The Actuarial Mathematics Program

The Actuarial Career Path

Much of this material was assembled using the official "Be An Actuary" web site. Please check there for the most up-to-date information. "Be An Actuary" can help you get a sense for what an actuary does, keys to success as an actuary, and the role that actuarial exams play in entering and progressing on this career path.

Skills Quiz: While a strong aptitude in mathematics is essential for persons interested in a career as an actuary, communication skills, self-motivation, and well-rounded business skills are also very important. Skills Quiz: Are you suited for a career as an actuary?

Further links and resources can be found on the page Mathematical Careers in the Actuarial Field .

About Exam P/1: Thirty questions in three hours (6 minutes per question). Full details.

The program

The actuarial program at Westfield State University is embedded in a joint mathematics and economics double major. Certain courses in this program are designed to satisfy requirements in both majors: for example MATH 342 Actuarial Problem Solving counts at the same time towards the 300-level course requirement in the mathematics major and may count as an economics major elective. In mathematics, students start by building a solid foundation with the Calculus sequence and a Calculus-based statistics course. Once these foundations are in place, students are ready to prepare intensively for the first actuarial exam, which is centered on Probability in a risk-management context. At Westfield, the semester-long course MATH 342: Actuarial Problem Solving helps students focus their exam preparation. A financial mathematics course in the economics department helps students prepare for the second exam on financial mathematics. (In fact, these two exams can be taken in any order.) If you are interested, or have any questions, please contact Prof. Johnson jwjohnson @

The course

Talk to me. Math 342: Actuarial Problem Solving is currently run as a "Course by special arrangement" about every other year (Spring 2011, next: Fall 2012). You cannot register for this course online; come and talk to me early on if you are interested. If we decide to work together on Math 342, we can get you registered starting in the regular registration period through add/drop (the earlier the better).

Prerequisites: Successful completion of the Calculus I-III sequence, as well as Math 340: Mathematical Statistics. It is helpful to take Math 342 soon after having completed these prerequisites since you need to have this material at your fingertips in order to be successful.

Hold on to your Calculus and Math Stats text books as a resource to help you review, refresh, and master this content.

Independence: In order to succeed as an actuary, you need to be self-motivated, creative, work well independently, and be able to work well with others. The same is true for Math 342. Every week, I expect you to spend 3-5 hours outside of class working on actuarial problems, reviewing and practicing relevant material from Calculus and Mathematical Statistics, as needed, and preparing your personal review booklet. Once a week, we will meet for about an hour as a group: you are expected to present your solutions to problems, bring your questions, and share your ideas. Please also take advantage of my office hours for questions.

Sounds Interesting? If you want to give it a try, take a look at the following documents, which give you a sense of the course content. Work through the problems in The Mathematics of Risk in order to get a taste of the mathematics involved in actuarial problem solving.

Course materials: The following materials will be used in the course. You will work through the problems in the most up-to-date practice exam, reviewing and practicing the calculus and statistics foundations, creating clear and time-efficient solutions (time is tight in the exam), and preparing a review booklet that captures the key points for condensed review right before the exam.

Exam Calculator: Only the following calculators from Texas Instruments are permitted for the exam: BA-35, BA II Plus, BA II Plus Professional Edition, TI-30XIIS, TI-30Xa, TI-30XIIB, TI-30XS MultiView, TI-30XB MultiView, with memory cleared. In particular, a calculator like the one you used for Calculus, which can compute integrals, derivatives, etc. can not be used. Get one of the permitted calculators early on (for about $10-$20) to get comfortable using it. (Full Exam Rules and Regulations, 2 pages)

Study Manual: A study manual for Exam P/1, by Samuel Broverman, is being published by ACTEX, a well-known publisher of study materials for the actuarial exams. The price in 2010 is/was $89.

The slogan of the Society of Actuaries is currently: "Actuaries: Risk is Opportunity"