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Actuary vs Engineering

XavXav Posts: 281Registered User Junior Member
edited March 2009 in Other College Majors
Many a times I have considered Actuary as a career, since many things are always throwing propaganda in order for people to go and become one. It is praised as one of the best jobs with great pay. However, for whatever reasons, I've always pushed it aside, probably because my family always hints out this anti-"anything that looks boring" jobs. i.e. My dad thinks Pharmacy is stupid because all you do is sit behind the counter (and yet he's blissfully ignorant of the enormous pay they receive). Therefore, I kinda steered away from that. Throughout high school, I always found I excelled in math. It was always my strong point but even more than that, it is something I love. I love just working on Calculus problems or Number Theory problems, AMC type problems, etc. Granted, I'm not a math genius, I'd do terrible in AIME for example. Regardless, I knew that a career based in math was for me. Of course, being the ignorant kid that I was (and still am, I guess), I didn't know of many careers that could employ math, despite my math teachers always claiming it was useful. My parents quickly pushed me towards Engineering, something they deemed "worthy of my intellect". When I noticed I excelled in Chemistry (and developed a liking for the subject), I immediately added two and two together and ended up with Chemical Engineering. Of course, I researched to get some insight and all, and it sounded great.

Now, what's the problem?

Lately, I have been talking to some people who have had experience with other engineers, as well as uncle of mine who IS an engineer. I was more than disappointed when I heard that many of these engineers had gotten to a point where they couldn't even do basic calculus. My uncle himself could only do basic differentiation. So, I'm unsure of just how much /math/ is there really on Engineering. Also, certain threads on the Engineering forums have been less than stellar regarding Engineering pay and what they tend to do (that is, get an MBA and become consultants). Of course, to be honest, I'm not expert with hands-on type of things (I have always been more fond of theoretical things) so perhaps that is to my advantage. Regardless, it has sparked doubt in me as to whether I'm doing the right thing.

The other day, a group of friends and I were heading to an engineering competition with the club's sponsor, and a conversation about jobs came up. Of course, the teaching talked great things about engineering, but when we started talking about the best jobs in the market (aside from Software and Computer Engineering), Actuary came up. Now, I'm not too trusty of his source (he claimed that Mathematicians will be in high demand in the near future which sounds shaky imo), but bringing up Actuary brought back the same thoughts of considering it. Through an unrelated series of events, I also ended up in here in the "Other College Majors", researching stuff about Math majors when I noticed a few threads on being an Actuary. I was surprised to hear they used a lot of "math", but of course, after finding out the math used by engineers, I don't even know how much to trust it. I'm also unclear as to what Actuaries DO exactly (kinda in the same boat about engineering). I know they do "risk assessment" and all that, but I have yet to hear exactly a day in the life of an actuary (or in that of a Chemical Engineer).

So, my question is, what do I do exactly? I'm not saying tell me a career to choose but rather discuss one career vs. the other. Which one would someone who love math prefer? Technical vs theoretical? Which is more exciting? How true are most of the myths over Actuary(or are they just propaganda)?
Post edited by Xav on
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Replies to: Actuary vs Engineering

  • creamgethamoneycreamgethamoney Posts: 589Registered User Member
    hey, I can't answer your question completely, but first of all, do what you want to do, not what your parents want you to do, or what you THINK they want you to do. Believe me, I've gone through that with my parents and pre-med, and it's not worth it. I have not been successful, and have now put myself in a huge hole that I'll need to dig out of, and have been miserable because of those classes. Your parents in the end will support you as long as you're pursuing something that can be worthwhile in the future, which is what you're looking at, so worry more about whether you like it, and not what your parents think.

    With that said, from what I understand, actuaries essentially are business people who analyze the financial consequences of taking risks, and they often work for insurance companies. To me, this is exactly what I am interested in, so it seems like a great field to consider, especially considering how much future demand there will be, etc. Plus, you ask how much math? Well think about it. How much math would be involved in analyzing all the possible variables in a client's life in the present, past, and future, figuring out how much impact each can have in their life, and then fitting them all together to figure out the financial risk the insurance company is taking on that person. I'm not sure if that's exactly what they do, but it must be similar, and I bet that that's tough math given that a lot of people groan when 2-3 variables are given in an equation.

    As far as engineers vs actuaries are concerned, actuaries definitely have a greater upside in terms of pay (engineers start off great and then get capped unless you get an MBA), and are probably less susceptible to outsourcing. So even though I'm no actuary, I'd say given that you like math, want something that pays well and is worthwhile, choosing the actuarial path over engineering is the less risky path.

    Btw, why not major in chem E and maybe math and then sit for actuary exams/work as an actuary? Kill 2 birds with one stone.
  • XavXav Posts: 281Registered User Junior Member
    Yeah, that's what I thought regarding the multiple variables and equations (I mean, teh math has to come SOMEWHERE). As for Engineering, I figured if I did get an MBA years down the road, I'd end up in the same place as Actuaries (or something of the sort).

