Professional Certification at the University of Texas at Austin
Passing the professional examinations of the Society of Actuaries (the SOA) or the Casualty Actuarial Society (the CAS) is essential to a successful actuarial career. Students that have passed two or more examinations have much better employment opportunities and salaries for both permanent jobs and summer internships.
Detailed official information on certification and exams is available from the SOA on its website at www.soa.org/education/exam-req/ and from the CAS on its website at www.casact.org/admissions/. General certification information can be found at www.BeAnActuary.org. This section is an unofficial guide for UT-Austin actuarial students to the most relevant aspects of the two credentialing systems.
Education is the basis for certification by the CAS or SOA. Some subjects are required as background, some are validated by educational experience (VEE), and some are validated by preliminary exams administered by the CAS or SOA. Our students are able to take classes that help them prepare for all of the preliminary examinations and VEE courses needed to earn an Associate credential from either the CAS or SOA and most of the courses required for the CERA credential from the SOA.
So who is an actuary? Actuaries use mathematical skills to define, analyze and solve business problems involving the cost of possible future events. Actuaries are employed by insurance companies, financial institutions, consulting firms, industrial corporations, government agencies, universities, accounting firms and labor unions. Actuarial work includes: projecting how a new auto-safety law will change insurance claims; investigating how life-insurance reserves and future premiums might balance future claims; estimating the benefit cost of a labor contract; analyzing investment risks; or projecting financial costs of an epidemic. For example, actuaries determine how much you should pay for auto insurance based upon your driving record and habits, location, age, etc.
Professional societies of actuaries administer a series of examinations for persons wishing to qualify as an Associate or a Fellow as proof of their status as an actuary. While in college, most of our actuarial students take classes that cover the content of five Preliminary Exams, courses that cover VEE requirements, and successfully pass one to three preliminary actuarial exams.
Any student possessing strong mathematical problem-solving aptitude, a sound work ethic, ability and desire to communicate mathematical and financial applications to clients, and an interest in a business career should consider the actuarial profession. Self-reported data from 2009-2010 UT-Austin actuarial graduates that have passed one or two exams indicate a mean starting annual salary of $53,900. For a more comprehensive national salary survey conducted by the D.W. Simpson Company, click here.