September 3, 2007


The greener grass on the other side is probably artificial turf.
--- Anonymous
PayScale Blogs recently interviewed a prominent actuary (hint: me!), which lead two readers to ask whether they should change their careers. Here are the emails (edited to preserve privacy) and some thoughts.

Email 1
"I am really interested in a career as an actuary. I was very good in math in high school and university. Unfortunately I chose the wrong field when I was 18 and graduated with a bachelor's degree in electronic engineering. I am 35 now and haven't been successful in my field and have totally lost my interest in it.

I want to know with all the passion and talent that I have for math, could I start an actuarial career without going through another undergraduate program by passing the few first actuarial exams and finding an entry level job? Is there a good future in the field or are the chances very limited in Ontario?"

Email 2
During my research about the actuaries, I landed on your website, and whatever you wrote there made me comfortable enough to ask you for advise. So, this is what I am doing.

I work as an Office/Accounting Manager for over 10 years and I got to this point in my life where I want to do something that I really like (and this is not what I am doing right now). I've always liked math (I have a bachelor degree in electrical engineering), so after considering different options I decided to try to become an actuary.

On your website you wrote "coaches or mentors see us the way we can't … objectively", and this is what I want from you: to let me know if my goal is realistic, if I can do it without going through an university in day-time, if it's not too late, what should I do first, etc. I have a lots of questions, and I would like an objective assessment of my plans.

I don't know if you would help me, but your website gave me the feeling that I might have a chance ...

The Reply
As you can imagine, it's difficult to comment on another person's life --- especially when the decision is as major as a career change. It's too unfortunate when a career choice has not been satisfying. Here are some thoughts that may help you.

You can certainly write actuarial exams without taking courses. However, you will be at a disadvantage compared to students who are taking courses. Here's the real problem: age. You'll likely find that employers prefer to hire
  • young graduates (easy to train) or
  • actuarial students working at other firms (already experienced).
This may seem like age discrimination, but it's more a case of finding the best candidate. You'd need to have a compelling competitive advantage to be hired over others --- especially for an entry level position. Also, the actuarial exams are rather difficult. They are designed to weed out students. You might want to try an exam to see what they are like.

I hope I don't seem harsh. Actuarial science can be an excellent career choice. However, before you make a major commitment to a new field, do investigate the job opportunities further.

Your Thoughts
What do you think about changing careers, something which The Money Diva is also considering?


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