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Actuarial Studies

Actuaries are professionals who analyze the financial impact of risk, particularly looking ahead far into the future. Actuaries use skills in mathematics, statistics, economics, and finance to study uncertain future events in order to, for example, predict insurance claims or to make important business decisions. Some actuaries design insurance, financial, and pension plans and ensure that these plans are maintained on a sound financial basis. In general, actuaries specialize in either life, health, or property/casualty insurance, while others specialize in pension plans. Federal and state governments and insurance companies hire actuaries; some actuaries work as consultants who contract their work out to insurance companies, corporations, unions, government agencies and attorneys. Recently, the scope of the actuarial field has widened to include investment advice and even asset management. Many belong to one or more professional bodies, which include the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the American Academy of Actuaries.

Preparing to Become an Actuary

A strong background in mathematics is essential for students interested in a career as an actuary. This should include:

  • three semesters of calculus (Math 211, 212, and 235),
  • one semester of linear algebra (Math 245), and
  • two semesters of calculus-based probability and statistics (Math 329 and 330).
  • In addition, courses in applied statistics, computer science, economics, and finance are also extremely valuable.

The best way to ensure that you are attractive from an employment perspective is to pass the beginning actuarial examinations while you are still a student. Actuaries achieve professional status by passing a set of examinations and by satisfying certain educational experiences that are prescribed by the CAS and the SOA. The concepts contained in these assessments can be based on college courses (a B- or better is required), or an exam can be taken.

Below is a list of the first two actuarial exams (of most importance) and the educational experiences (of somewhat lesser importance) that can be undertaken during your education at the University of Richmond:

Actuarial Exam

Richmond course

Exam 1/P

MATH 329 Probability

Exam 2/FM

MATH 309 Financial Mathematics

Educational Experience

Richmond course(s)

Applied Statistical Methods

ECON 340 Econometrics

Corporate Finance

FIN 360 Introduction to Financial Management,
FIN 366 Investments (see note below)


ECON 101 Microeconomics,
ECON 102 Macroeconomics

Students interested in becoming an actuary should consider either majoring in mathematics or mathematical economics. Either of these options will provide the necessary education that can lead to successful entry into the field. The courses listed above are either incorporated into these degrees or can be taken as electives. Other recommended courses include ACCT 201, Fundamentals of Financial Accounting and CMSC 150, Introduction to Computing, though any courses in mathematics and business are helpful. The Be An Actuary website offers a detailed discussion in college preparation.