one thing in common: you get something out of it. If you are lucky, you get both material and immaterial, but often, people chose to deny themselves one for the other, instead of balancing it (and in turn often don't find themselves in a good work/life balance either).
* Moving data around - mostly using Excel + SQL, though R is growing in popularity
* Using that data to calculate figures that are significant to the business - including premiums, IRRs, profit margins, and the value of future claims
* Presenting the results of those calculations to management and recommending a course of action
I'm not sure what "old-school original data scientists" do/did or how similar this is.
But actuaries' main value-adds are (1) building and pricing new products and product features and (2) helping management understand the financial results and their business implications. If you're just re-pricing a commodity product like term life or home/auto insurance, a lot of the pricing can be (and is) automated. But that's where companies have started building out more complex ML-based pricing, and actuaries are heavily involved in building and steering that functionality and explaining the results.
If you can come up with a compelling way to automate a significant portion of that work while still providing results that insurers' CFOs and Chief Actuaries will sign off on, sign me up. But in general, if you're looking for automation opportunities in insurance, there's far more low-hanging fruit on the operations side than in actuarial. Same goes for finance and accounting, though to a lesser extent than operations.
My mother is an actuary. She was a stay at home mom for 25 years but returned to the workforce about 5 years ago and recently became VP at a large insurance company.
She says she’s always enjoyed her work as an actuary, and she preferred it over college math instruction, which she could do because FSAs are considered PhD-level. (And did while her 6 children were home.)
I mean these guys were on presumably amazing salaries, were some of the smartest people, could work at any related insurance/finance/whatever company (of which there are a LOT hq'd in Sydney) and had worse hours than most other teams. I just don't understand it.
Generally, rewards come from working smarter, not harder. Also, it's hard to make a lot of money purely on a wage. You usually need capital appreciation or other income streams for that.
To be honest I'm not even sure how you'd measure how hard someone is working when you're comparing across different jobs, but I would find it interesting if there was any kind of data on this. I'm not sure if I'd find it more surprising if the correlation was positive or negative, but what I do know is that in an ideal world the correlation would be positive...
Even within a single company, people with the same title don't do the same work. And working smarter - aligned with the company goals - still pays much more than longer hours.
That's one reason it's rare to see someone switch from actuarial science to machine learning, for instance. A lot of actuarial students just want to check some boxes and have a job that pays well without requiring a lot of attention. This is not true across the board, but it is a certain subset. Most people reading Hacker News don't have this mindset -- why bother reading things here if you do?
So his 40 hour work week turned into +15/30 hours with studying/exams for a number of years - perhaps not always consistent, but frequent enough to cause a bit of burnout.
Part of that, from my perspective, involves the slow pace imposed by overbroad regulations on the applications of actuarial science.
I personally think that a diverse market of specialized insurance products would be an immense moral good, but in the established jurisdictions where demand for such a thing is high, it is hard to gauge whether your novel insurance products are even legal to sell. My (admittedly anecdotal) impression is that this contributes a great deal to the drudgery and stagnancy of actuarial work.
I've come to appreciate the value of this drudgery and stagnancy, even though it's not my cup of tea.
I consider trying to become an actuary one of the greatest mistakes and waste of time in my life.
When I switched to programming, it was like some kind of magical door opened and all of a sudden and the process of finding an entry level job was no longer the equivalent of banging my head against the wall, repeatedly.
I worked in sales for a few years and even became a regional sales manager before switching to programming 12 years ago. Now, whenever I see the IT related problems (like bad programming parctices, lousy code, bad architectures and so on), I remember how bad and really unfixable things can be (for me as an employee) in the rest of the industries and love programming even more.
Think it's possible to self study the exams? Not a likely path for me, but interested in seeing if anyone has done that
For those of you who are wondering, Computer Engineering is 14th, "Mathematics and Computer Science" is 23rd and Computer Science is 30th. If I had to guess, CS has a wider income distribution than many of the higher ranking degrees, which are dominated by engineering degrees (many of which have lower unemployment rates too). The non-STEM degrees that beat out CS (assuming we don't count social sciences) are Finance, Public Policy, Economics, and Agricultural Economics. Cool dataset!
Unfortunately that only provides 3 data points. The first number is the nominal value, the second is the inflation adjusted to 2016.
2010 = $90,530 = $99,643
2012 = $93,350 = $97,584
2016 = $102,280 = $102,280
Not sure what can be taken away from the numbers as there's only 3 points and with mixed directionality. But probably better than nothing. Do let me know if you find more indicative figures.
Like, do most zoologists really make >$110k/yr?
I'm guessing Bankrate is taking people graduate degrees and applying salary information to bachelors degrees. The zoologist with high salaries probably have Ph.Ds in veterinary sciences. Same with Health&Medical Prep; the high salary is likely the result of most people pursuing an MD.
Corporate jobs pay significantly less and make up a much greater portion of the jobs. IB is a low headcount industry.
