Data v. Finance

Howdy Actuaries. First post here, former AO lurker.

I’ve reach a point in my young career that no student wants to believe will happen but comes up for far too many of us. I no longer want to be an actuary.

For me, the motivation to pass exams in order to build a career that I am losing interest in is declining rapidly. I find myself only a few months out from the next exam I am supposed to take having not even broken out the material.

The big hesitation I find is that while I personally believe I have developed plenty of transferable skills in my few years as an analyst, my resume is covered is references to actuarial. Education? Actuarial Science. Experience? Actuarial Analyst. Who outside of the actuarial world would understand what I could bring unless I can get into an interview and explain it.

So begins the exit question, where do we go from here? The way I see it there are two options, data and finance.

While I won’t go so far as to say I could find my way into a Data Science role. I do have a few programming languages and some key words about data analytics on my resume that I could leverage into a Data Analyst type position. Especially if I look to insurance companies as a transition.

I also have some resume language that could lend itself into a finance/investment type of role. We use financial concepts every day and highlighting MFE could create some opportunity there. Similarly, an investment/ALM role at an insurance company could be a good way to go just because they might have some understanding of the skill set an actuary would bring.

In summary, I am posting here to see if anyone made either of these transitions. What has your experience been in the post-actuarial world? Does anyone have any thoughts on either of these career paths coming from an actuarial background?

Do you work at an insurer? I know of a few actuaries who got ACAS and then internally transferred over to a few tangential roles like product development or CAT modeling where the background is valued but you aren’t expected to keep taking exams.

Agree with Dan. Also depending on where you are currently, you could look at asset modeling. At my company I found it to be a good mix of actuarial, finance, accounting, and model development.

I work at a software company, so you have a few options depending on what you want to really focus on (note I was still hired for my actuarial knowledge in my particular role).

Also you are correct, ALM at big insurance companies has many hybrid investment/actuarial roles if you like that type of work. For example, there are hedging positions, people who exclusively work in capital, enterprise risk management, portfolio management, you name it.

Audit and compliance positions could work too. Underwriting? Product management, project management, etc.

I stopped here. Your job title is not relevant. Your skill set is relevant. Identify what your skill set is and what types of jobs require those skills sets. Research how (or pay someone for help) to develop a resume that focuses on skills rather than using a chronological style. Then develop any given resume to highlight your skills that are relevant to the job to which you are applying.

A surprising number of people actually. The older I get the more people have heard, and are impressed by, the actuary title. I’ve had a coworker interview in sports analytics where the GM said they typically look at PhD candidates but the actuary exams were impressive enough to get him an interview. Don’t hide from it. Use it and highlight the skills that you have learned from it, just be prepared in the interview to discuss why you are leaving.

I wouldn’t dwell on that in an interview. I’d try to figure on why i wanted to do whatever i was trying to get a job doing.

And data science is very very different from finance. What do you like? What are you good at? I don’t think our answers will help you uncover the answers to those questions, which are key.

While you certainly shouldn’t restrict yourself to interviewing at the current employer, don’t overlook the options there. I know any number of actuaries who took a lateral move into another function at the same employer. I’ve seen people move into underwriting, claims management, claims analytics, marketing, data science… some after obtaining credentials and some when they decided to stop pursuing actuarial credentials.

Of course you don’t dwell, but OP will be asked, so OP needs to prepare an answer.

Most importantly, one which does not cause dwelling to occur.

I did some Statistics at another insurance company. I’m not sure if I even intentionally applied or if the director of analytics just wanted better hires and swiped my resume from actuarial.

Anyway, it was personally rewarding to be doing more with math and less regulatory / accounting / business type of junk. Also it was nice to have a break from exams. But it was ultimately a lot of BS, because that’s what life is, and it was a lot harder to get promotions, because I was competing with people who had Data-Science PhDs from India.

The exams can be hard, in another sense actuarial is easy because the exams are the only barrier to success.

So after a few years, I wound up back in the fold, and if you consider the missed exam raises, the ultimate result is that I’m ~$100k-$200k poorer today.

I’ve always thought it would be fun to be a forensic accountant for the FBI. I’ve done absolutely no research into it, but the image I’ve built up in my head is pretty cool and highly values my actuarial skills. :shushing_face:


A friend of some friends is a forensic accountant, and I gather she finds her job fun and satisfying.

I love figuring out how to project stuff, but hate ticking and tying. I think I would go nuts as an accountant of any stripe.

Yes, I would add a number of differing IT roles to that list too, and project management.

Eh, I found over the years that the ratio of figuring out answers to interesting problems vs proving that I didn’t lie, steal or cheat while figuring out answers to interesting problems was constantly shifting in the wrong direction.

I made some changes that involve leaving some money on the table, but I’m much happier now that I don’t have to deal with auditors who have no idea what they actually want except it definitely isn’t what I just gave them.


I’ve never had to deal with auditors (internal or otherwise) but I don’t look forward to the day…

Sure, I didn’t mean to suggest you shouldn’t trade salary for quality-of-life. I have made that trade again and again without regret. I guess I just meant to add a caveat emptor for the op.

1 Like

That’s the really painful thing about less than perfect exam performance. Typically it’s a no-change to quality of life (other than the actual studying) for all the exam raises, etc.

I did the whole transfer from being a student actuary to a non-actuary thing and it was the best career decision I ever made. I was either too dumb or too lazy to pass the exams but what I found exciting about my role at the time was data and programming. So I moved into that. I still work in what is considered an actuarial department with actuaries. It was probably an easier transition because at the time there wasn’t any such thing as a data scientist. As some have pointed out, I’m paid less then the actuaries but I came to grips with that a long time ago. You’ll have to really advocate for yourself though if you stay in the actuarial realm as the bosses are going to pay the actuaries first. Very hard to get that promotion fighting against someone who gets exam bonuses.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is figure out what you need out of a job and what excites you about your work. After that, it really is just showing with your resume and cover letter letter that you have the skills needed for any given role. Your skills are totally transferable you just have to list explicitly out and show how sometimes. As for an interview, I used to explain that becoming an actuary is really tough and I didn’t have success with the exams and I couldn’t figure out why so i decided to just focus on what I was really good at and skip the credentials. Now I have chops and I don’t need to “defend” my career change so I say I was either too dumb or lazy. I’m pretty sure it was too dumb.

Ahh, yeah, OP didn’t say “I’m failing a lot” but I guess that makes sense.

FWIW, I find programming to be more satisfying than actuarial.

And it’s a skill that kind of speaks for itself.

I did 3 years in a role that was a lot of writing SAS code before I joined actuarial. I did a good bit of analytics too but what I was most confident in was my ability to write clever SAS code and use excel well so I actually had a bit of struggle at the beginning of my switch to actuarial where I felt super comfortable on anything that was using SAS or SQL but when we were doing true actuarial stuff I felt uncomfortable. I remember at the time thinking it was a bit of a crossroads, can either pursue becoming more programming-oriented or accept to sort of leave that behind as an infrequent thing and actually get confident with the actuarial stuff.

In the end I did the latter but I was pretty reluctant at first. It was the right choice for me but I could definitely see people preferring more database type stuff.