Career Change Advice

I’m considering a career change to be an actuary, but I’m having trouble navigating the path. My undergrad and graduate degrees are in the arts. But I have strong computer skills, math skills, analytical skill, so I think I could develop into a good actuary.

Considering this background does anyone have advice how to begin? Am I correct that the first 2 exams are my first goal? Should I take some college level calculus before preparing for exams 1 and 2? Any specific study guides you would suggest in preparation for the first 2 exams?

Thanks very much.

Good luck. As to college level calculus, you should be OK for exam 2 without it, and it’s fine to take exam 2 before exam 1. They’re unrelated.

Before exam 1? You’ll definitely need to understand the meaning of derivatives and integrals, but the calculations of them are usually not bad. I.e., you might need the derivative of x^3, but the challenge will be knowing that you even want a derivative and then deciding that x^3 is the function you need to differentiate. Or you might need the integral of x^4 from 3 to 5, where the hardest part it not evaluating the integral, but perhaps knowing you even want an integral, and that if you do you are integrating x^4, and that the limits you need are 3 and 5.

Some people come out of high school these days knowing enough calculus for P. We don’t know your background. P is a probability exam, you just need some calculus to understand and solve probability enough.

There are sample questions for both P (1) and FM (2) on the SOA website. You’ll see some calculus in the 1 sample. Maybe some in 2 sample, but not as much. You could certainly pass FM if you got every question that needed calculus (if you got any on your exam) wrong.

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GoActuary has a section for Exam P here: and for FM here:

There’s not much in it yet, nothing at all in FM, but as you start studying if you ask questions there you are likely to get responses.

Another fine resource, except that it is probably disappearing and seen a drastic drop in posting, is the Actuarial Outpost. You even have to know a trick to get there: start with the Url, not the website name. For example to get to its forum on P, go to It also has lots of discussion on Exam FM and the actuarial career, including career changing. It has a pretty good search function, at least for one word searches, and you can search a specific forum. So you could search its P forum or its FM forum for the word “calculus”.

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Wow! That’s great advice and really helps me understand where I can put my focus. As the timing for this change gets closer I’ll probably pay for one of those online exam prep courses. I went to the website of the two actuarial societies and was totally lost about where to begin studying. And this is a foreign field for me right now. I’ll need a little hand holding to get started but I’m just gonna swallow my pride. Thanks so much for the help.