    I've actually thought about doing that (majoring in Chem. E. then sitting for the exams) but I don't know how likely it would be that I would pass them. If they are mostly math based, then it won't be as hard as if it was, say, finance-based. Of course, I'm thinking of taking some classes for an MBA as electives so in the future( if I do go for Chem E.) I can get an MBA in a year as opposed to two, so maybe those classes can help with those exams.
  • Lil_Wayne_FanLil_Wayne_Fan Posts: 461Registered User Member
    Go the actuary route.

    Easy decision. You won't regret it.
  • XavXav Posts: 281Registered User Junior Member
    Any more opinions?
  • Lil_Wayne_FanLil_Wayne_Fan Posts: 461Registered User Member
    Remember, there are less actuaries, so there is less competition

    Going the engineering route means you'll be facing greater competition
  • XavXav Posts: 281Registered User Junior Member
    That's true...

    However, I'm curious about this.
    Btw, why not major in chem E and maybe math and then sit for actuary exams/work as an actuary? Kill 2 birds with one stone.

    How possible is that?
  • psp-fifa-fanpsp-fifa-fan Posts: 663Registered User Member
    but if you get stuck on those actuarial exams at some points, then you're screwed. cuz companies want you to pass all the exams, if you cant pass one exam with more than like 3 tries, then they can totally fire you...
    p.s: correct me if i am wrong, because i heard this from an actuary forum
  • VeryHappyVeryHappy Posts: 11,419Registered User Senior Member
    I work in the employee benefits field and know and have worked with many actuaries over the last 20 years.

    IMHO, they are smart-smart-smart people who love-love-love math and statistics. The exams are rigorous, no doubt about it -- many people who eventually pass all the exams have to take a few of them more than once. And Yes, it's true; many people who start out taking the exams don't wind up passing them all.

    That said, actuaries generally love their work. What's not to love? They work on complex mathematical issues ever day. They need to understand the economy, so they know what interest rates to assume. They need to understand tons of stuff.

    A friend of my son's (age 24) is in the process of taking the exams. He's enjoying it a lot.

    You will never be unemployed. The possibilities are endless -- insurance companies, consulting firms, in corporate world, in government. (Who do you think figures out how much Social Security and Medicare will cost in 40 years?)

    If I had it to do over again -- that is, if I had even known about actuarial studies -- I would have gone into it myself.

    The Wall Street Journal annually surveys people in different professions, and actuaries are always at Number 1 or 2 in terms of the "best" profession.

    Go for it!
  • VeryHappyVeryHappy Posts: 11,419Registered User Senior Member
    As for Engineering, I figured if I did get an MBA years down the road, I'd end up in the same place as Actuaries (or something of the sort).

    No. To be an actuary, you need to have passed all the exams. You can't be math-oriented, get an MBA, and do what actuaries do.

    Do you know any actuaries you can talk to? Your math professors might; talk to them.
  • locknlockn Posts: 3,033Registered User Senior Member
    Sorry to repost a question, but since there are knowledgeable people on the subject posting in this thread I'll give it another shot:

    Are ordinary math majors generally able to take actuary classes senior year to prep for the test, or do they self study?

    Does going the actuary route keep you from eventually pursuing math academia/research?
  • XavXav Posts: 281Registered User Junior Member
    I love math, to be sure, I'm just worried that if I don't like the whole Actuary business, I'll have nothing. Also, the fact that very few colleges actually offer "Actuarial Sciences" as a major (none from the ones I applied) seems to discourage it.

    To tack on to Lockn's question, you can major in anything and as long as you pass the tests you are "qualified" to work as an actuary?
  • Euler321Euler321 Posts: 597Registered User Member
    Yes, if you can actually pass all the tests you are qualified. Being a actuarial science, math, or statistics major would probably really help. If you stick to major courses no other majors will come close to preparing you. However, you can take whatever you want as long as you know the material.
  • psp-fifa-fanpsp-fifa-fan Posts: 663Registered User Member
    so is it true that company makes you pass certain number of exams in certain amount of time(ex, 2 exams in 18 months), and if you cant make it, then you'll get fired? can i just pass like 5 exams and stop taking them and just enjoy my job and pay for the rest of my life?
  • kmzizzlekmzizzle Posts: 1,248Registered User Senior Member
    psp- no they cannot force you to, maybe pressure you and urge you
    and yes u can just stop at like 5 and make like 80k/yr

    and you can major in anything like other people have said. ive seen history, anthropology, etc majors that are top actuaries and passed all like 8+ exams
  • NBAFan20NBAFan20 Posts: 108Registered User Junior Member
    Do you guys know if becoming an Actuary is a good path to a Top MBA program?

    I'm considering a double major in Math & CS, and eventually am planning on going to a Top MBA program.

    Is actuary a good job to get right after undergrad, do Top MBA programs look favorable at actuaries?
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