Westfield State University

Welcome to the Department of Mathematics

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- Slogan of the Society of Actuaries: "Actuaries: Risk is Opportunity" -

Breaking news: The American Society of Actuaries has recognized our actuarial program as an introductory program.

The Program

Graduates seeking a career as an actuary are expected to have advanced education experiences in statistics, finance, and accounting; have passed two of the actuarial exams; and have hands-one experience with an internship. All of these experiences are possible at Westfield State University in the Actuarial Sciences Program. Students in the program begin their curriculum with the traditional calculus sequence along with courses in economics principles and accounting. With these foundations in place, students will then pursue more actuarial-specific studies in finance and advanced statistics, including two courses dedicated to the first two actuarial exams for Society of Actuaries membership. Students will take courses that will satisfy all Validation through Educational Experience requirements for SOA membership as part of their degree. All students will take courses in which they will learn the R and Python programming languages in an applied-statistics setting. Most students pursue internships in a finance-related firm in the summer of their junior year. Graduates of this program will have a BS in Mathematics with a concentration in Actuarial Sciences. With four additional economics courses, students may have a second major in Economics.

If you are interested, or have any questions, please contact Prof. Johnson at jwjohnson@westfield.ma.edu.

Actuarial Courses

Math 342: Actuarial Problem Solving & Math 343 Actuarial Problem Solving: Financial Math

These courses are designed to specifically prepare you for the P and FM actuarial exams. Professor Johnson uses a flipped classroom methodology in which you will apply your calculus skills in the context of probability and interest theory. All graded assignments are taken online in a format very similar to the actual SOA exam. There is a pre-requisite of Calculus 3 (MATH 0201) for these courses. These courses are exceedingly demanding. Students should be prepared to spend 6-10 hours outside of class working on problems. Actuaries need to be self-motivated and creative; this is true for the actuary courses as well.

Math 333 Applied Statistics and Experimental Design

In this course, you will develop your modeling skills while learning the R programming language. You will explore topics in regression, model analysis, ANOVA, hypothesis testing, and confidence intervals. This course covers many of the topics needed for the SRM actuarial exam.

MATH 0345 - Mathematical Statistics with Applications

This course is a follow-up to MATH 0333 in which you will explore advanced topics in mathematical statistics. The course will also heavily employ the R programming language. Topics include parameter estimation, model fitting, further topics in ANOVA and hypothesis testing, and the Neiman-Pearson lemma. This course satisfies the applied statistics VEE requirement for SOA membership. The course has pre-requisites of Calculus 2 (MATH 0106) and Applied Statistics (MATH 0333).

FINC 318 Advanced Managerial Finance

This course covers topics in corporate finance related to interest theory and financial instruments. You will explore risk and return, asset betas, the capital asset pricing model, net present value of cash flows, and investment decisions. This course covers some of the topics on the IFM actuarial exam and satisfies the Corporate Finance VEE requirement for SOA membership. The course has a pre-requisite of ACCT 0104, ACCT 0105, and FINC 0207. (Note that the accounting courses fulfill the accounting component of the Corporate Finance VEE requirement).

Particularly motivated students may take independent study courses covering the IFM, SRM, STAM, or LTAM exams with Professor Johnson.

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.
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. Take the 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.

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.

The Exam

Most of the preliminary actuarial exams are administered electronically at a Prometric testing location. (The closest location to Westfield State is in West Springfield, MA.) The electronic exams are multiple-choice and roughly three hours in length. It is recommended that you spend at least 300 hours of direct study preparing for each exam.

Exam Calculator: There are only a few approved calculators permitted for the exam. For the P exam, the TI-30XS Multiview is recommended. For the FM exam, the BA II Plus and TI-30XS Multiview are recommended. (You may used both.) All students in the Actuarial Program are given these calculators for the courses and exam use.

Study Manuals Outside of the courses, Professor Johnson has several study manuals for all the actuarial exams and flash cards that students may check out for free.