Actuaries are employed to calculate risks for a company based on the evaluation of data, which helps them determine the long-term financial view of an individual. The different types of actuary degree programs available exist at both undergraduate and graduate levels, and the coursework for these degrees covers a variety of subjects. The undergraduate program available from most physical and online universities is a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science, and the graduate program is a master’s degree. Some institutions offer a one-year actuary diploma for graduate students, which equips them to start at a junior level in an actuarial career.
The undergraduate actuary degree programs that are offered by most universities commonly include coursework in actuarial science, business, mathematics, economics, statistics, computer science, finance and insurance studies. In a program aimed specifically at insurance actuaries, studies of insurance may carry greater weight. The successful completion of an undergraduate degree does not fulfill the requirements for an actuary education, and the prospective actuary still needs to take a qualification specializing in an aspect of actuarial science, followed by a graduate program such as a master’s degree.
Students of actuary degree programs, once they have completed their undergraduate studies, can go on to study for a graduate qualification. The graduate degrees chosen most often are the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the master of actuarial science. To enter either of these programs, the student needs to have an appropriate bachelor’s degree with classes in subjects such as calculus, probability and statistics, and linear algebra.
After completion of an MBA degree, the student will still be required to study actuarial science in order to claim an actuary education. For such students, the one-year actuary certificate course offered by some institutions will suffice. The student who completes a master's of actuarial science, however, completes coursework that includes life insurance, survival models, mortality rates, data analysis, statistical modeling, as well as investment and asset management. These actuary degree programs teach students to understand the basis of theoretical models and to use them in analyzing financial and insurance risks.
Both the bachelor’s and the master’s degrees are available as actuary online degree programs, from institutions affiliated with recognized universities. Whether the actuarial student embarks on actuary degree programs online or in person, the institution offering the program should be able to guarantee accreditation by the International Actuarial Association, which was founded in 1895 and exists to promote professional standards across the global actuarial field.
For actuaries in the United States, an actuary certificate from one of two Actuarial Societies is an additional requirement to actuary degree programs. Pension actuaries in the U.S. must also qualify for enrollment on boards associated with the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Treasury. Actuaries across the globe are required to register with the International Actuarial Association for their actuary education to have credibility.