His job was pretty easy, and since he knew some basic programming, was able to build some Excel macros and wow the people he worked with. The work sounded less exciting than being a programmer working at a startup, but pays well and he has lived in Bermuda and London.
Typically you need ~3 exams to get a job in the field. Then it's a total of 7 exams for associateship and 10 for fellowship (for candidates starting today - it used to be fewer), plus various online courses throughout the process. You can stop at the associate level, but it limits your advancement opportunities at most companies.
If you're reasonably good at both math and memorization, the exams range from ~50-100 hours of studying each for the first few to ~300-400 each for the later ones. Usually about half of those hours are on company time once you're working in the field, though exam season is still pretty miserable.
>His job was pretty easy, and since he knew some basic programming, was able to build some Excel macros and wow the people he worked with.
This is still common, but it's getting rarer every year. At a minimum, every entry-level candidate my company hires nowadays has taken a couple of intro programming courses (usually in Python or Java) and knows a bit of VBA, SQL, and/or R on top of that. The field has been attracting lots of young people who might have otherwise become programmers, myself included.
>The work sounded less exciting than being a programmer working at a startup
Probably true in general, but some actuarial roles are more exciting than others. I was bored to death in my first actuarial job (financial reporting) but transitioned pretty early to a much more interesting role. It helps that I'm doing some ML-heavy modeling, meaning that I get to learn new frameworks in addition to the standard Excel + RDBMS stuff. Working half the hours of a programmer at a startup for the same pay and better benefits is also a plus.
With all of that being said, I'm still semi-actively looking to leave the field. While I love what I'm working on right now, I'm concerned about getting pidgenholed into the field (and into insurance more generally) in the long term, especially since I'd likely end up in a much less interesting role at some point.
The lure of the CFA is that $250,000 is not unusual. Except most people finishing their CFA never get an analyst job, so it's kind of a moot point.
Also, keep in mind that the hours are much shorter than what CFAs would typically work - most actuaries outside of consulting rarely work over 45 hours a week.
Mol Bio has several job outcomes- the worst is lab tech, which alone in the bay area can be $60K, the best is CEO/Founder ($1+M/year), with professor ($150K) in the middle.
Surely it would be embarrassing if they didn't.
Does it counterbalance at all the kind of ageism that folks working as 45+ software engineers sometimes encounter?
This is a sincere question, as I can also would not be surprised if insurance companies' CFOs would be the _first_ people to recognize the additional costs associated with insuring older workers with families, especially in the post-demutualization era.
In general, companies don't deal with rising healthcare costs by hiring younger, less experienced workers. Instead, they restructure their insurance plans to alleviate the increase in insurance premiums. This part of what health actuaries (at least on the consulting side of things) do on a daily basis.
(start salary) + (median salary) + .5 * (job availablilty) + .75 * (growth) ... etc
then they rank everything, tweek it, make an article.
The scary part is people will read this and parrot this information for potentially years, "did you know actuary is the best job???"
This is actually how misinformation spreads.
I have the same grip with college rankings. When you look at the top 20, and then at the total student population, you'd realize these rankings are useless for the majority of Americans since only a small fraction will attend these schools.
- I get to spend most of the time in R working on cash flow modeling;
- We get to use a lot of data which makes for interesting challenges;
- I get a say in how we solve problems IT wise;
- We need to understand the business to do our own modeling correctly;
- Pay isn’t that great.
P.S. I’m in Europe
My bachelor was in stats & actuarial sciences (though I never worked in the field), and in my country there's a big shortage of qualified actuaries. So the average salaries are pretty high and it's a safe and stable work (albeit dreadfully boring, which is why I never went into the field)
"The rate of suicide in the veterinary profession has been pegged as close to twice that of the dental profession, more than twice that of the medical profession (2), and 4 times the rate in the general population (3)."
On top of that, they have access to lethal drugs and know precisely how to use them, how to end their life quickly and painlessly.
Those two together make it very easy for me to see how a vet would rationalize suicide.
Even if you grow callous to the death of animals, encountering the related human suffering must be miserable. I imagine the people most likely to take their pet to a vet are the ones most attached to them, therefore the most affected by their suffering and death.
I could easily imagine that more depressed people pursue veterinary jobs because being around animals makes them less depressed.
You also have to deal with pet owners who are... let's say irrational. People seem to be even more willing to believe in homeopathy or nutritional fads or essential oils when dealing with their pet's health than with their own. The bills for veterinary care are not as high as for human medicine, except that most people don't have pet insurance and so pay much higher out of pocket bills than for their own health care, which makes the emotional stakes even higher. And owners will not hesitate to trash you on social media. The issue here is that to a much greater extent than doctors, veterinarians gain new patients by word of mouth and recommendations. So reputation is even more important than it is to doctors. A few ugly, well-placed reviews in Yelp or Facebook can do considerable harm.
All of this leads to an extremely stressful job, especially for younger vets or vets with young children.
