Online Actuary Science Diploma and Certificate Programs
Online certificate or professional training programs in actuary science are rare, and degree programs are only available on campus. Continue reading for an overview of online and on-site programs, including descriptions of coursework and professional certifications, as well as information about career prospects and salary.
Online Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice Program
Available through the Society of Actuaries (SOA), the Online Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP) program is designed for individuals who wish to be admitted as an Associate of the SOA and are currently involved in the actuarial profession. Introductory topics provide an overview of traditional areas of actuary practice, including property and casualty insurance, life insurance, retirement benefits and health insurance. Course content presents various aspects of the business environment and asks students to examine real-world actuarial issues by studying the control cycle as a framework for problem solving. Students learn practical techniques to assist in their day-to-day responsibilities as actuaries.
Students are required to complete the eight modules in sequential order, as principles and concepts build upon what is covered in previous lessons. This program presents actuarial concepts and principals by using the control cycle as a framework.
The Role of the Professional Actuary Module
Instruction provides a basic overview of actuarial functions and work opportunities, including the major areas of practice and required professional skills. Focus is placed on the control cycle model.
Risk in Actuarial Problems Module
This module provides students with a foundation for identifying and defining problems within the practice areas. Students learn to understand the risk involved in various actuarial problems and the commonalities among them.
Design and Pricing of an Actuarial Solution Module
Focus is placed on the principles and tools used to solve common actuarial problems. Students are introduced to the components of actuarial solutions, including models, coverage and benefit design.
Online Certificate Program in Actuarial Science
Online certificate programs in actuarial science, although small in number, are open to students who already hold an undergraduate degree in a quantitative field of study, as well as entry-level actuaries and qualified professionals. The programs are designed to prepare students for the actuarial associate certification or fellow exams available from the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or the SOA, or to obtain entry-level or advanced positions in the field. Learning outcomes include the ability to analyze data, forecast trends and manage risk, and the credits may be transferred to a master's programs in actuarial science.
An online certificate program in actuarial science usually requires 12-16 credits to complete, and academic prerequisites can include prior coursework in economics, linear algebra and multivariate calculus. Students use Web-conferencing software and other online tools to interact with their peers and professors, as well as spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel and an R finance package for statistical computing. Depending on the program, the curriculum may include topics and training in property and casualty, life insurance, pensions and R programming.
Through an online certificate program, students can learn how to work with advanced modeling and probability tools and develop their decision-making abilities. They will also have the chance to pursue more complex studies in econometrics, math and statistics.
Investment Science Course
Students use R packages to perform calculations and reinforce their knowledge of finance, math and statistics. Topics include fixed income securities, interest rates, options and portfolio theory.
Actuarial Models and Estimation Course
This course is designed to familiarize students with the statistical models and steps associated with actuarial science. Aspiring professional learn how to use the models to resolve insurance and risk management issues, while studying financial credibility methods, fitness tests and simulations.
Models for Life Contingencies Course
Learning outcomes for this course include the ability to apply contingent rate models to real-world financial and insurance risk problems. Content emphasis is on the relationship between prospective cash flows and death or rights of survivorship.
On-Campus Bachelor's Degree in Actuarial Science
In addition to a rigorous study of mathematics, the curriculum focuses on actuarial science, insurance, finance, economics and applied statistics. Students learn to apply statistical and mathematical concepts to the measurement of life and its contingencies. Graduates of a bachelor's degree program have the mathematical knowledge and business background necessary to start working as an actuary or pursue graduate studies in economics, statistics, actuarial science or finance, among other related areas.
An undergraduate program in actuarial science requires approximately 120-136 credit hours or four years to complete. The curriculum is a combination of general education and major coursework and includes a number of electives. Upon completion of the appropriate coursework, students are strongly encouraged, and sometimes required, to begin the series of professional examinations administered by the CAS or the SOA.
Coursework focuses on basic business principles, while providing students with an in-depth understanding of actuarial models and methods. In addition to the required math and actuary core, students can customize their plan of study through electives in personal finance, the use of actuarial probability in problem solving and applied corporate finance, among other topics.
This course provides students with an introduction to probability models, special distributions, random variables and the central limit theorem. Other topics include independence and dependence, probability of events, sample spaces and expected values.
Risk Management Course
Students study and analyze risk management tools as they pertain to corporate financial decisions. Alternatives for spreading risk, such as external funds, retention funds and insurance, are covered.
Calculus III Course
Instruction includes topics in variable functions, vectors, partial derivatives and volume integrals. The Green's, Divergence and Stokes' theorems are also discussed.
Career and Certification Information
By utilizing their knowledge of statistics, business, mathematics and finance, actuaries assess the risk of events and help clients and companies create policies and strategies that minimize their potential costs. Actuaries are most often employed by health, life and casualty companies, as well as consulting firms and government agencies. Although competition for available jobs is expected to be high, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the employment of actuaries to increase by 27% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2010, the BLS reported that actuaries in the United States earned a median annual wage of $87,650.
Both the SOA and the CAS sponsor programs leading to professional credentials for practicing actuaries. According to the BLS, more and more companies are requiring applicants to have passed the initial actuarial exams administered by these organizations. The SOA certifies actuaries in the fields of finance and investment, life insurance, health benefits systems and retirement systems. The CAS administers a series of exams in the property and casualty field, including those related to personal injury liability, automobiles, workers compensation and homeownership. More detailed information regarding exam and certification requirements can be accessed through the SOA and CAS websites.
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