Imagine being a surgeon and telling someone that their child needs their appendix removed, and the parent sees the cost and says "eh, let's just put them down".
Vets have to deal with that all the time.
Yes, it can: expense of getting into the field limits competition.
Now, long-term steady-state eventually the market should adjust so that the people are willing to pay the up front cost because of the actual rewards, but real meaningful effects are often not long-run steady-state effects.
Veterinary school is harder to get into and their is a lot of overlap in background materials. Med school has a lot of overlap so if somone desideds to swap carriers it’s an easy transition into a high paying job.
I'm a developer now but by last few years in actuary work were mostly spent helping insurance companies deal with regulation. We did some modeling with with machine learning but ultimately the models that got approved had to be simple (compared to machine learning). My job before that was a lot about internal negotiations with other departments.
Better models were not the main bottleneck.
I think there could be scope to use ML on the pricing side however, while leaving the reserving models explainable to regulators.
If the intent is to codify rules in an AI that performs actuarial work, then it is far less error-prone to simply write a program that uses the rules directly. AI is not the proper solution, if I understand from your post what you are trying to solve.
I think this comes down to a combination of (1) being relatively difficult and/or esoteric, so the pool of people is small and (2) having a strong guild structure which ensures a "market" structure that favours qualified) chartered individuals. Apart from being operationally important, actuaries are part of insurance companies CYA.
Ultimately, even today, when a profession can impose structure on itself (eg lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc.) that both admits/certifies a limited number of professionals and requires certified professionals for certain tasks... It still tends to work out well for members.
For the most part this is legacy, and is found in older professions.
If insurance was invented today, actuaries would probably be data scientists.
40h work-weeks that pay great -> Must be boring.
Economics study is done by economists -> Probably skewed.
How dare these people
* equating carreer value with expected profits
* using a weighted average to come up with a number
* expect candidates to pass hard stats tests before constructing insurance products
Programming in JS web frameworks is clearly superior to any work done using Excel and be it supplying the nation with health coverage. /s
I'd actually recommend any undergrad program that has a strong underpinning in statistical thinking. It's very difficult to learn without formal education and is oh so very useful in so many fields right now.
Pre-med should be up there too for the same reason, though there's more diversity in degrees for people who go on to become doctors.
But the data would be a lot more useful if aggregated by terminal degree. I tried to look at the data, but it won't display for me. Too much stuff blocked in my Firefox, I guess :(
It took him years, marriage to an abusive woman, the Air Force and a divorce to finally get out of the idea he would be a doctor. Recently he tried to hire me to write software for a "Crypto currency hedge fund."
TL;DR If you chase after money, you're going to miss out on life. The US market wants to turn University into a huge investment you need an ROI on to lock you into a career path you'll probably hate. It was not like that for me, and I only graduated 12 years ago. Small state schools were affordable.
I learned a lot in school, but today I can't even recommend it to people starting out, unless they can do it with little to no debt. I cannot recommend bootcamp or other for-profit schools.
I wish it was easier for people to find something they love doing and not have to worry about money.
Amazingly enough, Bankrate.com uploaded it to... scribd.
I don't really see the value in the actuarial degree, but I do see the value in taking the exams. Some people might be frustrated with their place in a given company, but overall it is a great career. One of the keys is to stay up on current tech and always be learning new things. It seems pretty easy to get stuck into a position where you are making baskets all day.
The job market in Canada is incredibly saturated though. Having all tests out of the way was not even enough to stand out it seems. And I ended up moving to Europe to work in data science.
But I have also had actuarial work that was closer to accounting than I would have liked. Certainly you have to pick your roles carefully - which is perhaps only feasible in large markets.
- degree of job satisfaction
- how much that sort of work benefits the world
It's very narrow to equate value only with money.
And because I know someone is going to misinterpret what I'm saying, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with equating value with money. It's just a bit sad when that's all value is equated with, and more so when it's just an unstated assumption like in the article.
You can compare all this with how college degrees used to be about more than just getting a job. The goal used to include making the person a well rounded person. These days it seems treated solely in financial terms.
Both are hard to make comparable between different fields: In some (think med, law etc) the cost of education will prohibit changing careers, regardless of if you make millions as patent lawyer or heart surgeon (assuming that the latter adds more "value to society"). So I think it is hard to come up with a consistent objective measure of satisfaction. On the other hand, if you poll people, you might find, that fine arts majors were very happy with their college life, but actually work in a different field to pay rent (I happen to know some music majors).
The problem with the societal benefit definition is: It very much depends on your own system of beliefs. Is an education in business and employing 5 people, more or less valuable than a job as a veterinary? Since most of the undergrad majors also have a variety of possible jobs they could lead into, this is even harder to quantify.
So maybe just do away with rankings :-)
Uh, so where is engineering here? 115k/yr
I have the ability to engineer solutions to problems, not saying an Actuarial Science student cant build things or root cause issues- but there is a thought-process.